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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Landfall:

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Ex-TD5 seems to cling very near the coast, but does strengthen fairly impressively on the GFS. Probably thinks to very warm coastal waters and friction with land.
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123. IKE
GFS puts TD5 emerging off of the western Florida panhandle by Monday...strengthens it and heads it toward SE Louisiana.

Maybe a flooding rain issue for some.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
120 hrs. out:

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114 hrs. out:

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Looks like if it develops, it'll be a slow-mover
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119. IKE
Pouring rain here again....TD5 doing a washout on the western Florida panhandle.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860



Thanks for the UPdate Dr. Masters.
Everyone have a great day and enjoy.

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117. IKE
Latest GFS at 84 hours...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting CarnageCaster:
Good Friday afternoon to all on here today! How's everybody doing on this fine, yet glamorous day? BTW, sorry for not being on yesterday, gang! I couldn't make it because I was recuperating from my post-birthday drunken' bash, LOL.


Ughhh....Are you real or an imposter?
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Quoting soloco:


IMO, I have never seen you post anything useful.......just sayin.


+1
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there's nothing to worry about guys, the oceans are clean of activity for the moment, i'll be back next week!!
Member Since: July 21, 2010 Posts: 60 Comments: 1011
Why do they let you modify your own posts but not other people's posts?
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http://moe.met.fsu.edu/cgi-bin/cmctc2.cgi?time=2010081300&field=700mb+Vorticity&hour=Animation
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The CMC 700mb has ex-TD5 literally and essentially scrubbing the Northern GOM clean of oil in its loop. Almost as if intentionally. Wow. Thanks.

Bad part is, the South sees horrific flooding.
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12z GFS 72 hours already starts showing the system. Looks like we may get Danielle soon, if the GFS verifies.

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109. IKE
Bastardi on TD5....Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
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Quoting divdog:
good luck with that forecast.. you are quoting the models ?? they have not exactly done a bang up job this year.


IMO, I have never seen you post anything useful.......just sayin.
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these are the model runs for EX-05L 201008131200



AND IT SHOW MAINLY NO LOOPING FOR EX-05L maybe it is what the models are showing off the east coast in a few days
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Update for anyone that is interested.
Tropics quiet, but active days ahead 8/13/10
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Quoting timtrice:
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.


Actually, both the GFS and ECMWF this morning have a similar path of the system coming slightly offshore MS/AL and moving westward inland into LA. The GFS is aggressive w/ intensity.


Intensity can't be forecast that far out from something that isn't even a storm yet. Anything the the Gulf this time of year could be nothing or a Cat5.
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Couldn't help but notice this towards the end of the blog...."I know you have the power to control the weather, so if you could 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." - What the?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
CMC - Develops the remnants of TD #5, turns it into a hurricane

GFS - Develops the remnants of TD #5, turns it into a hurricane, possible even a major.

ECMWF - Develops the remnants of TD #5, turns it into a Tropical Storm

NGP: Really confused...makes it do two loops.


According to these runs: CMC and GFS do not have surface pressures that would represent hurricanes.
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Quoting clwstmchasr:
It's funny how people want to believe the GFS for regenerating exTD5 but we don't want to believe the GFS for taking the potential CV storm out to sea.



and as usual, the reason for the lack of rain, lack of unstable air. Temps aloft continue to be too warm...


Remember when the Low now on the gulf coast was TD 5? I remember them saying there was a high risk for flooding and they were advertising numerous bands of heavy rain... We got some very heavy rain on tuesday, but it was still brief... About an inch in 15 minutes. Other than that, we did not have repeated bands of rain anywhere in central Florida, and the heavy rain event never materialized.


Also, there has definitely been a lack of really deep thunderstorms around central Florida as well. Why? Once again, warm air and subsidence aloft.

Something is wrong with the atmosphere. I have never seen such stubborn persistence of an upper air pattern before. We have had warm air and subsidence aloft dominating Florida for nearly all of the last 4 months!
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


You don't think the "HappyBirthdayJFV" dude was him? Writing style seemed eerily similar but then again it doesn't take a genius to write that way...maybe you're right...


After that aforementioned name he may have came back once maybe twice. Since then it has all been posers.
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Quoting jrweatherman:


More times wrong and few times right.

Thats about how much anybody is right. Theres no way you get these things right even 50% of the time.
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Quoting IKE:
Looks almost due north of Mobile now....



Yep, sucking in moisture from the Bay. Still has a tight spin.
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We have a repeated pattern of storms moving across FL into the Gulf and towards LA this season. Not saying that this will hold, but it bears looking at, and is a concern here.
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Quoting redwagon:
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. - Dr. Masters
--------
I moved and am 'stealing' my landlord's wireless at 150ft. I used to run and post model solutions, now I can't even run them is why I asked. I'm going to have to buy internet again..:( Thanks for telling me which models redevelop ex-TD5.



I see the CMC is trying to develop something.. Similar to the GFS....
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Really because I have yet to see you post a forecast on here. Sometimes I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong that's just the way it goes. Post some forecast then we'll talk.

You've been right? Did a major hit SFL and I didn't know?
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Quoting divdog:
I leave the forecasting to guys who know what they are doing and have some formal training. You fall into NEITHER category. I only comment to you when you make outrageous forecast like what became 93l was going to be a monster and hit central florida or the east coast.. nice call. or td5 that was going to blow up and nail the gulf coast. where are some of the forecasts you got right. I cannot recall seeing any. You are a throw enuf dats at the dartboard and i'll eventually get one right caster.


Agreed.
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President Bush greets returning military at DFW...

Link
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Why are you guys bashing Jeff? Just leave him alone!


Because they have nothing better to do sadly.
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Why are you guys bashing Jeff? Just leave him alone!
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Quoting clwstmchasr:
It's funny how people want to believe the GFS for regenerating exTD5 but we don't want to believe the GFS for taking the potential CV storm out to sea.



Landfall Casters
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Thanks!!!
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Link

Link
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:




That's a tropical storm, not a hurricane. Still, we have strong model support with both a African wave and ex-TD5. Something tells me something's going to pop.
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82. IKE
Looks almost due north of Mobile now....

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting Jeff9641:


Really because I have yet to see you post a forecast on here. Sometimes I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong that's just the way it goes. Post some forecast then we'll talk.


More times wrong and few times right.
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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. - Dr. Masters
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I moved and am 'stealing' my landlord's wireless at 150ft. I used to run and post model solutions, now I can't even run them is why I asked. I'm going to have to buy internet again..:( Thanks for telling me which models redevelop ex-TD5.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Wrong! All models seem to develope ex td5 as it re enters the Gulf later this weekend and early next week.


If the high pressure to the north continues to build south which is apparently doing based on water vapor imagery it is a distinct possibility.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
I do not see a hurricane on the CMC's latest run. Care to enlighten me?


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This bad boy effected Florida 6 years ago on this date.
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Hey you all I'm in Saraland,Alabama, and it's raining horrible, buckets. roads are flooding wind blowing a little. I welcome the rain, much nicer temps right know.
sheri
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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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