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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675. xcool
tkeith.oh yeah
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15618
Quoting NHCstevehayward:

Yes! it took a while for the weather bureau to finally make it official. Can you imagine the destruction that could cause in a major metropolitan area!


Apparently Chevron bought the company that made the observations and kept the data to themselves for some 10 years or so...
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Quoting xcool:
tkeith .watch weather fox8 at 5pm .
OK

anything special to look for?
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669. xcool
tkeith .watch weather fox8 at 5pm .:)
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15618
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Quoting weatherman12345:

what system was that 160 mph gust that you saw
It was gusts over 160 mph. Hurricane Charley, when I was living in Port Charlotte in 2004. Strangely, today is the 6 year anniversary of Charley, and it is the dreaded Friday the 13th!!!! And this is post# 666!!! Enough already!
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Quoting gordydunnot:
Flood there using unleavened bread. Nice band earlier, sad to say it either a indictment of how much good music there was back then or my musical ignorance.
the music was just that much better...RIP Lowell George
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Flood there using unleavened bread. Nice band earlier, sad to say it either a indictment of how much good music there was back then or my musical ignorance.
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660. BDAwx
Quoting hydrus:
Another thing- 07 made a good point, if it had sustained winds at 145 mph, and gusts over 250 mph, a storm with sustained winds of 190 mph, might have gusts as high as 290 mph...who knows. I have seen gusts over 160 mph. I cant even what winds sustained at 190 would be like...


In Bermuda:
Fabian sustained winds of 120mph gusts to 165mph
Florence sustained winds of 80mph gusts to 115mph
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was olivias winds speeds based on a 10 minute average? if so, then most likely its top sustained winds could have been higher but were dropped due to the long average time
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
And here's the wave that looks like it will produce the system, behind PG128L.


can i have a link too that site thanks
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Quoting BahaHurican:
I'm gonna take a break. I've got a couple runs to make. I'll be back in time for the TWO... I hope.

l8r...


There won't be anything on it so don't rush yourself.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23499
Have a good evening all. Time to drive home in the nasty. Has steadily rained here in south central MS since I posted earlier.
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I'm gonna take a break. I've got a couple runs to make. I'll be back in time for the TWO... I hope.

l8r...
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Quoting Floodman:


Look at Baha's post a little further up the column; he has a link to it. The data has been verified and this is considered the new wind speed record
Another thing- 07 made a good point, if it had sustained winds at 145 mph, and gusts over 250 mph, a storm with sustained winds of 190 mph, might have gusts as high as 290 mph...who knows. I have seen gusts over 160 mph. I cant even what winds sustained at 190 would be like...
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Shear and Fish tropical depressionstorms what an exciting year
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Quoting weatherman12345:

will that be a fish based on the setup


WAYYY to early to tell but our best model, the ECMWF, has it trucking westward. It could very well go out to sea too like the GFS is saying.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23499
Quoting Floodman:
Anybody know why these people I've poofed keep showing up?


Probably cause they use multi names. Some just don't understand, they think they can do what ever they want and get away with it.
sheri
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
And here's the wave that looks like it will produce the system, behind PG128L.


:o Both of them look impressive. I'm scared.
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Anybody know why these people I've poofed keep showing up?
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Quoting Floodman:
Ummm, I've been listening with only half an ear to descriptons of the set up at 240 hours, but this is rather nasty looking:



With the highs set as they are in this image, if this comes true there's nowhere to go but here...
The 1016 line runs right up the middle of the Bahamas and then up the middle of the FL peninsula, followed by the middle of the FL panhandle.....

Boy am I glad models are not right that far out.... whew.
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YYYAAAAWWNNNNN
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StormW to bad it probably won't be on my prediction,but the intensity of the storms firing down there now tell me something is going on. Looks like it may just miss Nicaragua to the north. Alex scenario only more intense. Well that's my bs for the day. If nothing develops have a nice weekend everyone.
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Quoting hydrus:
Howdy Floodman. I have to research that some more- 253 mph? I want to see irrefutable, hardcore, noway it could be wrong, wasnt a tornado kind of proof. I also want to get a look at the instrument it was measured with. What the heck was it made of, tungsten alloy, carbon composite, What?


Look at Baha's post a little further up the column; he has a link to it. The data has been verified and this is considered the new wind speed record
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.
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Quoting Floodman:


The paper that Baha posted an excerpt from indicates that they figured it for an embedded mesoscale feature rather than any mechanical issue with the device, so figure a tornadic feature that is itself moving at the speed of the storm and providing that extra "little" push.

All I can say is that the heavy duty three-cup Synchrotac anemometer must be some really serious instrumentation!
Howdy Floodman. I have to research that some more- 253 mph? I want to see irrefutable, hardcore, noway it could be wrong, wasnt a tornado kind of proof. I also want to get a look at the instrument it was measured with. What the heck was it made of, tungsten alloy, carbon composite, What?
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Think I'll make that into a Tshirt...I think I'll caption it "Mandatory Evacuation"
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we have to wait over a week for anything to develop, not happy!
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The size of some of these storms fills me with terror. I remember Floyd moving across the atlantic and the huge size of that storm covered 3 states. Thousands of people from Chatleston and Summerville, did move several hundred miles island. Scary!
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Ummm, I've been listening with only half an ear to descriptons of the set up at 240 hours, but this is rather nasty looking:



With the highs set as they are in this image, if this comes true there's nowhere to go but here...
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18z NAM

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Regardless of ex-TD 5's possible regeneration,
folks in S.Miss./Al./La. should be ready for
possibility of several days of rain..maybe
ridge will strengthen more than forecast and get it all out of here sooner rather than later. Emerging waves off African coast look interesting..maybe things are on the upswing
for a CV storm to develop..oh well, stay tuned!
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Hmmm... it's raining here again.



Nothing much on the satellite view to suggest why. But I do know a Twave was analysed in the SE Bahamas earlier today. Maybe it's Wward propogation of that matched against that Eward bound trough...

It's been a bit rainier than average so far this month.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey CybrTeddy can you post the link to the ECMWF thanks


Link
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23499
Looking at the 925 mb vorticity Id say that the leading wave -while it may go back out to sea, it gets pretty darn close to the coast. Id say close enough to churn up some seas and throw out some high waves/ beach erosion.
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So whats is everyone probability of extd5 remerging and maybe become a storm?

I say 30% right now b/c it hasn't really moved hardly and with most models agreeing with each other.. But my percent could change later on..

Also in the southern caribbean is getting interesting.. if the T'storms do persist and maybe a center does develop.. It could get interesting.. specially the waves will be coming coming off Africa..
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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
where is a link to that world record wind speed page
http://wmo.asu.edu/world-maximum-surface-wind-gust Thought I put it on there...
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
I find it very interesting that Cyclone Olivia only had 145 mph winds, yet produced a 253mph gust.



The paper that Baha posted an excerpt from indicates that they figured it for an embedded mesoscale feature rather than any mechanical issue with the device, so figure a tornadic feature that is itself moving at the speed of the storm and providing that extra "little" push.

All I can say is that the heavy duty three-cup Synchrotac anemometer must be some really serious instrumentation!
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Quoting HurricaneGeek:
hi. Can anyone give me a site or briefly explain how the models work?
It seems like a pretty interesting subject.
thanks.


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where is a link to that world record wind speed page
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Quoting wayfaringstranger:
Im sure this has been visited multiple times but am I really seeing the GFS redevelope the old TD5 sending it out to TX?

Looking at this last run the GFS is really beefing this storm up...

I think over-beefing it up, too. It would have to be either a small storm, or further out than it looks... and the wind is only on one side, too, which is unusual.
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Quoting wayfaringstranger:
Who here lives in the Gulf coastal region around New Orleans /Mobile AL?

Can you give me an update on the weather conditions and how much flooing in the area?
I live North of I-10 in Semmes Ala.We had a good soaking for about 2 1/2 hours.We are clear and sunny now.
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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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