Weather Warning: Searing Heat Wave May Hit East Coast in Late August, Scientists Predict

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Published August 13, 2011

| FoxNews.com

A new tech startup is promising to deliver a weather application that can predict extreme weather events up to 40 days before they happen -- but their claim is catching heat from veteran meteorologists.

The company, EarthRisk Technologies, has been working in conjunction with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego to develop the EarthRisk platform, and the HeatRisk subsystem that can see deadly heat waves long before they strike. 

The model calls for a steamy end to the month for East Coast residents.

"We are seeing HeatRisk signals in the late August time frame for the Eastern U.S.,” explained Steve Bennet, chief science officer of EarthRisk. But despite an 80 percent success rate with its predictions, Bennet cautioned that his system is just a tool for meteorologists to use, and not an outright forecast.

"EarthRisk is not in the business of forecasting so I would certainly never say a heat wave is coming,” Bennett conceded. “That said, there is no question that some patterns are lining up that signal a higher probability for heat in the late August time frame.”

Experts doubt even that. 

Simply put, in the world of weather, long range predictions are unheard of.

For instance, the National Weather Service forecasts out only to two weeks. It does have more general outlooks, but "there's a gap in weeks three and four" when it comes to hard forecasts, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the service's Climate Prediction Center.

“Weather becomes very hard to model because of chaos,” Bennett told FoxNews.com. If a butterfly flapping its wings can start a hurricane on the other side of the world, then theoretically, one would need to track these butterflies to accurately foresee the future.

“Modeling the atmosphere is a very complex process. We just don’t have enough observations to see that butterfly,” Bennett told FoxNews.com.

a screenshot of the heatray forecast system

EarthRisk's powerful new system can predict extreme weather events up to 40 days in advance.

With the sweltering heat waves raging across the U.S. all summer, long range forecasting would certainly provide invaluable preparation time for municipalities.

“By delivering reliable projections on the likelihood of a heat wave or extreme cold snap well in advance, energy companies can implement critical planning practices to meet air conditioning and heating demand more efficiently and at a lower cost,” Bennett explained.

“Our ability to extend the forecast beyond two weeks is an ability meteorologists and energy analysts alike have long been waiting for,” he added.

Unfortunately, that may still be a distant dream.

Bennett is nevertheless optimistic, claiming that by studying daily weather patterns and analyzing how they have led to major temperature events, his team has already "captured" that butterfly.

He and his team utilized over six decades of historical weather data to make their predictions. While past performance may not indicate future results for the financial markets, it certainly helps when it comes to weather.

Powered with this data, the platform accurately forecasted more than 80 percent of the severe cold fronts -- at least 15 to 20 days in advance -- that formed in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. between November 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, according to Reuters.

HeatRisk also gave fair warning of the northeast heat waves in early June and late July, two correctly predicted incidents that ended up being some of the hottest days on record.

For now, the system is geared towards big industrial users that could utilize this information to manage big dollar decisions, Bennett explained.

“As we get down the line, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that this technology could be incorporated to a consumer platform -- down to the level of just a basic weather forecast for anyone, the public,” Bennett told FoxNews.com.

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http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/08/13/weather-warning-searing-heat-wave-may-hit-east-coast-in-late-august-scientists/