Russian heat wave of 2010 due to natural causes: NOAA study

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:11 PM GMT on March 10, 2011

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The deadliest heat wave in human history--the 2010 Russian heat wave, which killed approximately 56,000 people last summer--was due to a natural atmospheric phenomenon often associated with weather extremes, according to a new NOAA study. The study, titled "Was There a Basis for Anticipating the 2010 Russian Heat Wave?" was accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, and used observations and computer climate models to evaluate the possible roles of natural and human-caused climate influences on the severity of the heat wave.


Figure 1. Daily Moscow temperature record from November 1 2009 to October 31 2010. Red and blue shaded areas represent departures from the long-term average (smooth curve) in Moscow. Temperatures significantly above the long-term average scorched Moscow for much of July and August. Image credit: NOAA.

Here's the body of the NOAA Press Release on the study:

"Knowledge of prior regional climate trends and current levels of greenhouse gas concentrations would not have helped us anticipate the 2010 summer heat wave in Russia," said lead author Randall Dole, deputy director of research at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory, Physical Science Division and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). "Nor did ocean temperatures or sea ice status in early summer of 2010 suggest what was to come in Russia."

Temperatures in the upper 90s to above 100°F scorched western Russia and surrounding areas from July through mid-August, 2010. In Moscow, the long-term daily average temperatures for July range from 65-67°F; in 2010, daily average July temperatures soared up to 87°. Daily average temperatures include the night. The exceptional heat over such a long duration, combined with poor air quality from wildfires increased deaths by at least 56,000 in Moscow and other parts of western Russia, according to Munich Reinsurance, and led to massive crop failures in the region.

While a contribution to the heat wave from climate change could not be entirely ruled out, if it was present, it played a much smaller role than naturally occurring meteorological processes in explaining this heat wave's intensity.

The researchers cautioned that this extreme event provides a glimpse into the region's future as greenhouse gases continue to increase, and the signal of a warming climate, even at this regional scale, begins to emerge more clearly from natural variability in coming decades. Climate models evaluated for the new study show a rapidly increasing risk of such heat waves in western Russia, from less than one percent in 2010, to 10 percent or more by the end of this century.

"It appears that parts of Russia are on the cusp of a period in which the risk of extreme heat events will increase rapidly," said co-author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist, also from ESRL.

Dole called the intensity of this heat wave a "climate surprise," expected to occur only very rarely in Russia's current climate. With the possibility of more such events in the future, studying the Russian event better prepares scientists to understand climate phenomena that will affect the U.S. and other parts of the globe.

The team--led by Dole, Hoerling, and Judith Perlwitz from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder--sifted through long-term observations and results from 22 global climate models, looking for trends that might help explain the extraordinarily high temperatures in western Russia during the 2010 summer. They also ran atmospheric models that used observed global sea surface temperatures, Arctic sea ice conditions and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in 2010 to assess whether such factors might have contributed to the heat wave.

The heat wave was due primarily to a natural phenomenon called an atmospheric "blocking pattern," in which a strong high pressure system developed and remained stationary over western Russian, keeping summer storms and cool air from sweeping through the region and leading to the extreme hot and dry conditions. While the blocking pattern associated with the 2010 event was unusually intense and persistent, its major features were similar to atmospheric patterns associated with prior extreme heat wave events in the region since 1880, the researchers found.

They also found that western Russia has not experienced significant climate warming during the summer season over the 130 years from 1880-2009, despite significant warming of globally averaged temperatures during that time. Such a "warming hole" is not unique to that region and is not entirely unexpected, as the Earth is not uniformly warming and experiences distinct geographic areas that may be warmer or cooler than the average trend.

"We know that climate change is not taking place at the same rate everywhere on the globe," said Hoerling. "Western Russia is one of the parts of the world that has not seen a significant increase in summertime temperatures. The U.S. Midwest is another."

Dole compared his team's findings to trying to hear a quiet conversation underneath the roar of a noisy fan: a summertime signal due to climate change over western Russia was drowned out by the much larger climate "noise," or variability, resulting from natural processes.

Authors of the new paper, Was There a Basis for Anticipating the 2010 Russian Heat Wave? are Randall Dole1, Martin Hoerling1, Judith Perlwitz2, Jon Eischeid2, Philip Pegion2, Tao Zhang2, Xiao-Wei Quan2, Taiyi Xu2, and Donald Murray2. The team is part of a NOAA effort to better understand the underlying causes of high-impact weather and climate events, with the ultimate goal of better anticipating them.

NOAA Climate Attribution: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/csi/



Figure 2. Smoke from fires in Russia on August 4, 2010 covered an area over 3,000 km (1860 miles) across. If the smoke were in the United States, it would have extended from San Francisco to Chicago. Visibility in Moscow dropped to 20 meters (0.01 miles) on August 4, and health officials warned that everyone, including healthy people, needed to take preventative measures such as staying indoors or wearing a mask outdoors. Image credit: NASA.

Commentary
Climate change has fundamentally altered Earth's atmosphere in significant ways; the additional heat and moisture in the atmosphere alters global sea surface temperature and atmospheric circulation patterns, making it difficult to disentangle to what degree an extreme weather event may be natural. The new NOAA attribution study on the Russian Heat Wave of 2010 is a reminder that the atmosphere is capable of generating extreme events on its own, without the aid of climate change. Attribution studies are difficult and take many months or years to complete. When an extreme weather event such as a great flood or deadly heat wave occurs, all we can say at the time is that climate change is loading the dice in favor of such extreme events. At the time of the Russian heat wave, I suspected that human-caused climate change was likely a significant factor, since a study of the world's previous deadliest heat wave, the 2003 European heat wave (Stott et al., 2004), found that human-caused climate change had increased the odds of that event occurring by a factor of four.

An important question to ask is if this type of natural atmospheric blocking event--where the jet stream gets "stuck" in particular contorted shape that contributes to extreme weather events--will increase or decrease in a future warmer climate. I asked climate modeling expert Dr. Ricky Rood, who writes our Climate Change blog, what the models say. His view was, "the physical basis, process, and cause and effect of blocking events are poorly understood in theory and observations and less well understood in models. It is very difficult problem, where the state-of-the-art understanding is low." So, we don't really know what will happen to blocking events in the future climate. Barnes and Hartman (2010) found that the computer models used in the 2007 [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report generally showed a decrease in the frequency of blocking events in a future climate. This occurs because the jet stream moves poleward in a future warming climate, and the jet stream is less prone to getting "stuck" in a blocking event when it is closer to the pole. The paper summarizes previous studies on the subject thusly: "Previous studies have found evidence for blocking frequency to decrease with global warming, although they disagree on whether the duration of extreme blocking events will increase or decrease [Sillmann and Croci-Maspoli, 2009; Matsueda et al., 2009]." So, the models give us reason to hope that blocking events leading to extreme weather will decrease in the future, though the uncertainty in this prediction is high. However, the climate models used in 2010 Russian heat wave study showed a rapidly increasing risk of heat waves in western Russia, from less than one percent in 2010, to 10 percent or more by the end of this century. The authors conclude that warming attributable to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations "is very likely to produce more frequent and extreme heat waves later this century," a central finding of the 2007 IPCC report.

References
Barnes, E.A., and D.L., Hartmann, 2010, "Influence of eddy-driven jet latitude on North Atlantic jet persistence and
blocking frequency in CMIP3 integrations", GRL 37, L23802, doi:10.1029/2010GL045700, 2010

Stott, P.A. , D.A. Stone, and M.R. Allen, 2004: Human Contribution to the European heat wave of 2003. Nature, 432(7017), 610-614

I'll have a new post on Saturday at the latest.

Jeff Masters

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Viewing: 297 - 247

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297. washingtonian115
1:44 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting caneswatch:


I always thought the pic was extremely amusing. I'm 18, i'm still enjoying being young LOL
For some odd reason I thought you were older.Maybe that's due to the fact that your very mature.I wish I could go back to my teen years....the 80's.....nothing compares...
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16402
296. sunlinepr
1:38 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Pollution Forms an Invisible Barrier for Marine Life ScienceDaily (Mar. 9, 2011) —
Researchers at UH Mānoa's Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) examined the genetic structure of a common, non-harvested sea star using a spatially explicit model to test whether the largest sewage discharge and urban runoff sources were affecting the genetic structure of this species. They found that these large pollution sources are not only increasing genetic differentiation between populations (presumably by limiting the dispersal of larvae between them) but also decreasing the genetic diversity of populations closest to them.

In short, human beings are directly affecting the ecological and evolutionary trajectory of a species that is relatively free of any direct human impacts.

Link
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9693
294. Tazmanian
1:31 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting cg2916:
90L? Are you KIDDING ME? Wow! Just as I started to miss Hurricane Season!

BTW, what happened to StormW?



will you guys stop asking that whrre stormW he got banned thats all i can say
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114710
293. caneswatch
1:05 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting washingtonian115:
Ah! caneswatch! your avatar!.Lol.So trying to be like the young folk?


I always thought the pic was extremely amusing. I'm 18, i'm still enjoying being young LOL
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
292. sunlinepr
1:05 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9693
291. cg2916
1:04 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting washingtonian115:
That rather not be explained on the main blog.However I'll email you.


Sure
Member Since: December 21, 2007 Posts: 13 Comments: 3032
290. washingtonian115
1:04 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting caneswatch:


I got that feeling too.
Oh lord.Talk about troll overload.That's one thing I'm not looking forward to on this blog.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16402
289. NRAamy
12:59 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
because it was beat down like a dead horse....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
288. TomTaylor
12:58 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting NRAamy:
BTW, what happened to StormW?

AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!! Where's my fork?!
I already know what happened, but I am just wondering why this can't be discussed on the main blog?
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
287. washingtonian115
12:58 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting caneswatch:


I got that feeling too.
Ah! caneswatch! your avatar!.Lol.So trying to be like the young folk?
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16402
286. caneswatch
12:55 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


LOL...Feel like it's going to be a wild ride on the blog this season!


I got that feeling too.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
285. NRAamy
12:52 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
BTW, what happened to StormW?

AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!! Where's my fork?!
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
284. washingtonian115
12:51 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting cg2916:
90L? Are you KIDDING ME? Wow! Just as I started to miss Hurricane Season!

BTW, what happened to StormW?
That rather not be explained on the main blog.However I'll email you.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16402
283. GeoffreyWPB
12:48 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
AL, 90, 2011031018, 337N, 182W, 30, 1002, LO
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10972
282. cg2916
12:47 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
90L? Are you KIDDING ME? Wow! Just as I started to miss Hurricane Season!

BTW, what happened to StormW?
Member Since: December 21, 2007 Posts: 13 Comments: 3032
281. GeoffreyWPB
12:44 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting caneswatch:


What's that model moving it towards Florida?

/sarcasm


LOL...Feel like it's going to be a wild ride on the blog this season!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10972
280. CybrTeddy
12:44 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
I'd like to see the NHC mention 90L in a TWO.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23565
279. caneswatch
12:39 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Never thought I would be posting this in March!



What's that model moving it towards Florida?

/sarcasm
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
278. HurricaneDean07
12:38 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Checkout this, it looks a lot like Tropical Storm Grace from 2009, 90L is moving west instead of NE
This storm looks to be the closest storm yet to TS status.
2011: Invest 90L

2009: Tropical Storm Grace
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
277. hurricaneben
12:29 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Invest 90L already, in the second week of March? Wow this sure looks crazy. I mean I did kinda feel some early season system might develop this season but not until' at least Mid April. I was calling for an Andrea-like system but whatever because it's only March and some models already make this a (sub)tropical storm?
Member Since: May 15, 2009 Posts: 414 Comments: 677
276. Neapolitan
12:28 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting WeatherWx:


They're gonna need to fork over another 10 trillion just to fight global warming!

That's likely far less than it'll cost if we don't fight it.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13455
274. Jedkins01
12:20 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting TomTaylor:

Yea, I totally agree, but the amount we spend on it is absurd.

Here are the top 5 countries in terms of defense spending for 2009



USA spends more on defense than the total of all the other top 19 countries combined.

Here's a list you can add it up for yourself if you'd like
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by _military_expenditures


haha good point, that is much of why I also said they need to learn how to be more efficient.

Also the U.S. military is technologically superior in most ways to other countries, which has a lot to do with how much money is spent on defense. China recently talked about how they are way behind and must commit to catching up.

Of course I'm not saying we are somehow smarter, just way more money has been put into military technology. U.S. air is practically untouchable.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7271
272. CybrTeddy
12:15 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Never thought I would be posting this in March!



Seasons almost here it seems!
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23565
271. GeoffreyWPB
12:14 AM GMT on March 11, 2011
Never thought I would be posting this in March!

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10972
269. PlazaRed
11:57 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting jasoniscoolman2011:


Its all gone very quiet tonight as of 12 30 Europe time
Here's the 2011 scenario for you from 'Just Guessing'Part !.
OPEC orders the seasons cat 3 upwards hurricanes to avoid the US and go directly to Greenland a bit like the dress rehearsal last year, the 90L decoy is working well at the moment.
The lack of enthusiasm for the Gulf leads to several of the rigs being towed to the arctic now mostly free from ice as a result of the incessant rains transported from the Cape Verdi Islands,by the hurricanes.
Rigs are anchored around the north pole as long as it can still be located due to the rapidly changing magnetic north pole and they are then protected by aircraft carriers and kayaks from Libyan sub sabotage.

Winter comes and with a mild minus 100F the oil freezes in the pipes on the rigs,causing a blow out at sea bed level, this then brings about the worst ecological disaster in Earths history.
Humanity from an extraterrestrials point of view.
Member Since: January 21, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2064
268. TomTaylor
11:52 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting Jedkins01:


I don't know, defense is pretty important, and its one of the things government is actually designed for.

They should learn how to be more efficient in how much they spend for what they get, but defense spending is pretty crucial.

Yea, I totally agree, but the amount we spend on it is absurd.

Here are the top 5 countries in terms of defense spending for 2009



USA spends more on defense than the total of all the other top 19 countries combined.

Here's a list you can add it up for yourself if you'd like
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by _military_expenditures
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
266. washingtonian115
11:51 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
And! I see we have two invest.One in the north,and one in the south.Lol what a coincidence.Anywho 90L has a nice spin to it.It has a small chance of becoming a sub-tropical system.The one in the south atlantic is to close to the coast.If it satys over water longer it may have a chance.Now if only we could get some shear maps for down there....
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16402
265. washingtonian115
11:45 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting Jedkins01:
D.C. is gonna get wacked soon...
Don't say that...Anyway the water in Rock creek,and the Patomic river are running deep.Now as we all now someone foolish is going to be down their on their small raft.It always happens....
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16402
264. Jedkins01
11:40 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting TomTaylor:

Well that sucks. Giving our government another reason to fork over billions of dollars toward defense is just what we didn't need.


I don't know, defense is pretty important, and its one of the things government is actually designed for.

They should learn how to be more efficient in how much they spend for what they get, but defense spending is pretty crucial.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7271
260. Grothar
11:19 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting Skyepony:
I've got to give it a small shot. Usually these in the NE Atlantic aren't called an invest til we've been arguing it should have been named for 24hrs. It's time is short though. Don't see it being around much longer than 2, maybe 3 days.


Grothar~I was just getting in on some of that pretending we are 3rd graders too..


(smiling)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25326
259. TomTaylor
11:09 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:
Prepare for Arctic struggle as climate changes, US navy warned

"America urgently needs to build up its military readiness in the Arctic where melting summer sea ice is setting up a global struggle for resources, a study prepared for the US navy has warned. The report by the National Academy of Sciences warned that climate change could upset the delicate security balance in the Arctic – even among close allies – and that America is unprepared for the challenges ahead.

"'The US military as a whole has lost most of its competence in cold-weather operations for Arctic weather,' the report, National Security Implications of Climate Change for US Naval Forces, warned. 'In the immediate term, the navy should begin Arctic training and the marine corps should also establish a cold weather training programme.' The report warned that America was currently unprepared to defend its interests in the Arctic. Current submarine sytems would be challenged to operate in the Arctic, the report warned. In addition, the coastguard has just three ice breakers, and these are old and obsolete."

Much more...

Well that sucks. Giving our government another reason to fork over billions of dollars toward defense is just what we didn't need.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
258. TomTaylor
11:06 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting Jedkins01:


haha I knew you were being sarcastic.

Actually though, I don't dismiss Climate Change, rather I dismiss that it is all man caused, and that man's doom is not far into the future. As I said, scientists are the experts, and their data and hard work shows warming, and humans have obviously added C02 which will add warming. We just don't really know how human contribution really interacts with this massively complex climate well enough to be sure of the claims coming out of some. Indeed, that's why I say a scientist may be an expert, but he/she can be biased. You can have the right data and expertise but still interpret it differently.

The article Dr. Masters just posted goes right along with what I am saying. More and more, we are learning new things in science, currently what is becoming more evident, is how Climate Change will actually effect the future. Yes we have Climate models, and we shouldn't just dismiss them. At the same time, we all know in history that weather doesn't exactly follow the trail of computer model expectations.

That being said. My conclusion is, we are harming the environment with emissions, so the goal should be to head towards cleaner technology and less harmful emissions.

To me, an honest scientific answer to Climate Change is that man has effected it from adding CO2 and other things, and the earth has warmed, but we do not know really what the future will bring. It could be bad yes, but to say for sure is not honest.

nice post
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 19 Comments: 4357
257. PlazaRed
11:05 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting DEKRE:


Good for us up north!
A bit of humility can't do any harm to the US


Are the Inuit in kayaks armed with whale bone spears seen as a threat? On that Newspaper article by Neapolitan, or is there seen to be something much more sinister up in the arctic? Like storms caused by high winds blowing water about that until recently used to be ice.
They probably wont need icebreakers as there wont be any ice!
Member Since: January 21, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2064
256. Jedkins01
10:56 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
D.C. is gonna get wacked soon...
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 7271
255. Skyepony (Mod)
10:53 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
I've got to give it a small shot. Usually these in the NE Atlantic aren't called an invest til we've been arguing it should have been named for 24hrs. It's time is short though. Don't see it being around much longer than 2, maybe 3 days.


Grothar~I was just getting in on some of that pretending we are 3rd graders too..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37332
254. DEKRE
10:50 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting Neapolitan:


Good for us up north!
A bit of humility can't do any harm to the US
Member Since: April 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 306
253. NRAamy
10:47 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Gro... if I did, I'd be selling it to the guys on Pawn Stars....

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
252. Neapolitan
10:44 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Prepare for Arctic struggle as climate changes, US navy warned

"America urgently needs to build up its military readiness in the Arctic where melting summer sea ice is setting up a global struggle for resources, a study prepared for the US navy has warned. The report by the National Academy of Sciences warned that climate change could upset the delicate security balance in the Arctic – even among close allies – and that America is unprepared for the challenges ahead.

"'The US military as a whole has lost most of its competence in cold-weather operations for Arctic weather,' the report, National Security Implications of Climate Change for US Naval Forces, warned. 'In the immediate term, the navy should begin Arctic training and the marine corps should also establish a cold weather training programme.' The report warned that America was currently unprepared to defend its interests in the Arctic. Current submarine sytems would be challenged to operate in the Arctic, the report warned. In addition, the coastguard has just three ice breakers, and these are old and obsolete."

Much more...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13455
251. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:43 PM GMT on March 10, 2011
Quoting IKE:

WISHCASTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
evening ike long time no type
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
250. IKE

Quoting CybrTeddy:


Looking at that, it still is an impressive system for March 10th. Might have a small shot.
WISHCASTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NRAamy:
I like IKE!

:)


I bet you still have the first button.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25326
I like IKE!

:)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
Quoting Neapolitan:

Uninterruptible power supply maybe? Just like the one running the cameras? Just guessing...


I was thinking more on the lines of a battery pack or something.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25326

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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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