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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Keeper of the Gate, StormW, IKE, anybody else that has been conversing on this site for the last five years or so, I pose this question to you:

In looking at the METEOSAT-9 IR imagery of Central Africa, I contrasted two images, one from 5 August and one from 13 August (today) and have noticed that the tropical waves coming off the African coast seem to be coming off about 5+ degrees higher in Latitude then they were last week. Is this an expected seasonal anomalie that occurs as we get deeper into the summer over the Northern Hemisphere? One commment made last week is that although there were some really strong looking tropical waves that exploded into very powerful thunderstorm activity around 20 Degrees West Longitude, these waves were simply too far south (around the 10-13 degree North Latitude mark) to really be concerned about becoming major tropical systems that could threaten to move into the Gulf of Mexico or the Central Atlantic Ocean and intensify out of control.

Is this true? Do the T-Waves need to be closer to the 20 Degree North Latitude line (which is about where the Cape Verdes Islands are located) and does this naturally occur as we get deeper into the August and September time period? Do you actually see the Tropical Waves just start to shift northward as they come off the coast of Africa now, instead of in July or earlier in August when they seem to come off the coast between 0-10 Degrees North Latitude?

I think this takes some historical analysis and that is why I have appealed directly to the three of you to comment. If Drakoneon is out there, would also appreciate his/her analysis of this feature.

Sorry but my web-skills don't permit me to be able to post the METEOSAT images that I speak of, other wise I would do so.....
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Can someone post the radar for EX TD5
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The 18z GFS has the potential CV wave weaker and farther north.
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ok the 18Z GFS is really funny



can you see it find out what its doing wrong and trys to fix it so no one can tell LOL

maybe next run it moves more west and south
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Honestly, if earlier in the year someone told me that it was going to be this quiet on August 13th, I would have called them a troll.

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Quoting scott39:
The way I believe is that the true ignorance and blindness is to think that humans are going to control what happens to this earth and not give credit to the one that created it! This is my opinion of course. If I have to look at a post that expresses the other way, than I think I should be able to post mine too. No hard feelings.


You are certainly free to post your opinions here; that's the way this works best, right? ;-) But I will say this: if one believes that an omnipotent creator made this world, they'd have to be naive to think that creator will be pleased with the way we've treated his creation. Junkyard outhouses get more respect than we've accorded earth...
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Quoting StormW:


Yes, the farther out from the center, the stronger the signal. Yes, June and July were mainly in those octants. What did we see happen both of those times (around the 21st to 23rd)?


we saw bonnie around the 23rd of July. so was the signal stronger in June and July when it was mainly farther from the center?
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Quoting Neapolitan:


The true question is this: has man become so ignorant and blind as to think that he can't?
The way I believe is that the true ignorance and blindness is to think that humans are going to control what happens to this earth and not give credit to the one that created it! This is my opinion of course. If I have to look at a post that expresses the other way, than I think I should be able to post mine too. No hard feelings.
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I don't understand why the GFS emerges the tropical wave so north. It would have to begin WNW motion immediately to do that...right now it's moving westward with a hint of southward motion.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21162
758. xcool
VIPIR model shows hurricane..xxtd5
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15649
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:




That is scary. I was in PR during Hurricane Hugo, but it was nothing like this.
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Quoting StormW:


That is the MJO Multivariate Index. It shows the current location and strength of the MJO upward motion. Octants 8, 1, and 2 is where we generally see tropical development. As of the position on the 10th, it's heading back toward us.


oh yes, i remember your blog about the MJO, but June and July are in 8,1, and 2 as well. the distance from the center mean anything?? i see that august is closer in the center, while the other months were further out.
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Quoting scott39:
Has man become so arrogant to think that they can cause climate change?HA


Yep. We're also so arrogant that we think we can wipe out countless species, transform the ecosystems of 90% of the planet's non-ice-covered-surface through agriculture and livestock, and create weapons that make most of the actions of God in the Old Testament look like child's play.
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Quoting scott39:
Has man become so arrogant to think that they can cause climate change?HA


The true question is this: has man become so ignorant and blind as to think that he can't?
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Quoting scott39:
Has man become so arrogant to think that they can cause climate change?HA


I would say it's naive to think we can't.
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750. IKE
GFS=Bermuda/fish on eastern ATL low.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
"Human-caused climate change also may have played a role [in the ongoing Russian Heatwave]; 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."

"Brutal heatwaves, horrendous floods, enormous icebergs. Good thing global warming is a hoax, or this sure would be troubling." -- Mark Morford
Has man become so arrogant to think that they can cause climate change?HA
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747. IKE
Quoting SLU:


If this system comes off as high as the GFS indicates then it's unlikely that it will strengthen into a serious disturbance immediately upon arrival in the Atlantic. 17/18N is unusually high and it will have to deal with more stable air and lower SSTs than if it came off at the more convectional 10 - 15N. Take a page out of 93L's book. I'm almost certain that if it was about 5 degrees lower that it would have become a tropical cyclone.


You're probably right.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Here ya go Keep, This was right down the street from my apartment....Link
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Quoting StormW:


what does that image mean Storm? If you are gone already, can someone else explain? It doesn't have to be in depth. I see that the blue line is August and is more in the center of the quadrants, but that's about all i can gather from it.
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Quoting wxvoyeur:


Interesting, we've a large ridge building in the PNW now.


So if we get a new low off the panhandle does it get TD6? I assume so since TD5 "dissipated"


National Hurricane Operations Plan

Excerpt:

3.3. Numbering of Tropical and Subtropical Cyclones.

Within a basin, if the remnant of a tropical cyclone redevelops into a tropical cyclone, it is assigned its original number or name. If the remnants of a former tropical cyclone regenerate in a new basin, the regenerated tropical cyclone will be given a new designation.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11112
"Human-caused climate change also may have played a role [in the ongoing Russian Heatwave]; 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."

"Brutal heatwaves, horrendous floods, enormous icebergs. Good thing global warming is a hoax, or this sure would be troubling." -- Mark Morford
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TD5 still remains as a whole entity right now, until that changes if TD5 regenerates on Tuesday or so, it will be TD5. That being said, if something else helps trigger genesis then it will be TD6.
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741. SLU
Quoting IKE:
Someone must to have taken away the moisture on this GFS run.....I'm not sure about the GFS right now...





If this system comes off as high as the GFS indicates then it's unlikely that it will strengthen into a serious disturbance immediately upon arrival in the Atlantic. 17/18N is unusually high and it will have to deal with more stable air and lower SSTs than if it came off at the more convectional 10 - 15N. Take a page out of 93L's book. I'm almost certain that if it was about 5 degrees lower that it would have become a tropical cyclone.
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740. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15649
Any possibility of the TS activity in the Caribbean turning into something under the present conditions?
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738. IKE
Quoting wxvoyeur:


Interesting, we've a large ridge building in the PNW now.


So if we get a new low off the panhandle does it get TD6? I assume so since TD5 "dissipated"


You're probably right.
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737. flsky
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



Thanks for this video. I think some people don't realize the seriousness of a hurricane. Perhaps this will remove them from the cadre of wishcasters and put them in the category of serious weather-watchers.
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Quoting StormW:


EXCERPT FROM THE FOLLOWING:
Forecasting U.S. Hurricanes 6 Months in Advance

The relationship between October-January NAO and hurricane tracks is more complex.
A weak fall/winter NAO is associated with weaker middle latitude weather systems (and thus less
precipitation) over North America and Europe. The relatively dry fall/winter season continues
into spring and the dry conditions subsequently lead to a tendency for greater middle tropospheric ridging during the summer and fall. Ridging over the eastern and western sides of the North Atlantic basin during the hurricane season displaces the middle tropospheric trough of lower pressures to the north. The trough, which induces hurricane movement to the north and east, is therefore unable to recurve hurricanes that are moving westward toward the United States thus increasing the probability of landfalls along the Gulf and southeast coasts. Support for this hypothesis comes from the positive correlation between monthly precipitation totals from January through May at stations in a region extending from Ohio to Massachusetts and fall/winter NAO values. In other words, weak fall/winter NAO conditions lead to less precipitation, more ridging, less recurvature, and a higher probability of landfall.



Interesting, we've a large ridge building in the PNW now.
Quoting IKE:
New Orleans....MARINE...
A TROUGH OF LOW PRESSURE...THE REMNANTS OF TD 5...WILL MOVE LITTLE
OVER THE WEEKEND. THE SOUTHEAST TO NORTHWEST ORIENTED TROUGH AXIS IS
FORECAST TO REMAIN EAST OF THE COASTAL WATERS...RESULTING IN A LIGHT
TO MODERATE WEST TO SOUTHWEST FLOW. WIND SPEEDS AROUND 15 KNOTS OR
LESS ARE EXPECTED OVER THE WEEKEND WITH SEAS OF UP TO 4 FEET...AS
WELL AS SCATTERED TO NUMEROUS SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS.

BY EARLY NEXT WEEK...AN AREA OF LOW PRESSURE WILL RE-DEVELOP NEAR
THE FLA PANHANDLE.
THE LOW IS EXPECTED TO MOVE WEST ALONG THE COAST
AND COULD BRING AN INCREASE IN WINDS AND SEAS BY THE MIDDLE OF NEXT
WEEK. GFS AND ECMWF FOLLOW SIMILAR PATHS IN BRINGING THE SYSTEM
WEST...HOWEVER THE GFS APPEARS TO BE OVERDONE ON THE STRENGTH AT
THIS TIME SO LEANED TOWARD THE ECMWF SOLUTION FOR WINDS.


So if we get a new low off the panhandle does it get TD6? I assume so since TD5 "dissipated"
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733. IKE
Someone must to have taken away the moisture on this GFS run.....I'm not sure about the GFS right now...



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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
From my NWS Office:

EXTENDED...FROM TUESDAY AND BEYOND TEMPERATURES LOOK MORE LIKELY
TO REMAIN BELOW 100 DEGREES AS BOTH THE 12Z GFS AND ECMWF
RE-INTENSIFY REMNANTS OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION NUMBER 5 BEGINNING
TUESDAY AFTERNOON. THE 00Z MODEL RUNS WERE WEAKER WITH THIS
FEATURE THOUGH...SO DID NOT WANT TO MAKE BIG CHANGES TO THE
FORECAST UNTIL THIS IS BETTER RESOLVED. BOTH THE GFS AND ECMWF
BRING A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM OVER THE TX/LA GULF COAST DURING THE
PERIOD KEEPING NORTHEASTERLY LOW LVL FLOW THRU THE CWA WHICH
SHOULD KEEP THINGS RELATIVELY COOLER. THE GFS REMAINS MUCH
STRONGER WITH THIS LOW THAN THE ECMWF IS. HEAT INDICES WILL
LIKELY STILL BE AROUND 100 OR ABOVE...SO ITS NOT LIKELY TO BE A
HUGE RELIEF BUT AT LEAST LOOKS TO END THE STREAK OF 100 DEGREE
DAYS AND THE PERSISTENT HEAT ADVISORY.

If this plays out then I say yes to possible developement.
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730. IKE
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Ex-TD5..


Looking nice!
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From my NWS Office:

EXTENDED...FROM TUESDAY AND BEYOND TEMPERATURES LOOK MORE LIKELY
TO REMAIN BELOW 100 DEGREES AS BOTH THE 12Z GFS AND ECMWF
RE-INTENSIFY REMNANTS OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION NUMBER 5 BEGINNING
TUESDAY AFTERNOON. THE 00Z MODEL RUNS WERE WEAKER WITH THIS
FEATURE THOUGH...SO DID NOT WANT TO MAKE BIG CHANGES TO THE
FORECAST UNTIL THIS IS BETTER RESOLVED. BOTH THE GFS AND ECMWF
BRING A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM OVER THE TX/LA GULF COAST DURING THE
PERIOD KEEPING NORTHEASTERLY LOW LVL FLOW THRU THE CWA WHICH
SHOULD KEEP THINGS RELATIVELY COOLER. THE GFS REMAINS MUCH
STRONGER WITH THIS LOW THAN THE ECMWF IS. HEAT INDICES WILL
LIKELY STILL BE AROUND 100 OR ABOVE...SO ITS NOT LIKELY TO BE A
HUGE RELIEF BUT AT LEAST LOOKS TO END THE STREAK OF 100 DEGREE
DAYS AND THE PERSISTENT HEAT ADVISORY.

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726. IKE
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Its over land, but close enough to where it can draw moisture from the GOMEX


Yup...a lot of flooding rains are possible. Be careful on the highways.
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Ex-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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