Scientists study record-breaking 2010 heatwave

Mar 18, 2011
The 2010 heatwave (see at the right side of this picture) shattered all the records in terms of the deviation from the average temperatures. Credit: ETH Zürich

An international research team has compared the hot summers of 2003 and 2010 in detail for the first time. Last year’s heatwave across Eastern Europe and Russia was unprecedented in every respect: Europe has never experienced so large summer temperature anomalies in the last 500 years.

The summer of 2010 was extreme. Russia was especially hard hit by the extraordinary heat: in Moscow, daytime temperatures of 38.2°C were recorded and it didn’t get much cooler at night. Devastating fires caused by the dry conditions covered an area of 1 million hectares, causing crop failures of around 25%; the total damage ran to about USD 15 billion. Even though passengers were also collapsing on trains in Germany in 2010 because the air-con units had failed in the heat, the general perception is still that the summer of 2003 was the most extreme – among Western Europeans at least. An international research team involving ETH Zurich has now compared the two heatwaves and just published their findings in Science.

Area fifty times bigger than Switzerland

The 2010 heatwave shattered all the records both in terms of the deviation from the average temperatures and its spatial extent. The temperatures – depending on the time period considered – were between 6.7°C and 13.3°C above the average. The heatwave covered around 2 million km2 – an area fifty times the size of Switzerland. On average, the summer of 2010 was 0.2°C warmer in the whole of Europe than in 2003. Although it might not sound like much, it’s actually a lot when calculated over the vast area and the whole season. “The reason we felt 2003 was more extreme is that Western Europe was more affected by the 2003 heatwave and it stayed warm for a long period of time,” explains Erich Fischer, a postdoc at the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science at ETH Zurich.

The reason for the heatwaves in both 2003 and 2010 was a large, persistent high-pressure system associated by areas of low pressure in the east and west. In 2010 the heart of this high-pressure anomaly, often referred to as blocking, was above Russia. The low pressure system to the east was partly responsible for the floods in Pakistan. But the blocking was not the only reason for the extraordinary heat between July and mid-August; on top of that, there was little rainfall and an early snow melt, which dried out the soil and aggravated the situation. “Such prolonged blockings in the summertime are rare, but they may occur through natural variability. Therefore, it’s interesting for us to put the two heatwaves in a wider temporal perspective,” explains Fischer.

500-year-old temperature record broken

With this in mind, the researchers compared the latest heatwaves with data from previous centuries. Average daily temperatures are available back as far as 1871. For any earlier than that, the researchers used seasonal reconstructions derived from tree rings, ice cores and historical documents from archives. The summers of 2003 and 2010 broke 500-year-old records across half of Europe. Fischer stresses: “You can’t attribute isolated events like the heatwaves of 2003 or 2010 to climate change. That said, it’s remarkable that these two record summers and three more very hot ones all happened in the last decade. The clustering of record heatwaves within a single decade does make you stop and think.”

More frequent and intense heatwaves

In order to find out whether such extreme weather conditions could become more common in future, the researchers analysed regional scenarios for the periods 2020-2049 and 2070-2099 based on eleven high-resolution climate models and came up with two projections: the 2010 heatwave was so extreme that analogues will remain unusual within the next few decades. At the end of the century, however, the models project a 2010-type every eight years on average. According to the researchers, by the end of the century heatwaves like 2003 will virtually have become the norm, meaning they could occur every two years. While the exact changes in frequency depend strongly on the model, all the simulations show that the heat waves will become more frequent, more intense and longer lasting in future.

Explore further: Research drones launched into Hurricane Edouard

More information: D. Barriopedro, et al., The hot summer of 2010: redrawing the temperature record map of Europe, Science, doi:10.1126/science.1201224 (2011)

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GSwift7
2.4 / 5 (13) Mar 18, 2011


1000000 hectares = 3861 square miles

a million hectares sounds like a lot more, but why use a common easily understood measurement when an archaic difficult to understand measurement will sound so much more alarming?

Typical use of tricks to make the numbers sound worse than they are. It's also worth noting that brush fires are normal and that 3000 sqare miles is only a bit more than a normal year.
GSwift7
2.5 / 5 (13) Mar 18, 2011
continued:

this is from the wiki page about the russian fires:

The swamps and bogs surrounding Moscow had been drained in the 1960s for agricultural use and mining of peat to generate energy. In 2002, a series of hard-to-extinguish peat fires led the government to the recognition that peat fields needed to be rewatered to prevent wildfires. By 2010, however, large peat areas that had not been rewatered contributed to the wildfires


By the way, they don't have anything near a million hectare on the wiki page. The largest they have is about half that amount. Once again though, land management problems amplify a natural disaster into unusual proportion and global warming is blamed.
Cave_Man
3 / 5 (12) Mar 18, 2011
queue the millions of climate change deniers.............NOW!

But seriously its fucking common sense that climate change is real, and even though it may take your entire lifetime to see the full effects that does not mean we should just sit back and wait to see what happens, it's unbelieveable how physorg has articles saying we've probably entered the 6th mass extinction on earth and its likely caused entirely by humans and yet people still dont trust the science because of a few bad apple scientists who just thought the only way to cause a change was to "scare" us into doing something about it.
omatumr
1.6 / 5 (14) Mar 18, 2011
Wow!

Sounds like Al Gore and the UN's IPCC were right all along and the climatologists also were right to "hide the decline."

Yes, that's the way it sounds.
omatumr
1.3 / 5 (15) Mar 19, 2011
How much of the measured heat was generated by the Russian forest fires?
Noumenon
4.5 / 5 (53) Mar 19, 2011
@caveman, No one denies "climate change". Of course the global climate changes. What is questioned is the extent to which science currently has handle on global temperature, that would justify such hysterical catastrophic cartoonish predictions ("probably entered the 6th mass extinction on earth"),.. especially considering the catastrophic failure of climate science in making predictions just a few decades ago. If in such a weak science, it CAN be denied, it will and should be denied.

What furthers suspicion, is that all proposed solutions are politically left leaning, redistribution of wealth, anti-capitalistic change, social engineering.

As even the most ardent proponents of AGW can plainly see, NOTHING is being done about it now. Why? Answer; There are no alternative energy sources currently available that can even make a dent in replacing carbon based sources. If they tree-huggers can develop an alternative that can compete with oil, then they can save the world.
Noumenon
4.5 / 5 (52) Mar 19, 2011
,... if predictions can be empirically, quantifiably, and independently verified, then, and only then, the then successful science of global climate will be taken notice of.

As of now, it's conclusions are mere speculation based on questionable data,... not nearly enough motive force to fundamentally change capitalistic economies and have societies submit to leftists social engineering, and ideological naive world view.

Personally, I think it would be a good thing to get off carbon based energy,... but not FORCED OFF, in an ad-hoc manner, by political leftists,.. but rather in accord with existing free market capitalism, as this would prevent unintended consequences of the eternally naive left.
Bog_Mire
2.8 / 5 (6) Mar 19, 2011
"......an archaic difficult to understand measurement". You mean like square miles? Or inches? Why not just revert to the cubit? C'mon USA, get with the program and embrace decimal. And stop driving on the wrong side of the road while you're at it!
ryggesogn2
2.2 / 5 (10) Mar 19, 2011
"You cant attribute isolated events like the heatwaves of 2003 or 2010 to climate change. "
An amazing comment.
'Climate change' grant money must be evaporating in the heat of controversy.
Noumenon
4.7 / 5 (49) Mar 19, 2011
"......an archaic difficult to understand measurement". You mean like square miles? Or inches? Why not just revert to the cubit? C'mon USA, get with the program and embrace decimal. And stop driving on the wrong side of the road while you're at it!

I think you mean metric, but you're right, it's the English system that is archaic, while the metric system is natural and easier to deal with.
Noumenon
4.5 / 5 (51) Mar 19, 2011
"You cant attribute isolated events like the heatwaves of 2003 or 2010 to climate change. " - Erich Fischer
An amazing comment.
'Climate change' grant money must be evaporating in the heat of controversy.


They mean their definition of "climate change", not actual climate change as observed in particular cases. Confused ?,.. then changing the phrase from "global warming" to "climate change" has had the desired effect.

The AGW crowd wishes to claim ownership and redefine this phrase,.. "climate change",.. as clearly the global climate would have to do the miraculous thing of remaining constant for their predictions to have been deemed to have failed.

In any case, they pick and choose which "isolated events" support AGW or not depending on the day of the week.
ryggesogn2
2.4 / 5 (8) Mar 19, 2011
"......an archaic difficult to understand measurement". You mean like square miles? Or inches? Why not just revert to the cubit? C'mon USA, get with the program and embrace decimal. And stop driving on the wrong side of the road while you're at it!

I think you mean metric, but you're right, it's the English system that is archaic, while the metric system is natural and easier to deal with.

The metric system is easier, but I wouldn't say it was natural.
The English system was derived from human body measurements. More natural than the distance from the equator to the pole.
I do prefer MKS as it was designed as a decimal system and conversion is simpler.
NameIsNotNick
3 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2011


1000000 hectares = 3861 square miles

a million hectares sounds like a lot more, but why use a common easily understood measurement when an archaic difficult to understand measurement will sound so much more alarming?

Typical use of tricks to make the numbers sound worse than they are. It's also worth noting that brush fires are normal and that 3000 square miles is only a bit more than a normal year.

Actually "Square Miles" is the archaic measurement... Hectares is metric and the only place in the world its "difficult to understand" would be the USA and even there only by the poorly informed.

Oops... I shouldn't have bothered... reading the thread further a I see lot of people picked this up... hardly surprising ;-)
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Mar 19, 2011
2,471,040 acres = 3861 square miles

The origin of an acre was the amount of land an oxen cold plow in a day. Quite natural.
Hydroqueen
not rated yet Mar 20, 2011
Perhaps dark matter is the higgs field. It seems to be what is holding the galaxies together. Dark Energy, that is a puzzler. Maybe the big bang is still banging and expansion will go on for billions years into the future. But it's the dark flow that is really eerie, to think a large segment of the universe with millions of galaxies is 'drifting' along towards the same point is really freaky. The more we know the less we know.
Hydroqueen
4 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2011
We have been fortunate....civilization developed because we've had 10,000 years of very unusual climate stability and just maybe our luck is running out. Nothing lasts forever. Whether man made or natural variation the climate is changing and I don't think it will be kinder to mankind just because it 'natural'. The effects of past extinctions were devastating and we weren't around to cause those. I think the cause can be argued but the effects are here for all to see.
braindead
not rated yet Mar 20, 2011


"a million hectares sounds like a lot more, but why use a common easily understood measurement when an archaic difficult to understand measurement will sound so much more alarming?"

You will note the source of the article is from Europe - to most Europeans indeed the rest of the planet, except your bit, sq. miles would seem a very archaic (old-fashioned) not to say irrational as a unit of measure. The idea of sq.miles being not archaic is hilarious to the rest of the planet.
GSwift7
1.8 / 5 (6) Mar 21, 2011
"......an archaic difficult to understand measurement". You mean like square miles? Or inches? Why not just revert to the cubit? C'mon USA, get with the program and embrace decimal


Okay, if not English measurements (since this is an American web site, that seemed natural to suggetst) then how about using the most sensible metric unit of measure for land area, the kilometer in stead of hectare? One million hectare is ten thousand square kilometers. A million of something sounds better in a headline though. I wasn't trying to support the English system over Metric. I was just pointing out that they were being selective in using a small unit of measure that is usually reserved for measuring the area of someone's yard, not the regional area. I've looked it up; anybody care to guess what the burned area equates to in terms of a % of arable land in that region? (hint: think very small numbers) Economic impact was high due to concentrated developement around peat bogs though.
MikeyK
5 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2011
GSwift7- You've almost answered your own question when you mentioned 'arable'. The European standard for measuring agricultural land is hectares. The context of the story is the area of agricultural land lost....See, no conspiracy...nothing to see here..move along