9 August 2010

Russia Chokes While Moscow Melts

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Amazing satellite image from Monday showing smoke covering much of Western Russia. NASA/Modis image. Click for higher resolution. Fires denoted by red dots.

The death toll from the heat and smoke in Moscow is climbing rapidly. BBC Radio reported today that the death rate in Moscow is running 2-5 times normal.

This is not an ordinary heat wave. It’s actually almost unbelievable meteorologically. It’s not unusual to set a record high. It’s very rare to set an all time high temperature, but it happens from time to time in extreme situations.

What IS nearly unheard of is setting a new all time record high, then tying or breaking it 5 times in the same month! Imagine setting a record high and breaking the old record by 19 degrees F.! That’s what Moscow did on Monday 9 August. The old record was 90 in 2001. Monday Moscow hit 99F and that ties the warmest temp. Ever recorded there.

This has been going on since July as well. This kind of heat in a city where almost no one has or needs air conditioning.


The heat and dry weather has caused the swampy land full of peat bogs around Moscow to dry out and they are now burning. The smoke they are producing has reduced the visibility in Red Square to about 1 km. On Saturday, the Carbon Monoxide levels reached 5 times the unhealthful level.


There are some strong indications that a cool front will bring at least some temporary relief to NW Russia in about 5-7 days. Unfortunately, several thousand people will not likely live to see it.

Temperature anomalies in July over Eastern Europe. The heat has gotten worse since then...


Meteorologist Jeff Masters has a very good writeup about the heat in Russia here. There are some amazing pics from Russia courtesy of the Boston Globe as well.


You have to be very careful in blaming any one weather event on climate change. That said, the warming over the last 50 years has been much greater in the higher latitudes. Dr. Michael Tobis at the Univ. of Texas in Austin makes a decent case for calling this event at least VERY suspicious as far as climate is concerned.