Media wakes up to Hell and High Water: Moscow’s 1000-year heat wave and “Pakistan’s Katrina”
Today Joe Romm blogged about the international weather-related disasters that are simultaneously taking place in Russia, China and Pakistan and the United States this week in his well-respected blog "Climate Progress." He reported that the mainstream media is finally addressing the fact that these horrific weather incidents are more than likely due to climate change. He aggregates articles from sources like BBC, Reuters, USA Today, Time and CNN linking the high temperatures, increased rainfall and flooding to global warming. Most of the articles also indicate that there is more to come in the ways of these natural disasters.
Posted August 12, 2010
By Joe Romm, Climate Progress
BBC, Reuters, USA Today, Time link warming and extreme weather;
Trenberth, Stott, and Masters explain the science
August 12, 2010
How hot is it? So hot that even the status quo media is waking
up to the fact that human emissions of greenhouse gases are changing the
climate and causing record-smashing extreme weather events, just as
scientist predicted decades ago.
It happened to CNN
meteorologist Chad Myers, and I have a roundup from other major
media outlets — please add links to ones I missed.
At the end is a discussion of the science of Hell and High Water in
pieces by NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth, The Met Office’s Peter Stott, and Jeff
Masters — along with links for those who want to donate to help out in
the “massive humanitarian crisis in Pakistan.” For more background, see
to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water.”
Global climate change is partly to blame for the
abnormally hot and dry weather in Moscow, cloaked in a haze of smoke
from wildfires, say researchers.
The UK Met Office said there are likely to be more extreme high
temperatures in the future….
Jeff Knight, a climate variability scientist at the UK Met Office,
attributed the situation in Moscow to a number of factors, among them
greenhouse gas concentrations, which are steadily rising.
Reuters (NYT): Analysis:
Pakistan Floods, Russia Heat Fit Climate Trend
OSLO (Reuters) – Devastating floods in Pakistan and
Russia’s heatwave match predictions of extremes caused by global
warming even though it is impossible to blame mankind for single severe
weather events, scientists say.
This year is on track to be the warmest since reliable temperature
records began in the mid-19th century, beating 1998, mainly due to a
build-up of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, according to the U.N.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
“We will always have climate extremes. But it looks like climate
change is exacerbating the intensity of the extremes,” said Omar
Baddour, chief of climate data management applications at WMO
headquarters in Geneva….
Recent extremes include mudslides in China and heat records from
Finland to Kuwait — adding to evidence of a changing climate even as
U.N. negotiations on a new global treaty for costly cuts in greenhouse
gas emissions have stalled.
Reinsurer Munich Re said a natural catastrophe database it runs
“shows that the number of extreme weather events like windstorm and
floods has tripled since 1980, and the trend is expected to persist.”
The worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years have killed more than 1,600
people and left 2 million homeless.
“Global warming is one reason” for the rare spate of weather
extremes, said Friedrich-Wilhelm Gerstengarbe, a professor at the
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
He pointed to the heatwave and related forest fires in Russia,
floods in Pakistan, rains in China and downpours in countries including
Germany and Poland. “We have four such extremes in the last few weeks.
This is very seldom,” he said.
The weather extremes, and the chance of a record-warm 2010, undercut
a view of skeptics that the world is merely witnessing natural swings
perhaps caused by variations in the sun’s output.
USA Today: Think
this summer is hot? Get used to it
This summer’s stifling, deadly heat along the Eastern Seaboard and Deep South
could be a preview of summers to come over the next few decades,
according to a report about global warming to be published Wednesday by
the National Wildlife Federation and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation
In fact, according to NWF climate scientist Amanda Staudt, the
summer of 2010 might actually be considered mild compared with the
typical summers in the future. “We all think this summer is miserable,
but it’s nothing compared to what’s in store for us,” she says.
The East just sweltered through one of its hottest Julys on record,
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday. Every state
endured one its top-10 warmest Julys since records began in 1880. Two
states, Delaware and Rhode
Island, had their hottest July ever.
The report, a supplement to a 2009 report on heat waves, notes that
more extremely hot summer days are projected for every part of the
country by the year 2050: “Summers like the current one, or even worse,
will become the norm by 2050 if global warming pollution continues to
A federal report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in 2009,
which much of this report was based on, found that average
temperatures in the USA have increased more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit
in the past five decades, largely as the result of emissions of
heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which are
produced by burning fossil fuels.
Time (Walsh’s blog):
The Asian Floods—Signs of Climate Catastrophes to Come?
NY Times (Revkin’s blog): Scientists
See Links From Asian Floods to Russian Heat
Two climatologists, Peter Stott
at the British Met Office and Kevin Trenberth of the
National Center for Atmospheric Research, have separately
described atmospheric dynamics that appear to link the extreme
rains and flooding in Asia with Russia’s unrelenting, extraordinary
heat and resulting conflagrations.
Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at UK’s Met
Office in UK Guardian: There
have always been extremes of weather around the world but evidence
suggests human influence is changing the odds:
Over the past week or so, Pakistan
has been devastated by its worst floods for generations and Moscow
has suffered under a blanket of smog after its hottest day in 130
years of records. What is causing these and other recent extreme
weather events and are they linked to climate
Because of a rare meteorological pattern we can see a connection
between extreme weather across Eurasia. Usually, the flow in the upper
troposphere over northern India, the Himalayas and Pakistan is
dominated by the monsoon anticyclone which pushes the sub-tropical jet
to the north of the Tibetan Plateau. This prevents mid-latitude weather
systems from penetrating very far south, unlike this year, when active
weather systems have spread southwards into Pakistan. Here this has
combined with the monsoon to produce record rainfall. The
record-breaking high temperatures in Moscow, forest fires and damaged
crops are another consequence, as was the excessive rain over China
when the Three
Gorges Dam almost reached capacity a few short weeks ago.
So are we seeing the effects of climate change in these extreme
weather events? Analysing the observational data shows clearly that
there has been a rise in the number of extremely warm temperatures
recorded worldwide and that there have been increases in the number of
heavy rainfall events in many regions over land. Evidence, including in
India and China, that periods of heavy rain are getting heavier, is
entirely consistent with our understanding of the physics of the
atmosphere in which warmer air holds more moisture. Our climate change
predictions support the emerging trend in observations and show a clear
intensification of extreme rainfall events in a warmer world.
It can still be problematic to blame a specific individual extreme
weather event on climate change, because there have always been
extremes of weather around the world. However, if the likelihood of a
particular extreme weather event has changed it is possible to say
something. I and colleagues from Oxford University showed, in
a paper we published in Nature, that the probability of the hot
European temperatures in 2003 had very likely doubled as a result of
human influence. While still relatively rare, the odds of such extreme
events are rapidly shortening and could become considered the norm by
the middle of this century.
Russia’s killer heat wave and monster South Asian monsoon
floods could be more than isolated examples of extreme weather. Though
separated by a continent, they could be linked.
Monsoon rains drive air upward, and that air has to come down
somewhere. It usually comes down over the Mediterranean, producing the
region’s hot, dry climate. This year, some of that air seems to have
gone north to Russia.
“We haven’t done the studies, but there’s very good reason to suspect
that there’s a relationship,” said Kevin Trenberth,
head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric
Research. “It’s simply related to the idea that there is a monsoon with
very large circulation. There’s an upwards branch of it. There has to
be a downwards branch somewhere else.”
The Russian heat wave has persisted since late June, with daytime
temperatures at least 12 Fahrenheit degrees above normal — and often
much more — for over a month. In Moscow alone, an estimated 300
people a day have died. The temperatures threaten wheat harvests and
have sent global prices rising in a manner reminiscent of the lead-up
global food riots.
Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters called it “one of the most
remarkable weather events of my lifetime,” which is probably an
understatement. Russian meteorologists say it’s the most intense
heat wave in a millennium.
Meanwhile, in South Asia and China, seasonal monsoons have been
exceptionally intense, setting off the worst flooding in 80 years.
Pakistan has been especially hard-hit, with 1,600 people dead and 2
million homeless in what’s been dubbed “Pakistan’s
Events like these fit with
general forecasts of weather trends in a warming climate. But some
observers have wondered whether Russia’s
heat wave and Asia’s floods are linked not just by a vague trend,
but by specific cause-and-effect meteorological dynamics. They will
undoubtedly be studied in detail for years to come, but according to
Trenberth, there’s good reason to think the extremes are connected.
“The two things are connected on a very large scale, through what we
call an overturning or monsoonal circulation,” he said. “There is a
monsoon where upwards motion is being fed by the very moist air that’s
going onshore, and there are exceptionally heavy rains. That drives
rising air. That air has to come down somewhere. Some of it comes down
over the north.”Fueling the monsoons’ intensity are warmer-than-usual
temperatures in and above the Indian Ocean. At 2 Fahrenheit degrees
above late-20th century levels, the air can hold about 8 percent more
water. At higher temperatures, the air is also more buoyant, and
“invigorates the storms,” said Trenberth.
“Air rises faster than before. It sucks more air in. It changes
moisture flow onto land even more. You can almost double the effect,” he
said. “From that 8 percent more water, there can be 16 percent more
Donations urgently needed
The massive humanitarian crisis in Pakistan 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:
She mentioned that it is better to send money to the organizations
doing the relief work than to try to organize shipments of goods.