A rift is growing in the so-called consensus on global warming that’s as wide as the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists just can’t seem to agree on whether or not the 15-year hiatus in warming actually exists or not.
A recent study by Stanford University scientists reinforces the claim made by federal government researchers earlier this year that the hiatus in global warming was essentially a fluke in the surface temperature data and never actually existed.
The Stanford study comes just months after scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) made adjustments to surface temperature data that eliminated the 15-year hiatus in global warming. The data adjustments were highly controversial among climate scientists, but now Stanford researchers have put forward new data they say confirm there was no hiatus in warming.
“Our results clearly show that, in terms of the statistics of the long-term global temperature data, there never was a hiatus, a pause or a slowdown in global warming,” Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh said in a statement following the study’s release.
But scientists across the Atlantic aren’t buying American scientists’ claims the hiatus in warming never happened. Just a couple days before the release of the Stanford study, the UK’s Met Office — the premier climate research unit in the country — released findings that the hiatus in warming could last a few more years because of natural cooling cycles over the Atlantic Ocean.
“Observational and model estimates further suggest [Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation] shifts have an effect on global mean near-surface temperatures of about 0.1˚C,” the Met Office wrote in its September climate outlook. “A rapid AMO decline could therefore maintain the current slowdown in global warming longer than would otherwise be the case.”
Though the Met Office did say this year’s El Nino is likely to make 2015 as warm or warmer than 2014 — which was declared the warmest year on record by government meteorologists. Met Office scientists also cautioned that “there are signs in the observations and near term climate predictions that are consistent with a resumption of warming.”
But even if warming resumes this next year, which is made more likely by El Nino, the Met Office still acknowledges there is in fact a slowdown or hiatus in global warming. The Met Office says “the rate of warming has slowed over the most recent 15 years or so.” This stands in stark contrast to Stanford and NOAA scientists that say the hiatus in warming never even existed.
The hiatus or pause in warming has been heavily researched in the past few years, and scientists have put forward dozens of explanations to why warming has dramatically slowed. The temperature record showed a lack of warming from the late 1990s the early 2010s, which meant that most climate models were over-predicting how much warming would be caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions.
Now, more and more scientists are saying the pause was just an aberration in the data. NOAA scientists eliminated the hiatus from the temperature record by adjusting temperatures taken by ocean buoys upwards to match those taken from ships. The Stanford study analyzed old temperature data sets along with newly corrected records to bolster its findings that there was no pause in warming.
“By using both datasets, nobody can claim that we made up a new statistical technique in order to get a certain result,” Bala Rajaratnam, a Stanford statistician and scientist, said in a statement.
“We saw that there was a debate in the scientific community about the global warming hiatus, and we realized that the assumptions of the classical statistical tools being used were not appropriate and thus could not give reliable answers,” said Rajaratnam.
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