Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are the largest type of convective storms that develop when convection aggregates and induces mesoscale circulation features. Over North America, MCSs contribute over 60% of the total warm-season precipitation and over half of the extreme daily precipitation in the central U.S. Our recent study (Feng et al. 2016) found that the observed increases in springtime total and extreme rainfall in this region are dominated by increased frequency and intensity of long-lived MCSs*. To date, global climate models typically do not run at a resolution high enough to explicitly simulate individual convective elements and may not have adequate process representations for MCSs, resulting in a large deficiency in projecting changes of the frequency of extreme precipitation events in future climate.
In this study, we developed a novel observation-guided approach specifically designed to evaluate simulated MCSs in the Department of Energy’s climate model, Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy (ACME). The ACME model has advanced treatments for convection and subgrid variability and for this study is run at 25 km and 100 km grid spacings. We constructed a robust MCS database consisting of over 500 MCSs from 3 warm-season observations by applying a feature-tracking algorithm to 4-km resolution merged geostationary satellite and 3-D NEXRAD radar network data over the Continental US. This high-resolution MCS database is then down-sampled to the 25 and 100 km ACME grids to re-characterize key MCS properties. The feature-tracking algorithm is adapted with the adjusted characteristics to identify MCSs from ACME model simulations. We demonstrate that this new analysis framework is useful for evaluating ACME’s warm-season precipitation statistics associated with MCSs, and provides insights into the model process representations related to extreme precipitation events for future improvement.
*Feng, Z., L. R. Leung, S. Hagos, R. A. Houze, C. D. Burleyson, and K. Balaguru (2016), More frequent intense and long-lived storms dominate the springtime trend in central US rainfall, Nat Commun, 7, 13429, doi: 10.1038/ncomms13429.