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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We are more likely to see another Great Lakes hurricane like 96...lol
Link
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1074. JLPR2
This is interesting we are below the climatological % of possibility for formation of TCs in the CATL. XD

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1073. robj144
Quoting stormpetrol:

Sorry to be honest I can't but if you read you'll see that no true gusts or windspeed could be recorded, so to be honset I can't really prove it, but I'm sure from reading about Ivan and if you know our building codes, well maybe you could be convinced, but I have no other further arguments or debates, so I'll offer my concession on that point, thats not saying what I was told was wrong! The fact remains Ivan broke almost every record at the times and still holds them! Lowest lattitude,etc.


Yes, it was a powerful storm. By the way I meant to say Ivan, not Ike in my last post.
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Quoting beell:


To offer an opinion, for this to work, we need a strong mid level spin to deepen the surface low.

Check out the 500mb GFS for Monday vs the 00Z NAM at the same level/time. A world of difference in the 500mb vort.

West or back ashore to the NW seems to be the most likely track.
True. We shall see what happens. Much will depend on steering if and when it reaches water.
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Quoting robj144:


Page 28... top wind GUST (not sustained wind) of 181 mph. Find me proof of the 219 mph sustained speed.


Sorry to be honest I can't but if you read you'll see that no true gusts or windspeed could be recorded, so to be honset I can't really prove it, but I'm sure from reading about Ivan and if you know our building codes, well maybe you could be convinced, but I have no other further arguments or debates, so I'll offer my concession on that point, thats not saying what I was told was wrong! The fact remains Ivan broke almost every record at the times and still holds them! Lowest lattitude,etc.
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1069. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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Quoting tornadolarkin:
Can someone post the mjo forecast's for me?
There are a lot of them, so best to access them here. There are also some models here.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Interesting...

Local news (WSVN 7) mentioned the two vigorous tropical waves currently over Africa.

The action will pick up when fronts start staling over the Gulf imo.
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1065. robj144
Quoting stormpetrol:
You know no doubt Katrina was a monster, was it the monster it was cried up to be? NO, it was not, Did it indirectly cause a great lost of life and devastation? Yes, you bet it did! It is well known that the leeves was compromised , in the early hours after Katrina, all you could hear was NOLA had dodged a bullet, til you heard the leeves had gave way, it was later determined that enginering had played a role, sure if it was not for Katrina, it would not have happened, but to say it was Katrina power & wind, well I had a quite a few blows delivers to me on that one, but the facts are there ,just look for them, Enough said on that one!


What about when Wilma sat over Cancun for like two days as a cat 4 or so... that's nuts too.

Edit: Was it Cazumel or Cancun?
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Wow. Amazing to see THIS in the middle of August.... lol



NOT TO ME!!! I've been saying all Summer this season is OVERHYPED> There has been extreme Shear and dry air. Land temperatures are very high which do inhibit instablity over the ocean as well
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1062. beell
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I'm not too bullish either on the intensification, but I'm wondering why considering the conditions set to be present, would it not intensify, and how all the models are out to lunch.

12z PSU e-WALL steering layers suggest that is begin SW motion in about 24 hours. Interestingly enough, the 925mb vort max is just off the Alabama coast.



To offer an opinion, for this to work, we need a strong mid level spin to deepen the surface low.

Check out the 500mb GFS for Monday vs the 00Z NAM at the same level/time. A world of difference in the 500mb vort.

West or back ashore to the NW seems to be the most likely track.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 142 Comments: 16478
1061. robj144
Quoting btwntx08:
the avatars should be the side of the posts...posts 1027 down have them on top


Not on my browser.
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Can someone post the mjo forecast's for me?
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1059. robj144
Quoting stormpetrol:
You know no doubt Katrina was a monster, was it the monster it was cried up to be? NO, it was not, Did it indirectly cause a great lost of life and devastation? Yes, you bet it did! It is well known that the leeves was compromised , in the early hours after Katrina, all you could hear was NOLA had dodged a bullet, til you heard the leeves had gave way, it was later determined that enginering had played a role, sure if it was not for Katrina, it would not have happened, but to say it was Katrina power & wind, well I had a quite a few blows delivers to me on that one, but the facts are there ,just look for them, Enough said on that one!


Yes, I believe Ike was a monster for the islands, but I don't believe the 219 mph sustained wind story.
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Interesting...

Local news (WSVN 7) mentioned the two vigorous tropical waves currently over Africa.
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

Kind of true...the ULL wasnt adding in dry air but more sucking it out of the NW sector. Moisture was building in on the SW side and trying to wrap around but they just exited stage left. Formation takes time even with perfect conditions. It will not be over water long enough and the northern half will probably be over land making the process even slower. On top of that not sold upper levels will be very favorable. We will see.
I think we had some "vampire ULLs" this season... seems every one of them was sucking the moisture away from passing Twaves and moistening themselves up. The TUTT seems to have backed off though.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21885
Since the blog is slow tonight, here is the current sst's.
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Earlier today was it bwn08? Somebody's local met in TX actually forecast a TX landfall from the re-emerging 5.
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1051. robj144
Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Post 1028 broke the entire page. Please fix.


Fine here....
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You know no doubt Katrina was a monster, was it the monster it was cried up to be? NO, it was not, Did it indirectly cause a great lost of life and devastation? Yes, you bet it did! It is well known that the leeves was compromised , in the early hours after Katrina, all you could hear was NOLA had dodged a bullet, til you heard the leeves had gave way, it was later determined that enginering had played a role, sure if it was not for Katrina, it would not have happened, but to say it was Katrina power & wind, well I had a quite a few blows delivers to me on that one, but the facts are there ,just look for them, Enough said on that one!
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1048. robj144
Quoting stormpetrol:
Link


Page 28... top wind GUST (not sustained wind) of 181 mph. Find me proof of the 219 mph sustained speed.

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Hmmm 1028 isn't bothering me at all. I even have my no scripts turned off for this page and it's not causing a problem.
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Quoting btwntx08:
post 1028 i think u messed up the blog avatars are above the comments after ur post

Nope everythings fine here.
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it will fix when a new page is started...6 more posts and it will happen.
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1044. JLPR2
Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Post 1028 broke the entire page. Please fix.


Really? I dont see anything wrong?
Maybe its the browser, what browser are you guys using?
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Post 1028 broke the entire page. Please fix.
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00z Best Track

AL, 05, 2010081400, , BEST, 0, 322N, 870W, 20, 1008, LO
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1040. robj144
Quoting stormpetrol:
Link


Can you tell me the page? It's like 50 pages long....
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Pat, I usually watch these videos every year, around this time, and remember that just because you have made it through a storm in the past, you don't have a guarantee the next time. And Mr. Guerra mentioned God's will we survive, and "he ain't lyin'....."
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21885
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
It never intensified because of the ULL (causing dry air) to the west tampering its development, which will not be the case this time around, it also had to deal with the easterly shear from the building deep-layer ridge to the north.

And the only reason I use the GFS shear forecast is because it is the one of the best. But since all the models (with the exception of the NOGAPS) develop the system, I guess all of their upper level forecasts can't be used.

Kind of true...the ULL wasnt adding in dry air but more sucking it out of the NW sector. Moisture was building in on the SW side and trying to wrap around but they just exited stage left. Formation takes time even with perfect conditions. It will not be over water long enough and the northern half will probably be over land making the process even slower. On top of that not sold upper levels will be very favorable. We will see.
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Quoting robj144:


What's going on here tonight with wind speeds? Gustav didn't even reach cat. 5:

Link


I think by windgust.
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1036. Patrap
Good troll free stuff tonight.

Im heading to the Wunderground upstairs.

Night all.

Be safe...and have a good weekend too
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127804
1035. robj144
Quoting BahaHurican:
I think it implies that hurricane gusts are often an order of magnitude above sustained winds. It also implies that winds higher than 225 mph are likely occurring in cat 5 canes, only we haven't been able to measure them....


I also agree... Camille had to have greater than 210+ mph wind gusts with 190 mph sustained winds.
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1034. Patrap
Rocky Vacarella,,the youngest,went to the White House and took a Fema Trailer to D.C and had lunch with Bush to help with more relief.

Met him here last year at a Conference.

Crazy SOB,,fo sho.

Good dude.

Rockey Vaccarella is a resident of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana and a Hurricane Katrina survivor/activist. He attracted international attention in August 2006 for driving his Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer to the White House to thank President George W. Bush for the mobile homes provided to Katrina victims by the federal government
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127804
1033. stormy3
Quoting Patrap:
In times of great calamity,,those within the Bubble see things they carry for life.

Having been thru Betsy,Camille,Elena,Katrina..I thought I had seen it all.
But to be sure the Hurricane leaves a mark on the young and old.
We discuss the mechanics and drivers that form these furies of Nature,and those who have danced with a Major Eyewall always remeber those hours,and the tough days and weeks sometimes after.

Here on the wunderground we share the experiences many of us have been thru to help those who havent,understand that after the excitment and wind dies down.
The real work begins in ernest.

Many injuries and even deaths occur post storm from accidents due to generators,intersections without lights and other.

So I for one will always be ready to share that collective experience here.

Always good to see folks sharing their Storm stories here.

Its what this site is all about.

nobody can say it any better than that. well done!!!
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Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

I am more interested in what piece of equipment measured those winds. Most tools can not measure winds that fast.
Somebody was saying last night that it isn't the equipment in and of itself that fails in cat 5s; it's more of a "decapitation" or "pummelling" issue, i.e. the winds blow something into, on or through the equipment which destroys or incapacitates it.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21885
Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

It had three days out in the open water with no land interaction and it never intensified so why is it hard to believe when only the southern half of the system moves over water that it wont intensify? SSTs are not the only thing that affects the system. TD05 only had 10 kts of shear. Also you assuming upper level conditions are favorable off of the same model that is forecasting to strengthen it. So of course they would have favorable upper level conditions. The question is will it really? Probably not.
It never intensified because of the ULL (causing dry air) to the west tampering its development, which will not be the case this time around, it also had to deal with the easterly shear from the building deep-layer ridge to the north.

And the only reason I use the GFS shear forecast is because it is the one of the best. But since all the models (with the exception of the NOGAPS) develop the system, I guess all of their upper level forecasts can't be used.
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Link
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1029. robj144
Quoting BahaHurican:
I think it implies that hurricane gusts are often an order of magnitude above sustained winds. It also implies that winds higher than 225 mph are likely occurring in cat 5 canes, only we haven't been able to measure them....


Ok... gust I believe. I thought you were talking sustained wind.
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This one also is frightening...
Link
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Quoting robj144:


What's going on here tonight with wind speeds? Gustav didn't even reach cat. 5:

Link
I think it implies that hurricane gusts are often an order of magnitude above sustained winds. It also implies that winds higher than 225 mph are likely occurring in cat 5 canes, only we haven't been able to measure them....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21885
Quoting robj144:


Ok... where does it mention 219 mph winds?

I am more interested in what piece of equipment measured those winds. Most tools can not measure winds that fast.
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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.