Causes of the Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:56 PM GMT on August 13, 2010

Share this Blog
4
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 1175 - 1125

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66Blog Index

1172. xcool
00z cmc stalled over new orleans too oh boy



Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
1171. xcool
nocaneindy .out too sea
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
night jrrp, jlpr2. manana.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1169. will45
12z CMC loops x5 back to the NE
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1167. JRRP
i´m out
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:

Dang X-Cool, your the bearer of bad news tonight. That vorticity over the western part of Africa is deep and compact. I seen earlier posts stating this wave would be the primer for the C. African wave, and based on this analysis, I can see why. With a high of around 1026-1028 or so being observed, this tight, wet wave will radically reduce SAL. Now, the big Q. is,.. Will ridging make a fish or foe of western civilization to this system!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
low shear too.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1163. JLPR2
Quoting Chicklit:
it sure is quiet out there.



goodnight.


night! ^^
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1162. xcool
homelesswanderer .Do You Remember May 8th 1995

flood new orleans.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
it sure is quiet out there.



goodnight.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TexasHurricane:


Hi Homeless...


Hey Tex. :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1159. JLPR2
Quoting will45:
thats a longgggggggggggggggggggggg ways out guys


Yup, as far as track we have no clue where this potential storm is going to go, models change too much from run to run.
But the consistency been shown by the GFS and the support of other models are giving us a nice indication that a storm should form.
Now, if the EURO where to drop it then...
you know... XD
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1158. JRRP
Honestly I don´t trust too much in this run

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:
homelesswanderer.not good all means more flooded ;(


Yeah. Hope that doesn't happen. Sometimes the remnants are worse than the storm. We had the remnants of a Pacific storm park over us in 1994 and flooded us like crazy. I didnt know it was from a named storm until years later. Shouldve known. That was the week we were moving into our brand new house. Trying to set the electric pole in waist deep gumbo mud. That was a trip. Eleven years later Rita moved us out with one big gust and one gigantic oak tree. But as crazy as that was we ended up in a better place after all. :) Weird how things work out sometime.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1154. JLPR2
Quoting nocaneindy:


X-Cool, this map shows the tale of the tape! Thanks for posting! Anything presently coming off the coast of Africa is gonna take the ride around the Azores high, and out to sea. Very pronounced weakness reigns in the E. Central Atlantic. Of course, this could change in the very near future, and ridging could begin to prevail. I also note how this map shows anything developing in the S.W. Caribbean moving into C. America.
That assessment is further supported by the following steering currents fron 1020-990 mb, which is even more pronounced than as early as this morning.




Both ob's can be found at The CIMSS.SSEC.WISC.EDU website


Wave wont emerge till around Tuesday so it should change, but I'm hoping for a even bigger weakness. xD
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:


X-Cool, this map shows the tale of the tape! Thanks for posting! Anything presently coming off the coast of Africa is gonna take the ride around the Azores high, and out to sea. Very pronounced weakness reigns in the E. Central Atlantic. Of course, this could change in the very near future, and ridging could begin to prevail. I also note how this map shows anything developing in the S.W. Caribbean moving into C. America.
That assessment is further supported by the following steering currents fron 1020-990 mb, which is even more pronounced than as early as this morning.




Both ob's can be found at The CIMSS.SSEC.WISC.EDU website
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1151. will45
thats a longgggggggggggggggggggggg ways out guys
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1149. JRRP
Quoting Tazmanian:



1st one hiting FL lol

jejejeje
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JRRP:
lol



1st one hiting FL lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
Quoting homelesswanderer:
Evening all. xcool, ya beat me to the Lake Charles thing. Lol. My local SE TX met says its coming here but he's not buying development.

The upper-level low associated with the remnants of TD 5 will move across our area Wednesday bringing stormy weather conditions. Rain chances Wednesday will be near a sixty percent coverage with breezy winds and highs only in the middle-eighties.

Abundant moisture will stick around Thursday and Friday keeping scattered showers and thunderstorms in the forecast. Rain chances will be around forty percent both days with highs in the lower-nineties.


Hi Homeless...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
the 1st storm is hiting FL why the 2nd one is still out there
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
1145. xcool
JLPR2 .Twins babys
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
1144. JRRP
Quoting Tazmanian:
OMG



looks like two eyes
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
OMG


Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
1142. JLPR2
Twins! XD

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1141. xcool


Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
1139. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting btwntx08:
itcz embedded lol



tell that too Iavn
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
ok Taz I see it now yes we need to watch it
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
Post the sat Tazmanian of that wave at 30W



your this now starting too see it


10N 30W

Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
It looks like the 00z GFS has the potential CV wave organizing further south.
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
It looks like the 00z GFS has the potential CV wave organizing further south.


This doesn't shock me a bit. It seems, time after time, a wave leaves Africa at a slightly higher altitude than what it eventually propagates at. I don't know if there's a scientific jargon or just my imagination, but I tell ya its happened before. I call it a sort of Top Gun take-off, with the plane leaving the deck of a air craft carrier, then sinking ever slow slightly below the deck. Again, not sure if this has any scientific back-up, just my ob's of random features leaving that coast.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Post the sat Tazmanian of that wave at 30W
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1132. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
am watching a wave at 10N 30W
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
1130. xcool


cv storms.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
1129. xcool
homelesswanderer.not good all means more flooded ;(
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
It looks like the 00z GFS has the potential CV wave organizing further south.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:




ACK!!! That don't look good.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1125. xcool


stalled over new orleans..




78hrs
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684

Viewing: 1175 - 1125

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Overcast
43 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron