Climatological occurrences of hail and tornadoes associated with mesoscale convective systems in the United States

Journal Article
Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, vol. 23, iss. 12, pp. 3823-3838, 2023
Jingyu Wang, Jiwen Fan, Zhe Feng
Abstract. Hail and tornadoes are hazardous weather events responsible for significant property damage and economic loss worldwide. The most devastating occurrences of hail and tornadoes are commonly produced by supercells in the United States. However, these supercells may also grow upscale into mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) or be embedded within them. The relationship between hail and tornado occurrences with MCSs in the long-term climatology has not been thoroughly examined. In this study, radar features associated with MCSs are extracted from a 14-year MCS tracking database across the contiguous United States, and hazard reports are mapped to these MCS features. We investigate the characteristics of hail and tornadoes in relation to MCSs, considering seasonal and regional variabilities. On average, 8 %–17 % of hail events and 17 %–32 % of tornado events are associated with MCSs, depending on the criteria used to define MCSs. The highest total and MCS-associated hazard events occur from March to May, while the highest MCS-associated portion (23 % for hail and 45 % for tornadoes) is observed in winter (December–February) due to the dominance of MCSs caused by strong synoptic forcing. As hailstone size increases, the fraction associated with MCS decreases, but there is an increasing trend for tornado severity from EF0 to EF3 (Enhanced Fujita Scale). Violent tornadoes at EF4 and EF5 associated with MCSs were also observed, which are generated by supercells embedded within MCSs.