By Anthony Ricigliano: With the term “global warming” being such a hot button issue, maybe we should just start calling the wild summer weather across the northern hemisphere this summer more evidence of climate de-stabilization. Record heat waves and drought across Russia have taken lives and resulted in the loss of one-fifth of its wheat harvest to raging wildfires which are burning out of control southeast of Moscow. Crops in the neighboring countries of Ukraine and Kazakhstan are also being damaged by the drought, as the wildfires continue their westward march.
Pakistan’s weather problems are exactly the opposite of Russia’s as monsoon rains have fallen in volumes that had never before been seen. Peshawar, located in northern Pakistan, saw six times the monthly average rainfall in only 24 hours. The monsoonal downpours have continued since then, with flooding affecting an estimated 14 million people and killing over 1,300 people. Flood waters now cover about one-fifth of the country.
Despite being approximately 2,500 miles apart, both of these disasters are linked to a single meteorological cause. A huge area of high pressure, which has stayed in place for weeks over western Russia, has blocked the jet stream, altering its path while baking the western region of the country. These high pressure areas form on a regular basis but normally move eastward after a few days in the northern hemisphere. The high pressure area causing the problems for Pakistan and Russia is called a “blocking high” and acts as an obstacle for the jet stream which has changed its path around it. This altered path has forced part of the jet stream to divert south to Pakistan, where it normally would not be found during mid-summer.
With the jet stream delivering storm after storm to the same areas flooding occurs, as seen in Poland and Germany recently. In Pakistan, the southern diversion of the jet stream brought storms which would normally track much further north. These storms combined with normal summer monsoons to deliver record volumes of rainfall. The storms passing through Pakistan via the jet stream would typically be delivering rainfall and relief from the heat in the areas of western Russia were it not for the stationary high pressure zone.
The debate rages on about whether these extreme conditions are the result of global warming or of naturally occurring cycles such as El Nino and La Nina. Scientists do agree that global temperatures this year have been the warmest on record but cannot link the high temperatures to these events. Many believe that these types of events and other extreme weather conditions will become more common should global temperatures continue to go higher. In the case of Russia and Pakistan, the cause has been a blocking high. Other extreme conditions can be triggered by completely different weather conditions. The trend seems to be that increasing extremes are following warmer temperatures. For now maybe we should all agree that the global climate is being de-stabilized and as a result people are dying. Maybe then we start from the same page and find out if there is something we can do about it before weather disasters start claiming millions of victims per event on a regular basis.
Author Anthony Ricigliano