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Atlantic and Pacific multidecadal oscillations and Northern Hemisphere temperatures

Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 988-991
DOI: 10.1126/science.1257856

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Is the end of the warming hiatus nigh?

Which recent climate changes have been forced by greenhouse gas emissions, and which have been natural fluctuations of the climate system? Steinman et al. combined observational data and a large collection of climate models to assess the Northern Hemisphere climate over the past 150 years (see the Perspective by Booth). At various points in time, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation have played particularly large roles in producing temperature trends. Their effects have combined to cause the apparent pause in warming at the beginning of the 21st century, known as the warming “hiatus.” This pause is projected to end in the near future as temperatures resume their upward climb.

Science, this issue p. 988; see also p. 952

Abstract

The recent slowdown in global warming has brought into question the reliability of climate model projections of future temperature change and has led to a vigorous debate over whether this slowdown is the result of naturally occurring, internal variability or forcing external to Earth’s climate system. To address these issues, we applied a semi-empirical approach that combines climate observations and model simulations to estimate Atlantic- and Pacific-based internal multidecadal variability (termed “AMO” and “PMO,” respectively). Using this method, the AMO and PMO are found to explain a large proportion of internal variability in Northern Hemisphere mean temperatures. Competition between a modest positive peak in the AMO and a substantially negative-trending PMO are seen to produce a slowdown or “false pause” in warming of the past decade.

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