Russian Winter: severe cold to invade Moscow and Eastern Europe

Napoleon's army made its way out of Russia, his forces had been decimated.

Post by Dr. Ryan N. Maue

Throughout history, the term Russian Winter has come to explain the multitude of military failures of various invading forces into European Russia.  The effects of weather and short-term climate on warfare has been recognized and studied for generations.  One such campaign involved Napoleon’s march across western Russia toward Moscow in 1812. Yet, with what records survive, the winter of 1812-1813 was apparently relatively mild.  Move ahead to the winter of 2010-2011, which has been relatively mild over most of Eastern Europe and Western Russia, including Moscow where the cold blasts have been short-lived.  However, during this week and the next ten-days, a brutal Arctic blast is poised to engulf Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, and become even colder as it pushes eastward — crossing the Urals through Russia — beneath a powerful dome of high pressure.  Daily temperature anomalies will range from 15° to 35°C below normal, which is already very cold in February.  In familiar Fahrenheit: Moscow will likely see near -30°F with surrounding areas -40° to -50°F.   Eastward in Central Russia and Siberia during the next several days, temperatures will likely test the -60°F range.  Elsewhere, the ECMWF deterministic model is predicting a total of 5-tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere during the next 10-days with a powerful one impacting parched Western Australia and another monster in the South Pacific passing just west of Fiji.

Maps Follow…

Link to Global Temperature Anomalies, every 6-hours for the next 192 hours…

Temperature Departure From Normal over the next 8-days

A plot of the 8-day averaged Temperature Anomalies from the United States NCEP GFS forecast model shows a very large area of purple over Western Russia in the 15°-20°C below climatology range.  Overall, the global temperature anomaly of -0.16°C remains below the previous 30-year mean as the planet cooling effects of La Nina have finally settled in.  This is quite the difference to last February when the global anomaly was nearly +0.4°C.

GFS Forecast "coldest" that each grid point will experience during the next 180-hours.

What’s the forecast coldest temperature that each locale on Earth can expect during the next 7.5 days?  Well, the coldest temps should reach into the -60°s especially over Siberia and Greenland.  But, the zero degree °F shading which is the transition from light purple to green, shows that almost all of  Northern Hemisphere landmasses north of 45°N will see sub-zero temperatures sometime during the next week.  The grayish shading is -30°F and below.

Note, these maps update every 6-hours as the NCEP GFS model generates a new forecast cycle.  Save to disk if you wish to keep them…

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71 thoughts on “Russian Winter: severe cold to invade Moscow and Eastern Europe

  1. Before month end, GISS will either show this month as .4 degrees warmer than average or declare that the record cold is consistent with their AGW forecasts.

  2. Ryan Maue says: February 15, 2011 at 12:29 am

    “And, this is the obligatory comment describing the forecast of Russia’s worst winter in 1,000 years…

    http://rt.com/news/prime-time/coldest-winter-emergency-measures/

    Quote link: “The change is reportedly connected with the speed of the Gulf Stream,”

    These kinds of reports belong to the alien abduction and Elvis spottings.

    If the mythical “Gulf stream” affected anyone, it would be us in Scotland – particularly us on the West coast of Scotland. Yes we had a really nice spell of snow in December, but otherwise this winter has been pretty typical.

    And in any case they aren’t talking about the “Gulf stream” which is the current coming out the Gulf of Mexico. They can’t be talking about the North Atlantic drift which is driven by winds and the spin of the earth and so has nothing to do with “global warming”. What they are talking about is the couple of orders of magnitude smaller Arctic current which takes a small amount of warm water north of the Shetland-Iceland line. But again, no reports to my knowledge suggest unusual cold on the East of Scotland.

  3. Both the BBC and Met Office categorically state that the Gulf Stream is not slowing down so it must be true.

  4. This makes me think of a song from Mark Knopfler — Google Knopfler Berlin ‘done with Bonaparte’ Oddly enough the little corporal reminds me of someone, and I bet there are a few scientists around the world, especially East Anglia, who would join in the chorus.

    JF
    I can see the picture now: ‘Mann’s Retreat from Moscow’.) And, BTW, ‘decimated’ means cut down by ten percent – one in ten killed — but Napoleon did much better than that. It’s always been a mystery to me that people still admire the little lunatic.

  5. Expect to hear “it would have been colder if it was not for global warming” or “the cold in Russia is caused by global warming” and I am not kidding either.

    “The change is reportedly connected with the speed of the Gulf Stream, which has shrunk in half in just the last couple of years.”

    http://rt.com/news/prime-time/coldest-winter-emergency-measures/

    I thought the Gulf Stream was found to have speeded up a little.

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL042372.shtml

    BBC 29 Mar 2010
    “Gulf Stream ‘is not slowing down’ ”
    “The satellite record going back to 1993 did suggest a small increase in flow,…”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8589512.stm

    And they tell us the science is settled. Bollocks!

  6. But, the zero degree °F shading which is the transition from light purple to green, shows that almost all of Northern Hemisphere landmasses north of 45°N will see sub-zero temperatures sometime during the next week.
    As a European, could someone in the US explain to me what they mean by a “sub-zero temperature”? Most of the world takes this to mean freezing, but I get the impression that the term is ambiguous for native Fahrenheit speakers.

  7. The long range forecast (not Met Office) for where I live in the UK has cold arriving in 9 days time on 24th Feb. Is this cold expected to reach western Europe?

  8. The Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift may not be slowing down, but the origination point around Florida and the Gulf of Mexico is nowhere near as warm as normal. There was quite a hard frost in Central Florida yesterday.

  9. Ryan,

    Have you noticed the media is still under reporting the brutally cold winter we have had so far?
    When climate science strictly focuses on temperatrure to the exclusion of physical evidence, they are going to be in for a rude awakening.

    I have currently been looking into another area missed by climate science in focused lensing of the atmosphere with the sun.

    [ryanm: the media has not been told by the climate establishment how to blame cold Arctic high pressure on climate change, yet]

  10. I have been noticing this strange weather/climate phenomenon: Temperatures crashing to record lows in many places around the globe, no record warmth anywhere registered, (except maybe where no thermometers exist) BUT the global average temperature keeps rising. Are we living in two overlapping universes or what?

  11. Joe Lalonde says: February 15, 2011 at 3:11 am

    The quite extreme December weather in the UK was described on the BBC the other day as a “cold snap”.

    And they weren’t joking.

    They obviously think their audience has the memory span of a fruit fly.

  12. Steeptown says:
    February 15, 2011 at 2:08 am

    The long range forecast (not Met Office) for where I live in the UK has cold arriving in 9 days time on 24th Feb. Is this cold expected to reach western Europe?

    The UK is western Europe.

  13. I have been noticing this strange weather/climate phenomenon: Temperatures crashing to record lows in many places around the globe, no record warmth anywhere registered, (except maybe where no thermometers exist) BUT the global average temperature keeps rising.

    They actually keep falling.

  14. ‘Parched Western Australia’?

    Recent months have been unusually wet across most of Western Australia.

    As this 3 month rainfall anomaly map shows.

    http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/rain/index.jsp?colour=colour&time=latest&step=0&map=anomaly&period=3month&area=nat

    Note the central interior and down toward the south coast showing dry on the above map has had heavy rains in the last week.

    As the month to date rainfall shows

    http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/rain/index.jsp?colour=colour&time=latest&step=0&map=anomaly&period=cmonth&area=nat

    Note rainfall measurements are very sparse in the Western Australian interior, with stations as much as 500 kilometers apart, so the maps show quite a lot of extrapolation.

    No implied criticism here Dr Maue. Just be cautious of the memes peddled by the media and vested interests.

  15. It’s OK – the media in New Zealand has already declared February to be the hottest month ever (notwithstanding that it’s only half way through).

    Maybe it’s Trenberth’s missing heat (he is from NZ) compensating for the entire Northern Hemisphere.

    All the best.

  16. “almost all of Northern Hemisphere landmasses north of 45°N will see sub-zero temperatures sometime during the next week.”

    Winnipeg colder than Oklahoma City? Well, guess I’d better enjoy 40F today. Getting a new super-duper furnace this AM. Not before time.

  17. I am surprised on a daily basis at the disconnect between the MSM and what is actually happening in the physical world. The UK dailies have not said much about weather or climate since the last spell of snow and ice hit, but the temperatures are trending inexorably downward again as we approach Spring.
    WUWT?

  18. Ryan, another brilliant post! Have been watching your GFS LH flux page here (many thanks for the updated graphics and animate button BTW). It is projecting a huge West Atlantic flux at about 18Z20Feb2001 which then doesn’t shift East as has been happening. Questions:

    1. Why does this not move East as usual?
    2. Where is this energy going, is upwelling fuelling the jet stream dragging it South?
    3. Is that what later triggers the cold blast over Russia or is all this visa-versa?

    Just trying to figure out the chain of events.

  19. Here in Southern Finland it was much warmer in January and early February than last years brutally persistant cold – so much so that i was thinking last year was just a fluke – after all we had a record hot summer. However forcasts for this week are for lower temperatures than we experienced last year.

  20. 1812-13 may not have been particularly bad… for RUSSIA… but any Russian winter is pretty rough on Western Europeans. Especailly ones who have to live off the land and don’t have particularly effective winter clothing, or any for that matter. Lack of shoes was also a massive problem. Read a book several years ago about the Russian Campagin taken from the diaries of a French Military Surgeon, really interesting and awful stuff.

    Napoleon may have been a political and tactical genius, but his strategic planning left a lot to be desired. The Will to Power delusion. The writing was on the wall after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and writ permanant after he failed to quickly defeat Spain and Portugal, yet he went on to fight for another 7 years with no hope of a decisive victory. Even if he’d have captured Moscow and held til spring it would have made no difference in the ultimate outcome.

    Anyhow, yea, it gets cold in Russia.

  21. For those of us in South Western BC, note the big finger of cold coming our way. Will it be the last gasp of winter? Somehow, I don’t think so…

    Thanks for this Dr Maue.

  22. Neil Jones says:
    February 15, 2011 at 4:25 am

    The UK used to be separated from Western Europe by the North Sea. Alas, since the most recent crop of red then purple political clones turned up we have been assimilated as if the Brabant massif had never been drowned.

    I wonder if tectonics could take us in the direction of the Land of the Free??

  23. Sam Hall (5:19 am) I’m not sure why you decided on giving me a conversion here, since my question was about language, not about numbers.

    I’d like to know if folk in the USA who refer to “below-zero” are generally speaking about “below melting point of ice” as most of the world reads this to mean. or do they normally mean “below 0F”, which as you point as is pretty damn cold.

  24. I took a look at Moscow to see if the global cooling is also happening in Russia. During the last 20 years [1990-2010] . The winters were warmer in Russia. There were only four or 20% of the winters as being very cold with average winter temperatures around – 9C to-10C , but during the 30 years prior to the warmer period or 1960-1990 , 15 or 50% of the winters were very cold . Decembers have been getting colder now for 4 years in a row as have their winters. January 2010 winter was the coldest since 1987. I have not seen the figures for 2011. Winter AO and winter NAO correlate again with Moscow winter temperatures like for most of Europe.

  25. Comment on language: Decimated means to lose 10% of your force (death).

    Napoleon went from 400,000 troops to about 20,000 when he returned to France.

    Maybe he was UN-decimated? Or nega-decimated?

  26. -30F? Reminds me of this song: http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/xmas/walkinginmywinterunderwear.shtml

    Sleigh bells ring and I’m listening,
    But I’m turning and twisting.
    ‘Cause I’m itching up here,
    And I’m scratching down there,
    I’m walking in my winter underwear.

    Now, the front is all battered,
    And the back is is all tattered,
    But, when I’m cold to the core,
    I walk through the “trap door”,
    And up into my winter underwear.

    Vell, I don’t care if it rains or snows or freezes.
    I yam so warm I yust don’t give a hoot.
    I put on all the stockings I can locate,
    And I wear two pair of trousers with my suit.

    But then I start to perspire
    And then it sets me on fire.
    ‘Cause I’m itching up here,
    And I’m scratching down there,
    I’m walking in my winter underwear.

    Vinter snow is white and glistening,
    But I’m turning and twisting.
    I gotta scratch a little here,
    I gotta scratch a little there.
    I’m walking in my winter underwear…

  27. steveta_uk…

    The Phrase “..below zero…” in the US is pretty generally interpreted to mean below zero degrees Fahrenheit… which is really cold. Which is probably why it is used a a verbal watershed / benchmark. Anything is that range is not reasonable and requires special attention, unless you are in the MSM.

  28. I’m in the middle of that bright purple anomaly in northwestern Canada right now. Those brilliant minds that tell us a warmer world is less desirable must never have had to go out and start their car on a -40 morning.

  29. I lived in Moscow from 1992 through to 1999. February is usually the coldest month there with January a little less cold (though with huge variations across the other ten time zones, of course). My lowest temperature was minus 36C (approx. -33F) and every February from ’92 to ’96 was similar with about a week to ten days of around minus 25 to minus 32C, with the expected grades either side of about ten days duration. ’97 was slightly milder and ’98 & ’99 milder still but with minuses going down to about (only)15 or around plus 2F.
    What is suggested here doesn’t sound “exceptional”, let alone the dreaded word “unprecedented”.

  30. That was a severe winter in 41-42, but none the less, Hitler’s hubris in not supplying winter gear to his troops was a major factor in the attack stalling. That and Italy’s terrible performance in the Balkans delaying the invasion and diverting troops and Hitler’s decision to send a major portion of AG Center south to Kiev, a major tactical victory but very costly strategically. The Russians had also learned a valuable lesson in winter fighting getting their butts kicked around by the tiny Finnish Army in 1939-40. A very timely lesson.

    Douglas DC says:
    February 15, 2011 at 7:18 am
    Pull my Finger- a certain other little Corporal had a bit of a problem with Russian
    winters….

  31. steveta_uk says:
    February 15, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Even in Canada where we have been metric for a long time, many of us old geezers still like to think in Fahrenheit and Feet/inches/miles. As Jim Hodgen says, zero Fahrenheit signifies that it is really cold out. In addition 100 Fahrenheit signifies that it is really hot out. Our climate generally stays within that convenient 100 division range.

  32. Wow. Punxsutawney Phil must have meant the cold was going someplace other than Pennsylvania. We’re supposed to be hitting the 50’s (°F, of course) later this week, maybe we’ll even get this whitish crud melted off the ground and roofs.

    Meanwhile, it’s time to consider gardening in the spring, with plants started from seeds indoors. And we still don’t have enough “global warming” to expect good tomatoes this year.

  33. steveta_uk says:
    February 15, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Sam Hall (5:19 am) I’m not sure why you decided on giving me a conversion here, since my question was about language, not about numbers.

    I’d like to know if folk in the USA who refer to “below-zero” are generally speaking about “below melting point of ice” as most of the world reads this to mean. or do they normally mean “below 0F”, which as you point as is pretty damn cold.
    —————————————————–
    Canada abandoned Fahrenheit in the 80’s and prior to that “sub-zero” was definitely the very cold one. Not surprising, since, for six months of the year or more, there is nothing remarkable about 0Celsius, except for Florida citrus growers.
    Yes, I know Florida is not technically part of Canada but they say that possession is nine tenths of the law and there are a lot of Canadians in Florida.
    It was interesting how, when we changed over to Celsius, media announcers retained the excitable tone when declaring it was 20 below but they were able to do it much more frequently than before.
    Of course, with time, the excitement waned and new ways were sought to rekindle it.
    Humidex and such don’t work well here because we’re still desperately waiting for our share of Warming (see above; Canucks in Florida) but we have the magnificent “Wind Chill”, which is, by definition, subjective and can introduce words like “dangerous” and “extreme”.
    When Brits say “sub-zero” Americans say “freezing”.
    When Americans say “sub-zero” Brits say ” FREEZING!!!”

  34. Steveta_UK: When I say “Below zero” I mean below zero. “Below freezing” is what I say when I’m talking about below 32 F. I don’t know too many others who equate “Below zero” with below 32. Hope that helps.

  35. Ryan,

    The coldest winter in 1,000 years article you first linked to implicated the slowing down of the Gulf Stream, and I was curious if you have links to studies regarding that change. I remember several articles indicating the sub-tropical gyre in the Pacific sped up and shifted during the the 1976 Pacific Decadal Oscillation shift that brought warmer temperatures to Alaska and the Arctic. I suspect that the gyre would slow as the PDO goes increasingly negative and if it is related to the Gulf stream and Atlantic gyre. It raises 2 questions. Does the Atlantic gyre speed up and slow down with changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation? And how much synchrony is there between the 2 gyres?

  36. Robert, you may live in Canada, but you sure don’t live in Winnipeg. During my 11 years there, some decades ago, our record warm was 104F and our record cold was -52F. 95F in the summer and -40F in the winter were regular occurances.

    Thick arctic ice anyone?

  37. I came across this a few days ago, and it’s possibly relevant to this discussion. It goes by the attention-grabbing title of:
    “When sudden warming can mean cold weather”

    It seems that sudden warming in the stratosphere can cause cold weather at the surface.

    There is another phenomenon emanating in the stratosphere, high above the weather in the troposphere but sometimes affecting that weather. In fact, it can help to induce a negative NAO / AO and therefore colder weather. Paradoxical as it may seem, the phenomenon in question is called Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW).

    Full story here:

    http://www.meteogroup.co.uk/uk/home/weather/weather-news/news/ch/decb5d61bc43953d5ac72814f47538ac/article/when_sudden_warming_can_mean_cold_weather.html

  38. And nobody even bothered to invade Russia in 2010. Such a good freeze is going to waste. :-(

    My thoughts exactly!!! :-)

    PS. Anyone else notice that the Feb temp measures for GISS and RSS are either late, or haven’t generated any publicity at all????

    Wonder why?

  39. I am in Stockholm at the moment and the temp has not risen above minus 5 for the last week, with lows in the minus 20s. Stockholmers tell me the winters have been getting colder for the last 2 years. It’s not a good idea to go out without thermals and a down jacket. If it gets any colder I’m back in rainy warm Wales till the weather improves!

  40. Although this coming Russian cold snap is being touted as
    the “cold of 1,000 years” we know using that title is a bit
    of journalistic sensationalism.

    The European press seems to be forgetting about the
    Little Ice Age which brought them really cruel winters.

  41. Gareth Phillips says:
    February 15, 2011 at 10:36 am
    “… Stockholmers tell me the winters have been getting colder for the last 2 years. ”
    ——————
    Oh Gareth, that is (inverted) warmista talk!
    How about…. have been colder the last two years?

  42. Oliver Ramsay says on February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Gareth Phillips says:
    February 15, 2011 at 10:36 am
    “… Stockholmers tell me the winters have been getting colder for the last 2 years. ”
    ——————
    Oh Gareth, that is (inverted) warmista talk!
    How about…. have been colder the last two years?

    Not good enough.

    Global warming has eased off during the last two years, but we have faith that the warming is in the pipeline.

  43. I am 30km south-west of Oslo, Norway and right now (midnight) I read -8C on my weather station.

    Graph last 24 hours, last week & last month here

    http://arnholm.org/wstation/

    Early Sunday morning (06:50) Feb 13 was the coldest I have seen since the weather station became operative last year (early Feb 2010). I measured -23.4C

    The seasonal forecast issued by Met.no (the Norwegian equivalent of UK Met Office) for December, January and February is looking like a huge miss. They forecast 2.5C warmer than normal, but right here December was 7.7C colder than normal, January was 0.2C colder than normal. February so far is 0.6C warmer than normal, but this is likely to change with the current cold.

    I have computed that for the seasonal forecast to end on target (2.5C above normal), the remaining time in February must be measured at more than +30C day & night. Not very likely.

  44. Andrew in Finland
    February 15, 2011 at 6:21 am

    However forcasts for this week are for lower temperatures than we experienced last year.

    Andrew,
    Thanks for the weather tip. The superb Finnra Road Weather Cameras network covering all of your country is clearly a valuable public asset. Sadly this type of service is not provided for road users here in the UK.

  45. AleaJactaEst says:
    February 15, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Neil Jones says:
    February 15, 2011 at 4:25 am

    The UK used to be separated from Western Europe by the North Sea. Alas, since the most recent crop of red then purple political clones turned up we have been assimilated as if the Brabant massif had never been drowned.

    I wonder if tectonics could take us in the direction of the Land of the Free??

    Sorry, no. You are on the other side of the great Atlantic divide. :-)

  46. Scottie

    Your link is really another shameful cherry picking by the author trying to explain cold as hot . Sudden Stratospheric Warmings SSW happen annually in the Arctic but very rarely in the Antarctic like every 20 years. In the Arctic there are a few every year for relatively fleeting time periods. As the author says they are very hard to predict and harder to attribute their effects. If it was to add to the discussion, the author might at least try to explain why the one SSW that he mentions is more relevant then all the others. He feels like the author is obligated to write some kind of damage control to counter all the cooling.

  47. steveta_uk:
    Don’t be misled by Jim Hodgen’s “not reasonable.” Sub-zero temperatures (below 0 F.) are not very unusual here in the US, except maybe in the past 30 years. (I’m not saying that Jim meant to mislead you.) The lowest temperature I’ve ever experienced was -36 F. at 4 AM at a place in New Hampshire. That’s what the thermometer outside the kitchen window said. I understand that the Buffalo, New York area has seen -50 F.

  48. This winter in Moscow is severe enough, but in no sense extremal. It feels just like ordinary Moscow winter of late 1970-early 1980, but after 1986 there was almost uninterrupted series of very mild winters. So for people as old as I am it looks like a return to normalcy. I remember winters with below -40C temperature holding more than 2 weeks in late January, and several such winters in a row.

  49. Of interest?

    “General Winter” is a broader form of the expression coined by Tsar Nicholas I in 1854, amid the Crimean War, in which he said he’d let Generals January and February look after the French and British invaders. (In the event, Nicholas died in 1855, of a chill he caught while reviewing troops at the front.) Winter also helped the troops of Peter the Great in 1703-06, in the Great Northern War against Sweden.

    http://everything2.com/title/General+Winter

  50. CRS, Dr.P.H.

    The decisive battle of Poltava started on july 8 1709, winter wasn’t a real problem for the swedes, rather outstretched supply lines were.

  51. Australian National Radio today had a big interview with a Ph D (whose name I missed) where the interviewee told us that all the tundra of northern hemisphere will be gone in 20 years, releasing untold amounts of CO2!

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