1.3 Assessing the Causes and Predictability of the 2010 Russian Heat Wave

Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 9:15 AM
6B (Washington State Convention Center)
Randall M. Dole, NOAA/ESRL, Boulder, CO; and M. Hoerling, J. Perlwitz, J. K. Eischeid, D. Murray, P. Pegion, X. Quan, T. Xu, and T. Zhang

The 2010 summer heat wave in western Russia was extraordinary. Unabated abnormally hot conditions persisted from the beginning of July through mid-August, with high temperatures smashing previous all-time records extending back to about 1880. The intense heat combined with drought conditions led to extensive fires and crop losses, while heat combined with poor air quality produced large increases in human mortality. This presentation summarizes an extensive set of observational analyses and model experiments used to assess the causes for the 2010 Russian heat wave and to determine to what extent this event may have been predictable. The heat wave is considered within the context of the recent period and long-term trends in regional climate, including extremes. The results indicate that this heat wave was primarily due to an unusually strong and persistent realization of natural phenomena often associated with heat waves over this region. The observational record and model experiments also provide no substantial evidence that an event of this intensity was predictable more than a few weeks in advance. While this heat wave is very likely due to natural causes and was largely unpredictable, model simulations suggest that we may be on the cusp of a period in which the probability of such events will increase rapidly due to human-induced climate change.
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