Sunday, August 22, 2010

RIA Novosti Explores the Possible Causes of Russia's Catastrophic Summer Wildfires

"[Roman Vilfand, the the head of the Russian state meteorological center,] said this summer has been 'catastrophic' in Russia, adding that an increase of eight degrees Centigrade in average temperatures can be observed only once in approximately 5,000 years."---RIA Novosti (8-13-10)

Google Web search for Roman Vilfand (Роман Вильфанд)

"There is strong evidence that the immediate cause [of Russia's heat wave] can be placed at the doorstep of an extreme pattern of atmospheric winds---widely referred to as blocking."---"The Russian Heat Wave of 2010" Draft Report by NOAA CSI - 13 August 2010

The worlds' scientists are exploring the causes of Russia's catastrophic wildfires. Russia's official press agency, RIA Novosti, has published an interesting article that explores the possible causes of the catastrophic fires in Russia this summer. The article is titled "Hurricanes, tornadoes may follow heat wave in Central Russia" (8-13-10). This article is a lot more informative than the delusional article by the historian-lunatic Andrei Areshev, who claimed that global warming was caused by secret climate weapons manned by U.S. climate scientists. It seems that even Russian lunatics are confirming that global warming is a fact, although I suspect that if those scheming U.S. scientists ever get their hands on dastardly climate weapons, the first target they "erase" will probably not be in Russia.

The RIA Novosti article quotes a prominent Russian scientist, Roman Vilfand, the head of the Russian state meteorological center. This may be the agency known in Russia as the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring or ROSHYDROMET (Росгидромет) or it may be a different agency. I wrote about ROSHYDROMET here. Dr. Vilfand is described by RIA Novosti (8-13-10) as "the head of the Russian state meteorological center" and by Business News (8-16-10) as "previously the head of Russia for Hydrometeorology."

[UPDATE: The ROSHYDROMET (Росгидромет) site says that the chief of the agency is Alexander Frolov who was appointed by Prime Minister Putin on March 15, 2010.]

The RIA Novosti article also quotes a British scientist named Mike Blackburn from a subscription-only article in New Scientist titled "Frozen jet stream links Pakistan floods, Russian fires" (8-10-10).

Another interesting New Scientist article that explores the possible causes of the Russian wildfires is titled "Is climate change burning Russia?" (8-12-10) which responds to some questions:

What caused the heatwave?

The primary cause was a "blocking event" – a static atmospheric pattern that has trapped a high-pressure bubble over western Russia since mid-July, pulling in hot air from Africa.

Blocking events naturally occur from time to time. There is evidence that low solar activity increases their numbers, and the sun is currently in a period of minimum activity.

Jeff Knight of the UK Met Office says that the climatic pattern known as El Niño was also a factor. Around the new year, the eastern tropical Pacific heated up, sending a slow-moving wave of heat around the globe – conditions that are characteristic of El Niño. "It warms the global mean temperature with a delay of about six months," says Knight. This extra packet of heat will have increased the likelihood of heatwaves around the world.

Is climate change to blame?

Computer models of climate are not detailed enough at present to reproduce blocking events, making it impossible to say whether rising greenhouse gas concentrations makes them more likely to happen.

However, whatever the mechanism, there is a large body of evidence to suggest that climate change increases the number of heatwaves and make them longer. Since 1880 the frequency of extremely hot days has nearly tripled and the length of heatwaves across Europe has doubled. Models also predict that climate change will push up peak temperatures faster than average temperatures.

This is an example of climate change's tendency to increase the likelihood of extreme weather events. The number of very hot days is forecast to increase fivefold by 2100. One model study has suggested that Paris, France, will see the frequency of heatwaves grow by 31 per cent over the century, and that by 2100 they will last twice as long.

The consequences will be widespread. Agricultural yields are likely to drop, and summer death rates will rise worldwide. True, winter death rates will drop during milder winters, but this will not offset the extra summer deaths.

However, it is important to bear in mind that no single weather event can be reliably linked to climate change. "It's a statistical tendency, a push in one direction," says Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London. The Russian heatwave might have occurred anyway, without help from greenhouse gases. All we can say for sure is that such events are more likely in a warmer world.

RIA Novosti (8-13-10) reports:

Central Russia will face a high risk of tornadoes and hurricanes as the long-awaited weather change comes to the region next week, a top Russian meteorologist said.
"As a rule, such disastrous events [tornadoes and hurricanes] take place when weather changes dramatically," said Roman Vilfand, the head of the Russian state meteorological center.

He earlier said that the high pressure system over central Russia will start dissipating next Tuesday, as first changes will appear in the atmospheric circulation for the first time since June 21.

Meteorologists expect the temperature in Central Russia to finally drop to 23-28 degrees Centigrade on Tuesday.
A scorching heat wave has gripped much of European Russia since mid-June, which coupled with the worst drought since the 1970s has made the countryside particularly susceptible to wildfires.

Thousands of emergency workers and military personnel have been working round the clock for almost three weeks to fight fires in 22 Russian regions, which have so far killed more than 50 people and left over 3,500 homeless. The immediate economic cost of the fires has been estimated at $15 billion.

Vilfand said this summer has been "catastrophic" in Russia, adding that an increase of eight degrees Centigrade in average temperatures can be observed only once in approximately 5,000 years.

Mike Blackburn of the University of Reading, U.K. said the unusual holding patterns in the jet stream are to blame for the heat in Russia and rains in northern Pakistan, as well as for other less catastrophic events observed around the world this summer, The New Scientist has reported.

"In recent weeks, meteorologists have noticed a change in the jet stream's normal pattern. Its waves normally shift east, dragging weather systems along with it. But in mid-July they ground to a halt," the magazine quoted the scientist as saying.

MOSCOW, August 12 (RIA Novosti)


Anonymous Jim Bouldin said...

Thanks for this. As for the NS article "Is climate change burning Russia?" I urge people to be real careful when addressing questions like this. We're talking about an attribution chain here, and each part of the chain has to be connected to answer the posed question. It's one thing to address the question of what the likely cause of the heat wave/drought wave is. It's another level of difficulty to address any consequences therefrom (e.g. fire), because there are many contributing factors to fire besides climate (though climate, as expressed through the frequency of extreme weather events, is undoubtedly a critical one). Don't get suckered into making unwarranted statements on the "cause" of the fires. It's unlikely that there is juat a single cause.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Snapple said...

I agree with you. I think if you read these articles I have cited they pretty much say that one swallow doesn't make a spring.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Jim Bouldin said...

I was only able to look at the NS article. The article itself deals only with the possible causes of the heat wave, even though the article's headline is: "Is climate change burning russia", which is a more complex and difficult question. They need to be careful how they phrase things. There so much slop in how words are thrown around now.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Snapple said...

Everyone is asking that question. Their answer was that you can't call a specific incident global warming.

Do you know about the permafrost research of Sergei Kirpotin the Tomsk botanist? I write about him on my site.

I wonder if NASA is helping the Russians find those fires. Novosti is quoting NASA a lot.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Jim Bouldin said...

Yes, but that's not the question posed in the title, that's my point. I expect a little more care from NS than from the typical media.

Kirpotin, no, but if I get a chance I'll read it.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Snapple said...

If you google kirpotin "legend of pine ridge" you can read about Kirpotin.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Scrooge said...

Interesting article. I understand how El Nino can influence the jet stream and longwave patterns, but that's the first time I heard omega highs are more likely to form during solar min. I thought it was the other way around. But I understand when I learned about weather it was like the stone age compared to today. Anyway todays warming has overtaken anything the solar cycle is doing. I do believe the extreme temps we're caused by GW since the door seemed to open wider pulling in hotter air from further south. Also if it weren't for GW we would have more record cold temp in areas in the longwave trofs. But I will wait and see what the experts say. I hope you follow up on this story.

8:07 PM  

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