Heat Wave in Europe: The Mystery Unveiled

by Eduardo Ferreyra (September 16th, 2003)

The recent heat in Europe made headlines in the media and was used as an evidence that "global warming" is a fact. Guess what: human activities had nothing to do with it.

After a brief review of recent history and the fundamentals of meterology and climatology, it has been possible to determine that the causes for the recent heat in Europe have its origin in a climatic phenomenum known for many decades as the
"Jet Stream", strong winds whirling around the North Pole, having a decisive influence on the Northern Hemisphere and the rest of the world. Let us see in detail what is this thing called the "Jet Stream".

It is a current of very strong winds in the stratosphere whirling around the North Pole, from west to east, and they do it a varying speeds, according to not very well understood reasons. Some years they blow at very high speeds, making the current fairly straight; other years they slow down and start 'snaking' and twisting in their path, making deep entrances to the equator, and far north to the North Pole. Figure 1 (and the next ones) give an idea about how climatologists understand this.

Like a snake chasing its own tail, the westerly winds ondulates around the globe tracing the trajectory of the Jet Stream in the high troposphere. A strong circulation corresponds to a compressed circumpolar vortex; a weak circulation corresponds to a highly irregular and ondulating Jet Stream. Such configurations severly affect the climate in the Northen Hemisphere.

When the circumpolar vortex is intense, and the Jet Stream blows strong, it follows a path aproximately parallel to the Polar regions, with few meanders. The curves are gentle. The sothern climatic regions have more space to move north, monsoons arrive with wellcome regularity, and the temperate regions enjoy mild years without great temperature extrema o rains.

However, when the vortex becomes weak, the main westerly winds current flows lazily and makes a wider zig-zag; the current turns become more pronounced. The influence of the vortex intrudes deep to the south compressing climatic areas towards the equator limiting the penetration of the monsoon to the north (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Variations in the atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere directly affect the monsoon rains in the Sahel. The strong eastward zonal circulation allows the monsoon rains to extend farther north. When the zonal circulation is weak it is easily diverted pushing the rains southward. The area in green shows in schematic form the extension of the monsoon in each case.
At the same time, in the temperate region enclosing North America and Europe, the now slower Jet Stream and its accompanying depressions in the surface (low pressures) can be diverted by other atmospheric general circulation factors. The regions where the atmospheric pressure is high – anticyclones – they behave as hills or stability islands in the atmosphere around which flow the Jet Stream and its depressions (low pressures or "cyclones". Unlike real mountains, high atmospheric pressures are temporal features and they also move eastwards in those latitudes. Anyone can try to predict the next 24 hour weather asuming the high pressure systems seen on the weather charts will move slightly to the east, carrying along dry and good weather, while the low pressures will flow around their flanks carrying rain and snow.

In ocassions, however, for not too well understood reasons, a high pressure system remains "nailed" in some place. This is known as a
"blocking anticyclone" and can remain there for days, weeks, even months, acting as a real mountain around which all other weather systems must flow. Given that anticyclones are areas of clear and calm air, the geographic regions under them experiment dry and good weather in summer, and cold weather with nocturnal frosts in winter. A summer high that remains too long in any place soon becomes a problem: it can be easily provoke a drougth or a heat wave (See figure 3).

Figure 3
The weak circulation also creates problemas farther north. With strong circulation, depressions carrying rains generally travel through Great Britain and enter the European continent. With a weak circulation, instead, "blocking anticyclones" can settle in some regions deflecting rain carrying currents, causing droughts and heat waves, as happened in Great Britain during the summer of 1976 and the recent summer of 2003.

All the available scientific data indicates that climatic disgraces and afflictions occurred since the early 70s are directly related to an expansion and shrinking of the circumpolar vortex that, has not only pushed the monsoon southwards, but has allowed the return, with a non desired frequency, of settlements of blocking anticyclones, guiding the low pressure systems - and their load of humidity - along the extreme meanders north and south of their main trajectories west-east around the world.

History Repeat Itself - Once More

Reviewing recent climate history, we can see that the
anomalous weather is, by all means, not a strange event, even this might sound weird - at first glance. The reason is we like to think about the normal weather as the one which is not too cold, too warm, neither too rainy nor too dry. I am sorry to disappoint you, but one thing is what we would like the weather to be, and another quite different is how things really are - and all this without having to blame nobody else than Mother Nature itself.

Although the winter of 1974-1975 in Great Britain was mild, in June 1975 a snowfall fell in London, the first such event for that time of the year in the 20th Century. Something similar happened this June of 2003 in Moscow. Snowfalls in June - weird. Global warming, when? Immediately, giving fodder to yellow press tabloids, the out of season cold was followed by the warmest months of July and August in many years. Overall, 1975 was one of the driest of the 20th Century caused by a "blocking anticyclone" in western Europe. From May 1975 through April 1976, the period was the direst 12 month period ever recorded in Great Britain, and the last thing anyone could expect was another baking summer. However, 1976 made 1975 look cool. The blocking anticyclone remained over England one week after another – exactly as it did in 2003. Nothing new under the sun.

Once the warmest month in the century was over, and after more than a year of drought, the Tames dried completely along 15 kilometers from its source, and many dams were left with a fifth of their capacity. The French grain crop dropped 25% while all western Europe baked under the sun. As it happened again this year of 2003. But similarities do not stop there.

In 1976, as in 2003, the story in eastern Eurpoe was different. The blocking anticyclone situated over Europe had kept England, France and neighbouring regions dry and hot. But the low pressure systems, following the ondulating path of the Jet Stream, had to go somewhere else with their load of humidity gathered during their journey through the Atlantic Ocean. Most part of them chose the northen edge of the blocking anticyclon – the portion of the Jet Stream derived to the north – and fell afterwards over the Baltic region around Leningrad and Moscow, pouring there heavy rains and causing floodings – in the exact same way they did this summer of 2003. History repeats itself after 27 years, without global warming having nothing to do with it. The Jet Stream is to blame - or perhaps God.

Let us see the way the circumpolar vortex affected the whole planet in 1972 – not just the Northern Hemisphere, as a way to demonstrate the powerful influence of this climate feature:

Figure 4
1972 was an unusual bad weather year around the world. Droughts and bad crops are shown in detail in the map. some climatologists related these events with a global cooling (among them Stepehen Schneider, a CEO for the greenhouse industry), something that seems to be happening – with increasing speed and power.

Winter Too

While all this was happening in Europe, the Great Plains in the northern pat of central USA had experienced, sinde January 10th to the january 12th, 1975, one of the worst blizzards in the hsitory of that region. This kind of deep freezing climatic events has been repeating themselves with great regularity in the last years, particularly since the late 80s – when Time magazine dedicated its first cover of 1989 to the "warmest year ever recorded", 1988 – just two weeks before one the worst blizzard ever recorded came down over the entire country.

The winter of 2003 in the Nortern Hemisphere broke all records in freezing temperatures, and the ice in Finland came 15 days earlier than usual. Summer temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere were mild and cooler than normal. There is nothing strange in this, since this coincides with a diminishing solar activity and sunspots. Astrophysicists predict a new Double Minimum (Gleissberg) for the year 2030, a solar condition that will have a freezing influence on Earth, taking temperatures down to the same as those of the Little Ice Age of 1610 onwards, when the Double Minima Maunder and Spoerer occurred. The decrease in the number of sunspots is slow, but steady, and this will make temperatures go down until they reach the ones during Galileo Galilei times.

This has been seen during the long and cold winter in the Southern Hemisphere, where subzero temperatures were recorded during a period of many consectuvie days, and indicator that the prophesized catastrophic global warming has no signs of revealing itself. A mild and cool 2003 summer, and the late frosts and spring snowfalls in the Andes and Cordoba Sierras were unusual, suggesting that a slight cooling is on its way. Everythings seems to indicate we are heading to a new Little Ice Age and, as we are at the endo of the Holocen climatic period, is quite feasible that the planet will slide slowly towards a new glaciation.


Data in climatic records are curious, to say the least. Let us see. Since 1973 until 1978, climatologists recorded the following: The coldest winter since 1740; the driest since 1743; the mildest since 1834; the biggest drought since 1725; the warmest mont of July (1976) since recordings began about 300 years ago. The extreme conditions continued with an almost inexistent summer in Europe in 1978, followed by an extraordinarily good and dry autumn that broke all marks. In january 1979, Great Britain suffered the worst winter ever recorded - 2003 was not much better.

On January 1981, The Times of London published a headline: HUNDRED DIE WHILE COLD GRIPS THREE CONTINENTS, and informed about the difficulties caused by strong snowfalls in Spain and southwest of France, plus a "more than usual" bad weather in Japan and a state of emergency declared in Florida, after two days of severe frosts provoked serious damage to crops (tomatoes, citrus, and sugar cane). At this point it is worth noting that the "frost lines" (isotherms), the south limit of frosts, annually drawn by the US Weather Service show that they have been gradually moving 150 kilometers to the south for the last 50 years or so - from Jacksonville to Orlando. You cannot grow oranges north of Orlando if you want to have a decent crop.

In those years, China suffered one of the worst climatic calamities since the civil war of the 40s. In the Hubei province, 800 kilometers south of Beijing, the main problem were floods that destroyed schools, hospitals, electric utilities, bridges, roads, and 210,000 homes, causing damages estimated in economic terms in 1 billion dollars, and the lost of 2,5 million tons of grain.

In the Hebei province, around Beijing itself, the problem was drought. In 1980, the rain monthly mean never went over 80% of "normal", and in many cases didn't even reach 30%. The losses in grain summed up to 4,5 million tons, and the level of underground water went so low that the provision of "drinkable" water was compromised. The problems of a suffering population were exacerbated by a terrible winter. China had to resort to help from the Western countries, but the trouble was they had to deal with their own problems, especially when the drought repeated again in the USA for a second year in a row, in 1981.

Nobody will be surprised now to know that the drought was caused by a blocking anticyclone over the western part of the USA. Not one, but three droughts, in the west, in the corn belt, and in the northwest, were the consequences of a complex blocking system that affected the whole of North America. The meteorological science is still unable to explain accurately why all that set of events had to occurr in a particular year, nor can predict the formation of such a blocking system. However, the science can put all those problems in their adequate historical perspective. We don't know exactly when blocking systems will happen, but we can see that the increasing frequency of droughts, heavy rains, and other climatic extrema should make us expect a return to the climatic conditions prevailing during the last millenium.

Climatology has received new contributions comingfrom other scientific fields, especially from astrophysics and astronomy. The most recent researchs in these fields allow now to predict with high accuracy the increase and decrease of solar activity, according to the position of the Sun regarding the baricenter (center of masses of the solar sustem), as the planets orbit around the Sun. It has been proved, beyond nay doubts or specualtions, that the sun's magnetic cycles have a decisive influence over important climatic events as the El Niño/ENSO, the amount of cosmic rays entering Earth's atmosphere (which determines de formation of clouds), and other vital things as the North Atlantic Oscillation. All these powerfull factors, interacting within a very complex system as the atmosphere, makes the rol of CO
2 as the main driving force behind the global warming, each day more insignificant and meaningless.

This also leaves on the open the useless futility of general circulation model, inefficient imitations of the Earth's climate usaed by the greenhouse industry in order to promote scare campaigns about the climatic future of the planet, trying to impose restrictive measures to fossil fuel uses – with more geopolitical implications than a real intention to stop an irreal warming that has not happened, not it has signs of ever happening.

Recommended readings:

1. Keplerian Planetary and Climatic Dynamics. "The “Solar Jerk”, The King-Hele Cycle, and the Challenge to Climate Science" by Rhodes W. Fairbridge, Emeritus Professor of Geology at Columbia University in New York.

2. July snow chills Interior: What the heck happened to July? It felt more like mid-October on Tuesday and Wednesday, as records fell all over the heart of Alaska.

: Scientific paper by Dr. Theodor Landscheidt (Schroeter Institute for Research in Cycles of Solar Activity, Germany), published in Proceedings of the 1st Solar & Space Weather Euroconference, 'The Solar Cycle and Terrestrial Climate', Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife, Spain, 25-29 September 2000 (ESA SP-463, December 2000). [Published here by Dr. Landscheidt's kind permission.]

: Scientific paper by Dr. Theodor Landscheidt (Schroeter Institute for Research in Cycles of Solar Activity, Germany), published in Proceedings of the 1st Solar & Space Weather Euroconference, 'The Solar Cycle and Terrestrial Climate', Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife, Spain, 25-29 September 2000 (ESA SP-463, December 2000). [Published here by Dr. Landscheidt's kind permission.]

5. New Little Ice Age Instead of Global Warming?
: A superb scientific paper by Dr. Theodor Landscheidt:

6. The Global Warming Folly: (by Prof. Zbigniew Jaworowski) - "Despite billions of dollars and millions of propaganda headlines, the global warming prophesied by the climate modelling industry is not scientifically real."

7. Modeling climatic effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions: unknowns and uncertainties
: Scientific paper by Dr. Willie Soon, S. Baliunas, Sherwood B. Idso, Kirill Ya. Kondratyev, and Eric S. Posmentier: A likelihood of disastrous global environmental consequences has been surmised as a result of projected increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. These estimates are based on computer climate modeling, a branch of science still in its infancy despite recent substantial strides in knowledge. This paper demonstrates why computer modelling can not be trusted at all.

8. A Global Warming Primer:
by by Gerald E. Marsh, physicist at Argonne National Laboratory - The purpose of this primer is to help the reader determine whether our understanding of the Earth's climate is adequate to predict the long term effects of carbon dioxide released as a result of the continued burning of fossil fuels. "... Given the uncertainties described above, and the current state of coupled ocean-atmosphere general-circulation models, the predictions of these models cannot and do not form a sound basis for public policy decisions." A "must read" report.

Go to John Daly's "Still Waiting For Greenhouse"

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