The wave pattern occurs high in the atmosphere above the Northern Hemisphere. Five high pressure systems and five low pressure systems alternate forming a ring. It causes air to become stagnant, leading to still and stuffy conditions.
The project scientists detected the formation by examining a 12,000-year simulation of atmospheric conditions above the Northern Hemisphere.
If proven valid, scientists will monitor for the formation. Accurate predictions of heat waves could be made up to two weeks in advance of lingering hot air.
The study will be published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Image: Map of air flow a few miles above ground level in the Northern Hemisphere showing the type of pattern associated with U.S. drought (Credit: Haiyan Teng)