The Great Russian Heat Wave Of 2010 – for Aug. 19, 2010

Last issue we took a look at some of the extreme heat records that have been broken around the world so far this year. I also mentioned what’s being called the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010. During our own little heat wave we went through last week, I tried to discuss just how intense the Russian heat wave must feel and it seemed to fall mostly on deaf ears. So I decided to take a little closer look at just what is going on in Russia and then compare it to our region’s biggest heat wave, which occurred way back in the summer of 1936.

Up to this point in history, the North American heat wave of 1936 was considered the most intense, long-lasting, and widespread heat wave in Earth’s recorded history. Meteorologists are now rethinking that notion, due to just how widespread and intense the Russian heat wave has been this summer.

Now, it would be really difficult to try to compare the two heat waves on a city-by-city basis, so what I did is take two cities that have relatively similar climatic conditions and are both located a little outside of the most intense part of the heat wave. I also wanted cities that you, the reader, could relate to – heck, some of you may have even been there in 1936! So, I chose to compare the conditions in Moscow this year with Winnipeg back in 1936.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to compare the heat waves is to look at the daily high temperatures for July and the first half of August, and instead of just listing a bunch of numbers I have created a graph showing these temperatures.

The first thing that immediately jumps out is the extremely hot temperatures that occurred in Winnipeg in early July back in 1936. Temperatures on July 7 and 11 topped out at a remarkable

42 C. In comparison, Moscow this year did not break the 40 C mark, with a peak temperature of 38 C. This means the 1936 heat wave wins out on simple heat intensity – but this is probably the only area that wins out from 1936.

The next most noticeable thing you can pull from the graph is how, after the extreme start to the 1936 heat wave, conditions cooled off during the latter part of July. In Moscow this year, high temperatures went above 30 C on July 9 and were

30 C or hotter every day until thunderstorms kept the temperature down to 29 C on August

13. This is a truly remarkable run of temperatures! Not only was this 35 days in a row with highs over 30 C, during those 35 days, the high was equal to or greater than 35 C on 20 days. And don’t think that there was nice relief at night. The average overnight low during this period was around 20 C. So if you were beginning to feel uncomfortable

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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