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Patterns of precipitation and mesolow evolution in midlatitude mesoscale convective vortices


Surface pressure manifestations of mesoscale convective vortices (MCVs) that traversed Oklahoma during the periods May–August 2002–05 are studied using the Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D), the Oklahoma Mesonet, and the NOAA Profiler Network data. Forty-five MCVs that developed from mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) have been investigated, 28 (62%) of which exhibit mesolows detectable at the surface. Within this group, three distinct patterns of precipitation organization and associated mesolow evolution have been identified. The remaining 17 (38%) of the cases do not contain a surface mesolow. Two repeating patterns of precipitation organization are identified for the latter group.

The three categories of MCVs possessing a surface mesolow are as follows. Nineteen are classified as “rear-inflow-jet MCVs,” and tend to form within large and intense asymmetric MCSs. Rear inflow into the MCS, enhanced by the development of an MCV on the left-hand side relative to system motion, produces a rear-inflow notch and a distinct surface wake low at the back edge of the stratiform region. Hence, the surface mesolow and MCV are displaced from one another. Eight are classified as “collapsing-stratiform-region MCVs.” These MCVs arise from small asymmetric MCSs. As the stratiform region of the MCS weakens, a large mesolow appears beneath its dissipating remnants due to broad subsidence warming, and at the same time the midlevel vortex spins up due to column stretching. One case, called a “vertically coherent MCV,” contains a well-defined surface mesolow and associated cyclonic circulation, apparently due to the strength of the midlevel warm core and the weakness of the low-level cold pool. In these latter two cases, the surface mesolow and MCV are approximately collocated.

Within the group of MCVs without a surface mesolow, 14 are classified as “remnant-circulation MCVs” containing no significant precipitation or surface pressure effects. Finally, three are classified as “cold-pool-dominated MCVs;” these cases contain significant precipitation but no discernible surface mesolow.

This study represents the first systematic analysis of the surface mesolows associated with MCVs. The pattern of surface pressure and winds accompanying MCVs can affect subsequent convective development in such systems. Extension of the findings herein to tropical oceans may have implications regarding tropical cyclogenesis.

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