News / Science & Technology

Scientists Identify Way to Predict Heat Waves

Roofers take their lunch break in the shade of a tree in rural Ashland, Nebraska, Aug. 27, 2013, as a late summer heat wave sends temperatures into the high 90s.
Roofers take their lunch break in the shade of a tree in rural Ashland, Nebraska, Aug. 27, 2013, as a late summer heat wave sends temperatures into the high 90s.
Rosanne Skirble
Days of unrelenting high temperatures are the most deadly weather phenomenon on Earth, but like other extreme weather events, they are difficult to predict.

Across Europe in 2003, heat waves were blamed for 50,000 deaths. Six hundred lives were lost in California in 2006 because of the scorching temperatures.

Now scientists have identified a weather pattern in the atmosphere that may help meteorologists predict heat waves and, as a result, save lives.

Heat wave precursor

While prior studies have focused on land or sea surface conditions to try to identify patterns that precede heat waves, climate scientist Haiyan Teng turned her attention to the atmosphere.
This image shows the differences in day time land surface temperatures collected in July 2001 and during the 2003 heat wave by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. (NASA/Reto Stockli and Robert Simmon, basedThis image shows the differences in day time land surface temperatures collected in July 2001 and during the 2003 heat wave by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. (NASA/Reto Stockli and Robert Simmon, based
x
This image shows the differences in day time land surface temperatures collected in July 2001 and during the 2003 heat wave by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. (NASA/Reto Stockli and Robert Simmon, based
This image shows the differences in day time land surface temperatures collected in July 2001 and during the 2003 heat wave by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. (NASA/Reto Stockli and Robert Simmon, based
She and colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, ran a 12,000-year computer simulation over the northern hemisphere.

"Instead of just 20 or 30 from the last 50 years of observations, we’ve got 6,000 extreme heat wave events," she said. "This gives us enough samples to study the precursor circulation patterns for these heat waves.”

Teng says the computer model identified a pattern that showed up before the temperature rose. It is characterized by a sequence of alternating high and low pressure systems - five of each - circling the northern latitudes.

“It’s high above the atmosphere in the upper troposphere and this pattern [precedes] the U.S. heat waves by two weeks,” she said.

Making the connection

While the pattern is well documented in the historic record, this is the first time it has been connected to extreme heat waves. When the scientists reviewed real heat waves in the United States dating back to 1948, a similar pattern often emerged.

“We think, ok, this pattern is a pattern in nature, and it is useful for the heat wave probability forecast. It is an estimate of the probability, not exactly how warm the temperature is going to be," Teng said.
Scientists Identify Way to Predict Heat Waves
Scientists Identify Way to Predict Heat Wavesi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

The wave pattern Teng describes in the journal Nature Geoscience is global in scale and has implications beyond the Northern Hemisphere.

While more research needs to be done to confirm the findings, Teng says her team will continue their search for other circulation and environmental factors that foreshadow extreme weather.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid