Discovery May Provide 50-Day Warning for Heat Waves

Scientist spot pattern with ocean temperatures
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2016 3:40 PM CDT
Discovery May Provide 50-Day Warning for Heat Waves
Ocean temperatures might provide an early warning about heat waves on the East Coast.   (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Meteorologists might be able to predict heat waves on the East Coast up to 50 days in advance by keeping an eye on ocean temperatures far, far away. Scientists writing in Nature Geoscience say they've picked up on a connection: When a particular weather event known as the Pacific Extreme Pattern shows up north of Hawaii, it triggers a chain of events that results in oppressive heat in the East in the not-too-distant future, reports Ars Technica. The researchers noticed the pattern after crunching data from US weather stations going back to 1982, along with corresponding sea surface temperatures. The PEP occurs in a particular region near Hawaii when colder-than-normal water meets warmer-than-normal water, and its presence means that the risk of a heat wave on the East Coast can triple, the scientists write in a news release.

"We found that we could go back as far as seven weeks and still predict an increase in the odds of future heat waves," says researcher Karen McKinnon of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "What's exciting about this is the potential for long-range predictions of individual heat waves that gives society far more notice than current forecasts." They plan to start using the data to forecast heat waves in May, reports AP. Ideally, cities would be better able to prepare for potentially deadly stretches, like a particularly brutal one in 2012. What's more, scientists hope to use the insight to find more patterns that can predict other extreme weather events. (This might have been the weirdest weather moment of 2015.)

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