Ongoing Scientific Assessment of the 2010 Western Russia Heatwave

Related Publications

Warm Season Subseasonal Variability and Climate Extremes in the Northern Hemisphere: The Role of Stationary Rossby Waves,

Schubert, S., H. Wang, and M. Suarez (2011),

J. Climate, 24, 4773-4792. doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-10-05035.1

This study examines the nature of boreal summer subseasonal atmospheric variability based on the new NASA Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) for the period 1979-2010. An analysis of the June, July, and August subseasonal 250-hPa meridional #-wind anomalies shows distinct Rossby wave-like structures that appear to be guided by the mean jets. On monthly subseasonal time scales, the leading waves [the first 10 rotated empirical orthogonal functions (REOFs) of the 250-hPa # wind] explain about 50% of the Northern Hemisphere #-wind variability and account for more than 30% (60%) of the precipitation (surface temperature) variability over a number of regions of the northern middle and high latitudes, including the U.S. northern Great Plains, parts of Canada, Europe, and Russia. The first REOF in particular consists of a Rossby wave that extends across northern Eurasia where it is a dominant contributor to monthly surface temperature and precipitation variability and played an important role in the 2003 European and 2010 Russian heat waves. While primarily subseasonal in nature, the Rossby waves can at times have a substantial seasonal mean component. This is exemplified by REOF 4, which played a major role in the development of the most intense anomalies of the U.S. 1988 drought (during June) and the 1993 flooding (during July), though differed in the latter event by also making an important contribution to the seasonal mean anomalies. A stationary wave model (SWM) is used to reproduce some of the basic features of the observed waves and provide insight into the nature of the forcing. In particular, the responses to a set of idealized forcing functions are used to map the optimal forcing patterns of the leading waves. Also, experiments to reproduce the observed waves with the SWM using MERRA-based estimates of the forcing indicate that the wave forcing is dominated by submonthly vorticity transients.

Influence of Choice of Time Period on Global Surface Temperature Trend Estimates,

Liebmann, B., R. M. Dole, C. Jones, I. Bladé, and D. Allured, (2010)

Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91, 1485-1491. doi: 10.1175/2010BAMS3030.1

Annual global surface temperature and global land surface temperature trends are calculated for all possible periods of the historical record between 1850 and 2009. Two-dimensional parameter diagrams show the critical influence of the choice of start and end years on the calculated trend and associated temperature changes and suggest time scales required to establish robust trends.

The largest trends and associated temperature changes are all positive and have occurred over periods ending in recent years. Substantial positive changes also occurred from the early twentieth century until the mid-1940s. The continents exhibit greater long-term warming than the global average overall, but less warming in the early part of the century (segments ending in the 1940s). The recent period of short-term cooling beginning in the late 1990s is neither statistically significant nor unusual in the context of trend variability in the full historical record.

Global-mean and land surface temperature changes for periods ending in recent years and longer than about 90 years are extremely unlikely to have occurred by chance. In contrast, short-term trends over less than a few decades are generally not statistically significant. This implies significant contributions of decadal variability to trends estimated over such short time periods.

Roles of European blocking and tropical-extratropical interaction in the 2010 Pakistan flooding,

Hong, C.-C., H.-H. Hsu, N.-H. Lin, and H. Chiu (2011),

Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L13806, doi:10.1029/2011GL047583.

A sequence of monsoon surges struck Pakistan and Northwestern India during late July-early August 2010. The unusually heavy monsoon rainfall resulted in record-breaking floods, which affected 20 million people with a death toll of near 3000. Simultaneously, a long-lived blocking high appeared over Europe and Russia in middle June and persisted for nearly two months. Extreme flooding occurred when the southward penetration of extratropical potential vorticity in the deep trough east of the European blocking and the tropical monsoon surges arrived concurrently in Pakistan. This study demonstrates that the interaction between the tropical monsoon surges and the extratropical disturbances downstream of the European blocking was the key factor leading to the severe flooding in Pakistan. The 2010 La Niña condition contributed indirectly to the flooding by inducing a low-level easterly anomaly in South and Southeast Asia, which weakened eastward moisture transport and helped enhance moisture transport (convergence) to (in) the Northern Arabian Sea and Pakistan.

Influence of subtropical and polar sea-surface temperature anomalies on temperatures in Eurasia,

Sedláček, J., O. Martius, and R. Knutti (2011),

Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L12803, doi:10.1029/2011GL047764.

In summer 2010 an exceptional heatwave occurred over western Russia. At the same time sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) were anomalously warm in the Barents Sea and the Arabian Sea. We investigate a possible link between these two SST anomalies by prescribing SST anomalies separately and combined in an ensemble of climate model simulations. The positive surface air temperature response over western Russia is strengthened if both SST forcings are combined. While the SST anomalies in the Arabian Sea are likely due to natural variability the sea surface in the Barents Sea is expected to warm in future and the sea-ice cover to decline enhancing the warming. Thus, we hypothesize that heatwaves over Europe and Russia will likely become more frequent as a result of the dynamic response of the atmosphere in addition to what is expected from the change in mean temperature.

The hot summer of 2010: Redrawing the temperature record map of Europe,

Barriopedro, D., E. M. Fischer, J. Luterbacher, R. M. Trigo, and R. García-Herrera (2011)

Science, 332, 220-224, doi:10.1126/science.1201224

The summer of 2010 was exceptionally warm in eastern Europe and large parts of Russia. We provide evidence that the anomalous 2010 warmth that caused adverse impacts exceeded the amplitude and spatial extent of the previous hottest summer of 2003. "Mega-heatwaves" such as the 2003 and 2010 events likely broke the 500-year-long seasonal temperature records over approximately 50% of Europe. According to regional multi-model experiments, the probability of a summer experiencing mega-heatwaves will increase by a factor of 5 to 10 within the next 40 years. However, the magnitude of the 2010 event was so extreme that despite this increase, the likelihood of an analog over the same region remains fairly low until the second half of the 21st century.

Increase of extreme events in a warming world,

Rahmstorf, S. and D. Coumou (2011)

PNAS, 5pp., doi: 10.1073/pnas.1101766108

We develop a theoretical approach to quantify the effect of long-term trends on the expected number of extremes in generic time series, using analytical solutions and Monte Carlo simulations. We apply our method to study the effect of warming trends on heat records. We find that the number of record-breaking events increases approximately in proportion to the ratio of warming trend to short-term standard deviation. Short-term variability thus decreases the number of heat extremes, whereas a climatic warming increases it. For extremes exceeding a predefined threshold, the dependence on the warming trend is highly nonlinear. We further find that the sum of warm plus cold extremes increases with any climate change, whether warming or cooling. We estimate that climatic warming has increased the number of new global-mean temperature records expected in the last decade from 0.1 to 2.8. For July temperature in Moscow, we estimate that the local warming trend has increased the number of records expected in the past decade fivefold, which implies an approximate 80% probability that the 2010 July heat record would not have occurred without climate warming.

The Central European and Russian Heat Event of July-August 2010,

Grumm, R. (2011)

Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 92, 1285-1296, doi: 10.1175/2011BAMS3174.1