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 clwstmchasr:
So I see after one run of threatening the U.S. the GFS is back to bringing our potential storm out to sea.

Get ready for 2+ weeks of back and forth model runs.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good day folks.

So now we are looking for storms two weeks and more away ?. I guess when it's this quiet that is the only way to pass the time LOL
More like 3 days away from a vigorous tropical wave accompanied by a well-defined mid level circulation.

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Quoting clwstmchasr:
So I see after one run of threatening the U.S. the GFS is back to bringing our potential storm out to sea.
Of course, the usual "flip-flop". Although a recurvature is a safe bet now on the GFS, things will change a bunch of times. Truth is, that the wave is still over land, and until it emerges and develops into a tropical cyclone, models will be all over the place.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good day folks.

So now we are looking for storms two weeks and more away ?. I guess when it's this quiet that is the only way to pass the time LOL


Well the first one is only a few days away.
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1771. Patrap
Ahem...,




328
fxus64 klix 140850
afdlix


Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
350 am CDT Sat Aug 14 2010


Synopsis...
center of remnants of dew point 5 appear to be between Meridian and
Tuscaloosa this morning. Scattered showers have developed over the
coastal waters and near the coast. Cell movement is to the
northeast at 15 kts...so threat of flash flooding appears to be
minimal in the short term.
&&


Short term...
remnants/upper low will gradually rotate back toward the area
around the east end of the Texas upper ridge...reaching the coast
again near Pensacola Sunday night and moving westward back across
the area Monday and Tuesday. Still seeing significant model
differences in details...especially in wind fields. GFS appears to
have feedback issues...with one effect producing 45 knots winds over
coastal waters...even while surface low remains over land.
European model (ecmwf)/NAM solutions are weaker and generally trended toward these
solutions.


Airmass remains extremely moist and diurnal development of
convection will continue...with 12 hour areal coverage around
50-60 percent next several days. Cell movement today should
prevent widespread heavy rain amounts...so will get rid of Flash Flood
Watch. Expect one may be needed again around Monday or Tuesday as
low returns. Will mention locally heavy rain in daytime periods in
forecast. Temperatures will be much closer to normal due to the
additional clouds and precipitation. 35
&&


Long term...
all models move system west into western Louisiana and Texas
Wednesday...as Florida ridge builds westward toward end of week.
This will allow some drying across the area at the end of the
week...with some warming of temperatures. Probability of precipitation will remain in the
chance daytime range...slight chance at night. 35
&&


Aviation...
very low IFR conditions in fog and stratus will continue through at
least 11z around kmcb...with mainly MVFR conditions elsewhere due to
light br. Prevailing visibilities will improve after 13-14z with mainly VFR
weather expected the remainder of the day. There will be numerous
shra/tsra...some with mainly brief periods of IFR/MVFR...starting in
coastal areas this morning...and gradually spreading inland this
afternoon. 22/dew point
&&


Marine...
west to southwest winds near 15 knots were reported at many of the
marine observations offshore...and these winds are likely to
continue this morning before settling down to 10 to 15 knots this
afternoon. Seas near 3 feet may approach 4 feet in some of the
eastern waters today. An area of weak low pressure over south
central Alabama is expected to drift back south into the southwest
Alabama and western Florida Panhandle region on Sunday.


Going into Monday through the middle of next week...the details of
the forecast will depend on the timing...exact movement...and
strength of the surface low that the models show moving west back
towards the Mississippi and southeast Louisiana coasts on Monday
into Tuesday morning. Have gone close to the GFS for timing...but
closer to the NAM regarding strength. The GFS continues to show
winds near to exceeding gale force...and have backed off
significantly with maximum winds closer to 20 knots late Sunday
night through Tuesday. Even if sustained winds do not get
stronger...it is likely there will be numerous gusts over 30 knots
from scattered to numerous thunderstorms. Conditions will improve by
Wednesday into Thursday as the low pulls away to the west and
northwest. 22/dew point
&&
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128616
Good day folks.

So now we are looking for storms two weeks and more away ?. I guess when it's this quiet that is the only way to pass the time LOL
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Quoting divdog:
thanks for claryfying that. current thought on the low stuck over alabama.
All depends on where it emerges and how far from the coast it emerges. I'm giving it a moderate chance of retaining tropical depression status, but that is only if it can emerge far enough from the coast. Whether it turns into a tropical storm is based solely on how much time it spends over water, and of course, if environmental conditions allow...which they seem like they will.
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1767. unf97
Quoting IKE:
I'm not sold on TD5 ever getting named, but Danielle looks almost certain in the eastern ATL.


Ike, I'm inclined to think that the TD5 remnants moved far enough inland (North Central Alabama currently) where I don't think it will make it back into the GOM. Some models have it doing so, but the next 36 hours will tell the tale I think. I could be wrong, but, I say it doesn't make it back in the GOM.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
312 hours:

PGI30L turning extratropical with the second one south of it. Part 3 comes in at around 384 hours.




part 3 looks like a strong TS overe land
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312 hours:

PGI30L turning extratropical with the second one south of it. Part 3 comes in at around 384 hours.

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1763. msphar
Knowing the remaining day count of the season, and knowing the percentage of productivity of waves allows one to estimate the number of CV storms still to come. Take the remaining days and divide by 3 (as a rough approximation of the gap between waves) then multiply the result by the productivity percentage. This results in an estimate of the number of named storms to be contributed by the CV engine in the remaining days of the season.
Member Since: August 20, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 289
12z GFS also deepens exTD5's circulation rather quickly.
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1761. divdog
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Steering is weak in the area. However, PGI28L is already very north in latitude, so it will be moving into hefty SAL before being kicked SW by the subtropical ridge.
thanks for claryfying that. current thought on the low stuck over alabama.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 755
Quoting IKE:


Looks like #2 is headed on a similar path...



Ah, missed the last image.

Though, doesn't matter where it goes at that time frame... just the fact it's now 3 in a row it wants to create a 2nd one... be interesting to see if it remains the same in 4 or 5 days.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
CIMSS PREDICT



thanks
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1758. divdog
Quoting Thaale:

Anthropomorphizing much, LOL?
man thats a big word .. i had to go look it up
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 755
Juan in 85 had coffins popping out the cemeteries in Lafitte,La.and floating away..

I remember Juan.
I was on a 100ft crewboat in the Eugene Island Oil field for five or six days while it developed on top of us. We kept asking to head inshore but Chevron kept saying that the forecast was for it not to get any stronger..But it did..Finally, when it became apparent to everyone that the storm was defying the forecast and was becomming a 'cane, we got orders to go around to the rigs in our area of operation and take the crews in. That was a no-fun boat ride. Worst weather I've ever been in off-shore.

Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 568
.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



can i have a link that takes you too the site that shows PGI30L
CIMSS PREDICT
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1754. IKE
I'm not sold on TD5 ever getting named, but Danielle looks almost certain in the eastern ATL.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting divdog:
i thought mh09 says it will move northwest and try to break up the sal for the next wave to attempt to move west. sorry if I got this wrong but I thought there was a general consensus on the first wave.
Steering is weak in the area. However, PGI28L is already very north in latitude, so it will be moving into hefty SAL before being kicked SW by the subtropical ridge.
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Wave emerges off Africa quite vigorously at 72 hours on the 12z GFS.
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1751. Thaale
Quoting divdog:
i thought mh09 says it will move northwest and try to break up the sal for the next wave to attempt to move west. sorry if I got this wrong but I thought there was a general consensus on the first wave.

Anthropomorphizing much, LOL?
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12Z GFS @ 324 hrs out

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1747. IKE
Quoting Cotillion:
GFS wants to create a 2nd one again. Though this time, the B/A high lets the first one go, and blocks the 2nd one.


Looks like #2 is headed on a similar path...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1746. JRRP
1725
are you ok ??????
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I don't know about "ensuring" it, but instead making it more likely.



can i have a link that takes you too the site that shows PGI30L
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1742. divdog
Quoting psuweathernewbie:
It is too bad the wave about to emerge from the west coast of Africa is going to waste with such a vigorous circulation. Low level steering currents suggests that this low will actually move southwestward as it emerges.
i thought mh09 says it will move northwest and try to break up the sal for the next wave to attempt to move west. sorry if I got this wrong but I thought there was a general consensus on the first wave.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 755
12Z GFS @ 204 hrs out

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Quoting weatherman12345:

this will ensure the survival of PGI30L from the SAL and it will be coming off the coast at a lower latitude.. correct
I don't know about "ensuring" it, but instead making it more likely.
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GFS wants to create a 2nd one again. Though this time, the B/A high lets the first one go, and blocks the 2nd one.
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I have a weather radio question. We have three different radios that pick up the HOU/GAL NWS station. One is a weather radio, one is a police/weather radio and one is a fm/am/police/weather radio - all different brands.

For at least the last week, we have not been able to pick up the weather radio station. My mother's weather radio says signal loss, it just doesn't come in on her police radio (although the police stations do) and on my radio, I can just BARELY get the station in.

Has anyone else in Houston had this problem? Any way of knowing what is going on with it?

thanks.
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1735. Thaale
GFS big jump back to the East. 360 hrs:


384 hrs:
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Quoting BenBIogger:


Does that mean "Seafood" in spanish?

"Mariscos" means seafood, I don't know about the word he said though.
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1733. IKE
From making it to 80 west on the 6Z GFS to...not making it to 60 west on the 12Z GFS.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1732. Patrap
Im in the camp with Dr. Masters..

from above.

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.


Albeit that Dewpoint-5 will move a tad faster
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128616
It is too bad the wave about to emerge from the west coast of Africa is going to waste with such a vigorous circulation. Low level steering currents suggests that this low will actually move southwestward as it emerges.
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1730. unf97
Quoting Drakoen:
Satellite images and surface observations support a broad area of low pressure over Alabama. Looks like the mid level circulation is pushing to the southeast getting ready to make that loop that is the consensus among the computer forecast models.



Yes indeed. The actual surface low appears to be just N-NE of Montgomery and another mid level circulation on radar near Demopolis, AL.
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Quoting Patrap:
SAL is a on the increase and IS affecting any development now.

Atlantic SAL 5-Day loop


It loks like the first wave will push the SAL North a little so it can make way for the second wave.Watch the five day forecast loop real close.Correct me if I am wrong please.TIA
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Quoting weatherman12345:

Miami09, do you think that PGI28L will be killed by the SAL ahead of it.
Yes. It will also be emerging rather north in latitude, thus in cooler waters. It will, as it has been said before, be a "sacrifice". Lol.
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1727. tkeith
Quoting Drakoen:
Satellite images and surface observations support a broad area of low pressure over Alabama. Looks like the mid level circulation is pushing to the southeast getting ready to make that loop that is the consensus among the computer forecast models.

Do you have an opinion on the huggin the coast, goin west track?
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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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