Pacific Ocean Cooler, Could Contribute to Global Warming 'Hiatus'

Thursday, 29 Aug 2013 05:49 PM

By Morgan Chilson

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Cooler Pacific Ocean temperatures could explain the "global warming hiatus," computer models exploring the change show.

Despite increasing levels of manmade greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere the past 15 years, average surface temperatures increased at a slower-than-expected rate, The Weather Channel said. In looking for a reason for that, computer models at Scripps Institution of Oceanography determined that cool sea surface temps in just a small part of the Pacific Ocean accounted for the leveling off of surface temperatures.

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The study by Scripps, published in the journal Nature this week, said it was surprising such a small ocean area, about 8.2 percent of the Earth’s surface, had such an impact.

Scientists at Scripps said that when the weather phenomenon that is cooling the ocean temperatures stops, global warming will continue “with vigor.” They weren’t able to estimate when that might occur.

The Weather Channel said one of Scripps’ researchers expects to see “much, much stronger warming” about equivalent to that seen from the 1970s to the 90s.

The slowed increase in mean global temperatures led some to speculate that increased carbon dioxide concentrations aren’t as tied to global warming as predicted, Scripps researchers said. But climate researchers incorporated the cooled ocean temperatures into the modeling and realized that the global warming hiatus was being impacted by that occurrence.

The Weather Channel said an upcoming report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change puts the warming rate for the past 15 years at about 0.09 degrees Farenheit per 10-year period, a smaller increase than the trends since the early 1950s. From 1901 to 2012, the globe heated up by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

At least one NASA scientist said the study was just part of the discussion about global warming, The Weather Channel said. Other studies are ongoing around the world to determine the reason for the global warming hiatus.

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