Causes of the Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:56 PM GMT on August 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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GFS 00Z at 36 hours



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:


Yep, just no day light saving thingy during winter.
And you have a point, I'll get to see those at least. XD


ahhh ok.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


You would think that at first, however, the negative NAO is further north which can allow for decreasing heights south of the positive heights anomalies over Greenland.




Interesting so not your typical negative NAO pattern. So if that trough does verify than it is all timing. How far west it can go before feeling weakness caused by trough
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2622. Drakoen
Quoting Twinkster:


Drak correct me if I am wrong but if the ECMWF is correct with predicting a negative NAO doesn't that mean troughs can't dig as far south and move out quicker and with the ensemble of ECMWF at 240 hours that far south isn't it possible trough could miss the system and the system would head nw due to weakness caused by trough and w-wnw when high builds right back in


You would think that at first, however, the negative NAO is further north which can allow for decreasing heights south of the positive heights anomalies over Greenland.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2620. xcool
ha
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
2618. beell
Quoting tkeith:
2515. beell 9:42 PM CDT on August 14, 2010

...We're soaked here, but I dont think there's gonna be any dryin out soon. (just an uneducated guess on my part)


Either way, that could be a problem for ya'll with more rain.
G'night!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2617. JLPR2
Quoting HurricaneGeek:


Yeah but look at it like you'll still be around for the 11 AM update and the 8 PM one too... but I'm not exactly sure if PR time is the same as US Eastern... is it?


Yep, just no day light saving thingy during winter.
And you have a point, I'll get to see those at least. XD
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


Model still showing a big trough off the eastern seaboard.
Which doesn't make much sense considering the negative NAO being shown by the same model:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


Model still showing a big trough off the eastern seaboard.


Drak correct me if I am wrong but if the ECMWF is correct with predicting a negative NAO doesn't that mean troughs can't dig as far south and move out quicker and with the ensemble of ECMWF at 240 hours that far south isn't it possible trough could miss the system and the system would head nw due to weakness caused by trough and w-wnw when high builds right back in
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2614. JLPR2
Quoting KoritheMan:


I'm not absolutely certain, but most La Nina seasons I've observed have an anomalous southward extension of the Bermuda High. So, probably.
Quoting Levi32:


There is said to be some correlation but not much really. I have not personally researched it. However, looking at climatology, El Nino actually results in a more negative NAO pattern in the Atlantic than La Nina (lower pressures where the A/B High is and higher pressures over Greenland):

Mean MSLP anomaly during El Nino summers:



Ah! I see, I guess we could kinda say than the mostly negative NAO of 2010 is the result of the fading El Niño we had at the start of it?

I asked since I noticed that 1998 went negative once La Niña really kicked in but in 2010 we have been negative all along.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting katrinakat5:
miss look at the maps gee


I have and they have very favorable upper level conditions for the Northern Gulf. Anyway, I just realized this is a troll. Poof.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I see nothing much going on right now.

Have fun enjoy your weekend!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting seflagamma:



LOL you may be correct there!


I stopped by several times today and saw lots of bickering going on so did not leave a post.


now I am going to see if I can "read back" a little to see what is going on here.


but If I find more "bickering"
I am sure some of the "old timers"
are going to say ,
You all got "MOMMED" LOL!

I am so ok with the season getting started later than expected..
I will get in my Birthday trip to Boston next weekend and get back home to
Ft Lauderdale area before anything can happen!!!

Take care,

Gamma





I am SO NOT coming in the last post before the page turn!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:
A strong wave is present along 5W moving through western Africa. The system already appears to have a vigorous mid level circulation as indicated by the cimss 850mb vorticity product- a maximum along the wave axis.
Great models support with it too. PGI30L:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JRRP:

jajajaaj
because is in coast of South America


TRUE.. that's it. Thanks
Becasue that where you see the Pacific OCean temperatures become cooler...

muchas gracias =)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2607. Drakoen
Quoting Levi32:
The ECMWF ensemble mean is still farther south than the operational:



Model still showing a big trough off the eastern seaboard.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2605. JRRP
Quoting HurricaneGeek:
Why did they go with Spanish when choosing El Nio y La Nia...

I guess the German DER JUNGE and DAS MADCHEN don't have the same tone...

jajaja/hahaha

jajajaaj
because develops near the coast of South America
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting katrinakat5:
yes mississippi its got 20 knots of shear if it gets back over the water again...


Show me where it says there will be 20kts of shear from 24-72 hours across the Northern Gulf Coast.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Here was my May 15, 2010 prediction:

Tropical Depressions: 23
Tropical Storms: 18
Hurricanes: 10
Major Hurricanes: 6
Category 5's: 3

Now, here is my updated August 15, 2010 prediction (yes I know it is the 14th, but since the 15th is only a couple minutes away I'll just release it now):

Tropical Depressions: 23
Tropical Storms: 18
Hurricanes: 10
Major Hurricanes: 6
Category 5's: 2


http://www.wunderground.com/blog/Twinkster/show.html

this is my updated forecast
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Lol, "the boy" and "the girl" doesn't sound too good either.


True!!
I bet it has to do with the fact that there are more Spanish speaking countries in the Atlantic Basin than any other... and its a shout out to all our amigos out there.
Just a guess. =)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2601. Drakoen
A strong wave is present along 5W moving through western Africa. The system already appears to have a vigorous mid level circulation as indicated by the cimss 850mb vorticity product- a maximum along the wave axis.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting sebastianflorida:
I think everyone poofed everyone else, and no one is left but me and a few others.



LOL you may be correct there!


I stopped by several times today and saw lots of bickering going on so did not leave a post.


now I am going to see if I can "read back" a little to see what is going on here.


but If I find more "bickering"
I am sure some of the "old timers"
are going to say ,
You all got "MOMMED" LOL!

I am so ok with the season getting started later than expected..
I will get in my Birthday trip to Boston next weekend and get back home to
Ft Lauderdale area before anything can happen!!!

Take care,

Gamma
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Here was my May 15, 2010 prediction:

Tropical Depressions: 23
Tropical Storms: 18
Hurricanes: 10
Major Hurricanes: 6
Category 5's: 3

Now, here is my updated August 15, 2010 prediction (yes I know it is the 14th, but since the 15th is only a couple minutes away I'll just release it now):

Tropical Depressions: 23
Tropical Storms: 18
Hurricanes: 10
Major Hurricanes: 6
Category 5's: 2



http://www.wunderground.com/blog/Twinkster/show.html

this is my updated forecast
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:
Well its a bummer I'll start college on the 30th, right for the peak of the season. -.-

And the fun thing is I'll be in the university from 1pm-7pm from Monday thru Thursday, Huzzah!(sarcasm)


Yeah but look at it like you'll still be around for the 11 AM update and the 8 PM one too... but I'm not exactly sure if PR time is the same as US Eastern... is it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2597. Levi32
Eating dinner, back in a bit.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2596. Levi32
Quoting charlestonscnanny:

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.


Well thanks :) I'm glad you enjoy them.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneGeek:
Why did they go with Spanish when choosing El Niño y La Niña...

I guess the German DER JUNGE and DAS MADCHEN don't have the same tone...

jajaja/hahaha
Lol, "the boy" and "the girl" doesn't sound too good either.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2594. Levi32
Quoting JLPR2:
So a question for the smart ones XD

Is La Niña normally accompanied by a negative NAO or not?


There is said to be some correlation but not much really. I have not personally researched it. However, looking at climatology, El Nino actually results in a more negative NAO pattern in the Atlantic than La Nina (lower pressures where the A/B High is and higher pressures over Greenland):

Mean MSLP anomaly during El Nino summers:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JLPR2:
So a question for the smart ones XD

Is La Niña normally accompanied by a negative NAO or not?


I'm not absolutely certain, but most La Nina seasons I've observed have an anomalous southward extension of the Bermuda High. So, probably.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2592. JLPR2
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Here another view, also at 240 hours:



Intimidating... XD
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2591. JRRP
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2590. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
2589. JLPR2
Well its a bummer I'll start college on the 30th, right for the peak of the season. -.-

And the fun thing is I'll be in the university from 1pm-7pm from Monday thru Thursday, Huzzah!(sarcasm)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Why did they go with Spanish when choosing El Niño y La Niña...

I guess the German DER JUNGE and DAS MADCHEN don't have the same tone...

jajaja/hahaha
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:
The ECMWF ensemble mean is still farther south than the operational:

Here another view, also at 240 hours:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2586. JLPR2
Quoting F4PHANTOM:
Was positive Jan , March & Dec of 1998


Yup, 2010 has been impressive, negative since January. O_O!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2584. JLPR2
Quoting F4PHANTOM:
If that were the only factor then Ivan and Jeanne would have taken similar tracks instead of being fish storms.


Since the -2 is a monthly number its probably the average of the daily number which means it may have gone positive at one point, resulting in recurving storms.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Here was my May 15, 2010 prediction:

Tropical Depressions: 23
Tropical Storms: 18
Hurricanes: 10
Major Hurricanes: 6
Category 5's: 3

Now, here is my updated August 15, 2010 prediction (yes I know it is the 14th, but since the 15th is only a couple minutes away I'll just release it now):

Tropical Depressions: 23
Tropical Storms: 18
Hurricanes: 10
Major Hurricanes: 6
Category 5's: 2
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2581. Levi32
The ECMWF ensemble mean is still farther south than the operational:

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Barring any major changes I see that we might get a circle out of the African Wave tomorrow.

I remember last year when they had an ORANGE circle on a wave that still was on Africa....I can't remember if anything came of it or not but interesting nonetheless.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2579. JLPR2
So a question for the smart ones XD

Is La Niña normally accompanied by a negative NAO or not?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2576. JLPR2
Quoting F4PHANTOM:
Never went positive . Got to -.02 in Aug. and then went to -2.00 in Sept.


I was talking about the entire year of 1998.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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