Categorisation of synoptic environments associated with mesoscale convective systems over the UK
Lewis, M. W. and Gray, S. L. (2010) Categorisation of synoptic environments associated with mesoscale convective systems over the UK. Atmospheric Research, 97 (1-2). pp. 194-213. ISSN 0169-8059
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosres.2010.04.001
Mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are relatively rare events in the UK but, when they do occur, can be associated with weather that is considered extreme with respect to climatology (as indicated by the number of such events that have been analysed as case studies). These case studies usually associate UK MCSs with a synoptic environment known as the Spanish plume. Here a previously published 17 year climatology of UK MCS events is extended to the present day (from 1998 to 2008) and these events classified according to the synoptic environment in which they form. Three distinct synoptic environments have been identified, here termed the classical Spanish plume, modified Spanish plume, and European easterly plume. Detailed case studies of the two latter, newly defined, environments are presented. Composites produced for each environment further reveal the differences between them. The classical Spanish plume is associated with an eastward propagating baroclinic cyclone that evolves according to idealised life cycle 1. Conditional instability is released from a warm moist plume of air advected northeastwards from Iberia that is capped by warmer, but very dry air, from the Spanish plateau. The modified Spanish plume is associated with a slowly moving mature frontal system associated with a forward tilting trough (and possibly cut-off low) at 500 hPa that evolves according to idealised life cycle 2. As in the classical Spanish plume, conditional instability is released from a warm plume of air advected northwards from Iberia. The less frequent European easterly plume is associated with an omega block centred over Scandinavia at upper levels. Conditional instability is released from a warm plume of air advected westwards across northern continental Europe. Unlike the Spanish plume environments, the European easterly plume is not a warm sector phenomena associated with a baroclinic cyclone. However, in all environments the organisation of convection is associated with the interaction of an upper-level disturbance with a low-level region of warm advection.