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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2125. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
2122. Patrap
469
fxus64 klix 142028
afdlix


Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
328 PM CDT Sat Aug 14 2010


Short term...
forecast models in generally agreement on taking remnants of td5
and upper low back toward the area transiting the east end of
the upper ridge...and eventually moving westward across the area
Monday and Tuesday. GFS continues its trend of being more robust
with surface development. Have trended more toward the European model (ecmwf)
solution with somewhat weaker solution. In any case...plenty of
tropical moisture in place with precipitable water near 2.5 through the
region...thus would expect some significant rainfall totals Monday
through Wednesday. As the system moves across region. Have included
heavy rainfall wording on Monday through Wednesday. With ground
being saturated from more recent rainfall...flash flood and
flooding may also be an issue early in the week. Sundays
convection will be mostly diurnal driven similar to today.
Localized heavy rainfall and drainage issues cannot be ruled out
due to high precipitation water in atmosphere. Maximum temperatures on Sunday will
be largely a function of thunderstorm coverage and will range from
the middle 80 in thunderstorm areas with areas getting into sunshine
during the afternoon reaching the low and middle 90s.


&&


Long term...
by late Wednesday..models have system moving into East Texas. Deep
southerly flow will be in place so plenty of moisture will be
available for diurnal driven convection...which should remain at
slightly above climatological levels. Temperatures expected to be near
normal as convection tempers maximum temperatures.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting btwntx08:
i say that sometimes too :)


But you took it from me. Admit it. :P
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2120. Patrap
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
where is Stormtop when you need him....the season is about to begin.......oh well
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Jackson, MS Area Forecast Discussion
Saturday, August 14, 2010

BACK TO OUR DEVELOPING SFC LOW...ALL FORECAST MODEL TAKE THE LOW
CENTER BACK OVER THE GULF AND HAVE IT TAKING ON TROPICAL
CHARACTERISTICS AS IT BECOMES WARM CORE. THIS IS THE REASON MOST
CONTINUE TO DEEPEN THE FEATURE AS IT MOVES WEST IN A VERY FAVORABLE
UPPER LEVEL ENVIRONMENT. IF THE SYSTEM DOES DEVELOP AS A TROPICAL
ENTITY...THEN THERE WILL BE SOME IMPACTS TO THE CWA.
ADDITIONALLY...UNTIL IT DEVELOPS...FORECAST MODELS WILL CONTINUE TO
HAVE TROUBLE WITH TIMING AND ANY CONSISTENT TRACK. ATLEAST THERE IS
A STRONG CONSENSUS AMONG THE MODELS AND WE HAVE A GOOD HANDLE ON
THE GENERAL EVOLUTION OF THE FEATURE BETWEEN TUE-WED. MOST OF THE
IMPACTS FOR OUR AREA WOULD BE FROM HEAVY RAINFALL IF PERSISTENT
BANDS CAN DEVELOP AND TRAIN. ALSO...IF IT CAN DEEPEN ENOUGH...THEN
THE LOW LEVEL SHEAR WILL INCREASE TO A POINT THAT CAN SUPPORT
ROTATING UPDRAFTS. THIS SEEMS POSSIBLE ON WED AT THIS TIME.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Who is it been saying "Lack of patience, etc.?"

I would llike to quote that blogger....


Me. ;)
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2114. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
btw, somebody must have fooled u and made u think that was an Atlantic storm. Everybody knows Mexico has no Atlantic coast whatsoever, and therefore COULD not have been hit by the A storm... twice.
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2112. hydrus
Quoting KYDan:
Interesting Research on Green vs Blue Ocean color and Hurricane formation
That was an interesting article for sure. I hope Dr.Masters has read it..:)
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Quoting HurricaneDanielle:
Ignore him, man. Anyhow, hey Kori, what are your thoughts on the African, soon to be storm, this evening, any new thoughts regarding it? Also, do you have anything to say, regarding the ECM's run from this afternoon? I value your input greatly, bro.


I have no new thoughts. They are the same as they have been the past several days. This will probably develop (since, unlike what donna said, it's not a "phantom storm", because the incipient tropical wave is already evident on satellite imagery over Africa) and become the season's next hurricane. Major hurricane status is even possible, but it's too early to say that with any reasonable degree of confidence at this juncture.

Based on the steering pattern, this system could do one of two things: 1. threaten the east coast in the next two weeks, or 2. recurve harmlessly out to sea. It's impossible to choose which is more viable right now.

As for the ECMWF, I'm not noticing anything odd in its 12z run?
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2110. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Who is it been saying "Lack of patience, etc.?"

I would llike to quote that blogger....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Definition: Nada

Slang, "nothing," 1933, introduced by Hemingway, from Sp., "nothing," from L. (res) nata "small, insignificant thing," lit. "(thing) born."

1. n.
nothing; none. (Spanish.) : I asked him, but he didn't say nada.

See also: 2010 Tropical Atlantic Season from July 1 thru August 14th.
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Quoting HurricaneDanielle:
Is Trev around?



do you se him on or a round here
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what is keeper's full username?
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That's the largest dust storm I've ever seen in the Atlantic. Bet we get some dust here in Fl. in a few days.
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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
Does anyone know where the looped image of the satellite images from the north pole that shows the entire northern hemesphere is


Ask Keeper. He posts that a lot.
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Later folks, back to the golf tourney...
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2082. xcool
000
FXUS64 KLIX 142028
AFDLIX

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
328 PM CDT SAT AUG 14 2010

.SHORT TERM...
FORECAST MODELS IN GENERALLY AGREEMENT ON TAKING REMNANTS OF TD5
AND UPPER LOW BACK TOWARD THE AREA TRANSITING THE EAST END OF
THE UPPER RIDGE...AND EVENTUALLY MOVING WESTWARD ACROSS THE AREA
MONDAY AND TUESDAY. GFS CONTINUES ITS TREND OF BEING MORE ROBUST
WITH SURFACE DEVELOPMENT. HAVE TRENDED MORE TOWARD THE ECMWF
SOLUTION WITH SOMEWHAT WEAKER SOLUTION. IN ANY CASE...PLENTY OF
TROPICAL MOISTURE IN PLACE WITH PW NEAR 2.5 THROUGH THE
REGION...THUS WOULD EXPECT SOME SIGNIFICANT RAINFALL TOTALS MONDAY
THROUGH WEDNESDAY. AS THE SYSTEM MOVES ACROSS REGION. HAVE INCLUDED
HEAVY RAINFALL WORDING ON MONDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY. WITH GROUND
BEING SATURATED FROM MORE RECENT RAINFALL...FLASH FLOOD AND
FLOODING MAY ALSO BE AN ISSUE EARLY IN THE WEEK. SUNDAYS
CONVECTION WILL BE MOSTLY DIURNAL DRIVEN SIMILAR TO TODAY.
LOCALIZED HEAVY RAINFALL AND DRAINAGE ISSUES CANNOT BE RULED OUT
DUE TO HIGH PRECIP WATER IN ATMOSPHERE. MAX TEMPS ON SUNDAY WILL
BE LARGELY A FUNCTION OF THUNDERSTORM COVERAGE AND WILL RANGE FROM
THE MID 80 IN THUNDERSTORM AREAS WITH AREAS GETTING INTO SUNSHINE
DURING THE AFTERNOON REACHING THE LOW AND MID 90S.

&&

.LONG TERM...
BY LATE WEDNESDAY..MODELS HAVE SYSTEM MOVING INTO E TEXAS. DEEP
SOUTHERLY FLOW WILL BE IN PLACE SO PLENTY OF MOISTURE WILL BE
AVAILABLE FOR DIURNAL DRIVEN CONVECTION...WHICH SHOULD REMAIN AT
SLIGHTLY ABOVE CLIMATOLOGICAL LEVELS. TEMPS EXPECTED TO BE NEAR
NORMAL AS CONVECTION TEMPERS MAX TEMPS
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Does anyone know where the looped image of the satellite images from the north pole that shows the entire northern hemesphere is
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting katrinakat5:
wow i have never in my life seen the tropics so quiet in mid august..no soul train of waves coming off..this is really strange hurricane season may just wait to start in september this year..


No it won't. Model consensus continues in favor of our first Cape Verde storm beginning in less than a week. It has the potential to be a rather powerful storm, too.
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LEGENDS OF THE WUNDERGROUND RESULTS

First, I'd like to thank all those who participated and made this a lot of fun. Altogether 17 bloggers voted. I'm reporting my findings in three ways:
1) greatest number of votes in each category [1 - 5]
2) most popular choices [total number of votes for a particular event, regardless of category]
3) WEIGHTED results. Here I assigned a number of points for each vote based on category [1 - 5]

CATEGORY WINNERS

#1 Legend: Katrina
#2 Legend: Portlight
#3 Legend: Ike
#4 Legend: Gustav
#5 Legend: Rita

POPULARITY CONTEST

Tied for 1st KATRINA / WILMA [each received 11 total votes]
Tied for 3rd IKE / PORTLIGHT [each received 9 total votes]
5th place DEAN [with 7 total votes]

WEIGHTED RESULTS
Note: Here I assigned points from 5 to 1 for a vote in each of the categories, that is Cat 1=5 points, Cat 2=4 points and so on, with cat 5=1 point. Then I totaled the points each event received, and here are the final results of top 5 nominees in descending order. I have all 15 listed in my blog.

51 votes 1. Katrina 2005 "StormTop said it would hit NOLA"
40 votes 3. Wilma 2005 "the definitive pinhole eye"
33 votes 14. Portlight 2008 formation "We are the Blog"
23 votes 13. Ike 2008 aka "Ike Jr."; "Beeline for South Florida! ... NOT"
18 votes 6. Dean 2007 "is that cat 5 landfall????"

I have only one comment.... sure looks like the GOM crew was in the house for this.... lol
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2076. scott39
L5-1013mb- 65 miles SW of Atlanta
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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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