Climate change is causing the Earth to get hotter; 2015 is the hottest year ever recorded and is on course to be surpassed by 2016. Extreme heat waves are getting more common, causing untimely deaths for vulnerable populations like elderly people, as well as increased energy requirements for air conditioning and problems for natural ecosystems.
We noticed that in the months just before Central Europe experienced an especially harsh heat wave in the summer of 2015, the surface temperatures in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean were exceptionally cold. Yes, cold. Why would the ocean be extra-cold before the air over land was extra-warm? Could these unusually cool ocean surface temperatures in the North Atlantic ocean be a precursor to heat waves in Europe? If so, monitoring ocean temperatures could help us predict – and prepare for – heat waves in the future.