Final words on the 2010 Russian heat wave from AGU: weather, predictable

Heatwave in Russia

Color bar for Heatwave in Russia
The map above, from the NASA Earth Observatory Picture of the Day website, shows how the temperature on July 27 departed from the 2000 to 2008 average. Download large image (1 MB, JPEG)

Deadly 2010 Russian heat wave: Not from climate change

Although some people may try to ascribe specific extreme weather events to climate change, global warming cannot be held responsible for recent weather events such as the 2010 Russian heat wave. Using climate simulations and a comparison against historical conditions, Dole et al. assess the influence of greenhouse gases, aerosols, anomalous sea surface temperatures, and other potential climate forcings on the likelihood and magnitude of the 2010 Russian heat wave. The authors suggest that the heat wave, which lasted from late June to mid-August and was responsible for thousands of deaths, widespread wild fires, and devastating crop loss, fell well within the bounds of natural climate variability.

The authors find that none of the tested climate factors showed appreciable ability to predict the extreme temperatures seen throughout the heat wave. Additionally, the researchers’ historical analysis reveals that July temperatures, as well as the temperature variability, for the affected region of western Russia showed no significant trend over the past 130 years. They note that the top 10 hottest July days for the region were distributed randomly across the historical period, although global averages do show clustering in the past 2 decades.

While the researchers argue that there is no reason to have anticipated the extreme nature of the heat wave from a historical perspective, Matsueda (Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L06801, doi:10.1029/2010GL046557, 2011. See Highlight 5, below.) suggests that many of the details of this particular event could have been predicted using short-term weather forecasting.

See related press release:

Source: Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2010GL046582, 2011

Title: Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave?

Authors: Randall Dole and Martin Hoerling; Physical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado, USA; Judith Perlwitz, Jon Eischeid, Philip Pegion, Tao Zhang, Xiao-Wei Quan, Taiyi Xu, and Donald Murray: Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Cause of 2010 Russian heat wave was largely predictable

From June to August 2010, a stable high-pressure air mass hung in the sky over western Russia. This episode of “atmospheric blocking” drove up temperatures, causing thousands of deaths and breaking temperature records across the country. Strong heat waves like the one in Russia increase their potential to do damage the longer they persist, putting added stress on populations susceptible to dehydration, reduced air quality, and other heat-related illnesses. Long durations of consistently high temperatures also increase the likelihood of drought-driven crop loss and wildfires, both of which devastated the Russian countryside and economy. In a retrospective analysis, Matsueda finds that the forecasting systems in place to monitor the atmospheric blocking over western Russia faltered, failing to predict the extended duration of the blocking as the record-breaking temperatures crept into early August.

Comparing the predictions of five medium-range ensemble forecasting models and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts’ highest-resolution deterministic forecasting model, the author finds that the onset of the atmospheric blocking and resultant temperature increases, from early June to late July, was easily predicted by the models up to 9 days in advance. However, the extended blocking, stretching from 30 July to 9 August, and the peak temperature anomaly of 11.3°C (30.3°F), were not predicted, with the models underestimating both the magnitude and duration of the extreme event.

The heat wave, while largely predictable on short, weather-driven timescales, appears not to be the product of long-term climate changes. Instead, as discussed by Dole et al. (Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L06702, doi:10.1029/2010GL046582, 2011. See Highlight 4, above), the heat wave falls within the realm of natural variability.

See related press release:

Source: Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2010GL046557, 2011

Title: Predictability of Euro-Russian blocking in summer of 2010

Authors: Mio Matsueda: Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Tsukuba, Japan.


Source for these two articles: AGU Journal Highights

Will we see retractions from Dr. Jeff Masters and the current Mike Mann nominee for Climate Change Communicator of the Year for excessive pre-factual bloviation claiming it is all about “climate change”? Don’t hold your breath.

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April 13, 2011 1:19 pm

UAH Temperature graph on climate widget etc way out date ie Jan. Should be real time like Kelly o Days page. I refuse to link to his page
REPLY: Widget says March 2011, not sure what you have going on – may be a refresh problem – Anthony

Mike Bromley
April 13, 2011 1:28 pm

2011 AD: The beginning and acceleration of the increase…in climatobloviation. Wherein “Can I quote you on that?” becomes a stylish way of marking one’s words, as an ever-increasing number of sleuthing skeptics unravel the yarn spun by Mannkind.

April 13, 2011 2:02 pm

Climate variability includes ice ages and global tropical climate.

Jeff Carlson
April 13, 2011 2:08 pm

Predictable ? really ? did they predict it IN ADVANCE ? Or did they back test some model and found it could have predicted this event … because in that case I’ll bet that this model will fail to predict the next heat wave in Russia …
why ? because they don’t know all of the variables that will drive it the next time … they think they do based on this event but they are wrong …

April 13, 2011 3:18 pm
April 13, 2011 3:52 pm

Piers Corbyn not only predicted it, he nailed it.
He did so without the aid of a GCM or a can of AGW brand Climate Change stew.

April 13, 2011 3:54 pm

Alarmism has been witnessed time and again.

The Sydney Morning Herald – Jul 30, 1957
“Heatwave Melts North Pole Ice
Crews of Russian weather stations are sunbathing in trunks and rubber boots, covering themselves in seal fat to avoid sunburn.”

More north pole warming fears in 1955.

April 13, 2011 4:15 pm

Just like every other claim of AGW believers.
The interesting issue is the power of self-deception as practiced by the AGW community.

April 13, 2011 4:20 pm

Weather is not climate. When Warmists stop using weather events to illustrate global warming then I will stop using cold events to illustrate the counter argument. Yes, I know more snow is a result of a warmer climate. It’s a pity I did not read the Warmists telling that to Dr. Viner who said that within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

Britain’s cold snap does not prove climate science wrong
Climate sceptics are failing to understand the most basic meteorology – that weather is not the same as climate, and single events are not the same as trends”
Guardian 6 January, 2010
George Monbiot and Leo Hickman

This winter thousand of crabs died of cold just off the coast of Britain.

April 13, 2011 5:00 pm

Trends are passing statistics, they come and they go. Short trends are gobbled up by longer trends, much like a food chain. See: Nature mimicks life. We live in a Biosphere, remember?
Trends are not basic meteorology anymore than a moehill is a basic mountain.
The AGW moehill has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Andy Weiss
April 13, 2011 5:43 pm

The Russian heatwave was a rare, exciting weather event. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Bob Diaz
April 13, 2011 7:33 pm

RE: Piers Corbyn not only predicted it, he nailed it. He did so without the aid of a GCM or a can of AGW brand Climate Change stew.
True, but Piers Corbyn had an unfair advantage, he’s not using the latest AGW Theory!!!

Pamela Gray
April 13, 2011 7:56 pm

I keep sayin and sayin it. Climate zones are bounded topographically. To make a particular climate zone “change” or become “variable”, a climate would have to experience a major change topographically (IE huge volcano, major major land uplift or sinking, sudden influx or outflow of enormous bodies of water, etc). Short and long-term weather patterns vary, not climate. If we have experienced warming, the average weather pattern warmed. If we are now experiencing cooling, the average weather pattern has cooled. Extremes happen when weather pattern variations bump up against the secure boundaries of a climate zone. The weather pattern variation one experiences can have both natural and anthropogenic drivers. However, if you are of the AGW persuasion, don’t get your knickers in a twist. If you live in a temperate climate zone now, and your great-great-great grandchildren decide to live close to your address, they will also be living in a temperate climate zone. So take that energy and work on solving starving children issues, or water pollution, or particulate air pollution. Do some good where good is needed.

Pamela Gray
April 13, 2011 8:01 pm

Ice ages are another issue and override climate zones with thick sheets of ice. Now that’s what I call climate change, not these piss-ant barely measurable hickups. Okay. I’m done and off the soap box.

Grumpy Old Man
April 13, 2011 10:48 pm

While all that red over Russia is exciting, just look at all that northern hemisphere blue elsewhere!

April 14, 2011 1:17 am

This past summer saw a lot of heated debate over the Russian heatwave. Here is a warning to ‘Warmists’ from fellow ‘Warmist’ George Monbiot.

Guardian – 31 March 2011
“We emphasise, when debating climate change, the importance of the scientific consensus, and reliance on solid, peer-reviewed studies. But as soon as we start discussing the dangers of low-level radiation, we abandon that and endorse the pseudo-scientific gibberish of a motley collection of cranks and quacks, who appear to have begun with the assumption that it must be killing thousands of people every year, and retrofitted the evidence to match it.”

April 15, 2011 3:05 pm

I am glad that this paper was the subject of a post.
The paper found that using climate model simulations, the concluded that the Russian heat wave was well within the bounds of natural climate variations.
I guess we can consider these climate models trustworthy, because they do not say that the heat wave has been caused by global warming, as some alarmists claim.
Reading the AGU press release, however it is important to take note of the following statement by the authors:
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, also from ESRL.

So if these climate models are to be trusted, the wheat belt of western Russia is in for a hard time as global warming proceeds.

Doug Proctor
April 16, 2011 7:38 am

It is interesting that anomalies that are not AGW-related nonetheless end up as part of the temperature record that is said to be AGW-related. In other words, an anomaly today is part of the “normal” pattern tomorrow.
Of course I recognize that a longterm increase in “anomalies” indicates a change in the basic pattern. What I find interesting is, in the case of not just climate change, but general statistical interpretations, is how an event not considered a part of a causation-based theory changes the background in which such causation-based theories are identified. It is like the 1998 El Nino event: not AGW caused, but allows Hansen et al to say how the Earth warmed so much. Same with this Russian heatwave: a local spike not caused by CO2 increases the Earth’s temperature average and is then responsible for “proof” of CO2-caused warming.
A larger question is about how a “global” CO2-caused warming shows itself only in local heating. The CO2 is distributed evenly, but the global average rises by averaging out local events through the year. Seems more like the stock market and my investments: it is not the economy rising (this time) that increases my worth, but the oil sector and minerals. The “economy” rising is the result, not the cause.
What I see with the global temperature rises is a series of time-and-space disconnected events that, averaged out, look global and add to the heat content of the globe from year to year. Looks like a series of positive insolation and oceanic heat content events. Only by relying on time-and distance-smoothed statistical averaging do we think we have a global cause.
Doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m neither a climate scientist nor a statistician. And common sense thinking doesn’t come into many of today’s problems, anyway.

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