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Ocean Temps Predict US Heat Waves 50 Days Out, Study Finds (ucar.edu) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from UCAR.edu: The formation of a distinct pattern of sea surface temperatures in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean can predict an increased chance of summertime heat waves in the eastern half of the United States up to 50 days in advance, according to a new study led by a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The pattern is a contrast of warmer-than-average water butting up against cooler-than-average seas. When it appears, the odds that extreme heat will strike during a particular week -- or even on a particular day -- can more than triple, depending on how well-formed the pattern is. "We found that we could go back as far as seven weeks and still predict an increase in the odds of future heat waves," said McKinnon, a postdoctoral research at NCAR and the lead author of the study. "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."
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Ocean Temps Predict US Heat Waves 50 Days Out, Study Finds

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  • Study finds (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Light this morning, with increasing chance of darkness in the evening hours

    • by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @09:19AM (#51799247)

      Scientists believe there was no darkness before humanity and their CFC pollutants came along. Modeling shows conclusively that temperatures were milder, bowling scores were much higher, golf scores much lower, and waterslides were much more excellent in the pre-Phanerozoic eons.

      • Scientists believe there was no darkness before humanity and their CFC pollutants came along. Modeling shows conclusively that temperatures were milder, bowling scores were much higher, golf scores much lower, and waterslides were much more excellent in the pre-Phanerozoic eons.

        They also think that humor was funnier.

        • Scientists believe there was no darkness before humanity and their CFC pollutants came along. Modeling shows conclusively that temperatures were milder, bowling scores were much higher, golf scores much lower, and waterslides were much more excellent in the pre-Phanerozoic eons.

          They also think that humor was funnier.

          But, but... Fred, Barney, Wilma and... and Barney's wife! Dino get me off this crazy thing!

    • Bah there no real science behind that. it is all part of the Liberal Agenda for them to take over our lives.
      Some days it says light for over 16 hours a day, while other times is barely 8 hours of light. There are reports that some people have days that go by of all darkness and sometimes days of all light. How can you make sense of such chaos, to make a general statement like that.
      Night and Day is a myth.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm pretty sure knowing there's a higher than normal chance of a heat wave 50 days from know wouldn't alter my behavior or lifestyle in any way, and even people like farmers probably wouldn't change anything because:
    a) 50 days out is a long time away, and
    b) there still is only a relatively small chance a heatwave will actually occur. Unless it's summer, in which case heat waves always occur 80% of the time.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by ( 4475953 )
      Thank God that there are plenty of distinguished meteorologists like you on Slashdot to put sensationalist headlines into perspective.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If, as the summary says, they could pinpoint it to a particular week, then this would actually be quite useful. People who are at increased risk of death during a heat wave (ex: elderly) would do well to get out of the area. Our normal 10 day (or less) forecast isn't much time to plan a vacation, but if you had 50 days notice (and could count on the timing of the forecast) then those people would have plenty of time to make vacation plans to get out of the area.

      Similarly, in the summer we often take several

    • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @09:51AM (#51799407) Journal

      If you tell a farmer that there's a heatwave coming in ~50 days, I guarantee you they will do things differently.

      Water patterns, planting patterns, fertilizing patterns, moving livestock to better places, etc, etc, etc.

      I'm guessing you're not too familiar with farmers.

      • All they can tell a farmer is that there is a 25% chance that somewhere in the eastern or midwestern US will experience a temperature increase of 11.7 degrees over the average temperature in the next 50 days. This is a slight increase over guessing which yields a 17% success rate.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You are implying that the information has no value.

      I guess that at very least knowing in advance that a heatwave is coming could be used as a decision factor to proactively activate standby power generation facilities, reducing associated rushed setup costs.

      There's value in correct and timely information. You just have to know how to extract it.

  • From TFA:

    Scientists do not yet know why the fingerprint on sea surface temperatures in the Pacific predicts heat in the eastern U.S. It could be that the sea surface temperatures themselves kick off weather patterns that cause the heat. Or it could be that they are both different results of the same phenomenon, but one does not cause the other.

    • "Scientists unsure if correlation equals causation."

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That requires another study... and another multi-year, multi-million dollar research grant (taxpayer funded, of course)

  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @09:22AM (#51799255) Homepage

    Correlation is enough for short-term prediction, which is all they're claiming.

    But if ocean temperatures (which are rising) are the indicator to this prediction, you folks in the east had best be getting ready for more frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves.

    • by Layzej ( 1976930 )
      In this case they are looking at a distinct pattern of warm water relative to the surrounding seas, so warmer seas overall may not play a part in this phenomenon.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      While I'm entirely convinced of rising ocean temps, your logic is flawed.

      What we know (assuming that we accept this research result as true), is that a peak of high ocean temps in one location statistically correlates with a heave wave in another location. We do not know that an overall rise of the ocean temps correlates to more or hotter heat waves in the second location. An increase in the "base level" temperature may well have no such affect. Or it may even have an opposite effect by reorienting / redist

    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @09:44AM (#51799377)

      Correlation is enough for short-term prediction, which is all they're claiming.

      But if ocean temperatures (which are rising) are the indicator to this prediction, you folks in the east had best be getting ready for more frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves.

      And a notice is a darn nice thing to have. If a city knows that a heat wave is likely, they can prepare for it. And that will save lives.

      While to me, at first it seems like understanding the causation will follow pretty quickly - after all, this is energy stored in the ocean, so it's going to want to shed it somewhere, who knows for certain? A good use of research dollars.

      I suspect people getting snarky about this are just venting because its related to you-know-what.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        We will have to see how it plays out. For example these days we get things like "20%" "40%" "80%" chance of rain. They don't seem to correlate well to real world results, especially within any small area. Hopefully something like "35% higher chance of severe heat wave" will actually correlate to something useful. Because after people prepare for a heat wave a couple of times and nothing much manifests - that's all she wrote. No more preparations will ever happen.
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        While to me, at first it seems like understanding the causation will follow pretty quickly - after all, this is energy stored in the ocean, so it's going to want to shed it somewhere, who knows for certain? A good use of research dollars.

        Actually, ocean heat is generally released by hurricanes, tropical storms and cyclones. They're basically all natural heat engines, which given the amount of heat energy the ocean can store is the reason why the storms can be quite powerful. It's why they continue to grow

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      But if ocean temperatures (which are rising) are the indicator to this prediction, you folks in the east had best be getting ready for more frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves.

      Read the article. They weren't looking just at "how high are ocean temperatures". They were looking at a specific pattern where the ocean was warmer than usual in one part of the ocean while cooler than usual in another part of the ocean, and these pair of things predicted the heat wave.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Correlation is enough for short-term prediction, which is all they're claiming.

      But if ocean temperatures (which are rising) are the indicator to this prediction, you folks in the east had best be getting ready for more frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves.

      Sounds good to me. We've had it pretty light the last few years. In high school 10+ years ago I remember regularly having days hovering near 100 with extremely high humidity. Last few summers it's barely pushed past 90.

  • Link to paper (Score:4, Informative)

    by orledrat ( 3490981 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @09:33AM (#51799309)
    Neither the summary nor TFA has a link to the actual paper [nature.com]. Insensitive clods, the both of 'em.
  • . . .otherwise, one could argue that the lack of Pirates causes Global Warming [carbonplanet.com]. . . .

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @10:16AM (#51799585) Journal

      Correllation is not Causation

      Oh FFS, I wish this meme would die. I mean in particular the way people parrot it as a subsitute for insight.

      No, correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but it does have predictive power, which is what TFA is about.

      • Correllation is not Causation

        Oh FFS, I wish this meme would die. I mean in particular the way people parrot it as a subsitute for insight.

        No, correlation does not necessarily imply causation, but it does have predictive power, which is what TFA is about.

        I hear you. Try this: the next time some insensitive clod brings up that played-out prat just tell them about autocorrelation.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What does causation have to do with the article? It doesn't matter whether patterns of sea-surface temperatures cause heat waves, or whether they're both caused by a third factor. Either way, sea-surface temperatures are useful for *predictions* of heat waves.

      The distinction would be important if we were trying to prevent heat waves by altering sea-surface temperatures, but no one is suggesting that.

    • . . .otherwise, one could argue that the lack of Pirates causes Global Warming [carbonplanet.com]. . . .

      Considering they are both side effects of a stable industrialized global society, it's probably a pretty good correllation.

  • by butchersong ( 1222796 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2016 @11:13AM (#51799999)
    Data crunching is awesome and I'm all for looking for these patterns but they predicting a change in the odds from 1-6 to 1-4 "that a heat wave would strike somewhere in the eastern U.S. during a given week" betwen June and August.. I'm not sure how useful this is.
  • In related news, projections are that by 2025 most of the South will become a desert, with 50 C (that's really really hot in F) temps, similar to the wildfire-causing heat waves in Australia.

    Yes, Climate Change is real. And you didn't do anything about it, so it's going to be really really bad.

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