Causes of the Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:56 PM GMT on August 13, 2010

Share this Blog
4
+

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

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: 2325 - 2275

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66Blog Index

2325. xcool
scott39 .very strong
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2323. xcool
scott39 .soon as get over water we can get A better Idea where going.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2322. scott39
Quoting xcool:
18z cmc



18z cmc .

How strong is that showing?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2321. KYDan
Quoting Patrap:
Father was still on Okinawa gearing up for the Invasion of the Japan Mainland this date, after he and his brother survived the Battle at Okinawa.

The Greatest Generation is a term well bestowed on them,,all.



The last sentence is absolutely true, and too few people today realize it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2320. scott39
Xcool is XTD5 going to ride the coast W into Texas, or is it going to hook N somewhere?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2319. xcool
scott39 .anytime.favorable conditions this time no ULL .
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2318. xcool
18z cmc



18z cmc .

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2317. scott39
Quoting xcool:
scott39 .Low move to south slow according to Satellite .
yea I see that thanks for your posts.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting xcool:
scott39 .Low move to south slow according to Satellite .


Looks like it will end up where it started... West coast of Fl.. LOL crazy year eh???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2315. xcool
scott39 .Low move to south slow according to Satellite .
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting scott39:

Looks like That Low may swing out farther in the NE GOM. Over more water for a longer period of time

yup
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32813
2312. xcool
;;
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2311. Patrap
2309. KanKunKid,

Thanx,thats really kind.




NEXRAD Radar
Atlanta, Storm Total Surface Rainfall Accumulation Range 124 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
2310. scott39
Quoting xcool:
Looks like That Low may swing out farther in the NE GOM. Over more water for a longer period of time? IMO
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2302. JLPR2
Well I'm off till later tonight, later all!
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
2301. xcool
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2300. JLPR2
Quoting weatherman12345:

me too, it may go POOF once it comes clear of the coast.sorry to ruin the thought though:0


haha!
That's an acceptable alternative too. XD
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
2296. will45
Quoting mikatnight:
Remembering V-J Day
August 14th, 2010 1:02 pm

Let not this day fade away from American calendars. On August 14, 1945 the news spread across our country - Japan had surrendered, ending World War ll. Hence, the name: V-J Day (Victory over Japan). The formal surrender took place on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri on Tokyo Bay.

An 84-year-old WW ll vet from Lincolnton, North Carolina remembers the day! Bob Jetton says he was in Czechoslovakia. Jetton was with the 14th Division U.S. Army under General George S. Patton. Jetton and his outfit noticed an unusual amount of air traffic. "Big planes, the sky was filled with American and British planes," says Jetton. "We had no radios or anything. We noticed there wasn't anybody shooting at them. That's when I knew!"

V-J Day celebrations will take place across America this weekend. Keep the Spirit of '45 Day Alive Alliance has planned a mass reenactment of the New York Times Square kiss that celebrated the war's end. Wherever you happen to be this weekend, take time to thank a vet!


ty that needs to be reposted
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2294. hydrus
Quoting RufusBaker:
Well golly the season just came to a halt. Aint a nuttin out there to look at.
Here is a little blob of sorts just north of the N.E.Bahamas......
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2293. JLPR2
Quoting weatherman12345:

agreed, nice blowup of convection as we approach the days end. well have to see when we it exits the coast


Yup, so far so good but I would like for it to develop quickly so that it moves out to sea and we get something pretty to look at. :D
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
2292. Patrap


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
Remembering V-J Day
August 14th, 2010 1:02 pm

Let not this day fade away from American calendars. On August 14, 1945 the news spread across our country - Japan had surrendered, ending World War ll. Hence, the name: V-J Day (Victory over Japan). The formal surrender took place on September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri on Tokyo Bay.

An 84-year-old WW ll vet from Lincolnton, North Carolina remembers the day! Bob Jetton says he was in Czechoslovakia. Jetton was with the 14th Division U.S. Army under General George S. Patton. Jetton and his outfit noticed an unusual amount of air traffic. "Big planes, the sky was filled with American and British planes," says Jetton. "We had no radios or anything. We noticed there wasn't anybody shooting at them. That's when I knew!"

V-J Day celebrations will take place across America this weekend. Keep the Spirit of '45 Day Alive Alliance has planned a mass reenactment of the New York Times Square kiss that celebrated the war's end. Wherever you happen to be this weekend, take time to thank a vet!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting HurricaneDanielle:
That through needs to get going, asap, or else these potential storms will end up being fishes. We need that monster ridge that we had last month, to set back into the southeast, right away, to prevent storms from curving out to sea, negative NAO, will you set in already, geeze, :(.




what the heck???? we dont want the storms hiting land haveing the storms going out too sea is a vary GOOD thing too have and the best
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
OK. Models had storms hitting FL earlier. Models had storms going out to sea yesterday. Now models are back out to sea again. Can you see that this will change many more times. Heck the storms haven't even materialized yet. I say it might be a fish or it might not be or might not even form.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2282. JLPR2
our TW is looking healthy inland

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Well golly the season just came to a halt. Aint a nuttin out there to look at.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2277. Patrap
Ham operators are a really dedicated bunch of good folks.
After a Major Impact it iz usually they who disseminate info to the outside.

They should be Highlighted and commended for that.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129833
2276. xcool
rotation in slidell la bad weather.here
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 2325 - 2275

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65 | 66Blog 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
27 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

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