Effects of upper-level shear on the structure and maintenance of strong quasi-linear mesoscale convective systems

Michael C. Coniglio, David J. Stensrud, Louis J. Wicker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Recent observational studies have shown that strong midlatitude mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) tend to decay as they move into environments with less instability and smaller deep-layer vertical wind shear. These observed shear profiles that contain significant upper-level shear are often different from the shear profiles considered to be the most favorable for the maintenance of strong, long-lived convective systems in some past idealized simulations. Thus, to explore the role of upper-level shear in strong MCS environments, a set of two-dimensional (2D) simulations of density currents within a dry, statically neutral environment is used to quantify the dependence of lifting along an idealized cold pool on the upper-level shear. A set of three-dimensional (3D) simulations of MCSs is produced to gauge the effects of the upper-level shear in a more realistic framework. Results from the 2D experiments show that the addition of upper-level shear to a wind profile with weak to moderate low-level shear increases the vertical displacement of parcels despite a decrease in the vertical velocity along the cold pool interface. Parcels that are elevated above the surface (1-2 km) overturn and are responsible for the deep lifting in the deep-shear environments, while the surface-based parcels typically are lifted through the cold pool region in a rearward-sloping path. This deep overturning helps to maintain the leading convection and greatly increases the size and total precipitation output of the convective systems in more complex 3D simulations, even in the presence of 3D structures. These results show that the shear profile throughout the entire troposphere must be considered to gain a more complete understanding of the structure and maintenance of strong midlatitude MCSs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1231-1252
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of upper-level shear on the structure and maintenance of strong quasi-linear mesoscale convective systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this