Quantcast
Popular
Pacific Ocean sunset in San Diego. Michael Matti / Flickr

Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Is Over

By Tim Radford

It is official. The world is warming according to expectations. The so-called and much debated "pause" in global warming is over. And the culprit that tried to cool the planet in spite of ever-rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

Blame it on the Pacific Ocean. It went into a not-so-hot phase, part of a long-term natural cycle, which has now come to an end. This explains the apparent slowdown in the rate of global warming. The verdict comes from the UK Met Office, which is host to the oldest continuous record of temperatures in the world, and which pioneered weather science.


"After a period during the early 2000s when the rise in global mean temperature slowed, the values in 2015 and 2016 broke records and passed 1°C above pre-industrial levels," said professor Stephen Belcher, chief scientist at the Met Office. "Data from the Met Office shows that the long-term rate of global warming has now returned to the level seen in the second half of the 20th century."

The so-called hiatus in global warming between 1999 and 2014 was a phenomenon much hailed by climate deniers as evidence that global warming did not exist, or had stopped. But it also provided the climate scientists, oceanographers, glaciologists and weather forecaster of the planet with a puzzle: why did the atmospheric temperature not conform to expectations? What followed would provide academics with a case study of how science is done: researchers around the world looked at the problem in a score of ways, and delivered what may be a dozen tentative answers.

Global warming records

First, the record: for the second half of the 20th century, the world warmed, steadily and consistently, in line with predictions based on the greenhouse effect. That is, carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere through profligate fossil fuel use since the Industrial Revolution, was trapping infrared radiation and warming the planet.

But for the first decade and a half of this century, the rate of warming slowed. Some researchers reasoned that the effect would be temporary while others considered the evidence again and wondered if there could be said to have been a slowdown at all: the evidence was either illusory or only looked like a slowdown considered in the short term. Other researchers argued that even if average rates of rise seemed to have dropped, the number of extremes of heat had increased or that an increase in the number of volcanic eruptions might be masking solar radiation and lowering the temperatures.

Role of oceans

Yet further groups suggested that the oceans had played an unexpected role or that such an apparent slowdown made no difference: warming would happen as usual.

For three years, global temperature records were broken, each year hotter than the last and in 2016, the global average temperature stood at 1°C above the long-term industrial average. Part of the explanation is that global temperatures were heightened by a natural phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean called El Niño. But for a decade or so earlier in the century, another Pacific feature was slowly unfolding: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which blows warm and cool, in a cyclic pattern. And this time, said Met Office scientists, it damped down the rate of global warming.

This year is unlikely to break all records. But, the Met Office chiefs said, the rate of warming has increased: the world will go on getting hotter.

"The end of the recent slowdown in global warming is due to a flip in Pacific sea-surface temperatures," said Adam Scaife, who heads monthly-to-decadal prediction for the Met Office. "This was due to a change in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation which entered its positive phase, warming the tropics, the west coast of North America and the globe overall."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Right: magpiessoftserve / Instagram Left: veganrobs / Instagram

11 Vegan Food Trends to Watch in 2018

By Danny Prater

New dairy-free favorites, surprising protein sources and automated everything: We've prepped a list of 2019's biggest food trends—all vegan, of course. Like you, millions of people are more curious than ever before about the latest developments in the vegan culinary world. Below, you can check out the newest, fanciest vegan foods and the hottest trends that will help you reduce your environmental footprint, improve your personal health and spare hundreds of animals a violent death in the coming year.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

New York Gov. Proposes State Legalize Recreational Marijuana

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he will push to fully legalize recreational marijuana in the state as part of his agenda for the next year.

"The fact is we have had two criminal justice systems: one for the wealthy and the well off, and one for everyone else," Cuomo said in a speech about his agenda for the first 100 days of his third term, as quoted by The New York Times.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Circus elephants. Laura LaRose / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

New Jersey Is First State to Ban Wild Animal Circus Acts

It is now illegal to use elephants, tigers and other wild and exotic animals in traveling animal acts in New Jersey, the first state to mandate such a move.

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed "Nosey's Law," the namesake of a 36-year-old African elephant with crippling arthritis that was forced to travel around the country, including to the Garden State, for traveling circus acts and suffered abuse, according to a press release from the governor's office.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
ExxonMobil refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. WClarke / CC BY-SA 4.0

Major Investors Pressure Exxon to Set CO2 Reduction Targets

The world's largest oil company is being pressured by major shareholders to take action on climate change.

Institutional investors with an estimated $1.9 trillion under management, led by the New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYSCRF) and the Church Commissioners of England (CCE), filed a shareholder resolution calling on ExxonMobil to set targets for lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, covering emissions from both its operations and the use of its products.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Minimize plastic waste by wrapping gifts with reusable, recyclable and biodegradable materials. Westend61 / Getty Images

How to Have Yourself a Plastic-Free Christmas

By Manuela Taboada, Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Hope Johnson, Leonie Barner and Rowena Maguire

Research shows that waste can double during the Christmas period, and most of it is plastic from gift wrapping and packaging. The British, for example, go through more than 40 million rolls of (mostly plastic) sticky tape every year, and use enough wrapping paper to go around the Equator nine times.

We love plastic. It is an amazing material, so ubiquitous in our lives we barely notice it. Unfortunately, plastic waste has become a serious worldwide environmental and health issue. If we don't love the idea of a planet covered in plastic waste, we urgently need to reduce our plastic consumption.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Patrick Neufelder / Pixabay

2018: The Year Things Fell Apart — or the Year the Tide Turned?

By John R. Platt

This has been one hell of a tough year for the planet.

Just look at the past few weeks: The Trump administration tried to bury its own climate report, planned to eliminate sage-grouse protection on millions of acres of oil-rich land, allowed more pollution from coal plants, and then withdrew the Waters of the United States rule, threatening the entire Clean Water Act in the process.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Business
Swen Pförtner / Getty Images

Amazon Employees Praised for Using Shareholder Status to Demand Comprehensive Climate Plan

By Jessica Corbett

A small group of Amazon workers is receiving big praise for their efforts to force their employer to be a better steward of the planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
A container of Johnson's baby powder sits on a table. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson Knew About Asbestos in Baby Powder for Decades, Reuters Investigation Finds

By Jessica Corbett

A Reuters investigation published Friday charges that Johnson & Johnson, a multi-billion dollar company known for its healthcare products, knew for decades that its iconic talcum baby powder "was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos," but concealed the information from regulators and the public.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!