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

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

Share this Blog
3
+

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

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 197 - 147

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11Blog Index

Quoting PlazaRed:


No I live just north of Gibraltar but we had 5 inches of rain and hail here Sunday loads of flooding and more inches yesterday, I've been watching this thing form for a week now and asked you about it a few days ago.
We are a bit north of it now but Skye said it would fade out near Morocco. You've had a few posts on the 'swirl' as you called it a few days ago.It might make a mess of the Skies over the Canary Islands if it gets too close, been lousy weather here all week.
Wish I was a bit nearer the center to take you some photos!


When Sky and I posted all the images and data on this a few days, no one responded at all. Skye and I did a whole segment on this system. I saw it first. LOL Go ahead, go back and look.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting Neapolitan:
Does anyone know whether Arlene will be a Cat 5 when she makes landfall in Florida?

Seriously, for all those asking, I would imagine they've classified 90L because A) it's got 30 knot winds; B) it's got a nice low pressure of 1002mb, C) it's close to populated areas, and--most importantly--D) the mets at the NHC and ATCF probably know more than all of us forum members combined. ;-) Besides, better to classify it and have it dissipate than not classify it and have it spin up into something overnight, right?


Come on man...those silly PHD's mean nothing, remember? Kinda like climate scientists...LOL! Top O' The Day to ya man!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
yep me and my boss and couple of other forcasters weare argueeing about this system
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
90L? YAY its hurrcane seasone LOL
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Quoting Neapolitan:
Does anyone know whether Arlene will be a Cat 5 when she makes landfall in Florida?

Seriously, for all those asking, I would imagine they've classified 90L because A) it's got 30 knot winds; B) it's got a nice low pressure of 1002mb, C) it's close to populated areas, and--most importanly--D) the mets at the NHC and ATCF probably know more than all of us here forum membrers combined. ;-) Besides, better to classify it and have it dissipate than not classify it and have it spin up into something overnight, right?
And given it's vicinity to Africa, it could be for military concerns. Air and sea. Just a thought.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Surfcropper:
Repeat

How much money is spent in investigating anyway?

Does like every invest count as a credit to cash in the ledger?

Yeah. Sure. That's one of the two big conspiracy theories here every year: that the NHC declares things it shouldn't because a) they get paid by invest and b) it helps them sell their phony global warming scam. The other--and quite contradictory--theory is that the NHC fails to declare things that it should because they a) don't want to scare people and b) it helps them sell their phony global warming scam. Of course, more reasonable types know the answer is none of the above: they declare things they feel they should, and avoid declaring things they shouldn't. They don't always get it right exactly when they should--or at least not close enough to shut up the conspiracy theorists--but I'd say they do one heck of a job...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
HPC SOUTH AMERICAN MODEL DISCUSSION


Excerpt:

SPECIAL STATEMENT...GLOBAL MODELS SHOW RISK OF CYCLONE FORMING
OFF THE COAST OF RIO DE JANEIRO/ESPIRITO SANTO THROUGH SUNDAY
MORNING. THE NAVY HYDROGRAPHIC CENTER-BRAZILIAN NAVY (SMM)...IN
COORDINATION WITH THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF METEOROLOGY
(INMET)...WILL ISSUE THE NECESSARY ADVISORIES AND OFFICIAL
FORECAST. THIS SYSTEM...AS IT DEVELOPS...IS FORECAST TO GENERATE
HEAVY RAINFALL AMOUNTS ACROSS MINAS GERAIS-RIO DE JANEIRO AND
ESPIRITO SANTO. MOST INTENSE EXPECTED ON SATURDAY-SUNDAY.

MODEL COMPARISON (VALID FROM 00UTC MAR 10): MODELS ARE CONSISTENT
IN THEIR FORECAST OF A CYCLONE FORMING JUST EAST OF ESPIRITO
SANTO/RIO DE JANEIRO IN BRASIL THROUGH 84 HRS. OBJECTIVE ANALYSIS
SHOWS POSSIBILITY OF THIS SYSTEM QUICKLY EVOLVING TO A WARM CORE
SYSTEM...AS IT TAKES ADVANTAGE OF ABOVE NORMAL SEA SURFACE
TEMPERATURES AND EXPECTED DECREASE IN WESTERLY SHEAR AT UPPER
LEVELS. THE GFS HAS BEEN VERY BULLISH WITH THIS SYSTEM...SHOWING
RAPID INTENSIFICATION DURING THE MEDIUM RANGE PERIOD. THE ECMWF
REMAINS THE WEAKEST AS IT TAKES A SLOWER APPROACH. THE UKMET
FALLS IN BETWEEN THESE MODELS...AND CLOSER TO THE MEAN OF THE
GLOBAL ENSEMBLES. SO THERE IS A LOW TO MODERATE RISK OF TROPICAL
CYCLONE FORMATION DURING THE MEDIUM RANGE PERIOD.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting winter123:


You live in the Azores? Any neat cloud pictures or anything like that? These azores lows interest me.


No I live just north of Gibraltar but we had 5 inches of rain and hail here Sunday loads of flooding and more inches yesterday, I've been watching this thing form for a week now and asked you about it a few days ago.
We are a bit north of it now but Skye said it would fade out near Morocco. You've had a few posts on the 'swirl' as you called it a few days ago.It might make a mess of the Skies over the Canary Islands if it gets too close, been lousy weather here all week.
Wish I was a bit nearer the center to take you some photos!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
It's written in stone that 90L will not be a threat tho the conus
Maybe it is a training session. Or justifying their existance? If it becomes any type of storm, interests affected need to be warned. What is the harm in monitoring it?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
and 100mph shear coming

Its not 100mph shear. Its extremely strong uni-directional outflow.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Already did Nea
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Wrong Nea, it's not gonna spin up into anything, it's sitting on top of ice cold water. End of story

You're right. If I were you, I'd call those idiots at the NHC and give them a piece of your mind. Tell them you don't appreciate early-March invests... ;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
and 100mph shear coming
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Robert W. Bussard, Hydrogen Fusion and the Polywell

I thought we were supposed to stick to weather and not politics but as that is not holding…

I throw this out for every one to chew on in relation to energy that is not Petroleum or coal (evil CO2) based.

Fast summary of the links:
Dr. Bussard claims he proved the physics of the “machine” to make commercial electrical generation possible using Hydrogen Fusion. All that needs to be worked out is the engineering.

I saw yesterday that with the last two weeks of oil price increase and corresponding gas price increase that it is costing the US 145 million more each DAY for gas.

It is further interesting that in 2007 or 2008 Dr. Bussard only needed 200 million to fund the project so that in 3-5 years we would have commercial Hydrogen fusion power plants
I think I got the links all matched but.....pardon please if not.

This place claims to have build and tested the WB-7
www.emc2fusion.org
Link

http://www.emc2fusion.org/2006-9%20IAC%20Paper.pd f
Link

http://www.emc2fusion.org/RsltsNFnlConclFmIEFPoly Pgm120602.pdf
Link

http://www.askmar.com/ConferenceNotes/Should%20Go ogle%20Go%20Nuclear.pdf
Link

http://www.askmar.com/ConferenceNotes/2006-9%20IA C%20Paper.pdf
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Wrong Nea, it's not gonna spin up into anything, it's sitting on top of ice cold water. End of story
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Does anyone know whether Arlene will be a Cat 5 when she makes landfall in Florida?

Seriously, for all those asking, I would imagine they've classified 90L because A) it's got 30 knot winds; B) it's got a nice low pressure of 1002mb, C) it's close to populated areas, and--most importantly--D) the mets at the NHC and ATCF probably know more than all of us forum members combined. ;-) Besides, better to classify it and have it dissipate than not classify it and have it spin up into something overnight, right?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Would you say the 80 degree line is almost 2,000 miles to 90Ls south?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
170. mnsky
nice blog!labels=1 labels=1 labels=1:)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Should have a cane by May 1st at this rate
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Little ridiculous

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PlazaRed:
Invest: {90L}
A weather system for which a tropical cyclone forecast center (NHC, CPHC, or JTWC) is interested in collecting specialized data sets (e.g., microwave imagery) and/or running model guidance. Once a system has been designated as an invest, data collection and processing is initiated on a number of government and academic web sites, including the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (UW-CIMSS). The designation of a system as an invest does not correspond to any particular likelihood of development of the system into a tropical cyclone; operational products such as the Tropical Weather Outlook or the JTWC/TCFA should be consulted for this purpose.

Our question has to be? Why are they interested in it.
We've been getting drenched by it all week!


You live in the Azores? Any neat cloud pictures or anything like that? These azores lows interest me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
163. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
Also appears we have an invest in the South Atlantic

SL 90 2011031018 BEST 0 190S 390W 25 1007 LO


The GFS model spins up 90Q off the coast of Brazil into a 996mb subtropical or tropical storm next week. The NOGAPS and ECMWF don't do much with it. The wundermap for the Brazil coast is a good tool to look at it with. Phase space diagrams from FSU show that 90Q is likely to be borderline warm-core.

Jeff Masters
Quoting Surfcropper:


[BOLD] [Italic] [Link] [Image] Rich Text



OMG, A rotating cloud 3000 miles from Miami!!



[Preview Comment] [Post Comment] [Designate Invest]


LOL.

And after pressing that last button accidentally... you start packing up your stuff.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It's written in stone that 90L will not be a threat tho the conus
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I think I see hot towers!
(more sarcasm)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Where's that Patrap, he usually would be posting that damn guy holding water bottles and saying be prepared
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
This will be a nice little practice run. Maybe they should call it "Pam"...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Another neat image of 90L (must zoom in)
Link
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
SURF!!!!!


Watch 90L fire up and become a storm and prove everybody wrong. Just for grins. ;\
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Surfcropper:


Hey! Not bad...just getting my generator filled up, reserving some plywood at the hardware store and making alot of ice in case 90L developes and travels 2000 miles to get me in April...you never know.





Already ran the generator for the annual test run last weekend and changed the oil. Shutters ready to go on a moment's notice. Just need to install vertical braces on garage door although the door is rated to 130mph but I don't trust the tracks, always the weak point of any garage door.

Glad to hear you're taking the necessary measures...LOL!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Surfcropper:
The computers at the NHC are going nutso. Like The Whopper in War Games. Would you care to play a game of chess?
That was the WOPR.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Invest: {90L}
A weather system for which a tropical cyclone forecast center (NHC, CPHC, or JTWC) is interested in collecting specialized data sets (e.g., microwave imagery) and/or running model guidance. Once a system has been designated as an invest, data collection and processing is initiated on a number of government and academic web sites, including the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (UW-CIMSS). The designation of a system as an invest does not correspond to any particular likelihood of development of the system into a tropical cyclone; operational products such as the Tropical Weather Outlook or the JTWC/TCFA should be consulted for this purpose.

Our question has to be? Why are they interested in it.
We've been getting drenched by it all week!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
South Atlantic system


Most of it visible on the bottom right.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 197 - 147

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Overcast
30 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron