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Submitted by Tim Buckley on Thu, 08/05/2010 - 9:59am.
Well we had somewhat of an unexpected visitor this morning; a large complex of thunderstorms! I know when I first checked the radar this morning around 2 and saw the squall line near Rocky Mount I was certainly surprised. As it so happens, systems like this can often be a thorn in a meteorologist's side.
We call a storm system like we saw this morning, a Mesoscale Convective Complex or an MCC (a mouthfull I know). In English, an MCC is a large mass of thunderstorms that forms when several smaller features come together to create a larger one. These MCC's typically form in the summertime after typical afternoon convection is sustained from a good deal of low level moisture at the surface flowing into the system.
These systems are very large - more than 36,000 square miles - and long lived, frequently lasting as long as twelve hours or more. In our case last night, our MCC formed upstream in the Midwest. If you look at this image below you can see the higher cloudtops of the thunderstorms just east of Chicago some 900 miles away. This was the setup Wednesday morning around 9:15 ET.
Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon and the system had morphed and raced eastward landing in western Pennsylvania. This image from 5:15 ET last night shows the storms holding their own and pushing on.
Now, onto very early Thursday and the storms had maintained their strength pushing through Virginia and now into the Tarheel State. They had a bowing structure on the southern face pushing due south with very heavy rains and some small hail. This image is from 3:15 ET about when I came into work.
To stay alive, these MCC's need to have a constant supply of low-level moisture. This is strongest during the night-time periods when the air near the surface is often stable. What is often the case, is these storms will remain long-lived through the overnight hours and then die out just before or after daybreak.
That was the case this morning. The storms quickly lost steam as they made their way into the WWAY viewing area as we were on air on "Good Morning Carolina." By 8:30 - the skies were breaking, and the forecast salvaged. Leaving us to deal with oppressive heat and humidity which is now the second of two weather stories on this day.
That's all for now. Thanks for checking in.
By: Tim Buckley