This study aims to further understand the environments supporting summer mesoscale convective system (MCS) initiation in the U.S. Great Plains. A self-organizing map analysis is conducted to identify four types of summer MCS initiation environments during 2004–2017: Type-1 and Type-2 feature favorable large-scale environments, Type-3 has favorable lower-level and surface conditions but unfavorable upper-level circulation, while Type-4 features the most unfavorable large-scale environments. Despite the unfavorable large-scale environment, convection-centered composites reveal the presence of favorable sub-synoptic scale environments for MCS initiation in Type-3 and Type-4. All four types of MCS initiation environments delineate clear eastward propagating features in many meteorological fields, such as potential vorticity, surface pressure, and equivalent potential temperature, upstream up to 25° west of and ∼36 h before MCS initiation. While the propagating environments and local, non-propagating low-level moisture are important to MCS initiation at the foothill of the Rocky Mountains, MCS initiation in the Great Plains is supported by the coupled dynamical and moisture anomalies, both associated with eastward propagating waves. Hence, MCSs initiated in the plains can produce more rainfall than those initiated at the foothill due to a more abundant moisture supply. By tracking MCSs and mid-tropospheric perturbations (MPs), a unique type of sub-synoptic disturbances with Rocky Mountains origin, it is shown that ∼30% of MPs are associated with MCS initiation, mostly in Type-4. Although MPs are related to a small fraction of MCS initiation, MCSs that are associated with MPs tend to produce more rainfall in a larger area with a stronger convective intensity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Atmospheric Science
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Space and Planetary Science