Climate Change: Monstrous ‘Heat Waves’ Now Possible To Predict ‘Weeks’ Before They Strike, Scientists Say

Advance prediction of monstrous summer heat spells is now possible weeks before they strike, according to a recent study. Scientists say these predictions will pave the way for countries to prepare for these disasters much more efficiently. These revelations are particularly comforting given the soaring incidence of deadly and often life-threatening heat waves that have, of late, ravaged many communities around the world.

U.S. scientists are optimistic that potentially grievous repercussions of such spells can now by and large be averted thanks to the advances in weather prediction. Summer spells marked by intense heat in the United States and elsewhere can be predicted weeks in advance, giving emergency planners as well as farmers enough time for preparation.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

According to scientists, the key to such an advance forecast is the occurrence of a distinctive pattern of water temperatures observed across vast swathes of the Pacific Ocean.

In a study published recently in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers successfully tracked and recorded extreme summer temperatures across the eastern part of the United States over the last three decades and correlated these measurements with irregularities in ocean temperature corresponding to the same period. What emerged was a conspicuous pattern where soaring sea temperatures appeared to precede a similar onset of extreme heat spells above land.

Climate scientists are thrilled at the very prospect of being able to prognosticate the future likelihood of these traumatic climate events. According to climate expert Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona, these are encouraging developments.

"There are many possible health, economic and other impacts of these hot temperatures and advanced warning can only help,"
Heat is the top weather-related killer in the United States. Last year, temperatures recorded across the U.S. Southeast were nearly 15 degrees higher than usual with temperatures ranging between 100 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit, documenting record-high temperatures in a 100-year period or more according to climate statistics. Similarly, a record-shattering heat wave swept across western Europe with temperatures sometimes soaring past the 40° Celsius mark in Portugal, Spain, and France. The paralyzing heat spell arriving from Africa to Europe persisted for weeks engulfing the entire continent.

Last year, a relentless heat wave had claimed over 2,000 lives in India, overwhelming hospitals and devastating the country with temperatures soaring as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees Celsius. In neighboring Pakistan, the port city of Karachi experienced temperatures touching 113 degrees Fahrenheit or 45 degrees Celsius, causing nearly 700 deaths in a series of previously unprecedented heat spells. This year, January and February have set more new monthly temperature records, with the heat particularly pronounced in the high northern latitudes.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

According to Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, working towards "climate and weather resilient communities" remains a key objective of the global sustainable development initiative.

"Today the Earth is already 1°C hotter than at the start of the twentieth century. The international community has unanimously recognized the need for bold action".
A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity, particularly in oceanic climate countries. It tends to progress over a period of days, and therefore doesn't quite arouse the same level of urgency as other serious weather events do, namely rainstorms and twisters.

Experts feel research has made significant enough strides into the study of high temperature extremes. They seem confident that anticipating deadly heat waves with a remarkable degree of precision is a major leap forward. They believe it can help science progress a long way in determining precisely how heat-wave-related catastrophes can be drastically reduced if not altogether averted.

[Image via Shutterstock]