Russian heat wave 'had both manmade and natural causes'

Feb 22, 2012
Map showing temperatures in July 2010 during the Russian heat wave

(PhysOrg.com) -- The heat wave that struck western Russia in summer 2010, causing 55,000 deaths, was caused by a combination of manmade and natural factors. However, the frequency of occurrence of such heat waves has increased by a factor of three over recent decades, new research suggests.

A study, led by Oxford University scientists, reconciles apparently contradictory results from two separate 2011 studies which attributed the extreme weather to, respectively, natural variability and human-induced climate change.

The researchers show that, because one study [Dole et al. (2011)] focused on why the was as large as it was, whilst the other [Rahmstorf & Coumou (2011)] looked at how the chance of a large heat wave may have changed, their answers are actually complementary: the magnitude of the heat wave can largely be attributed to natural variability whilst the risk of such heat waves has increased mostly due to manmade influence. This study estimates that the risk of a heat wave of this magnitude has approximately tripled due to the global warming trend since the 1960s, which is mostly attributable to manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

A report of the research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The 2010 Russian heat wave was a devastating extreme , with monthly temperatures more than 5 degrees Celsius above average – daily temperatures peaked at up to 12 degrees above average, reaching over 40 degrees Celsius (104F). These conditions caused an estimated 55,000 deaths, a 25% drop in annual crop production, and a total economic loss of more than $15 billion.

"To say with any confidence what caused an extreme weather event, such as the Russian heat wave, you need to run not one but a large number of climate models," said Friederike Otto of the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University, lead author of the paper. ‘Our work, using the weatherathome.net project, demonstrates that you don’t need a supercomputer to do this – we ask volunteers to run climate prediction experiments on ordinary computers. We show how you can use such an ensemble of simulations to investigate the magnitude and frequency of occurrence of intrinsically unpredictable extreme events.’

'These results show that the same weather event can be both "mostly natural" in terms of magnitude and "mostly human-induced" in terms of probability,' explained Neil Massey of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford University. "Thinking in these terms makes it possible to calculate, for instance, how much human-induced climate change cost the Russian economy in the summer of 2010."

"Most present-day impacts are related to events. Quantifying how risks are changing allows us to better quantify (and insure against) present-day risks and build resilience to events that are becoming more probable due to human influence on climate," said Professor Myles Allen of the School of Geography and Environment, Oxford University, the Principal Investigator of the weatherathome.net and climateprediction.net projects.

"People deserve to know how much is affecting them and we have the methods to answer the question: how is human influence loading the weather dice?"

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User comments : 10

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Vendicar_Decarian
3.5 / 5 (11) Feb 22, 2012
50,000 dead in this heat wave, 40,000 dead in the European heat wave of 2003.

400 dead in the latest cold snap across europe and Russia.

Obviously cold temperatures kill more people than warm ones as the denialists liars perpetually claim.
kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2012
Moscow weather has been changing in the last two decades. Now everyone will be buying air conditioners, and our electric grid wasn't built with that load in mind.
rubberman
3.7 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2012
50,000 dead in this heat wave, 40,000 dead in the European heat wave of 2003.

400 dead in the latest cold snap across europe and Russia.

Obviously cold temperatures kill more people than warm ones as the denialists liars perpetually claim.


They would've died in this cold snap if the heat didn't get them first....I'm positive and therefore it is fact.
kochevnik
4.1 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2012
We directly heat water from the plants and pipe it out to every building. So long as the hot water flows Russia can take the cold. There is nothing comparable for the summers.
rubberman
3.7 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2012
Moscow weather has been changing in the last two decades. Now everyone will be buying air conditioners, and our electric grid wasn't built with that load in mind.


A few years ago during a spike in demand because of a summer heat wave, an overload caused most of Ontario, quebec and the north eastern US to cope without power for 1-3 days in some areas. As I beleive was Vendi's point as well, it is alot easier to cope with cold than heat.
rubberman
3.7 / 5 (9) Feb 22, 2012
We directly heat water from the plants and pipe it out to every building. So long as the hot water flows Russia can take the cold. There is nothing comparable for the summers.


As was Vendi's point as well I believe. It's easier to deal with cold than heat, especially for those of us living in the northern climates.
rubberman
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 22, 2012
Sorry for the double post, thought I lost the first one.
Howhot
3.3 / 5 (7) Feb 22, 2012
I too agree with the studies. Excessive greenhouse gasses should cause an increase in the frequency these extreme events as the upper atmosphere is warmed and lifted. I was amazed at the sustained temperatures endured by our Russian friends. 100 F for weeks in Moscow (so close to the Arctic circle). That was an event that is freakishly NOT NORMAL.

la7dfa
1 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2012
According to the info below, the Dole report used some wrong datas.
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But it turns out that Dole (2011) failed to account for a glitch in the Moscow July station temperature data, which saw an urban heat island (UHI) correction erroneously applied. This was confirmed by checking with satellite temperature data. This over-correction mistakenly wiped out the warming trend and replaced it with a slight cooling trend.

http://www.treehu...ing.html
deepsand
3.3 / 5 (12) Feb 25, 2012
Did you miss this part? Or, conveniently leave it out?

"Based on their statistical/analytical model, Rahmstorf & Coumou (2011) calculated that the climate warming of the last 100 years has increased the probability of record-breaking warm events in global temperatures, and in Moscow during July. In regard to the freak 2010 Moscow heatwave, (excluding 2010 temperatures) the authors estimated an 80% probability that the record would not have happened without the warming climate."