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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275. JRRP
Link
NOGAPS
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Federal meteorologists aren't permitted to post on any civilian meteorology sites.
He no longer works at the NHC...retired in 2003. I guess that he is permitted now.
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Holy cow! we have some crazy lightning going on here from former TD5.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Good Afternoon!

There's someone from the NHC? I want his autograph! XD
Federal meteorologists aren't permitted to post on any civilian meteorology sites.
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3619
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NEW ORLEANS HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
NORTHWESTERN JEFFERSON PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...METAIRIE...MARRERO...KENNER...
HARVEY...AVONDALE...
NORTH CENTRAL LAFOURCHE PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
ST. CHARLES PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF HAHNVILLE...
SOUTHERN ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...RESERVE...LAPLACE...

* UNTIL 200 PM CDT


* AT 1159 AM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
FLASH FLOODING FROM A CLUSTER OF THUNDERSTORMS ALONG A LINE
EXTENDING FROM HARVEY TO METAIRIE...OR ALONG A LINE EXTENDING
FROM BELLE CHASSE TO METAIRIE...MOVING EAST AT 20 MPH.

* THE STORMS PRODUCING FLASH FLOODING WILL AFFECT METAIRIE AND
HARVEY EXTENDING WESTWARD TO HAHNVILLE AND RESERVE.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
August 12, 2008



August 12, 2010



Want some sizzle with your heat?
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269. JRRP
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
JRRP I am starting to think that maybe that Earl would be a caribean tracker and maybe a major on

well ... we will have to see :)
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A sign of Florida panhandle weather so far today: State Police are currently responding to 7 vehicle crashes w/injuries on or near I-10 between Marianna and Pensacola ~130 miles.
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266. xcool
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Quoting Tazmanian:



is 05L back with us?
No, they have been running the ATCF center fixes even after the cyclone was labeled "dissipated". It also is classified as a "LO" rather than a "TD".
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Quoting xcool:
FRIDAY 10 AM
WINDS GUSTING OVER 30 MPH ON MOBILE BAY.

The depression center, and its well worth tracking the next several days because of the chance it comes back over the water Monday or Tuesday is northwest of Mobile Alabama now, Winds are gusting to near 35 mph at Fort Morgan Alabama and winds to 30 mph are up into Mobile Bay.

Not that a big a deal, though southwest winds that strong are rare on the gulf coast unless there is a thunderstorm, or a tropical system around, at this time of the year.

ciao for now ***

FRIDAY

by joe


I can't remember will southwest winds cause the water to rise in the creeks around here?
sheri
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Hammer time in the Big Easy

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Quoting StormW:


Still a circulation (counterclockwise) being caused by ex-TD 5. As per my forecast this morning, it seems more probable for this to return to the GOMEX in a few days...based on what I saw in the steering forecast this morning. So, the models may be correct, in having this wind up again.


Thanks, sort of in a look out the door and local radar situation here. :)
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man the pumps
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JRRP I am starting to think that maybe that Earl would be a caribean tracker and maybe a major on
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Quoting xcool:
AL, 05, 2010081312, , BEST, 0, 307N, 888W, 25, 1008, LO



is 05L back with us?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The tropical wave is circled in yellow in the image below. The tropical wave will also be emerging around 10N or so, well south of the SAL.


K thanks.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
Quoting nola70119:


There you go.....thunderstorms are training east through Lafayette and over New Orleans.
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Quoting xcool:


There you go.....thunderstorms are training west through Lafayette and over New Orleans.
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Quoting Gearsts:
Where's the wave that everybody is talking about on central africa?Dont see much there and look at the SAL!
The tropical wave is circled in yellow in the image below. The tropical wave will also be emerging around 10N or so, well south of the SAL.


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Quoting Tazmanian:



i bet that will come 95L right a way


Probably not. It is going NW and will weaken after it emerges.
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251. xcool
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Quoting xcool:
FRIDAY 10 AM
WINDS GUSTING OVER 30 MPH ON MOBILE BAY.

The depression center, and its well worth tracking the next several days because of the chance it comes back over the water Monday or Tuesday is northwest of Mobile Alabama now, Winds are gusting to near 35 mph at Fort Morgan Alabama and winds to 30 mph are up into Mobile Bay.

Not that a big a deal, though southwest winds that strong are rare on the gulf coast unless there is a thunderstorm, or a tropical system around, at this time of the year.

ciao for now ***

FRIDAY

by joe


Not a big deal? We are going to flood here in NOLA from that flow from the West....
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249. xcool
AL, 05, 2010081312, , BEST, 0, 307N, 888W, 25, 1008, LO
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
August 12, 2008



August 12, 2010


Ugh! It's starting to go purple now? Looks like we need some more colors in the crayon box here soon.
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247. JRRP
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
StormW I said the same thing last night the GFS start EARL to far north

GFS started showing Dean moving WNW .... north of antilles
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
12z CMC develops ex-05 into a tropical storm. Starts developing the central/western Africa tropical wave towards the end of the run.
Where's the wave that everybody is talking about on central africa?Dont see much there and look at the SAL!
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1423
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
PGI28L




i bet that will come 95L right a way
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Another train of storms headed over me now here in New Orleans......flash flood advisory until tonight.
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August 12, 2008



August 12, 2010

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242. JRRP
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
PGI28L


nice!
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241. xcool
FRIDAY 10 AM
WINDS GUSTING OVER 30 MPH ON MOBILE BAY.

The depression center, and its well worth tracking the next several days because of the chance it comes back over the water Monday or Tuesday is northwest of Mobile Alabama now, Winds are gusting to near 35 mph at Fort Morgan Alabama and winds to 30 mph are up into Mobile Bay.

Not that a big a deal, though southwest winds that strong are rare on the gulf coast unless there is a thunderstorm, or a tropical system around, at this time of the year.

ciao for now ***

FRIDAY

by joe
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12z CMC develops ex-05 into a tropical storm. Starts developing the central/western Africa tropical wave towards the end of the run.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
For what follows it, lol. Heading into hefty SAL and relatively cool SSTs.


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Quoting StormW:


Yeah...that's why I only go out to about 72 hours...96 max. I do mention model elements further out sometimes, but doesn't mean I put faith in it...but, Yes...ya start small, then see what changes the atmosphere has in store after that time period.


What do you make of this ex-TD5? Now we have thunderstorms training towards New Orleans from the West,......is this some sort of very large circular flow, with these "eddies" rotating inside, like the remnant of TD5? With the end being another TD forming....
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237. IKE
12Z CMC...
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting StormW:


WOW!

This is the one that will most likely be sacrificed.
For what follows it, lol. Heading into hefty SAL and relatively cool SSTs.
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StormW I said the same thing last night the GFS start EARL to far north
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Strengthening Again:



Still Strengthening:



Still Strengthening:



Still Strengthening...Looks like a new system off Africa?



Holding Intensity...Low off Africa:



Weakening Some:



Holding Intensity:



Strengthening:



Still Strengthening:



In the 980's now!



Holding Intensity:



Weakening..Two Low's in the Atlantic



Holy Long Post Batman, Robin cant read that fast.
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StormW,
Any notes on PGI28L?
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ok belizeit here it is

just go to where it says NAM

Link

click the date/time 2010081312 then scroll down to atlantic and click NAM

Link
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229. Jax82
Charley!
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
PGI28L



Impressive!
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Strengthening Again:



Still Strengthening:



Still Strengthening:



Still Strengthening...Looks like a new system off Africa?



Holding Intensity...Low off Africa:



Weakening Some:



Holding Intensity:



Strengthening:



Still Strengthening:



In the 980's now!



Holding Intensity:



Weakening..Two Low's in the Atlantic

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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.