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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1225. xcool
thanks rob
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting nocaneindy:

I don't know if your reply was in mock or not, just please understand. I'm not saying a top 5 season, just that historically September is a barnburner, and with the bulk of major tropic potential located here, expect the unknown.
Other than that, remember back to last year, where we was able to get a cat 2 system in a November enviroment. Easily, 10 named systems here on out is a fair assessment.


Not a mock my friend, all opinions are welcome in my neck of the woods. I am sitting idle until I see what effect the pattern change, if it indeed changes, has on our local environment before I make any changes. Something is afoot and I believe this pattern break in Russia holds the key. I've been looking at this area for some time now and that's why I hedged my bet on the 15th, assuming a link between the two, we'll see.
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1223. will45
Quoting homelesswanderer:


Awe. That's sweet. :) Get me in better with my new neighbors. They wanted to throw a party when we had a giant pine removed. You could hear the neighborhood sigh with relief. Lol.


lol nothing like a happy neighbor
Member Since: Julio 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
12z 8 to 10 DAY 500MB MEAN
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Quoting will45:


i saw earlier where you already lost one house so i will up it to 3/4


Awe. That's sweet. :) Get me in better with my new neighbors. They wanted to throw a party when we had a giant pine removed. You could hear the neighborhood sigh with relief. Lol.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
as far as I know that yellow has not poped up on the map from june first till now wow


Agreed, that color has not presented itself on this map in quite a bit. I think, based on observed ob's and forecasted ob's, the Cape Verde area is our most likely area of significant development we have had since 2008. Hopefully it follows 2008's Bertha path, right on outta sea!
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1218. xcool
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
1217. will45
...DISCUSSION...

GULF OF MEXICO...
EAST TO WEST SURFACE RIDGING IS OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO WITH
AXIS ALONG 27N. 10-15 KT SURFACE WINDS ARE NOTED WITH MAINLY
FAIR WEATHER. SCATTERED MODERATE TO NUMEROUS STRONG CONVECTION
IS INLAND OVER S MEXICO FROM 16N-23N BETWEEN 96W-100W.
ELSEWHERE...SCATTERED SHOWERS ARE OVER W CUBA FROM 22N-23N
BETWEEN 80W-84W. IN THE UPPER LEVELS...AN UPPER LEVEL HIGH IS
CENTERED OVER THE FLORIDA PANHANDLE WITH CONSIDERABLE UPPER
LEVEL MOISTURE. AN UPPER LEVEL LOW IS CENTERED OVER THE YUCATAN
PENINSULA NEAR 21N89W. EXPECT...SHOWERS AND CONVECTION OVER THE
NORTH GULF STATES...OVER FLORIDA...AND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA
OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

not much in that one
Member Since: Julio 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
Quoting CyclonicVoyage:



August is going to make a profound statement here soon. I know, I know, all have been saying soon, then soon again, blah. Tomorrow things will start to change.

Is it the 15th yet? Hey, tomorrow.

I don't know if your reply was in mock or not, just please understand. I'm not saying a top 5 season, just that historically September is a barnburner, and with the bulk of major tropic potential located here, expect the unknown.
Other than that, remember back to last year, where we was able to get a cat 2 system in a November enviroment. Easily, 10 named systems here on out is a fair assessment.
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Also leaving the door open for anything to traverse the ATL.
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as far as I know that yellow has not poped up on the map from june first till now wow

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1213. xcool





Tropical Atlantic Buoy/Ship Map and Analyses


xcool
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
I see models are waffling on TD5, now showing development in the Atlantic. Seems the reasonable scenario looking at satellite.
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1211. will45
Quoting homelesswanderer:


Lol. You got a deal.


i saw earlier where you already lost one house so i will up it to 3/4
Member Since: Julio 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
OLR 7/30 - 8/08 showing a good amount of precipitation over the Atlantic. A positive sign we will see an increase in tropical activity soon.
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Lol. You better keep a close eye on that shield. Someone from Texas might steal it.


you have mail...
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Quoting will45:


ill give ya half of it lol


Lol. You got a deal.
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1207. xcool


Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting CyclonicVoyage:



August is going to make a profound statement here soon. I know, I know, all have been saying soon, then soon again, blah. Tomorrow things will start to change.

Is it the 15th yet? Hey, tomorrow.



Very interested to track both the Atlantic as well as Russia.

Interested to prove that the pattern responsible for the heat waves was the fly in the ointment.
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I have a bad feeling that Earl is going to end up in SC or in NC..I just have that feeling.
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1203. xcool
lmao
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
1202. will45
Quoting homelesswanderer:


Lol. You better keep a close eye on that shield. Someone from Texas might steal it.


ill give ya half of it lol
Member Since: Julio 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
1201. xcool


Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting nocaneindy:


Other than perhaps in the E-Pac/ S.W. Caribbean area, Can anyone find a strong ULL that would impact tropical development in the Atlantic M.D.R.? Otherwise, shear is dropping, and the ULL's seem fewer and further in between. Yet again, September is our make or break month, as the season will likely follow that months activity pattern. I still see a 15 named system season, and my reasons can be found Here
Remember, the year is still young tropically speaking, as the bulk of canes to come will emerge between now and late November. We got a lotta latent heat content abound, and only a season for the ages is gonna prevent a high number of tropical cyclogenic development. Still,I must implore all, who live in a potential impact area, to keep a vigilante eye towards major tropical development.



August is going to make a profound statement here soon. I know, I know, all have been saying soon, then soon again, blah. Tomorrow things will start to change.

Is it the 15th yet? Hey, tomorrow.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
360:

LOOK jasoncool,convection.
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Quoting will45:


im puttin da shield up



Lol. You better keep a close eye on that shield. Someone from Texas might steal it.
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1196. xcool
will45 .not good at all & bad Storm surge
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
1195. xcool
jasoncoolman2010xx .why two ?
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
1194. will45
Quoting xcool:
will45 .lol


hee hee im on a lil island on the NC coast
Member Since: Julio 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
1192. xcool
will45 .lol
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
360:

Member Since: Julio 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31577
Quoting Chicklit:
low shear too.


Other than perhaps in the E-Pac/ S.W. Caribbean area, Can anyone find a strong ULL that would impact tropical development in the Atlantic M.D.R.? Otherwise, shear is dropping, and the ULL's seem fewer and further in between. Yet again, September is our make or break month, as the season will likely follow that months activity pattern. I still see a 15 named system season, and my reasons can be found Here
Remember, the year is still young tropically speaking, as the bulk of canes to come will emerge between now and late November. We got a lotta latent heat content abound, and only a season for the ages is gonna prevent a high number of tropical cyclogenic development. Still,I must implore all, who live in a potential impact area, to keep a vigilante eye towards major tropical development.
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Quoting xcool:
btwntx08 .carolina & New York City overdue for hurricane.


Yep it is! I'm waiting.
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1186. will45
Quoting xcool:
btwntx08 .carolina & New York City overdue for hurricane.


im puttin da shield up

Member Since: Julio 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
1184. xcool
btwntx08 .carolina & New York City overdue for hurricane.
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Somehow, it doesn't seem all that surprising that the models have a big cyclone towards the end of August. I'd be surprised if they didn't have at least one in any of the 14 day time frames between now and Oct. 1. This seems normal. It's the height of the season. Where they go, how they wind up....that's something we shall see.
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Quoting xcool:
homelesswanderer .history repeats itself :(


That it does. :(
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The GFS is starting to get with the active hurricane season forecast.
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Hmmm? Now this is different.

GMZ089-140930-
SYNOPSIS FOR THE GULF OF MEXICO
1030 PM CDT FRI AUG 13 2010

.SYNOPSIS...AN E TO W RIDGE WILL MEANDER ALONG 26N THROUGH THE
WEEKEND THEN SHIFT N TO ALONG 27N EARLY NEXT WEEK. WEAKENING LOW
PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE OVER N CENTRAL COASTAL PLAINS THROUGH TUE
THEN LIFT FURTHER N ON WED.
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1178. xcool
homelesswanderer .history repeats itself :(
Member Since: Septiembre 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting xcool:
homelesswanderer .Do You Remember May 8th 1995

flood new orleans.


No. Don't remember that one. Just saw the CMC though. :(
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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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