Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCSs) are among the most powerful storms in the world and in many places are the dominant cause of hazards such as high winds, lightning, flash flooding and tornadoes. They are particularly prevalent in certain “hotspot” regions including Northern Argentina and India, West and Central Africa, and the US Great Plains, where a combination of warm, moist air and favourable winds support their development.
MCSs result from thunderstorms that organize into a single large complex measuring hundreds of kilometres wide and which travel across the land for hours or, in some cases, days, causing extraordinary downpours along their path. These long-lived, damaging storms are responsible for nearly 80% of extreme rain over tropical land and are particularly sensitive to climate change, yet are poorly represented by conventional climate models.
An understanding of how MCSs will change as the world warms will help to build climate-resilient homes and infrastructure such as roads, bridges and dams in hotspot regions.