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 Stormchaser2007:
Isabel of 2003 was a very interesting system. One that didnt play by the rules when it became annular. It basically created it's own environment.

Havent seen many annular hurricanes since Isabel. Felix of 2007 was one.



I would agree Isabel was annular (having a large eye at the center and looking like an intense donut). But, Felix had a small eye, didn't look like a donut. Is donut-looking (due to a relatively large eye for the storm's size) the definition of an annular hurricane?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


LOL, some would argue here that the remnants of TD 5 are still worth watching XD


You don't think they are?
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Isabel of 2003 was a very interesting system. One that didnt play by the rules when it became annular. It basically created it's own environment.

Havent seen many annular hurricanes since Isabel. Felix of 2007 was one though.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2919. xcool



850mb Vorticity


5,000 feet
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Not anything thats officially classified.

Otherwise it's just wave, trof, low...etc


Cool, cool, I see. Glad there is no official titles lower than PGIxxL. That would have really annoyed me. It was weird when I discovered the whole Invest 9xL thing, and its really awkward how they go from Invest 90L to 99L, then back again to Invest 90L.

By the way, what on earth does the acronym PGI stand for?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
2917. robj144
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Intensity models are not good. Besides, if a strong hurricane forms, all we can know is that it will vary between Cat 3 and 4 with eyewall replacement cycles, and if it's lucky get to Cat 5. And even maintaining intensity as a major depends on not having shear or ULLs foul things up. Or rare steady-state very intense hurricanes like Isabel (2003). If conditions are good in the tropical Atlantic between the Cape Verdes and the Caribbean, assuming a slow steady increase of 15-20 knots a day is as good a guess as any.


Right, I understand, but they're unbelievably off sometimes. Look at Wilma for example... they had no idea it was going to explode like that. I'm not sure, but I think they didn't have Katrina blowing up either.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Yes. It's here Link

It's the GFS. Yesterday, it had hurricane #2 closing directly on me, (and approaching the coast faster). Today it has it further offshore, and on a NC track.

I don't have much credence in anything over 5 days out, but thought they were interesting to look at since there are no storms to track.

The models have been developing hurricane #1 and #2 for several runs now. So I think they will happen---but as for the tracks and intensity, I have no idea.


LOL, some would argue here that the remnants of TD 5 are still worth watching XD
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


WOW, these are good website. Thanks thanks, and thanks :) Now, I see where you guys find those weird numbers PGIxxL. I was like, what LOL? I thought they only had Invests. But, it looks like a system is first PGIxxL, then Invest 9xL, then it declared a depression, then a tropical storm, then a hurricane, then a major hurricane. Anything lower on the totem pole than PGIxxL?


Not anything thats officially classified.

Otherwise it's just wave, trof, low...etc
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2913. robj144
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


The NCAR WRF does pretty well and its SUPER hi-res.

Just click on the 4km Hurricane or 12km Hurricane tabs.


Cool... thanks.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


You should probably bookmark these.
NRL NAVY

EUMETSAT

CIMSS PREDICT

NRL PREDICT


WOW, these are good website. Thanks thanks, and thanks :) Now, I see where you guys find those weird numbers PGIxxL. I was like, what LOL? I thought they only had Invests. But, it looks like a system is first PGIxxL, then Invest 9xL, then it declared a depression, then a tropical storm, then a hurricane, then a major hurricane. Anything lower on the totem pole than PGIxxL?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
Quoting robj144:


Speaking of intensity models. Is there any one that can predict the intensity at all? I can't ever recall seeing an intensity forecast that was spot on.


The NCAR WRF does pretty well and its SUPER hi-res.

Just click on the 4km Hurricane or 12km Hurricane tabs.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2909. robj144
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Yes. It's here Link

It's the GFS. Yesterday, it had hurricane #2 closing directly on me, (and approaching the coast faster). Today it has it further offshore, and on a NC track.

I don't have much credence in anything over 5 days out, but thought they were interesting to look at since there are no storms to track.

The models have been developing hurricane #1 and #2 for several runs now. So I think they will happen---but as for the tracks and intensity, I have no idea.


Speaking of intensity models. Is there any one that can predict the intensity at all? I can't ever recall seeing an intensity forecast that was spot on.
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One week from today.

The ECM keeps PGI30L weak. A weaker system would stay more south and west as apposed to the intense hurricane the GFS had.



Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2907. GetReal
Quoting robj144:


Ok, I'll agree maybe no one has said it explicitly. For that, I apologize. However, most seem to implicitly take these models as gospel.



Spoken wisely... They are simply computer generated models of what may and possibly occur in the future... (If all the stars are aligned...)
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Quoting robj144:


Ok, I'll agree maybe no one has said it explicitly. For that, I apologize. However, most seem to implicitly take these models as gospel.


Well those people are the foolish ones.

It's always best to just use the models as a possible scenario rather than a certain track set in stone.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2903. robj144
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


I didnt see anyone that actually did that.

I'll I see are people posting models.


Ok, I'll agree maybe no one has said it explicitly. For that, I apologize. However, most seem to implicitly take these models as gospel.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I see what you are saying now. Will keep an eye on PGI30L, couldn't really see the good spin with it with the satellite imagery over Africa that I look at. Where do you guys get better Africa satellite imagery that updates a lot, better than this junk?


You should probably bookmark these.
NRL NAVY

EUMETSAT

CIMSS PREDICT (Click on the little "I" at the bottom of the page on the map)

NRL PREDICT
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2900. xcool
hmm
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Quoting robj144:
I just don't understand how you can place any certainty on where these possible storms will be 16 days out. I mean, when the storm develops the forecast cone is like 200 to 300 miles wide five days out which comes from the ensemble from all the models. How can you place any confidence on just one model 16 days out?


I didnt see anyone that actually did that.

I'll I see are people posting models.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


The wave ahead of PGI30L will act as a buffer and get rid of the dry and stable atmosphere off the coast. It was never really supposed to amount to much. The GFS even shows the vorticity from that wave interacting with PGI30L which sparks development. This wave will help PGI30L a lot.

If we have the models consistently developing this like they are for another 48 hours, I'd be very surprised if it didnt develop.


I see what you are saying now. Will keep an eye on PGI30L, couldn't really see the good spin with it with the satellite imagery over Africa that I look at. Where do you guys get better Africa satellite imagery that updates a lot, better than this junk?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


LOL, there were some different opinions about the CMC model a couple of weeks ago on this blog (if I remember the time correctly). I remember someone saying CMC stands for "can't model crap." Is CMC good or not, confused.


The CMC received a major upgrade a year or two ago and is MUCH better than it used to be back in 2007. It used to constantly spin cyclones out of every single area of vorticity.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2896. robj144
I just don't understand how you can place any certainty on where these possible storms will be 16 days out. I mean, when the storm develops the forecast cone is like 200 to 300 miles wide five days out which comes from the ensemble from all the models. How can you place any confidence on just one model 16 days out?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


If your looking for an accurate long-range model, the CMC is your best bet. It's been dominating for a while.


LOL, there were some different opinions about the CMC model a couple of weeks ago on this blog (if I remember the time correctly). I remember someone saying CMC stands for "can't model crap." Is CMC good or not, confused.
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
2894. robj144
Quoting Stormchaser2007:


If your looking for an accurate long-range model, the CMC is your best bet. It's been dominating for a while.


Thanks for the link, but what do you mean by dominating? Does anyone compare the model runs to what actually happens?
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I don't, and I take long range runs with a grain of salt, especially if the models are not intelligent and developing every wave coming off of Africa just because of low shear and warm waters.



Okay, that's a better satellite view than I have over Africa. Yeah, that wave (PGI30L) does look pretty good. But, the wave right at the west coast of Africa right now has "poofed-out," you can't even see it in satellite imagery right now (and it had a nice spin earlier). I wonder if this wave (PGI30L) will follow suit and poof-out once its approaches the coast. We'll see.


The wave ahead of PGI30L will act as a buffer and get rid of the dry and stable atmosphere off the coast. It was never really supposed to amount to much. The GFS even shows the vorticity from that wave interacting with PGI30L which sparks development. This wave will help PGI30L a lot.

If we have the models consistently developing this like they are for another 48 hours, I'd be very surprised if it didnt develop.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
Quoting robj144:
Does anyone know how accurate the GFS has been more than a week ahead of time?


If your looking for an accurate long-range model, the CMC is your best bet. It's been dominating for a while.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
Quoting robj144:
Do you guys really have any confidence in those models 16 days out?


I don't, and I take long range runs with a grain of salt, especially if the models are not intelligent and developing every wave coming off of Africa just because of low shear and warm waters.

Quoting Stormchaser2007:
PGI30L is the wave that is forecasted to develop.

Vigorous mid-level spin


Okay, that's a better satellite view than I have over Africa. Yeah, that wave (PGI30L) does look pretty good. But, the wave right at the west coast of Africa right now has "poofed-out," you can't even see it in satellite imagery right now (and it had a nice spin earlier). I wonder if this wave (PGI30L) will follow suit and poof-out once its approaches the coast. We'll see.
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
2889. xcool
me
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
2888. robj144
Does anyone know how accurate the GFS has been more than a week ahead of time?
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Quoting weatherblog:
Looks like the East Coast is gonna get it this year, probably from multiple storms.


Not ready to agree with that. Usually La Nina years (and right now we're in a La Nina) mean a westward extension of the Bermuda-Azores ridge, which tends to block systems from coming over the eastern US (take a La Nina year like 1995 or 2007 for example).
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
2885. xcool
Stormchaser2007 .nice spin
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
2884. xcool
lololol
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
PGI30L is the wave that is forecasted to develop.

Vigorous mid-level spin
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15889
2882. robj144
Do you guys really have any confidence in those models 16 days out?
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


No. The first hurricane that forms is depicted as a fish, staying well out to sea curving north around 10 days from now. The one seen looming off the SE coast in 16 days is a Cape Verde storm that forms several days after the first. And a third is depicted as a tropical storm in the Caribbean.


I see,

But, I don't believe the models yet. After all, I'm seeing tropical waves over Africa, but they don't look that impressive:

http://www.goes.noaa.gov/FULLDISK/GMIR.JPG

These models might see low shear and warm waters, and say, hmmm, I'll just go off of these favorable conditions and develop every wave coming off of Africa.

Is it just me, or are the waves coming off of Africa over the last few weeks not as impressive as the early June waves (Invest 92L in June for example?) What happened to our tropical waves? I thought systems like 92L in June should have been a harbinger of waves in August and September. I am surprised we aren't seeing some of these waves coming off of Africa with "wicked vortexes." The waves that have been coming off are disorganized blobs that lose momentum once they emerge into the Atlantic for the most part.
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 474 Comments: 3668
00z GGEM (CMC)

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2878. xcool
AL, 05, 2010081500, , BEST, 0, 328N, 855W, 20, 1012, LO,


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this does not look good at all

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2875. xcool



72hr




96hr
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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.