5. 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 11.3C (30.3F), 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 timescale
|Contact: Peter Weiss|
American Geophysical Union