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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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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HaboobsRsweet:
No because it doesnt have to do with the pressure gradient.
Then what does it have to do with?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Maybe this blog needs a question to get it going...

Is it possible for a cyclone to have such a tight pressure gradient that the eye-feature does not develop even if it is a category 5?
No because it doesnt have to do with the pressure gradient.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2521. FLDART1
Boy, am I glad not to be in the Marianas today.
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2520. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Japan Meteorological Agency

LOW, FORMER DIANMU (T1004)
48.0ºN 172.0ºE - 990 hPa

Low Position
===================
Sea South Of The Aleutian Island moving east southeast at 15 knots
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Some get poofed for speaking,as this post might.We all have a little troll in us.I just like the blog.thanks
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Maybe this blog needs a question to get it going...

Is it possible for a cyclone to have such a tight pressure gradient that the eye-feature does not develop even if it is a category 5?


No.
:)

(add): Well, maybe in a bad sci-fi movie.
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2517. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting mcluvincane:


What time will that be if you don't mind me asking?
Should be around 11:30 pm
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2515. beell
Quoting tkeith:
chances it strengthens to TS status?


Good question, tk. Which low level steering ridge do you like? Both probably have to be considered at this point. The NAM-like, stronger ridge would certainly allow more time over water.

18Z GFS Valid Tuesday, 18Z


Link

00Z NAM Valid Tuesday, 18Z


Link
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2514. xcool
nam ride LA coast:
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Just cause you can't see it does not mean it is not there especially since that image is right at landfall.
That's true.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting SouthDadeFish:
Will be interesting to see if the 00Z GFS also shows this.


What time will that be if you don't mind me asking?
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2511. xcool




Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Oh wait, "Felix" just answered the question...category 5 and no eye:

Felix as a category 5 hurricane and no eye feature.


Just cause you can't see it does not mean it is not there especially since that image is right at landfall.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
00z NAM is taking ex-TD5 further offshore and thus allowing it to strengthen more.

Will be interesting to see if the 00Z GFS also shows this.
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Wow. Its almost like its 3am on here. Most must b out partying! Can't say I blame them.
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Good evening, folks.
Just reading over a few of the comments.
I cannot imagine if anything were to form out of TD5 remnants it would be called anything but TD6.
Also, interesting chart Baha posted showing the Atlantic highs considering what's set up to emerge from Cape Verde.
Finally, correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like there are no longer trade winds in the Caribbean.

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00z NAM is taking ex-TD5 further offshore and thus allowing it to strengthen more.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10156
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.
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Oh wait, "Felix" just answered the question...category 5 and no eye:

Felix as a category 5 hurricane and no eye feature.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Maybe this blog needs a question to get it going...

Is it possible for a cyclone to have such a tight pressure gradient that the eye-feature does not develop even if it is a category 5?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting BahaHurican:
Thanks for saying "jetstream", Jase - reminds me to post this:



What was it pple were saying about the jet stream?
Hmmm... just noticed the analysed highs and lows... note the ULL at 30N 45W? looks like the only one left...

I don't remember them being on there last year...
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Quoting beell:


But what other system is out there?


There was talk of a trough split aiding in the redevelopment of TD-5. I'm not sure if that is still valid or not.
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Quoting beell:


But what other system is out there?
*Crickets*.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
2498. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
Quoting tkeith:
chances it strengthens to TS status?


A stationary TD under very favorable conditions and the hottest SST's on Earth plus in shallow water. Yes, there is a chance TD-5/6 could make a run/another run at TS status. The main problem of course will be time, it will run out of it quickly.
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2496. beell
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Could be TD-6 if merged with another system.


But what other system is out there?
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Quoting Neapolitan:


Nah, I didn't; I know a non-scientific doofus when I see one...especially one suffering from a sad and pathetic mental affliction, coupled with terminal loneliness, that keeps him or her coming back here just to post anything--anything that will get them just the tiniest tidbit of attention. The temp charts were for others... ;-)
Ok...? LMAO!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
2494. will45
Quoting xcool:


that trof is getting pretty close
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
You just got trolled by StormTop. LOL.
Nah, we know who it is... we just are so bored we're down to shooting fish in a barrel . . . lol
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2492. tkeith
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Could be TD-6 if merged with another system.
chances it strengthens to TS status?
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Quoting tornadolarkin:
This doesn't look very good.


That should be telling us something! Its bound to happen before the season ends.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
You just got trolled by StormTop. LOL.


Nah, I didn't; I know a non-scientific doofus when I see one...especially one suffering from a sad and pathetic mental affliction, coupled with terminal loneliness, that keeps him or her coming back here just to post anything--anything that will get them just the tiniest tidbit of attention. The temp charts were for others... ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13260
Quoting BahaHurican:
Yeah, that's one of the two possibles... After looking at what OPC has drawn for tomorrow, I'm buying that weird westward turn for x-TD5 a little more than before. Thing is, it won't be quite TD-5 anymore; it'll be the "frontalized" version... lol


Could be TD-6 if merged with another system.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting jasoncoolman2010xx:
that frontal boundary is way to the south for this time of year with the jetsteam with it to.
Thanks for saying "jetstream", Jase - reminds me to post this:



What was it pple were saying about the jet stream?
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2486. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
2485. will45
Quoting MahFL:
Whats with all the deleted comments ?

trolls violating community standards
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2484. aquak9
Ka-Pow! Zap!
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2483. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
2482. MahFL
Whats with all the deleted comments ?
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Quoting Neapolitan:


I wouldn't say temps in the eastern Atlantic are lower than July; here are maps of July 1, July 14, and yesterday:






Of course, it takes a lot more than a huge supply of hot water to initiate cylcogenesis. But still, I'm sticking with 20/12/6. For now.

You just got trolled by StormTop. LOL.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
2480. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
2479. will45
Quoting BahaHurican:
Yeah, that's one of the two possibles... After looking at what OPC has drawn for tomorrow, I'm buying that weird westward turn for x-TD5 a little more than before. Thing is, it won't be quite TD-5 anymore; it'll be the "frontalized" version... lol


yea Dr Masters called it sub tropical earlier in the week. In the end result he may have been close lol
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Quoting katrinakat5:
this goes into motion on AUGUST 16 i have dropped my prediction of storms for 2010 from 13 TO 11...i feel now with the hostile conditions prevailing in august i mean lots of shear all across the atlantic and storms fizzling as they come off the african coast i feel IMHO if we make 11 STORMS this will be considered a good season..the ssts off of africa are cooler then they were in july and that spells a bad cape verde season with the combination of the dry air...


I wouldn't say temps in the eastern Atlantic are lower than July; here are maps of July 1, July 14, and yesterday:






Of course, it takes a lot more than a huge supply of hot water to initiate cylcogenesis. But still, I'm sticking with 20/12/6. For now.

Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13260
2477. beell
Quoting BahaHurican:
...Thing is, it won't be quite TD-5 anymore; it'll be the "frontalized" version... lol


Don't even go there, Baha.
KISS...
LOL...
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About JeffMasters

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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