Heatwaves: Scientist identify atmospheric wave pattern

NASA’s Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) sensor
Heat wave over USA in 2006 captured by NASA’s Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) sensor on the Aqua satellite.
Credits: NASA

Scientists of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have identified a distinctive atmospheric wave pattern high above the Northern Hemisphere that can foreshadow the emergence of summertime heat waves in the United States more than two weeks in advance. The study was conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR's sponsor. NASA scientists helped guide the project and are involved in broader research in this area.

ScienceDaily reported: "The research team discerned the pattern by analyzing a 12,000-year simulation of the atmosphere over the Northern Hemisphere. During those times when a distinctive "wavenumber-5" pattern emerged, a major summertime heat wave became more likely to subsequently build over the United States."

"It may be useful to monitor the atmosphere, looking for this pattern, if we find that it precedes heat waves in a predictable way," says NCAR scientist Haiyan Teng, the lead author. "This gives us a potential source to predict heat waves beyond the typical range of weather forecasts."The study will be published next week in Nature Geoscience.