Despite the fact that the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that are emitted every year has increased by a substantial amount since the 1990’s, temperatures on Earth aren’t rising by a proportional amount. While temperatures are still on the rise, they’re not rising as fast as they did back in the 1990’s, and climate scientists aren’t sure why.
The global warming “hiatus” has puzzled many climate scientists, but there are many who believe that there is a “sink” that is storing all of the missing heat from the atmosphere, and that we need to find it. Locating the sink is important because it could give researchers a clue to how long the current hiatus might last, says Ka-Kit Tung, an atmospheric scientist and applied mathematician at the University of Washington in Seattle.
It was previously believed that the missing heat was being stored in the Pacific Ocean, but new research suggests that it’s actually being stored somewhere in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans. The research also suggests that the naturally occurring ocean cycle that is soaking up all of the excess heat will flip in about fifteen years or so, causing global temperature rises to accelerate once again.
Numerous climate change skeptic have jumped on the slowdown of average surface temperature rises in the last fifteen years as evidence that climate change doesn’t exist. Scientists, on the other hand, have hypothesized that everything from volcanic eruptions to Chinese power stations could be the cause. Several studies have pointed to the Pacific Ocean as potentially having a major role.
However, this new study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, has concluded that the Pacific Ocean alone cannot explain the hiatus. Tung explains: “The finding is a surprise, since the current theories had pointed to the Pacific Ocean as the culprit for hiding heat. But the data are quite convincing and they show otherwise. We are not downplaying the role of the Pacific. They are both going on; one is short term, one is long term.”
Read more about the story at Scientific American.