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 Jeff9641:
Look what the GFS brings to my house. OMG!

http://www.nco.ncep.noaa.gov/pmb/nwprod/analysis/namer/gfs/06/fp0_384.shtml


Now that would be an unusual destination.
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1368. aquak9
g'morning wart and all late comers!
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Morning everyone!
Been a busy week for me. Seems from what im reading conditions are setting up just right for some canes.
How's everyone doing?
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1366. aquak9
Quoting IKE:


thanks....I signed up.


way to go!! I only been fussin' at ya to do this for like EVER...

:) we will be looking for your data!
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I love it when I check out the tropical outlook and see zero (0) next to North Atlantic :)
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1364. FLHL2
Good Morning everyone. I have read a few of your comments re:GFS loop at the end of the run, and yes... it bears watching. I read some interesting information from Nasa regarding solar flares and their effect on earth's weather patterns. We just experienced a solar flare on Aug 3rd. It will be interesting to see what, if any, effects it has on the positioning of highs and lows on the planet. Here is an exerpt I found interesting :

The Sun constantly discharges ultraviolet radiation, this activity is referred to as the Sun's energy. When these emissions are strong, they can affect the production of ozone in the Earth's atmosphere, which changes the circulation of the planet's atmospheric pressure; thus, influencing weather conditions.

Matter emissions, or coronal mass ejections, are masses of hot plasma which are ejected from the Sun causing Solar Wind and sometimes Solar Flares.

Solar Wind can reach speeds of one to two million miles per hour. When, and if, it reaches the magnetic field of the Earth, the ionized particles move throughout the magnetic force lines of the North and South poles. These particles produce glowing colors, commonly known as Aurora Borealis in the North, and Aurora Australis in the South. According to the European Space Agency, these particles affect the electrical properties of the planet and also alter the atmosphere by changing air pressure and air circulation leading to changes in weather. When solar activity is at its weakest, thus a decline in Solar Wind, galactic cosmic rays readily enter the Earth's atmosphere promoting atmospheric conditions that could be responsible for cloud formation, which could also result in severe weather.


According to NASA scientists, a new solar cycle is beginning evidenced by the appearance of a reversed polarity sunspot. This means that the polarity of the most recently discovered sunspot has an opposite polarity from the sunspots that preceded it, concluding a new cycle has begun. The beginning of this new solar cycle is not an unusual event. Changes in solar cycles occur approximately every 11 years or so causing a rise in the number of Solar Flares. It will be interesting to see how weather is affected by this rise in solar activity during this cycle.Space scientists are continually studying the correlation between the Sun's activity and the Earth's weather patterns. The heat emitted from the Sun, along with Solar Wind, radiation, and Solar Flares, are believed to alter atmospheric pressure and air circulation, ultimately affecting Earth's weather patterns

Perhaps that flare on the 3rd will disrupt the current pattern of atmospheric pressure and TUTTs, opening the door for the tropical season to ramp up. I noted that it sure squashed everything in the Atlantic that "was" brewing. It will be very interesting to see what the planet has in store for the rest of the season.
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1362. WxLogic
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Good morning. What kind of problems a negative NAO may bring?


It basically amounts to more ridging in the ATL specially western.
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1361. IKE
Quoting StormW:


CoCoRaHS


thanks....I signed up.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Hi aquak! Just now noticed your wet doggy avatar. How are you doing? I'll check out the rain guages.
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Ok - have noted where I had to leave the discussion so that I can scan the posts when I get back - off to train new CPO selectee spouses!

Note to self - 7-10 days - keep an eye to the SE, and don't forget the popcorn! :)
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1358. aquak9
Thanks, StormW! Actually if folks sign up for CoCoRAHS, they get a big discount on the rain gauge. I don't think we even make fifty cents off them.

But we feel like weather data is so important. And all the weather stations, we STRONGLY encourage folks to upload to WU, and offer free technical help to do so.
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Morning everyone.

Quoting stoormfury:
morning
while every one is keeping a close eye on the disturbance over africa which is earmarked to develop into a significant system in 8- 10 days time, i am watching an area of disturbed weather in the itcz near 7N 30W. there is a mid level circulation and very low wind shear . the shear according to the wind shear maps from cimss is forecast to remain low for the next few days. there is good convergence and divergence in the area, the only hindrance to this disturbance is the low latitude. if it could gain some latitude it will be something to watch the next few days
Ur not the only one watching this one. The high that is forcing that wave so far south has a NE-SW orientation right now, so we may see it rise quickly N as it rounds the "nose" of the high. Then there are some interesting possibilities...
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I don't know, Storm, I just got here and I'm already sweating it. TD5 reforming, something in the mid-Atlantic, a train headed off the coast of Africa... eeek! lol
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1353. IKE
Quoting StormW:


LOL!

IKE, is that true? LOL!


Just the GFS....so far.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1352. aquak9
Quoting fallinstorms:
this hurricane season is going to be real active, it just a late start, there will be 3 cat 5


Why do you say that? just for attention?

Can you back up that statement with ANY evidence to support that?

I think it's the first option, you just want attention. Ok, you got it. B'bye!
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Check out StormW's blog from a day or so ago - great explanations of NAO, etc.!
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Wouldn't be worried about any pattern until it forms.

Things have been hinted at before, yet nothing occurs. Yeah, the GFS is on this like a dog with a bone. But things'll change, the 6z is the most west it's been, but by 12z, it might change again, who knows. It's a *long* way out.

The main difference to the previous runs is that it is a lot slower over the EAtl.

The idea of a second storm forming behind is more of the thing to watch to see if that becomes a hint.
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1347. IKE
Quoting aquak9:
1331- as long as it stays offa the coast, I'd be happy to have it.

Awesome beach findings. Ya'll had to know, I was gonna go there...

Ike, ya really oughtta sign up to report your data to CoCoRAHS on a daily basis. I mean the rainfall amts, not the bird poo.


How do I sign up? I'd be happy to give daily reports.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting WxLogic:
NAO could cause problems if it goes too negative:



Good morning. What kind of problems a negative NAO may bring?
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14013
1344. aquak9
1331- as long as it stays offa the coast, I'd be happy to have it.

Awesome beach findings. Ya'll had to know, I was gonna go there...

Ike, ya really oughtta sign up to report your data to CoCoRAHS on a daily basis. I mean the rainfall amts, not the bird poo.
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1342. IKE
Quoting weatherman12345:

how strong is it there


Probably a major cane.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1341. IKE
Quoting DestinJeff:
Think the threat from td5 reemerging seems less today that yesterday


ECMWF shows it again. It looks like a bigger issue with the rain totals than anything with winds.

I think the real show is starting in the eastern ATL. Nice thing is...if something does form in the eastern ATL, it'll take til almost September to get this far west.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1340. WxLogic
Quoting StormW:
Good morning!


Morning...
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Morning, StormW - Ike's been scaring us with graphics this morning, LOL.
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1338. WxLogic
NAO could cause problems if it goes too negative:

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Gee, thanks! The one weekend in the forseeable future that the L&M is scheduled to be in port.....
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1333. IKE
Quoting aquak9:
Like I been sayin', Ike, you musta got the Magic Rain Gauge.

We have decorative metal wrap-around covers for them, like little cut-out scenes. We got one of cat-tails and dragonflies.


The birds like to use mine to take care of their business. It's mixed in with the collected rain.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Thanks, guys. I've been out of the loop like I said. The whole house has been unplugged while moving stuff, getting carpets cleaned... what a mess. lol
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keep in mind, this way out, August 29th. Almost guaranteed not to happen but gives you a idea of the pattern in place.
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Quoting weatherwart:
Regeneration? What? Is this where it loops around and comes back into the GOMEX and down the west coast of Florida? Oh, I hope not.


yep. GFS, ECMWF, CMC, and a few other models all support this. Not off the west coast of Florida mind you but south of Mississippi and Alabama moving westward.
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Quoting HurricaneKyle:


it probably wont, but there is strong model support for a cape verde system and of all things the regeneration of TD5.
Regeneration? What? Is this where it loops around and comes back into the GOMEX and down the west coast of Florida? Oh, I hope not.
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ROFL, Aqua - keeping an eye on Ike's graphic - still have family out at Atlantic Beach, plus the itch between my shoulder blades this season that got me back to the blogs.
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Morning everyone. No computer for a couple of days, but I did get to see some of the meteor shower between clouds.

Lots of stuff coming of the African coast, huh? And remenants of TD5 still swirling around in Ala somewhere?
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Quoting sporteguy03:


That is not a pretty picture hopefully this will not happen.


it probably wont, but there is strong model support for a cape verde system and of all things the regeneration of TD5.
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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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