Mesoscale Convective Systems

Houze, R. (2004), Mesoscale Convective Systems, Rev. Geophys., 42, RG4003, doi:10.1029/2004RG000150.

Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) have regions of both convective and stratiform precipitation, and they develop mesoscale circulations as they mature. The upward motion takes the form of a deep-layer ascent drawn into the MCS in response to the latent heating and cooling in the convective region. The ascending layer overturns as it rises but overall retains a coherent layer structure. A middle level layer of inflow enters the stratiform region of the MCS from a direction determined by the large-scale flow and descends in response to diabatic cooling at middle-to-low levels. A middle level mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) develops in the stratiform region, prolongs the MCS, and may contribute to tropical cyclone development. The propagation of an MCS may have a discrete component but may further be influenced by waves and disturbances generated both in response to the MCS and external to the MCS. Waves of a larger scale may affect the propagation velocity by phase locking with the MCS in a cooperative mode. The horizontal scale of an MCS may be limited either by a balance between the formation rate of convective precipitation and dissipation of stratiform precipitation or by the Rossby radius of the MCV. The vertical redistribution of momentum by an MCS depends on the size of the stratiform region, while the net vertical profile of heating of the largescale environment depends on the amount of stratiform rain. Regional variability of the stratiform rain from MCSs affects the large-scale circulation’s response to MCS heating.

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