Here’s a radar loop posted to Twitter from meteorologist Brad Panovich out of Charlotte, NC, showing the system’s progression late this morning through eastern Kansas and southwest Missouri:
“An MCS is defined as a group of individual thunderstorms which normally persists for several hours or more,” the National Weather Service Facebook page explains. “This particular system … is very large and extremely well-organized.”
This nasty storm complex has already produced over 40 reports of damaging winds, mostly in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri. The Joplin airport clocked a wind gust to 64 mph, and peak winds have been estimated in the 50-70 mph range along the MCS’s path.
The MCS has been a prolific lightning producer. The Weather Channel, for example, reported more than 5,500 lightning strikes in 30 minutes between 10:12 and 10:42 a.m. central time.
The system also produced large hail in northern Oklahoma.
The MCS formed and has tracked along a cold front sprawled across the southern U.S. separating extremely humid, unstable air to its south and much cooler, drier air to the north.
The amount of convective available potential energy (CAPE) – a fancy way of describing fuel available to storms – is very high (up to around 4,000) just south of the front where the MCS is most intense.
Links to track this MCS:
You can learn more about MCSs in excruciating detail in this academic paper by Robert Houze of the University of Washington: Mesoscale Convective Systems