Energy

Study Resurrects The Global Warming ‘Hiatus’

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor

A new study resurrects the idea of the so-called “hiatus” in global warming about one month after government scientists claimed the lull in temperature rise was an aberration in the data.

Scientists in California argue the “decade long hiatus that began in 2003 is the result of a redistribution of heat within the ocean” instead of a slowdown in the planet’s net warming rate. The study doesn’t question the existence of the pause, but instead provides an analysis of how a slowdown in ocean temperatures caused the warming “hiatus.”

“The global average surface temperature has been rising since 2003 by +0.001°C/year,” according to the study by scientists with the University of California and CalTech. “Although not zero, it is slower than the century time-scale warming of +0.0064 ± 0.0015°C/year since 1880.

Interestingly enough, the study was published in the same journal that published a report by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists arguing there was twice as much warming since 1998 than older datasets suggested. Essentially, the study claimed that newly adjusted surface temperature data showed no warming hiatus.

“Newly corrected and updated global surface temperature data from NOAA’s [National Centers for Environmental Information] do not support the notion of a global warming ‘hiatus,’” the NOAA study found.

Interestingly enough, NOAA scientists effectively eliminated the pause by adjusting sea surface temperatures taken from ships and buoys upward. Ship temperature adjustments “had the largest impact on trends for the 2000-2014 time period, accounting for 0.030°C of the 0.064°C trend difference.” Corrections to buoys “because of their greater accuracy contributed 0.012°C” to ending the hiatus.

The new study, however, found that a shallow patch of water in the Pacific Ocean was slowing down warming in the last decade. Researchers write that in “the most recent decade, cooling in the top 100 m layer of the Pacific Ocean is compensated by warming in the 100 to 300 m layer of the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans with the largest contribution in the tropics.”

Climate scientists skeptical of man-made global warming say the study is significant because it was published just weeks after NOAA tried to claim the hiatus resonate from biases in the data.

“[T]he main story here is not the new findings… but that Science magazine is publishing a paper describing physical mechanisms behind the hiatus that was accepted in its final form on June 24th, three weeks after Science’s paper announcing the hiatus to be a non-event,” wrote Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, climate scientists with the libertarian Cato Institute.

“The new paper contains a lot of science while the earlier paper rehashed some old findings (published elsewhere) and then spun them to make it seem as if the hiatus didn’t exist,” the libertarian scientists added.

Georgia Tech climatologist Judith Curry argued the study presents a better picture of vertical and horizontal heat distribution in the oceans. Curry also added the study shows there’s no observational evidence that the “missing heat” from global warming is being trapped in the deep oceans.

“Well, it will certainly be interesting to see what the media does with this paper, after declaring the hiatus an artifact several weeks ago,” Curry wrote in her blog. “It will be interesting to see how (or if) this paper plays out in the mainstream media.”

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