PerspectiveClimate Change

Why the Pacific is cool

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 952
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4840

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Summary

After a period of rapid global warming, the rate of global temperature rise has slowed markedly in the past 10 to 15 years. Is this “hiatus” a result of natural climate variability, or does it signify a change in the drivers of global warming? On page 988 of this issue, Steinman et al. (1) present time-series estimates of Atlantic and Pacific variability from state-of-the-art climate modeling. They show that in the past 130 years, periods of natural variability both in the Atlantic and Pacific have at times enhanced or counteracted the underlying global warming trend. The results support the conclusion that cool Pacific temperatures have played a key role in modulating atmospheric temperature increases in the past 10 years (2), only partially offset by modest warming in the Atlantic.