Journal article Open Access

An Observational Study of Derecho-Producing Convective Systems

Coniglio, Michael C.; Stensrud, David J.; Richman, Michael B.

This study identifies the common large-scale environments associated with the development of derecho-producing convective systems (DCSs) from a large number of events. Patterns are identified using statistical clustering of the 500-mb geopotential heights as guidance. The majority of the events (72%) fall into three main patterns that include a well-defined upstream trough (40%), a ridge (20%), and a zonal, low-amplitude flow (12%), which is identified as an additional warm-season pattern. Consequently, the environmental large-scale patterns idealized in past studies only depict a portion of the full spectrum of the possibilities associated with the development of DCSs. In addition, statistics of derecho proximity-sounding parameters are presented relative to the derecho life cycle as well as relative to the forcing for upward motion. It is found that the environments ahead of maturing derechos tend to moisten at low levels while remaining relatively dry aloft. In addition, derechos tend to decay as they move into environments with less instability and smaller deep-layer shear. Low-level shear (instability) is found to be significantly higher (lower) for the more strongly forced events, while the low-level storm-relative inflow tends to be much deeper for the more weakly forced events. Furthermore, discrepancies are found in both low-level and deep-tropospheric shear parameters between observations and the shear profiles considered favorable for strong, long-lived convective systems in idealized simulations. This study highlights the need to examine DCS simulations within more realistic environments to help reconcile these disparities in observations and idealized models and to provide improved information to forecasters.
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