Something’s not quite right with the climate. Over the past few years, while global CO2 emissions have continued to swell, the global temperature rise has leveled off. (Temperatures have not cooled, however; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just announced that last month was the warmest March on record.) Meanwhile, satellites and other observational tools indicate that the net heat retained by the planet has continued to increase, and that excess energy should be pushing up surface temperatures. But it's not.
In fact, up to half the heat energy that was expected to fuel global warming since 2003 has gone “missing.” In a new article in the April 15 issue of Science, Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) ponder where that heat may have gone — and what it could mean for the future of the climate. “We wanted to put together a narrative that deals with the recent leveling off of temperature,” says Fasullo. “We wanted to go beyond temperature and explain the energy leaving the system and entering the system, the change of the flow of energy.”