Sunday, February 09, 2014

Global Warming 'Pause' Due to Unusual Trade Winds in Pacific Ocean

The IPCC in 2013 pointed out that more than 90% of the world’s extra heat is being soaked up by the oceans, rather than lingering on the surface. (Credit: Universal History Archive/Getty Images) Click to enlarge.
Research looking at the effects of Pacific Ocean cycles has been gradually piecing together the puzzle explaining why the rise of global surface temperatures has slowed over the past 10 to 15 years.  A new study just published in Nature Climate Change, led by Matthew England at the University of New South Wales, adds yet another piece to the puzzle by examining the influence of Pacific trade winds.

Not only is this acceleration of trade winds unprecedented, but it also far exceeds anything captured by climate models.  Hence they have difficulty reproducing the recent slowdown in surface warming.  The catch is that oscillations eventually change phases, so as England notes, the strengthened trade winds and faster rate of ocean heat accumulation are only temporary.

While the rate of surface temperature warming has slowed in recent years, several studies have shown that the warming of the planet as a whole has not.  This suggests that the slowed surface warming is not due as much to external factors like decreased solar activity or more pollutants in the atmosphere blocking sunlight, but more due to internal factors shifting the heat into the oceans.  In particular, the rate at which the deep oceans have warmed over the past 10 to 15 years is unprecedented in the past half century.

Global Warming 'Pause' Due to Unusual Trade Winds in Pacific Ocean

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