Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Forecasting temperature extremes with ozone

Jennifer Chu at MIT News: For the past two summers, Australians have sweated through record heat waves, with thermometers climbing as high as 118 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the country. In January, officials were forced to halt tennis matches during the Australian Open due to extreme heat — a decision made following several days of sizzling temperatures.

Now MIT researchers have found that the intensity of summer temperatures in Australia and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere may be better predicted as early as the previous spring by an unlikely indicator: ozone.

From their study, published in the Journal of Climate, the scientists found that as the springtime ozone hole’s severity varies from year to year, the temperatures in Australia and southern regio
ns of Africa and South America reveal correlations: Years with higher springtime ozone experience hotter summers, and vice versa.

The results suggest that ozone levels may help meteorologists predict the severity of summertime temperatures months in advance.

“No one has actually looked at the variation of ozone as a way to forecast or predict the climate or the next summer’s temperature,” says lead author Justin Bandoro, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “This could be especially important for farmers, and for areas like southeastern Australia, where most of that nation’s population resides.”...

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