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NOAA study concludes natural variability main culprit of Russian heat wave that killed thousands

The deadly Russian heat wave of 2010 was due to a natural atmospheric phenomenon often associated with weather extremes, according to a new NOAA study. And while the scientists could not attribute the intensity of this particular heat wave to climate change, they found that extreme heat waves are likely to become increasingly frequent in the region in coming decades.

The research team drew from scientific observations and computer climate models to evaluate the possible roles of natural and human-caused climate influences on the severity of the heat wave. The study was accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

“It appears that parts of Russia are on the cusp of a period in which the risk of extreme heat events will increase rapidly.”
—co-author Martin Hoerling

Temperatures in the upper 90s to above 100 F scorched western Russia and surrounding areas from July through mid-August, 2010. In Moscow, the long-term daily average temperatures for July range from 65-67 F; in 2010, daily average July temperatures soared up to 87. Daily average temperatures include the night. The exceptional heat over such a long duration, combined with poor air quality from wildfires increased deaths by at least 56,000 in Moscow and other parts of western Russia, according to Munich Reinsurance, and led to massive crop failures in the region.

While a contribution to the heat wave from climate change could not be entirely ruled out, if it was present, it played a much smaller role than naturally occurring meteorological processes in explaining this heat wave’s intensity.

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.

The team sifted through long-term observations and results from 22 global climate models, looking for trends that might help explain the extraordinarily high temperatures in western Russia during the 2010 summer. They also ran atmospheric models that used observed global sea surface temperatures, Arctic sea ice conditions and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in 2010 to assess whether such factors might have contributed to the heat wave.

The heat wave was due primarily to a natural phenomenon called an atmospheric “blocking pattern”, in which a strong high pressure system developed and remained stationary over western Russian, keeping summer storms and cool air from sweeping through the region and leading to the extreme hot and dry conditions. While the blocking pattern associated with the 2010 event was unusually intense and persistent, its major features were similar to atmospheric patterns associated with prior extreme heat wave events in the region since 1880, the researchers found.

They also found that western Russia has not experienced significant climate warming during the summer season over the 130 years from 1880-2009, despite significant warming of globally averaged temperatures during that time. Such a “warming hole” is not unique to that region and is not entirely unexpected, as the Earth is not uniformly warming and experiences distinct geographic areas that may be warmer or cooler than the average trend.

We know that climate change is not taking place at the same rate everywhere on the globe. Western Russia is one of the parts of the world that has not seen a significant increase in summertime temperatures. The US Midwest is another.

—Martin Hoerling


  • R. Dole, M. Hoerling, J. Perlwitz, J. Eischeid, P. Pegion, T. Zhang, X.-W. Quan, T. Xu, and D. Murray (2011) Was there a basis for anticipating the 2010 Russian heat wave? Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L06702, doi: 10.1029/2010GL046582



I can't believe the Obama NOAA came up with this result...someone needs to root out the heretics!


Stan Peterson - what do you think of this story?


There was a heat wave that killed thousands in France years ago. Elderly people lived in buildings with dark metal roofs that did not have air conditioning. Up until that time they did not need it.


Local extreme weather phenomena: (cold waves, heat waves, abnormally high winds, more major tornadoes, flash floods, heavy snow falls, ultra dry weather, forest fires, etc) seem to be part of the current climate change. Deniers may not agree but it is happening.

Houses, buildings and other structures will have to be designed to resist extreme weather to avoid costly damages and risk to human life. Low grounds, close to rivers, lakes and oceans, should be avoided unless you have built on stilts.


More science telling us the alarmists were wrong. Economy, security, JOBS are the watchwords today. By converting to non fossil energy we strengthen our economy, (end $450B annual payments for foreign oil) - increase security via domestic energy, and grow JOBS in both sectors.

Academies, alarmists and pundits, it's okay to be wrong. Nobody's perfect... 'cept maybe ai_vin;)


Future aggressive tornado, insects and forest fires, major floods etc could supply enough feed stocks for a fair amount of cellulosic fuel.


Flamebaiting me now are you?

I've never claimed to be perfect, nor all knowing, in fact I know I'm not too smart. That's why when it comes to complex subjects like AGW I defer to the really smart people like the AAAS, 32 national science academies and others;

No Reel, if there's anyone here claiming to perfect, to know better than the experts, it is you.

Oh and BTW the NOAA who provided the "science" for this article are also among the "alarmists"


No flamebaiting ai... an elbow in jest. I don't know better than the experts, I just listen to them:

Christie, Lindzen, Paltridge, Tennekes, Clark, Baliunas, W.M. Grey, Happer, Kininmonth, Pielke, Segelstad, Scafetta, Zichichi, Shaviv, Spencer, Soon Svensmark, etc. etc... really smart people??


Confirmation bias at work, disregard the words of many for the few that say what you want to hear. You're putting these up against the AAAS, the NAS or NOAA? Get real, Reel.

Want some more names for your list?
Richard M. Sternberg - He has a BS degree from University of South Carolina and two PhDs; the first from 1995 in molecular evolution from Florida International University, and a second in systems science from Binghamton University. He did post-doctoral work between 1999 and 2001 at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) at the Smithsonian Institution and in 2004 he was given a 3 year appointment as an unpaid research associate. On 15 November 2006, he received a further three year appointment as an unpaid 'research collaborator' at the NMNH. In 2001, he became managing editor of the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington and joined the board of the International Journal of General Systems. By all acounts a very smart person, but the same year(2001), he also joined the editorial board of the Baraminology Study Group, a young earth creationist "creation science" attempt to identify and classify the created kinds mentioned in scripture, he also believes intelligent design deserves to be part of the discussion about evolution and the origin of life on Earth and he's signatory to the Discovery Institute's Scientific Dissent from Darwinism petition.

How about Michael J. Behe? He's a smart guy: He graduated from Drexel University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry. He got his PhD in biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania in 1978 for his dissertation research on sickle-cell disease. From 1978 to 1982, he did postdoctoral work on DNA structure at the National Institutes of Health. From 1982 to 1985, he was assistant professor of chemistry at Queens College in New York City. In 1985, he moved to Lehigh University and is currently a Professor of Biochemistry. However due to Behe's views on evolution, Lehigh University exhibits the following disclaimer on its website: "While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific." He pushed his theory of "irreducible complexity" at the Dover trail.

But wait, you're a retired doctor aren't you? What's your views on all those competing fad diets that other doctors endorse every year? And let's not go anywhere near Homeopathy.

There's a reason we have peer-review and national science academies.


Changing weather phenomena, specially extreme cases, are documented facts that will have to be considered in the not too distant future.

Natural disasters, major damages to man-made structures and lost of life are all increasing and we will have to take appropriate measures to deal with it.

People living in South Louisiana, South central USA, close to rivers and lakes etc., got the message in the last 2 decades or so and are starting to take it more seriously and are willing to support appropriate actions to better mange the changes.


It used to be people living in flood plains got federal flood insurance and rebuilt time after time. Then the U.S. government told them this was the last time, if they did not move, there would be NO insurance. Common sense prevailed.


Common sense prevailed in who?

People are STILL building in the flood plains even without flood insurance.


ai_vin is an engineer - and a tired student of argumentation. Re-framing the argument to imply AGW skeptics are "Creationists" - is a hackneyed old ploy. Good, courageous scientists stand up every day pointing out the abject failure of AGW science. Their personal views and faith traditions matter not a wit.

Any more than the 32 State Chapters of Interfaith Power and Light claiming 10,000 congregations as members - "A Religious Response to Global Warming." Including Board Chairs from Mennonite Creation Care Network, United Methodist Conference Creation Care Team, etc.

Imagine how many "scientists" in AAAS, the NAS or NOAA are also members of these congregations?

It is foolhardy to deny AGW religious-based alarmism. It is pervasive. And we who work "religiously" to adopt new, alternative forms of energy do not disparage the work of these congregations. We welcome them. Maybe your little band of "experts" should too.


"little band"????

No, I mention these creationists because you keep using the same denialist tactics & ploys as they do. Heck, when you say 'there is no evidence' you even sound like Wendy Wright.

And I mention them because, as you said, "nobody's perfect." Even the smartest individuals have blindspots and dogmas. But "it's okay to be wrong" that's the reason we have peer-review and national science academies - to blend out and weed out the biases and mistakes of the individual scientists. Is it a perfect process? No, even large groups can make mistakes, but when they do other groups are there to point them out and they get corrected while an individual scientist with a dogma might just dig in his heels (like you do) because he can't bring himself to face even the possibility that he might be wrong (like you can't): "SCIENCE: If you don't make mistakes, you're doing it wrong. If you don't correct those mistakes, you're doing it really wrong. If you can't accept that you're mistaken, you're not doing it at all."

This is why I defer to scientific bodies rather than individual scientists; do I believe James Hansen when he says the Earth is warming? Hardly. Do I believe Al Gore? Don't make me laugh. But when the AAAS, the NAS and the NOAA issue a statement confirming what James Hansen said... that's when I take notice.

I also take notice when groups, and to a lesser degree - individuals, that have a vested interest in going against AGW (like EXXON) come out for it; in fact I put more weight behind their statement ["The risks to society and ecosystems from increases in CO2 emissions could prove to be significant - so despite the areas of uncertainty that do exist, it is prudent to develop and implement strategies that address the risks, keeping in mind the central importance of energy to the economies of the world."] than I do the position of the WWF; or the Sierra Club because they are going against the profit motive. Even the American Association of Petroleum Geologists no longer rejects AGW.


In a way you could call me an AGW skeptic. I'm a skeptic of the sources of information on AGW and weight each for credibility.

There are tons of sources out there; how do we know which ones are credible? I do it the same way this guy does;
I just don't wear a funny hat while doing it. ;^)


Your system is broken ai_ and it has been for some time:

"For something that is of and for scientists, the peer review process is very unscientific," says Ferric Fang, a professor of laboratory medicine and microbiology at the University of Washington. "If these [reviews] were data that you generated in your lab, you would say, 'I don't know what the conclusion of this is.'"

“To ask if peer-review works is probably asking the wrong question. It's a ritual, not a scientific method.”
"[A]cross the board, editors at top-tier journals say they are receiving more submissions every year, leading in many cases to more rejections, appeals, and complaints about the system overall."

McCook, Alison. Is Peer Review Broken? The Scientist, 20(2). February 2006 (re-edited for PC)

“Peter Lawrence at the University of Cambridge says that problem is magnified at journals with very high rejection rates, such as Nature or Science, where the vast majority of submitted papers are rejected without review.

"The people who actually make the vital decisions" — that is, rejecting papers before they get to scientific reviewers — "are editors, who themselves have little experience in research," Lawrence says. "It would be better if those decisions were made by experienced scientists."

Despite a lack of evidence that peer review works, most scientists (by nature a skeptical lot) appear to believe in peer review. It's something that's held "absolutely sacred" in a field where people rarely accept anything with "blind faith," says Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ and now CEO of United Health Europe and board member of PLoS. "It's very unscientific, really."


And now you're attacking the system, and doing it by quote mining; two common denialist ploys.

I win.


No. Do your own research. Plenty of scientists with peer review issues. Denying they exist is the familiar head-in-sand action skeptics are accused of.

Point is... throttling information is no easy task any longer. Where once the journal editors could control "accepted science" we now have a global internet exchange largely un-censored. "Perceived expertise" is no longer viable as there are simply too many people with an abundance of knowledge and wisdom willing to speak out.

This is all very healthy ai_vin. Change is good. Climate included...;)


And while Manpollo is amusing... here is how your adviser on global warming credibility describes himself:

"I am a fourth-year [Computer Science] Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, performing work on autonomous trading agents with my advisor, Amy Greenwald.

My research interests lie at the intersection of computer science and economics, focusing predominantly on decision making under uncertainty, game theory, and mechanism design. I am interested in developing bidding strategies for complex auctions in which analytically solving for equilibria is intractable, and understanding the auction dynamics when different bidding strategies are played. "


And now we're in a closed loop with you going back to your first mistake of relying on the words of a few and not the many. Which bores me and makes me see there's no point in continuing this so I'll close by saying 'I don't deny that there are scientists with peer review issues, I just put them into the context of the whole' and by pointing out that YOU should have read those links you gave me pass your own need to find quotes. They were complaining about there being not enough people doing the reviewing i.e. because of a lack of fund the journals were "relying on the words of a few and not the many."

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