A climatology of quasi-linear convective systems and their hazards in the United States


This research uses image classification and machine learning methods on radar reflectivity mosaics to segment, classify, and track quasi-linear convective systems (QLCSs) in the United States for a 22-yr period. An algorithm is trained and validated using radar-derived spatial and intensity information from thousands of manually labeled QLCS and non-QLCS event slices. The algorithm is then used to automate the identification and tracking of over 3000 QLCSs with high accuracy, affording the first, systematic, long-term climatology of QLCSs. Convective regions determined by the procedure to be QLCSs are used as foci for spatiotemporal filtering of observed severe thunderstorm reports; this permits an estimation of the number of severe storm hazards due to this morphology. Results reveal that nearly 32% of MCSs are classified as QLCSs. On average, 139 QLCSs occur annually, with most of these events clustered from April through August in the eastern Great Plains and central/lower Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys. QLCSs are responsible for a spatiotemporally variable proportion of severe hazard reports, with a maximum in QLCS-report attribution (30%–42%) in the western Ohio and central Mississippi River Valleys. Over 21% of tornadoes, 28% of severe winds, and 10% of severe hail reports are due to QLCSs across the central and eastern United States. The proportion of QLCS-affiliated tornado and severe wind reports maximize during the overnight and cool season, with more than 50% of tornadoes and wind reports in some locations due to QLCSs. This research illustrates the utility of automated storm-mode classification systems in generating extensive, systematic climatologies of phenomena, reducing the need for time-consuming and spatiotemporal-limiting methods where investigators manually assign morphological classifications.

Weather and Forecasting, 34, 1605-1631