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 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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1324. 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.
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And of course, morning to you all (well, afternoon here, I guess).
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1322. IKE
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT SAT AUG 14 2010

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER CANGIALOSI
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1321. aquak9
G'morning, Coops!

seems I've nothing to worry about for mmm- another 7 to 10 days, eh? I been tellin Rain that for the past six weeks. But humor me- I'm gonna borrow a quote from CrownWeather:

"When the tropics turn on, it'll be on like Donkey Kong"

I found that so funny, coming from him..
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1320. IKE
Quoting aquak9:
yikes.

when am I gonna learn- DO NOT click on youtube links before 9am.

G'morning WU-Bloggers worldwide. 7.2 in the mariana island region last night, no tsunami warnings that I could find.

Ike, we got PWATS inmy area pushin' 2.5-3.0. BUT all the rain will be north of me.


I got exactly one-half inch yesterday. Likely chances of rain through Monday here.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Morning, Aqua.
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1318. aquak9
yikes.

when am I gonna learn- DO NOT click on youtube links before 9am.

G'morning WU-Bloggers worldwide. 7.2 in the mariana island region last night, no tsunami warnings that I could find.

Ike, we got PWATS inmy area pushin' 2.5-3.0. BUT all the rain will be north of me.
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hmm - popcorn. Adds Jiffy Pop and sterno to replenishment list...
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1315. IKE
Quoting tkeith:
Ike, you got plenty of popcorn for the next week?


lol...added to grocery list.....
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1314. tkeith
Quoting IKE:


Looks like Danielle could be an Evil Woman...
Ike, you got plenty of popcorn for the next week?
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The 00z and 06z also want to create a 2nd CV storm after it.
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1312. IKE
Quoting sporteguy03:
Link
Looks like the GFS wants to bring the blog down and I wish that GFS model Goodbye Link


Looks like Danielle could be an Evil Woman...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1301 -

ROFL, Ike - I've got it bookmarked for you!

Morning all - seems I've nothing to worry about for mmm- another 7 to 10 days, eh? Then I should keep an eye to the SE in case something decides to run up the East Coast.

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I don't pay attention to certain computer models predicting where a tropical cyclone will be more than a week from now. Too many things can happen during that time span to cause the models to change or shift dramatically.
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Quoting IKE:


On this blog...probably.


Looks like a true Cape Verde system by this time next week. All of the models show it.

My prediction...

(1)There will be tons of "west"-casting going on.
(2)A few will say a track to Florida even though it's 4,000 miles away.
(3)Some will say..."aren't you forgetting the islands? They're first and foremost".
(4)Those that like to beat their chests will say...this is what I've been saying would happen. Even though their previous forecasts were wrong.
(5)Some will say....where are the downcasters and season-is-a-bust crowd at now?
.............................................

I'm gonna write down this post number and refer back to it in a few days, to a week or so.

***better yet...I'll bookmark this page...lol***


Where is that blogger that says you only post the models that show nothing? Ike the doomcaster with that GFS image, j/k keep rooting against it happening.
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5282
1308. tkeith
Quoting DestinJeff:


that is too far out to really plan on being here.
what's up with avatar? you tryin to upload a nude pic of Marge or something?
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Link
Looks like the GFS wants to bring the blog down and I wish that GFS model Goodbye Link
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5282
Well, the 6z GFS wants to take it Jax/GA.
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1304. WxLogic
Good Morning...

Well... I guess if some people look at the 06Z GFS they will go crazy even though they shouldn't be paying attention at 192HR
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1303. tkeith
Quoting sporteguy03:


That is not a pretty picture hopefully this will not happen.
My luck it will...planning on being in Florida 348 hrs. from now...
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Quoting IKE:
GFS carries the eastern ATL system(that's still over Africa), to near 20N and 60W and then has it go west to WNW from there, to....at 348 hours...



That is not a pretty picture hopefully this will not happen.
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5282
1301. IKE
Quoting tkeith:
Convection firing around the center...Rapid Intensification?...lol


On this blog...probably.


Looks like a true Cape Verde system by this time next week. All of the models show it.

My prediction...

(1)There will be tons of "west"-casting going on.
(2)A few will say a track to Florida even though it's 4,000 miles away.
(3)Some will say..."aren't you forgetting the islands? They're first and foremost".
(4)Those that like to beat their chests will say...this is what I've been saying would happen. Even though their previous forecasts were wrong.
(5)Some will say....where are the downcasters and season-is-a-bust crowd at now?
.............................................

I'm gonna write down this post number and refer back to it in a few days, to a week or so.

***better yet...I'll bookmark this page...lol***
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1300. tkeith
Quoting DestinJeff:


notice the system Off Africa goes NE toward Africa the recurves NW to go north of the CV.

Bizzaro system


typical 2010
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1298. tkeith
Quoting DestinJeff:


Should I post the azimuth display with wind barb cross section analysis, or whatever it is called?
If you're not afraid of frightening the masses :)
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1295. IKE
Latest NOGAPS keeps the vorticity of TD5, mostly over land....shows eastern ATL system....Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1294. tkeith
Convection firing around the center...Rapid Intensification?...lol
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THat would be one mega ridge to stop this wave near 10W/15N from going out to sea.
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1291. tkeith
actually 6Z GFS looks to have it up around Montgomery

It may miss it's Exit to Ike's house, if it dont take a right turn today...
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1290. IKE
Quoting psuweathernewbie:
Sorry I meant to say Ike.


Looks that way.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Sorry I meant to say Ike.
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1287. tkeith
It's rainin like hell here again. I got a 8:00am Tee Time at Stonebridge in the mornin. Guess I'll have to break out my "cajun golf shoes" for this round...

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1286. tkeith
edit"...double post
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Quoting IKE:
GFS carries the eastern ATL system(that's still over Africa), to near 20N and 60W and then has it go west to WNW from there, to....at 348 hours...



Jeff is the first storm the one near 10w?
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1284. IKE
Quoting DestinJeff:


yeah, further north than "Dawthan" as Joey B pronounced it, and where he said it should be when it head back south.

I know not exact science.


I heard that too....Daw-than,AL. Can't Accuweather edit that and insert him pronouncing it the correct way? The camera shot of him is from a distance anyway.

Bastardi doesn't know how to pronounce Dothan?

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1281. tkeith
It looks like the center of the low pressure area is a bit further north than most models were predicting..
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1279. IKE
GFS carries the eastern ATL system(that's still over Africa), to near 20N and 60W and then has it go west to WNW from there, to....at 348 hours...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
We should have a new pouch to track today behind PG128L. The wave in the middle of this picture is the wave the GFS, ECMWF, CMC all show.

Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23916
1276. IKE
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
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
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2675

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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.