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Climate science

Heads up on a heat wave


A model for forecasting seasonal climate in the United States was able to predict months in advance the intense summer heat that scorched the country's central plains last year (pictured).

Lifeng Luo at Michigan State University in East Lansing and Yan Zhang at Scinovation in Princeton, New Jersey, compared the observed number of extremely hot days in the region last summer with temperature-anomaly predictions made by the National Weather Service's upgraded Climate Forecast System, which became operational at the end of March 2011. Almost all the 424 runs of the model between April and mid-July 2011 accurately predicted an unusually large number of days with extreme temperatures in the region.

As the summer approached, the model became more certain about where, when and how intense the heat wave would be.

Successful prediction of a climate extreme adds confidence to seasonal climate forecasts, the authors say. But how often the model correctly predicts future events still needs to be evaluated, they caution.


Geophys. Res. Lett. (2012)

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Heads up on a heat wave. Nature 484, 8 (2012).

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