Long range heat wave forecasts

What if I could tell you today that we’d have a major heat wave on June 11? A recently-published study could make that possible. Researchers analyzing heat waves over several decades have found a signal that improves the reliability of long-range heat forecasts. Will it be useful for forecasting specific days? I have my doubts, but we’ll see. They apparently plan to use it quasi-operationally this summer.

The more likely scenario is that it will help improve probabilistic forecasts on a multi-day-to-month scale. For example, the one month and three month outlooks issued by the Climate Prediction Center. There’s clear value in knowing departure from normal conditions over the course of the next few months, particularly for agricultural concerns but also for civic planning. I’m not sure I see much value in knowing now that June 11 will be oppressively hot as opposed to June 4.

While this study got a fair amount of coverage in the weather press, I don’t see that it will have much of an impact to the general public for a while. In fact, if it results in gradual improvement to long-range probabilistic forecasts, the public will probably never notice the impact, even if it turns out to be substantial over the course of several years.

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