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 stormwatcherCI:
Actually, East End experienced 100 mph winds with Paloma too.
CI..I recall that now you mention it. Only saw about 50--60 mph here in Savannah.How are you anyway?
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873. xcool
btwntx08 plz closed door LMAO
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
871. xcool
Tazmanian .LOL
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting superpete:
I believe Paloma was the last in Nov' 08 that impacted Cayman Brac, Little Cayman & Cuba
Actually, East End experienced 100 mph winds with Paloma too.
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Quoting divdog:
whats your take .. will it sustain itself and get back in the gulf?


Well, I was on the fence about it. Models like to do weird things far out in the forecast. I was expecting the GFS to start trending toward the other models that weren't so gung-ho about the redevelopment, but that obviously hasn't happened (yet another time I've been wrong this year). I think it will get back into the Gulf. Whether or not it is involved with the Gulf enough to develop into a tropical cyclone is a coin flip. Personally, I've never seen a tropical cyclone strengthen that close to the Central Gulf Coast for whatever reason, so I'm not terribly excited about its chances. Because of all the model support, though, I'm going to have to give it a 40/60 chance of actually developing tropically. Experience says go against tropical development, though.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
whats the reasoning behind the forecast that accuweather has up?
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will some one at accweatther plz tell them too closed that door am going too the bathroom in there

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Hmmm, models trending further west with the CV wave.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Ida 2009.
Ida wasn't
Quoting MississippiWx:


Yeah, but what about a major hurricane?
Omar and Paloma were both majors.
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000
WEPA42 PHEB 132129
TIBPAC

TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 001
PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS
ISSUED AT 2129Z 13 AUG 2010

THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC
OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...
WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.

... TSUNAMI INFORMATION BULLETIN ...

THIS BULLETIN IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY.

THIS BULLETIN IS ISSUED AS ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. ONLY
NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE
DECISIONS REGARDING THE OFFICIAL STATE OF ALERT IN THEIR AREA AND
ANY ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE.

AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS

ORIGIN TIME - 2120Z 13 AUG 2010
COORDINATES - 12.5 NORTH 141.7 EAST
DEPTH - 20 KM
LOCATION - SOUTH OF MARIANA ISLANDS
MAGNITUDE - 7.2

EVALUATION

NO DESTRUCTIVE WIDESPREAD TSUNAMI THREAT EXISTS BASED ON
HISTORICAL EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI DATA.

HOWEVER - EARTHQUAKES OF THIS SIZE SOMETIMES GENERATE LOCAL
TSUNAMIS THAT CAN BE DESTRUCTIVE ALONG COASTS LOCATED WITHIN
A HUNDRED KILOMETERS OF THE EARTHQUAKE EPICENTER. AUTHORITIES
IN THE REGION OF THE EPICENTER SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS
POSSIBILITY AND TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION.

THIS WILL BE THE ONLY BULLETIN ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE.

THE JAPAN METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY MAY ALSO ISSUE TSUNAMI MESSAGES
FOR THIS EVENT TO COUNTRIES IN THE NORTHWEST PACIFIC AND SOUTH
CHINA SEA REGION. IN CASE OF CONFLICTING INFORMATION... THE
MORE CONSERVATIVE INFORMATION SHOULD BE USED FOR SAFETY.

THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE PRODUCTS
FOR ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON...CALIFORNIA.


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You know I miss Dr. Lyons on TWC, he had a way about him especially a few years back that explained everything in simple terms, I think over the years it just got redundant and repetitive to him, I often heard him that Sept 10 as the peak of the season was a date as an average peak, some years it could vary from the last week of August til mid to October, I'm personally glad its quiet though we could use some rain, got a feeling from the last week of August straight til the 1st week of Dec. , all hell might break loose in the Atlantic
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Thank you sir, I'll keep on eye it

"i can see that, the one you want to keep eye on jay is the more eastern wave."
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Quoting xcool:




Let me guess, Hurricane Expert Joe Bastardi posted this? I love Bastardi!
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XCOOL I don't know if you recall, but earlier today I asked you where I could go to find a link of all the cool satellites and weather models you show in the blog.

But your kid woke up or something like that and had to go, so now I was wondering, can you show me where to find the cool links?
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856. xcool


Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting troy1993:
Hey could you guys please explain to me what kind of synoptic pattern has to be in place in order for a tropical system to threaten the Northeast/New England and does this usually occur in a postive or negative NAO?


I would imagine that the Bermuda-Azores high would have to extend quite far northward, to, say... Atlantic Canada?

And an upper-level trough approaching from the west would also play a factor. But it would require perfect timing and placement of both features. It's not easy to get a hurricane in New England.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


It's taking advantage of land's version of Diurnal Max. Since it's still close to the Gulf, it has plenty of moisture to work with and is looking good. This is what is supposed to help it maintain itself enough to re-develop early next week.
whats your take .. will it sustain itself and get back in the gulf?
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It passed closed to the island. I live in St Barth's
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Quoting JLPR2:


yeah, its actually amazing XD
but with did go from 1989-1998 without a major too


They don't have hurricane in PR because the HAARP Program is installed over there
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Quoting zicoille:

It was a joke, no rain, no wind, only sea... and it missed our island !


Yeah, Omar was certainly not as bad as it could have been.
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850. JLPR2
Quoting zicoille:

It was a joke, no rain, no wind, only sea... and it missed our island !


Well lol, if it missed your island that explains the: no rain and wind. XD
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Hey could you guys please explain to me what kind of synoptic pattern has to be in place in order for a tropical system to threaten the Northeast/New England and does this usually occur in a postive or negative NAO?
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Omar wasn't a major hurricane over the central Caribbean, but...


It was a joke, no rain, no wind, only sea... and it missed our island !
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847. JRRP
ITCZ AXIS IS ANALYZED ALONG 10N11W 6N18W 7N30W 4N48W 5N58W. A
SURFACE TROUGH IS ANALYZED ACROSS SENEGAL AFRICA INTO THE E ATLC
NEAR 12N16W TO 11N19W GENERATING SCATTERED MODERATE/ISOLATED
STRONG CONVECTION INLAND AND WITHIN 60 NM ALONG THE COAST OF W
AFRICA BETWEEN 11N-15N. SMALL CLUSTERS OF SIMILAR CONVECTION ARE
WITHIN 60 NM OF THE ITCZ BETWEEN 16W-33W
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Wave is going to emerge @ 17n
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Hurricane Ida from 2009. Formed in early November and was flirting with major hurricane status at the time of this satellite shot:


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
844. JRRP
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Quoting charlestonscnanny:

Actually live in Summerville but might as well be in Chas. I think our luck has run out this year.


I agree 120%
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842. JRRP
Africa
Link
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Quoting MahFL:
What the heck is up with ex TD5 ?


It's taking advantage of land's version of Diurnal Max. Since it's still close to the Gulf, it has plenty of moisture to work with and is looking good. This is what is supposed to help it maintain itself enough to re-develop early next week.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
Quoting StormW:
Good evening Levi!


Hey Storm :)
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Am I correct in thinking that a hurricane hasn't churned the Caribbean waters since Gustav in 2008?
I believe Paloma was the last in Nov' 08 that impacted Cayman Brac, Little Cayman & Cuba
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838. JLPR2
Quoting PRweathercenter:

no hurricanes in pr since 1998


yeah, its actually amazing XD
but with did go from 1989-1998 without a major too
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Anyway, plenty of heat potential across the Caribbean this year. Who knows if a hurricane or two will take advantage of it. So far, so good. Haven't really seen a pattern lately that wants to get tropical waves into the Caribbean:

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160
Quoting JLPR2:


Nope no majors, it's actually impressive its been that long since we had one in that area.

*but to be clear, Paloma was a major.

no hurricanes in pr since 1998
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Ike & StormW,

Thanks for the reply. I did not ask an easy question and it required historical analysis. Both of you have been around for a while (so has the Keeper) and I figured I could get an answer based with some factual evidence.

If Jeff Masters is online, I would certainly appreciate his take on this. Always wondered about how the waves came off of Africa and if there was any coincidental evidence that showed a relationship between the exit point off the continent (latitude), time of year, and potential for development of the tropical wave.

Anyway, Storm, your input about the monsoonal season over SW Asia and how it provides significant moisture that flows westward over the African Continent and emerges off the coast as tropical waves makes very good sense.

Except one thing. Ironically, Jeff Masters has an article (today, of all things!!!!) on the Jet Stream anamolies over Russia and how they have greatly aided in providing additional moisture to the monsoons over Pakistan.

Now here is the punch line. Since that has certainly been the case this year for SW Asian monsoons, why has that not manifested itself the last 2-3 weeks into extremely powerful waves that have developed into Tropical Storms and Hurricanes in the Atlantic????

Yes, it takes a while for that moisture and tropical energy to move far enough west to have an impact on the Tropical Waves coming off African, but we have seen pretty much nothing this year.

So what happened to all the SWA Monsoonal energy that should have really pumped up the African waves starting two weeks or so ago????

This lack of tropical development is getting a little bit weird....and a bit worrisome as sooner or later, things do even out over time.... and the time may be a comin'.....
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834. MahFL
What the heck is up with ex TD5 ?
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Quoting wdtcnewsonlinewx:


Hugo was the big scare for SC. We are long overdue for one..

Actually live in Summerville but might as well be in Chas. I think our luck has run out this year.
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Quoting gtownTX:


http://www.usajobs.gov/

Do a search for NHC.
Thanks gtown! That Hollins page seems like it is focused on undergraduates. What if you already graduated? I guess that group doesn't get a break.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Yeah, but what about a major hurricane?


Omar wasn't a major hurricane over the central Caribbean, but...

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830. JLPR2
Quoting MississippiWx:


Yeah, but what about a major hurricane?


Nope no majors, it's actually impressive its been that long since we had one in that area.

*but to be clear, Paloma was a major.
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Quoting scott39:
I never said that the creator was pleased. "He" is only going to allow humans to do so much until "he" steps in. The creator may let the world end in weather related events because of mans actions--who knows? What bothers me is man thinks he can control or stop this! Good coversation thanks
call the weather modification guys we need more spraying in the atl basin could be done if insurance companies wanted it done china has done it so did russia lasst winter and western canada used it as most recently this week
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53308
Quoting KoritheMan:


Omar was in the central Caribbean.


Yeah, but what about a major hurricane?
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827. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15626
Quoting MississippiWx:
Am I correct in thinking that a hurricane hasn't churned the Caribbean waters since Gustav in 2008?
Also Omar and Paloma 2008.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Hurricane Omar



Thanks...good looking hurricane. If my memory is correct, didn't this one head off to the north and east?
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10160

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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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