On the predictability of mesoscale convective systems: Three-dimensional simulations

Matthew S. Wandishin, David J. Stensrud, Steven L. Mullen, Louis J. Wicker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are a dominant climatological feature of the central United States and are responsible for a substantial fraction of warm-season rainfall. Yet very little is known about the predictability of MCSs. To help address this situation, a previous paper by the authors examined a series of ensemble MCS simulations using a two-dimensional version of a storm-scale (Δx 5 1 km) model. Ensemble member perturbations in the preconvective environment, namely, wind speed, relative humidity, and convective instability, are based on current 24-h forecast errors from the North American Model (NAM). That work is now extended using a full three-dimensional model. Results from the three-dimensional simulations of the present study resemble those found in two dimensions. The model successfully produces anMCSwithin 100 km of the location of the control run in around 70% of the ensemble runs using perturbations to the preconvective environment consistent with 24-h forecast errors, while reducing the preconvective environment uncertainty to the level of current analysis errors improves the success rate to nearly 85%. This magnitude of improvement in forecasts of environmental conditions would represent a radical advance in numerical weather prediction. The maximum updraft and surface wind forecast uncertainties are of similar magnitude to their two-dimensional counterparts. However, unlike the two-dimensional simulations, in three dimensions, the improvement in the forecast uncertainty of storm features requires the reduction of preconvective environmental uncertainty for all perturbed variables. The MCSs in many of the runs resemble bow echoes, but surface winds associated with these solutions, and the perturbation profiles that produce them, are nearly indistinguishable from the nonbowing solutions, making any conclusions about the bowlike systems difficult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)863-885
Number of pages23
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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