Climate Science

Where's Warming?

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Science  12 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6129, pp. 123
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6129.123-a

The addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere caused by fossil fuel burning and other anthropogenic activity has caused temperatures at the surface of Earth to increase significantly over the past century and a half, and rapidly during the interval from around 1975 until the early years of the 21st century. However, sea surface and surface-air temperatures have not risen over most of the past decade, encouraging some to question the continued reality of global warming, despite the fact that similar variability also can be seen in the instrumental records of the past century. The real question, then, is not whether climate warming has stopped, but where in the earth system the heat resides that would have caused the expected warming? Naturally, the first place to look is in the ocean, because that is where most of the heat taken up due to global warming is stored. Accordingly, Balmaseda et al. conducted a reanalysis of changes in the global ocean heat content from 1958 through 2009 and found that much of the warming has occurred below depths of 700 m, rather than in the surface ocean, and that much of that redistribution is due to changes in surface winds over that period. This helps to explain why air temperatures have not reflected this heating and shows that global warming is continuing, but out of our daily reach.

Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1002/grl.50382 (2013).

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