Recent hiatus caused by decadal shift in Indo-Pacific heating

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Science  31 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6247, pp. 532-535
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4521

Looking for the missing heat

Global warming apparently slowed, or even stopped, during the first decade of the 21st century. This pause is commonly called the “hiatus.” We know, however, that Earth's climate system is accumulating excess solar energy owing to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Where, then, has this energy gone if not into the air? Nieves et al. find that over this period, the surface Pacific Ocean has cooled but the upper Indian and Southern Oceans have warmed. Thus, the decade-long hiatus that began in 2003 would appear to be the result of a redistribution of heat within the ocean, rather than a change in the whole-Earth warming rate.

Science, this issue p. 532


Recent modeling studies have proposed different scenarios to explain the slowdown in surface temperature warming in the most recent decade. Some of these studies seem to support the idea of internal variability and/or rearrangement of heat between the surface and the ocean interior. Others suggest that radiative forcing might also play a role. Our examination of observational data over the past two decades shows some significant differences when compared to model results from reanalyses and provides the most definitive explanation of how the heat was redistributed. We find that cooling in the top 100-meter layer of the Pacific Ocean was mainly compensated for by warming in the 100- to 300-meter layer of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the past decade since 2003.

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