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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death With IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs