Ocean waves and temperatures can predict extreme summer heat

Research points toward a seven-week forecast for heatwaves.

Associated Press

Predicting the weather typically caps out around 10 days in advance for certain factors, but a new study could extend that up to almost two months. By measuring the surface temperature of oceans from 1982 to 2015, specifically in 2012, The New York Times writes that a team of researchers (PDF) noticed correlations between a pair of precursors leading to hotter days in parts of North America: precipitation deficits and "anomalous atmospheric wave trains." The former is pretty easy to understand. The latter, standard parts of atmospheric flow caused by wind, are abnormal patterns of crests and troughs leading to shore.

The idea behind this research is that eventually we'd be able to better predict heat waves, something current long-lead forecasting does not. The scientists write that ultimately the seven-week advance notice could help us better prepare for extreme heat, which may even save lives -- especially important considering that a heat wave in 1995 claimed the lives of some 700 sick and elderly Chicagoans.