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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Quoting StormJunkie:
pilotguy...Can someone back up that it IS safe? Seriously doubt it. There is just no way they have done enough testing to figure out what effects all the oil and chemicals have had. Not to mention, I'm on the E coast and like my local seafood just fine. So I'll stay on the side of caution.
I can back it up. Boiled 200 lbs of shrimp and 150 lbs of crab for a family reunion yesterday. No hospital visits equals safe. Some people in this place need to get a freekin' grip.
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Quoting StormJunkie:
pilotguy...Can someone back up that it IS safe? Seriously doubt it. There is just no way they have done enough testing to figure out what effects all the oil and chemicals have had. Not to mention, I'm on the E coast and like my local seafood just fine. So I'll stay on the side of caution.


How about NOAA ?

http://www.noaa.gov/100days/Keeping_Seafood_Safe.html
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Quoting StormJunkie:
pilotguy...Can someone back up that it IS safe? Seriously doubt it. There is just no way they have done enough testing to figure out what effects all the oil and chemicals have had. Not to mention, I'm on the E coast and like my local seafood just fine. So I'll stay on the side of caution.


I thin NOAA is pretty well respected....

http://www.noaa.gov/100days/Keeping_Seafood_Safe.html
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3221. Patrap
Quoting Neapolitan:


The FDA is%u2014seriously%u2014subjecting suspect Gulf seafood to a 'sniff' test, which is just what it sounds like: a human sits before a vat of seafood, puts his nose up to a piece of meat, and inhales. If it smells like gas, it's rejected, but if not, it's packed and shipped (and, supposedly, cooked and eaten). Thank God for that thorough inspection; Lord knows no known carcinogen lacks a tell-tale aroma... ;-)


Thats so false I wont engage it.

LOL


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Quoting StormJunkie:
Morning Chsnanny

Yeah, don't think he really knows what he's talking about...Hugo was a beast. While Fran was a nasty storm...It was no where near what Hugo was. That was a night I'll never forget for sure. Were you in Summerville too?

Thanks for the correction Pat...That makes more sense now.

Yes I was in Summerville and the eye went over my apartment complex. The next morning we were outside and the bees and wasps were furocious. No power for 3 weeks but had a small generator and made coffee for our neighbors. Never forget the pics of the Ben Sawyer Bridge turned around and in the water. I'm getting a little anxious now but glad I am on WU getting updates. Good morning everyone.
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Quoting StormJunkie:
pilotguy...Can someone back up that it IS safe? Seriously doubt it. There is just no way they have done enough testing to figure out what effects all the oil and chemicals have had. Not to mention, I'm on the E coast and like my local seafood just fine. So I'll stay on the side of caution.


The FDA is—seriously—subjecting suspect Gulf seafood to a 'sniff' test, which is just what it sounds like: a human sits before a vat of seafood, puts his nose up to a piece of meat, and inhales. If it smells like gas, it's rejected, but if not, it's packed and shipped (and, supposedly, cooked and eaten). Thank God for that thorough inspection; Lord knows no known carcinogen lacks a tell-tale aroma... ;-)
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Quoting StormJunkie:


Morning all

No offense SS...But I'm not eating anything out of the Gulf for a few years...They can open it all they want, I'm not convinced that a month after the oil stopped flowing that everything is "safe"


You probably have no idea where the seafood you're eating is coming from, most people don't. Most seafood in restaurants comes from China. Less than 1% of that is inspected. We all know what a bang up job China does on their products and safety. GOM seafood is safer than any in the country right now because it's being inspected so much. Research it....
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pilotguy...Can someone back up that it IS safe? Seriously doubt it. There is just no way they have done enough testing to figure out what effects all the oil and chemicals have had. Not to mention, I'm on the E coast and like my local seafood just fine. So I'll stay on the side of caution.
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3214. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
good morn bloggers so we still chasing ghosts
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Quoting katrinakat5:
lol reed did you dream that last night x5 wont even get up to tropical depression strength...you should really quit this nonsense..


Have to see what psychicmaria says, but this year-- who knows? Maybe Danielle after all?
Member Since: June 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1565

wind gust for Monday night
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Quoting reedzone:
My count remains unchanged since May, 15-18 storms, 9 or 10 Hurricanes, 5 majors.
As it stands now..
3-1-1

August forecast - 5 storms (including Colin)
September - 5-7
October - 2
November - 1 or 2
December - 1

So you agree with Levi (and me) that Alex was a Major Hurricane? True. Nice forecast.
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3209. Patrap


Updated yesterday at 10:37 PM
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Quoting Patrap:


Bizarre
Member Since: June 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1565


AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
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3202. Patrap
3194. WeatherNerdPR

Morn' to wnPR
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if anyone can make a call on fish/no fish for a system over 10 days out please my family wants to win the lotto and could use your help.
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3198. Patrap
Try a Bowl of "Fish Wish",..,

Or maybe "Invest Flake's",with Marshmallow's..!

From Kellog's
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Quoting reedzone:
Tropics are about to blow folks!!! Blow up :P
TD5 regenerating, 2 possible Cape Verde Storms, helloooo 2010!

yes sir look at the GFS

On the lastest run it develops 3 tropical cyclones by August 27
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The models are flipping from USA to fish, sorry jason, it don't work that way. We need more days to observe. I have a good feeling if the first one recurves, the next one misses the trough and heads to the USA.
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Good Morning!
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My count remains unchanged since May, 15-18 storms, 9 or 10 Hurricanes, 5 majors.
As it stands now..
3-1-1

August forecast - 5 storms (including Colin)
September - 5-7
October - 2
November - 1 or 2
December - 1
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Quoting jasoncoolman2010xx:
fish storms..


you mean to say a system in the gulf can be a fish storm? Please do tell.
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Tropical Update Aug. 15th. 2010
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Morning Chsnanny

Yeah, don't think he really knows what he's talking about...Hugo was a beast. While Fran was a nasty storm...It was no where near what Hugo was. That was a night I'll never forget for sure. Were you in Summerville too?

Thanks for the correction Pat...That makes more sense now.
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3187. Patrap
We and da wife Married in Aug 90,,and Honeymooned in Boone,N. Carolina and I was amazed at the deforestation so far inland from Hugo.
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3184. Patrap

Hugo in 1989 (was a toddler and don't remember it, my family was living in the Appalachians in NC and told me stories about it).


He mentions, "he" was a toddler.

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Tropics are about to blow folks!!! Blow up :P
TD5 regenerating, 2 possible Cape Verde Storms, helloooo 2010!
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Hugo in 1989 (was a toddler and don't remember it, my family was living in the Appalachians in NC and told me stories about it).

Fran in 1996 (was a 3rd grader, scared the crap out of me 'cause I didn't know much about hurricanes or weather back then. My family was living in Raleigh NC when the eye hit us directly as a cat. 1)

That's really it, just two. Gotten lucky here in Raleigh since Fran. Bonnie 1998, Dennis 1999, Floyd 1999, Isabel 2003, Charley 2004, Ophelia 2005, Ernesto 2006, and Hanna 2008 as the most severe weather with those past just to the east of us.

Don't think people in Charleston would classify Hugo as a toddler.???
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Quoting katrinakat5:
convection is increasing over x5 but i still dont expect even a tropical depression from this just copious amounts of rain which we dont need..so folks sit back a nd watch a good football game or movie ...the tropics are clear until at least aug25th..


orly?
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Quoting jasoncoolman2010xx:
no more t.storm everywhere the dry air get to it i will die out soon.


orly?
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3176. Patrap
308
fxus64 klix 151027
afdlix


Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
527 am CDT sun Aug 15 2010


Synopsis...
surface low...the remnants from Tropical Depression Five...remains
situated near Montgomery Alabama. This is a bit north of where the
models show the system. In the middle/upper levels...a very moist/
maritime high pressure ridge extends from near Louisiana to
Alabama with precipitable water/pwats/ around 2.5 inches across
the breadth of the ridge. This is a very favorable pattern for
tropical cyclone development...minus a large water body at the
surface of course.


&&


Short term...
the models remain remarkably consistent showing the surface low
over Alabama moving south across the western Florida Panhandle
later today and then into the northern Gulf of Mexico waters to
the south tonight. This low looks like it should be vertically
stacked from the surface into the middle levels with an upper high
center just off to the northwest of the system. The larger scale
high and low pressure systems will be moving such that the col or
weakness will take the low west towards the southeast or south
central Louisiana coast on Tuesday. The big question of
course...is will this low develop/strengthen into a tropical
depression or storm. The National Hurricane Center is indicating a
low/20 percent chance of tropical cyclone development during the
next 48 hours as of 100 am CDT this morning. I am expecting to see
this chance of development get higher through the day today.


Given the model consistency...the cluster of tracks over water
give the low plenty of time over the warm waters of the north Gulf
of Mexico to attain tropical characteristics. The GFS remains the
strongest model showing tropical storm/gale force winds around 50
knots to the east of the low center. The European model (ecmwf)...which had been
advertising fairly weak solutions...is now showing a pressure
gradient on the east side of the low that could easily support
35 knots of wind. Given the model consistency...have raised the
winds in the grids to near 30 knots over the Gulf coastal waters
Monday night and Tuesday...and this may have to be raised again
later today. Refer to the marine section below for additional
details.


The greatest impact from this system is likely to be very heavy
rainfall with excessive amounts likely near the southeast
Louisiana coast...and possibly at least as far inland as the
Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Interstate 10 corridor. This is
very troublesome given many areas are already saturated from the
last week or so of rains. A Flash Flood Watch will likely be
necessary later today for at least coastal sections.


Winds are expected to bring tides up to at least 2 feet above
normal as the low nears the coast...but that could end up being
higher depending on the strength of the low. The astronomical
tidal ranges will be increasing during the Monday through
Wednesday period with ranges increasing to around 2 feet. A
coastal Flood Watch will likely be necessary if tropical storm
watches or warnings are not issued. 22/dew point


Long term...
the low may stall to our west...somewhere in western Louisiana or
southeast Texas by the Wednesday through Thursday time period.
Will continue to have higher than normal chances of showers and
thunderstorms through the period. Rain chances should lower closer
to normal by late in the week as the low dissipates. 22/dew point
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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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