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UPDATE MAY 21: Extreme Heat, Floods Strike Eastern Europe

By: Christopher C. Burt, 7:18 PM GMT on May 20, 2014

UPDATE MAY 21: Extreme Heat, Floods Strike Eastern Europe

As Jeff Masters posted in a blog Monday the worst flooding in a century has occurred in Bosnia and Serbia this past week. At the same time, a record May heat wave has affected Estonia, Finland, Belarus, and northwestern Russia. Here are some details.

Balkan Floods

Heavy rainfall began falling in the Balkans on May 14th and continued through the 17th. Some local precipitation reports for this period included 245 mm (9.65”) at Tuzla in Bosnia, 219 mm (8.62”) at Loznica, Serbia and 190 mm (7.48”) in Belgrade, Serbia. Belgrade also experienced a 151 mm (5.94”) fall during a thunderstorm on May 4th, so their May monthly precipitation has already exceeded 370 mm (14.57”). For perspective, Belgrade’s normal May rainfall total is 74 mm (2.91”). The ensuing floods have now destroyed an astonishing 100,000 homes and businesses as well as at least 230 schools and hospitals according to latest press reports. Given the extent of the floods it is fortunate that only 43 flood-related fatalities have been reported so far. Some 2,000 landslides have also occurred in the region.



Croatia as well has been affected by wide-scale flooding as this aerial photo of a church in Gunja, eastern Croatia illustrates. Photo by Davor Javorovic/AP.



Heat in Estonia, Russia, Finland

The same high-amplitude jet stream pattern that caused the low-pressure system bringing all the rainfall to the Balkans has also been responsible for one of the most remarkable early season heat waves on record in portions of Russia, Finland, Estonia, Belarus, and Latvia.



500 mb height anomaly for May 15-17 that illustrates the low over the Balkans responsible for the flooding and the ridge that developed overrunning the top of the low and bringing record early season heat to northern Europe. Map from NOAA/ESRL.


An all-time national monthly heat record was set in Estonia on Monday, May 19th when the temperature peaked at 33.1°C (91.6°F) at Kunda. This figure obliterated the previous highest observed May temperature in the country of 31.2°C (88.2°F) set at Pjanryi in May 2007. The capital city of Estonia, Tallinn, broke its May monthly heat record as well with 31.4°C (88.5°F) reading (previous record was 29.7°C/85.5°F on May 26, 1958).



A map of maximum temperatures across northern Europe on Monday, May 19th. It would appear that the point maximum was a 34.1°C (93.4°F) at the town of Holm in far western Russia and this would be an all-time heat record for the site beating out their previous record (for any month) of 33.9°C, although the POR for this site is not clear . Sorry, if this map is difficult to read! Map provided by Michael Theusner of Klimahaus, Germany.

Finland came close to breaking its May national heat record with a 30.8°C (87.4°F) reading at Heinola on Monday. The old record of 31.0°C (87.8°F), set at Lapinjarvi on May 30 and 31, 1995 and also at Toukkokku, still stands. Helsinki Airport broke its monthly May heat record with 29.0°C/84.2°F (previous record 28.8°C/83.8°F) although the downtown Kaisoniemi Observatory site fell short of their May record with a 29.6°C (85.3°F) reading.

St. Petersburg, Russia (POR since 1881) smashed its all-time May heat record with an amazing 33.0°C (91.4°F) also on Monday (previous May monthly record was 30.9°C/87.6°F). There was a good chance that this figure would have been surpassed today (May 20th) since the noon observation was already standing at 32.0°C (89.6°F) however clouds moved in during the early afternoon and the high temperature for May 20th peaked at 32.5°C (90.5°F).

The top temperature figures for Latvia and Belarus stood at 31.5°C (88.7°F) at Vitebsk in Belarus and 30.0°C (86.0°F) in Latvia respectively. Neither were national records. The normal daily maximum temperatures for this time of year in the entire region affected by the heat wave should range between 15°-20°C (59°-68°F).

UPDATE MAY 21 Over 500 monthly heat records were set in Russia on May 20th. Some of the more significant include the following:

Petrokrepost: 34.4°C (93.9°F)

Medvezegorsk: 33.1°C (91.6°F) This site is located at 62° 55’ N latitude and the temperature was the 2nd hottest ever measured (since POR began in 1949) for any month and just 0.4°C (0.7°F) from the all-time record hottest ever recorded (for any month).

Arkhangelsk: 31.7°C (89.1°F) This site has a POR back to 1881 and is located close to the Arctic Circle at 64° 34’ N latitude.



KUDOS: Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera and Michael Theusner for European heat record data and Stu Ostro at TWC for mb heights map.


Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Heat Flood

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Wow, thanks a lot. Finally some accurate numbers of the rainfall that devastated those regions in poor Balkans!
And current temps with high "Steffen" (as Berlin Institute has named it) in North-Eastern Europe are really amazing. Crazy weather world.


Current temperature anomalies in Europe according to GFS.

Amazing pics from Estonia with shelf clouds of severe storms today.
The precipitation amount for Belgrade on May 4th is false, correct figures are 40mm for Surcin airport (WMO Id 13272) and 46.8mm for downtown wx station (WMO Id 13274). There's an erroneous report of 131mm in 6hrs ending at 12Z at station 13272 but then later corrected at 18Z with 29mm for the previous 12hrs... probably a misplaced comma in 12Z report that might actually be 13.1mm, consistent with the neighboring station 13274 reporting 14mm in the same time span.
Thanks for that clarification mottoh!

I got the figures from OGIMET and noticed the big difference on May 4th between the two stations in Belgrade but figured perhaps the event was a thunderstorm with localized heavy rainfall that could explain the big difference between the two sites.


Quoting 2. mottoth:

The precipitation amount for Belgrade on May 4th is false, correct figures are 40mm for Surcin airport (WMO Id 13272) and 46.8mm for downtown wx station (WMO Id 13274). There's an erroneous report of 131mm in 6hrs ending at 12Z at station 13272 but then later corrected at 18Z with 29mm for the previous 12hrs... probably a misplaced comma in 12Z report that might actually be 13.1mm, consistent with the neighboring station 13274 reporting 14mm in the same time span.
Thanks Chris! Guess it makes sense that while one part of Europe is getting drenched, another is getting scorched.

Just like when California got no rain at all this last winter, meanwhile the Southeastern US got surprise snowstorms.
temperature at Arkhangelsk all the more impressive as it sits in close proximity to the White Sea, which must be frigid this time of year.
Apologies for the pedanticism, but I believe that "Toukkukku" is not a place name; it is a misspelling of "toukokuu," which is the Finnish name for May. Kind of means "month of planting." I also think that the weather station is located at "Kaisaniemi," which is the part of town where the train station and some lovely gardens are found.
And just when the Balkans were getting back on their feet after the 1990s....
Horrible pictures of the aftermaths of Balkans flooding:



Prof. Petley on his landslide blog presents and comments a new video from those awful landslides in the aftermath of the catastrophic rains in the Balkans:

21 May 2014
Zenica: a spectacular landslide video from Bosnia
This video has appeared on youtube. It shows the development of a landslide triggered by the exceptional rainfall that struck the Balkans over the last few days. The landslide apparently occurred at Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. ...
I participate at Dr. Rood's blog, but use your site for information.

Please don't stop writing this blog - I will try to make it a point to mention your new blog entries at Ricky's blog, and ask people to acknowledge your efforts.
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
Thank you for your kind words Xulonn. I certainly am not considering to stop blogging altogether, just the monthly weather reviews. Sorry if my comment caused some confusion about this!

But, thanks to all the postive comments, I've decided to continue posting the 'monthly global extremes review' regardless of its poor page views. I'll just consider it a 'public service' :-).

P.S. Go Ricky Rood! Ricky's blogs, frankly, are far deeper in the context of climatology than mine. I'm the 'small picture' of climate events and Ricky is the 'big picture' if you know what I mean.


Quoting 11. Xulonn:

I participate at Dr. Rood's blog, but use your site for information.

Please don't stop writing this blog - I will try to make it a point to mention your new blog entries at Ricky's blog, and ask people to acknowledge your efforts.