Mean (a, c) and 95th percentile (b, d) vertical air motion profiles within the convective regions, sorted by cloud top height (the height of 10 dBZ radar echo) for 45 Amazon (top) and 16 Oklahoma (bottom) mesoscale convective systems. On subplots (a) and (c), the mean upward air motions are shown in reds and the mean downward air motions are shown in blues. Credit: Wang et al., 2019, Figure 8, modified by authors
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Among the largest and most intense convective storms, mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are often recognized for their extreme precipitation potential. One of the most fundamental properties of thunderstorms is the vertical air motion, in the form of up- and downdrafts. Wang et al. [2019] present a unique multi-year dataset from relatively cost-effective radar wind profilers, operated by the United States Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility, to provide a comprehensive description of updrafts and downdrafts, contrasting midlatitude (Oklahoma, USA) and tropical (Amazon basin, Brazil) examples. They find that systems in both locations often share similar convective rainfall rates and total rainfall accumulations. However, the midlatitude MCSs are associated with the more intense convective updrafts with upward air motions peaking at higher altitudes. The most pronounced contrast is the propensity for more frequent, intense, and deeper downdrafts in the midlatitude MCS events.

Citation: Wang, D., Giangrande, S. E., Schiro, K., Jensen, M. P., & Houze, R. A. [2019]. The characteristics of tropical and midlatitude mesoscale convective systems as revealed by radar wind profilers. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 124.

—Minghua Zhang, Editor in Chief, JGR: Atmospheres

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