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:
Not sure if this has been mentioned yet; but seems they ran the GFDL on 05 again...


I believe it was as they also ran the HWRF on it too.
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http://www.srh.noaa.gov/images/fxc/lix/graphicast/image1.gif
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3171. Patrap
4 days ago..



Current

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hpc

MEANWHILE...CONFIDENCE REMAINS LOW WITH OUR DEPICTION OF THE
REMAINS OF TD FIVE FORECAST NEAR THE GULF COAST DURING THE SHORT
RANGE BEFORE WEAKENING OVER THE LOWER MS VALLEY DURING THE FIRST
HALF OF THE MEDIUM RANGE. THIS SYSTEM HAS POTENTIAL TO FOCUS SOME
HEAVY DOWNPOURS LOCALLY...BUT OUR COMPROMISE GUIDANCE TRACK
REMAINS AT ODDS WITH THE 00 UTC GFS THAT BRINGS THE SYSTEM MUCH
FARTHER NEWD AND THE 00 UTC ECMWF/06 UTC DGEX ARE MUCH FARTHER
SWWD INTO TX.

OVERALL...HPC DAYS 3-4 WED-THU PROGS WERE PRIMARILY DERIVED FROM A
3-WAY BLEND OF THE 00 UTC ECMWF/CANADIAN/GFS IN LIGHT OF
PREFERENCES AT THE END OF THE SHORT RANGE PERIOD ACROSS THE NRN
TIER AND AS PER ANNOYING EMBEDDED SHORTWAVE DIFFERENCES AND
CONTINUITY CONCERNS. DAYS 5-7 FRI-SUN USE AN ADJUSTED BLEND OF
00Z GFS ENSEMBLE MEAN AND ECMWF ENSEMBLE MEAN ALONG WITH THE 00Z
ECMWF TO ADD SOME DETAIL AMID GROWING SOLUTION SPREAD AT LONGER
TIME FRAMES.

RAUSCH/SCHICHTEL
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Not sure if this has been mentioned yet; but seems they ran the GFDL on 05 again...
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3168. Patrap
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Quoting jasoncoolman2010xx:
no more t.storm everywhere the dry air get to it i will die out soon.
*insert emoticon rolling on the floor in hysterics*
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Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System (NOGAPS)

The NOGAPS model is run out to 180 hours four times a day (0000 UTC, 0600 UTC, 1200 UTC, 1800 UTC). Some of its operational specifications are highlighted in Table 2. The hybrid sigma-pressure vertical coordinate configuration used by the NOGAPS results in approximately six terrain-following sigma levels below 850-mb and the remaining 24 levels occurring above 850-mb at near-pressure surfaces. Further information about the NOGAPS can be found on the UCAR/MetEd Individual NWP Model Matrix webpage:

http://www.meted.ucar.edu/nwp/pcu2

The NOGAPS model inserts an artificial TC vortex into its initial fields to more accurately depict the current intensity and location of TCs. The artificial vortex is created by adding synthetic ("bogus") data points to the observational data which are then incorporated during the data assimilation process. Like other global models, the NOGAPS model cannot provide very skillful intensity forecasts but can provide skillful track forecasts.

United Kingdom Meteorological Office (UKMET) Model

The UKMET model is run twice daily at 0000 UTC and 1200 UTC producing forecasts out to 144 hours. Intermediate runs initialized around the 0600 UTC and 1800 UTC data cycles are run at approximately 1300 UTC and 0100 UTC, but only produce forecasts to 48 hours. Table 2 provides the current resolution and operational specifications of the UKMET. Unlike the other models noted in Table 2, the UKMET attempts to explicitly calculate the vertical accelerations in the atmosphere rather than rely on the hydrostatic primitive equations.

Like the NOGAPS, the UKMET inserts a synthetic TC vortex into its initial fields based on the current intensity and position of the TC. The UKMET typically provides useful TC track forecasts but has limited ability to produce skillful intensity forecasts.
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3164. Patrap
I'm cooking up some Freedom Fries fo bkfst Ike.

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Quoting HurricaneKyle:


How so? I haven't looked at the UKMET but the NOGAPS looks pretty on pair with the ECMWF, CMC, and GFS.
both the UKMET and NOGAPS are initialized with a false/made up/"synthetic" initialization. In other words, in a case where there is no real TC to use for initialization purposes, made up information is inputted into the model to initialize it.
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Good point hunker and Jeff.And as far as the cw guys discussion.I would take that with a grain of salt.If every system developed as he predicted we would have 20 by now lol.Also those waves on the arfican cont. are constantly harped about by mostly young kids who live where? surprise the east coast of Florida.Now could this season still be troublesome? Why of course check out the 1983 hurr alicia where it started and how storng it got.But if i remember John Hope right the middle of sept shuts down the cape systems.And the odds of one making the track across is slim due the fronts starting to come down. So maybe it will be a season of home brew for the us.But dont worry many blogger will continue to post the MJO chart. Personally i think these charts and models have lost thier mojo.
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3160. Patrap
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Quoting hunkerdown:
for instance, in the case of this "MLC". you can with almost 100% certainty throw out the UKMET and NOGAPS.


How so? I haven't looked at the UKMET but the NOGAPS looks pretty on pair with the ECMWF, CMC, and GFS.
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3158. Patrap
Quoting blsealevel:


Good Morning Patrap
Channel 6 news saying xtd5 expecting to give you and me some more rain as it does a loop around us Monday & Tuesday


Morn' Homeie

Mo rain isnt needed.
October iz..

Coolth is what we need.

Im sicka da summa,as dey sey.
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Quoting HurricaneKyle:
while true models can be totally off (claudette, for example) a lot of times when they show heavy consistency and show a strong system usually things develop. That being said it is always good to be on the lookout for factors the models might not take into account on why it could/couldn't develop.
for instance, in the case of this "MLC". you can with almost 100% certainty throw out the UKMET and NOGAPS.
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3155. Patrap
More for us...

And thanks for supporting the Folks in the Industry.

pfffth.
All Seafood is inspected..as the crap that comes down the River is far worse than anything seen in the GOM.

Google Dead Zone.


Your in College now.

Nitrates to be specific. The GOM Seafood will never be scrutinized as close as it has been the last months.

Have you heard of a single case?

No.
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3154. IKE
You can see TD5 spinning where the coordinates were for it...Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
while true models can be totally off (claudette, for example) a lot of times when they show heavy consistency and show a strong system usually things develop. That being said it is always good to be on the lookout for factors the models might not take into account on why it could/couldn't develop.
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oh, don;t get me wrong, I am not saying it has no chance or that it wont, but its not like its imminent or 100% guaranteed.
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Quoting Patrap:
Atlantic Low Cloud Product,LARGE


Good Morning Patrap
Channel 6 news saying xtd5 expecting to give you and me some more rain as it does a loop around us Monday & Tuesday
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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"


I can assure you that it is very safe and certainly safer that the chinese stuff. We take pride in our seafood. Also, what most people don't realize is that not all of the fishing areas were affected. The biggest impact was on the oyster beds - we even have to get ours from other parts of the country.
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this is pathetic, now we are hyping a "potent MLC" over land destined and poised for development (oh, should I add, cause the models are in good agreement and say so).
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3148. Patrap
Latest Vorticity ZOOMED
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3147. Patrap
Latest Vorticity

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Quoting DestinJeff:


I don't know. We do have strong blogger consistency over the past 24 hours or so. I mean, this thing looks better now than TD2 ever did in its entire life!

NHC might need to put some warnings up along the Gulf Coast. Some people have trash day on Monday, and their cans could get blown over after they get emptied if the models verify!
I was actually talking about the wave over Africa...
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3143. Patrap
edu/tropic/real-time/atlantic/winds
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Quoting hunkerdown:
you even had "the crew" calling for invest over land and "has a TD ever been classified over land"...I don't see this rolling off naked and "unpoofing" with full blown convection just cause it entered open water.


actually a lot of times that is exactly what happens. I can name quite a few tropical cyclones that looked very unimpressive convection wise over Africa then suddenly as they crossed into the Atlantic and felt those warm SST's and other factors they gain convection over their circulation. what to me matters is if the circulation is strong, PGI30L has a pretty potent MLC.

good morning Ike, nrt, Destin, and everyone else.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Keep in mind, all models develop this into a potent system. All that matters is what happens when its over water.
models have developed all kinds of crap all the time. WAY TOO MANY people on here live by the models...use what god gave you sometimes, your eyes and brain...trust me, even if you are a total novice you will see a storm spinning up without a model.
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3140. Patrap
Atlantic Low Cloud Product,LARGE
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AL 05 2010081512 BEST 0 318N 849W 20 1013 LO
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3136. 1965
Ex td5 has good southward momentum this am. I'm increasingly confident this system will move far enough off shore to be a problem.

SHIPS makes this thing a cane if it stays off shore through Wednesday.

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MesAmis ( Good Morning )
Does anyone can see how for S is that xtd5 is expected to drift into GOMEX before going W?
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Thanks again nrtiwlnvragn
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The circulation of PGI-30L is still there.

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Quoting IKE:


Yes it did...it was put on this blog a few times yesterday when it was.
you even had "the crew" calling for invest over land and "has a TD ever been classified over land"...I don't see this rolling off naked and "unpoofing" with full blown convection just cause it entered open water.
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Just telling it the way I see it.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23574
Quoting hunkerdown:
but keep in mind it LOOKED impressive through yesterday...


Keep in mind, all models develop this into a potent system. All that matters is what happens when its over water.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23574
3126. IKE
Quoting hunkerdown:
but keep in mind it LOOKED impressive through yesterday...


Yes it did...it was put on this blog a few times yesterday when it was.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Not syaing this will happen, but go to nhc homepage and pull up seasonal archive.Check out the detailed discussion of hurricane alicia.See what it came from where it started and how strong it got.Not saying by any means i hink this will happen with td5, but the possibility in the northern gulf in august with favorable conditions shows you what can happen.
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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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