Causes of the Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:56 PM GMT en Agosto 13, 2010

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The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 is one of the most intense, widespread, and long-lasting heat waves in world history. Only the European heat wave of 2003, which killed 35,000 - 50,000 people, and the incredible North American heat wave of July 1936, which set all-time extreme highest temperature records in fifteen U.S. states, can compare. All of these heat waves were caused by a highly unusual kink in the jet stream that remained locked in place for over a month. The jet stream is an upper-level river of air, between the altitudes of about 30,000 - 40,000 feet (10,000 - 12,000 meters). In July over Europe and Asia, the jet stream has two branches: a strong southern "subtropical" jet that blows across southern Europe, and a weaker "polar" jet that blows across northern Europe. The polar jet stream carries along the extratropical cyclones (lows) that bring the mid-latitudes most of their precipitation. The polar jet stream also acts as the boundary between cold, Arctic air, and warm tropical air. If the polar jet stream shifts to the north of its usual location, areas just to its south will be much hotter and drier than normal. In July 2010, a remarkably strong polar jet stream developed over northern Europe. This jet curved far to the north of Moscow, then plunged southwards towards Pakistan. This allowed hot air to surge northwards over most of European Russia, and prevented rain-bearing low pressure systems from traveling over the region. These rain-bearing low pressure systems passed far to the north of European Russia, then dove unusually far to the south, into northern Pakistan. The heavy rains from these lows combined with Pakistan's usual summer monsoon rains to trigger Pakistan's most devastating floods in history.


Figure 1. Winds of the jet stream at an altitude of 300 millibars (roughly 30,000 feet high). Left: Average July winds from the period 1968 - 1996 show that a two-branch jet stream typically occurs over Europe and Asia--a northern "polar" jet stream, and a more southerly "subtropical" jet stream. Right: the jet stream pattern in July 2010 was highly unusual, with a very strong polar jet looping far to the north of Russia, then diving southwards towards Pakistan. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.

What caused this unusual jet stream pattern?
The unusual jet stream pattern that led to the 2010 Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods began during the last week of June, and remained locked in place all of July and for the first half of August. Long-lived "blocking" episodes like this are usually caused by unusual sea surface temperature patterns, according to recent research done using climate models. For example, Feudale and Shukla (2010) found that during the summer of 2003, exceptionally high sea surface temperatures of 4°C (7°F) above average over the Mediterranean Sea, combined with unusually warm SSTs in the northern portion of the North Atlantic Ocean near the Arctic, combined to shift the jet stream to the north over Western Europe and create the heat wave of 2003. I expect that the current SST pattern over the ocean regions surrounding Europe played a key role in shifting the jet stream to create the heat wave of 2010. Note that the SST anomaly pattern is quite different this year compared to 2003, which may be why this year's heat wave hit Eastern Europe, and the 2003 heat wave hit Western Europe. Human-caused climate change also may have played a role; using climate models, Stott et al. (2004) found it very likely (>90% chance) that human-caused climate change has at least doubled the risk of severe heat waves like the great 2003 European heat wave.


Figure 2. A comparison of the departure of sea surface temperature (SST) from average just prior the the start of the great European heat waves of 2003 and 2010. Temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea were up to 4°C above average in 2003, which has been implicated as a major cause of the Western European heat wave of 2003. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

References
Feudale, L., and J. Shukla (2010), "Influence of sea surface temperature on the European heat wave of 2003 summer. Part I: an observational study", Climate Dynamics DOI: 10.1007/s00382-010-0788-0

Stott, P.A., Stone, D.A., and M.R. Allen (2004), "Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003", Nature 432, 610-614 (2 December 2004) | doi:10.1038/nature03089. (Here is a free version of the paper, presented at a conference.)

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has posted an analysis of the recent extreme weather events, concluding, "the sequence of current events matches IPCC projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming."

See also my posts, The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010: 102°F in Moscow and, Over 15,000 likely dead in Russian heat wave; Asian monsoon floods kill hundreds more.

Moscow sees real relief from the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010
For the first time in more than a month, temperatures at Moscow's Domodedovo airport failed to exceed 30°C (86°F) today. Clouds and thunderstorms blew into the city this morning, keeping the high temperature down to just 29°C (84°F). This breaks a string of 35 straight days when the temperature reached 30°C. At Moscow's official observing site, the Moscow Observatory, this string was 30 days. Moscow's average high temperature for August 13 is 20°C (68°F), so today's temperatures were still well above normal. However, today's cool-down marks the beginning of the end for Russia's great heat wave. The latest forecast for Moscow calls for high temperatures below 30°C for the coming week, and Moscow may not exceed that threshold for the remainder of summer. Long range forecasts from the ECMWF and GFS models continue to suggest that a series of troughs of low pressure will attack the ridge of high pressure anchored over Russia, bringing cooler temperatures just 5°C (8°F) above average to Russia late next week. By ten days from now, the ECMWF model shows a strong trough of low pressure over Moscow, and a end to the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010. Moscow still has to concern itself with smoke from the wildfires burning southeast of the city; winds are expected to shift early next week and bring the smoke towards the city again. However, the cooler weather should aid fire-fighting efforts, so the smoke problems should not be as bad as last week's nightmare.


Figure 2. Image from NASA's Aqua satellite of smoke from wildfires burning to the southeast of Moscow yesterday, August 12, 2010. Northerly winds were keeping the smoke from blowing over the city. Image credit: NASA.

The tropics are quiet
The remnants of Tropical Depression Five continue to bring heavy rain to portions of Southeast Louisiana today. Up to five inches of rain has fallen in regions near New Orleans. The GFS model predicts that the remains of TD 5 could move off the coast of Mississippi by the middle of next week and regenerate, but none of the other models is making this forecast. Both the GFS and ECMWF models are predicting that a tropical storm will develop off the coast of Africa by next Friday, August 20.

Donations urgently needed in Pakistan
The devastation wrought by the worst flooding in Pakistan's history requires a huge response by the international community. Wunderblogger Dr. Ricky Rood, author of our Climate Change Blog, has a friend working in Pakistan who underscored the desperate situation there:

This is the worst natural disaster in the history of Pakistan in terms of number of people and area affected. Although not as many people have been killed as in the 2005 earthquake, we have already nearly 900,000 displaced persons thus far just in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Crops are destroyed; shops, hotels, and other business have simply been swept away in Swat, which had just this year been cleared of Taliban and was on the way to recovery; and districts closer to Peshawar and parts of Peshawar district are still, or perhaps again after yesterday/today, under water. After the immediate emergency response, it will be years of rebuilding to replace what has been lost and to start to develop again. I know you have the power to control the weather, so if you cold give us a week or two without more rain at least we could keep the helicopters flying and give people a chance to go to their homes, recover what might still be there, set up tents if we can get enough to them, and start to clean up."

She gave the following recommendations for charities that do work in the flood-ravaged zone, and are effective at getting aid to those who need it the most:

Doctors Without Borders

The International Red Cross

MERLIN medical relief charity

The mobile giving service mGive allows one to text the word "SWAT" to 50555. The text will result in a $10 donation to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

She mentioned that it is better to send money to the organizations doing the relief work than to try to organize shipments of goods.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Levi32:


Books, being on WU for the last 5 years, and trial-and-error forecasting. Also watching Joe Bastardi's videos and reading his column at Accuweather has been the number one contributor to what I have learned.

Yes, your method of forcasting on your blog is similar to JB. I like yours and his forcasting method. It makes it so easy to understand when I see your "tidbits". Thank you and you are an amazing young man.
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Quoting katrinakat5:
yes mississippi its got 20 knots of shear if it gets back over the water again...


Of easterly shear, which isn't going to be all that detrimental if the system is moving west.
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I was just checking pressures and a 1012.6 just popped up on the Florida Panhandle just South of the Alabama border. It's heading for the water...
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2572. Levi32
Quoting HurricaneDanielle:
levi, have you've noticed how most of the models are now forecasting the ''real'' kickoff of our season, begining by next week? You called it, BTW.


Yup they are and I think this time it's very real. There is so much model support for this tropical wave now I think it will probably develop. It will be interesting to see if it recurves or not. There is still a big split on whether it will.
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2570. Levi32
Quoting SouthDadeFish:
Yes, well anyone can tell you learned much more than just from this blog. In fact, you have become a great teacher here. I think its fascinating how someone from Alaska who is home schooled can learn so much about something that occurs thousands of miles away :~)


Lol, it is ironic isn't it :) I haven't met anybody else in real life who likes the weather but when I go to UAF I don't expect to find many who are obsessed with tropical weather like me. Polar weather is our focus up here.
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2568. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


yup, which in turn means that there is a greater chance of a USA hit than a recurvature


Yup, that -2 was probably responsible for Hurricane Georges's track through the entire greater Antilles(except Jamaica).
Member Since: Septiembre 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting katrinakat5:
hey man im just telling you the facts


It's over land and it can only feed off the heat of the day produced by day time. At night time, the atmosphere stabilizes and doesn't allow the low to fire off any convection. It's a totally different animal once it's over water.
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Quoting JLPR2:
1998 oscillated from a negative NAO to a positive one with a -2 Negative NAO right in the heart of the Season during September.

Negative NAO means weaker and farther south Bermuda High right?


yup, which in turn means that there is a greater chance of a USA hit than a recurvature
Member Since: Julio 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32706
Quoting katrinakat5:
wow x5 looks like its falling apart i have no ideas what the computers see in this developing lol...thats the problem the computers are to hyped up fot hurricane season this year...


You are so, nevermind...UGH!!!!
Member Since: Julio 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32706
2561. JLPR2
1998 oscillated from a negative NAO to a positive one with a -2 Negative NAO right in the heart of the Season during September.

Negative NAO means weaker and farther south Bermuda High right?
Member Since: Septiembre 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Congatulations to the Blue Devils the 2010 Drum Corps International world champions.
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Oh, before I go, just a reminder that the results for the Wunderblog Legends Poll have been posted in my blog for those who want to see the top five Legends of the Wunderground.

Gone this time!
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2556. tkeith
2515. beell 9:42 PM CDT on August 14, 2010

If the NAM model steering is what unfolds You could see the worst of it Beell. We're soaked here, but I dont think there's gonna be any dryin out soon. (just an uneducated guess on my part)
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Re: 1998... I don't think we're going to end up with as many tracks like that, IMO. That AB high has been placing itself so far south all season that I'd be surprised to see all the action so far north and only one storm in the CAR. I don't know where storms will end up, but the variablity in this season is going to come at the SW end of that high. Notice that the ITCZ is once again south of 10N for the most part, which suggests to me that over the MDR the high is hanging pretty low - like much of the season so far.

But we shall see.

Good night all.
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Quoting mcluvincane:
Saturday nights in Haiti just ain't the same as back in the conus..LOL. not much night life here. Got 1 more month and it will all be good. Pop me open a nice cold brew watch some football. Can't wait. Hope a storm don't hit here between now and then.


What you doing in Haiti?
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2551. tkeith
Quoting DestinJeff:


Thanks.
did you go outside where weather happens today?
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does the pattern for remainder of hurricane season seems favorable for more landfall storms or recuving storms?? Thanks for input
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Quoting Levi32:


Books, being on WU for the last 5 years, and trial-and-error forecasting. Also watching Joe Bastardi's videos and reading his column at Accuweather has been the number one contributor to what I have learned.
Yes, well anyone can tell you learned much more than just from this blog. In fact, you have become a great teacher here. I think its fascinating how someone from Alaska who is home schooled can learn so much about something that occurs thousands of miles away :~)
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2548. JLPR2
Quoting SouthDadeFish:
Many have used 1998 as an analogue for this year.


Hence the reason for the comparison.
Member Since: Septiembre 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
2547. Levi32
Quoting HurricaneDanielle:
Levi, good evening, welcome back, you've been missed, buddy! What's up? We've been deprived from your tropical tidbit videos for 48 hours now, lol.


Lol, during quieter periods don't be surprised if I stay away for a couple of days once in a while. Sometimes I take advantage of the time to get some other things done. I plan to do a new blog tomorrow.
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Quoting JLPR2:
Guys check 1998, most storms were fish storms.
yet there we those few and the big one (Mitch) which affected land.
Many have used 1998 as an analogue for this year.
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2545. Levi32
Quoting SouthDadeFish:
Levi I'm just curious, since your about to start college, where did you learn all of meteorological knowledge from?


Books, being on WU for the last 5 years, and trial-and-error forecasting. Also watching Joe Bastardi's videos and reading his column at Accuweather has been the number one contributor to what I have learned.
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2543. JLPR2
Guys check 1998, most storms were fish storms.
yet there we those few and the big one (Mitch) which affected land.

Member Since: Septiembre 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting Levi32:
The eye of a hurricane is the result of high pressure building up over the center of the storm because of the warming that takes place through release of latent heat in the eyewall. The higher pressures cause subsidence (sinking air) which warms further and dries, causing the cloud-free nature of the eye and the fact that the recon will always find warmer temperature inside the eye than outside the eye, as well as a low dewpoint.

You can't keep an eye from forming due to a tight pressure gradient. In fact the stronger the pressure gradient, the greater the surface convergence, the stronger the thunderstorms, and more heat gets released which causes the eye to clear up even further. That's why stronger hurricanes have clear and well-defined eyes while weaker storms don't have perfect eyes.
Levi I'm just curious, since your about to start college, where did you learn all of meteorological knowledge from?
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2539. JLPR2
Quoting DestinJeff:
Danielle when?


Probably in the CATL later this week if the GFS and EURO are right. XD
Member Since: Septiembre 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
2538. Levi32
Quoting JLPR2:


yep, Felix was small so the eye collapsed quickly, right?

Also hello again! :D


Yup. Good evening :)
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Quoting Levi32:


No, he's over land in that picture. He had an eye as a Cat 5.
Hey Levi!

Yeah I noticed after Nrt pointed it out, I thought it was still over water, just prior to landfall.
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2536. Levi32
The eye of a hurricane is the result of high pressure building up over the center of the storm because of the warming that takes place through release of latent heat in the eyewall. The higher pressures cause subsidence (sinking air) which warms further and dries, causing the cloud-free nature of the eye and the fact that the recon will always find warmer temperature inside the eye than outside the eye, as well as a low dewpoint.

You can't keep an eye from forming due to a tight pressure gradient. In fact the stronger the pressure gradient, the greater the surface convergence, the stronger the thunderstorms, and more heat gets released which causes the eye to clear up even further. That's why stronger hurricanes have clear and well-defined eyes while weaker storms don't have perfect eyes.
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2534. JLPR2
Quoting Levi32:


No, he's over land in that picture. He had an eye as a Cat 5.


yep, Felix was small so the eye collapsed quickly, right?
---------------
Also hello again! :D
Member Since: Septiembre 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting DestinJeff:
Danielle when?
High fives on the avatar.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
That makes sense.

Plus pressure gradient is the how tightly packed the contours are. Doesnt have anything really to do with the symetry.
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anyone have any possible outlooks on the steering for storms in sept. / oct time frame? Ive herd more US threats?? any input thanks!!
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2529. Levi32
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Oh wait, "Felix" just answered the question...category 5 and no eye:

Felix as a category 5 hurricane and no eye feature.


No, he's over land in that picture. He had an eye as a Cat 5.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good day folks.

So now we are looking for storms two weeks and more away ?. I guess when it's this quiet that is the only way to pass the time LOL
That and plotting land-canes over Africa.....zzzzzz..*crickets chirping*
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:
How the system is aligned in the veritcal not the horizontal. PGF is a horizontal feature and is different at each level. Also how is the system stacked? Eyes can be covered aloft due to shear but be just fine at the surface.
That makes sense.
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How the system is aligned in the veritcal not the horizontal. PGF is a horizontal feature and is different at each level. Also how is the system stacked? Eyes can be covered aloft due to shear but be just fine at the surface.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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