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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More