Scientists: Here's Why Climate Change 'Paused'

High winds are forcing heat underwater—at least for now

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 10, 2014 5:23 PM CST

(Newser) – Global-warming skeptics, en garde: A new study says that the recent pause in global warming is caused by strong trade winds in the Pacific Ocean that will eventually subside, the Guardian reports. According to the study, sharply higher winds in the central and eastern parts of the Pacific have pushed surface heat underwater and lowered the amount of heat that rises into the atmosphere. This accounts for the lowering of global surface temperatures by 0.2 to 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 2001—a change that skeptics pointed out in a Wall Street Journal letter two years ago.

In the study, Australian and US scientists say the higher winds could keep up for much of this decade but will calm down in time. "Even if the winds accelerate even further, sooner or later the impact of greenhouse gases will overwhelm the effect," said lead researcher Matthew England. "And if the winds relax, the heat will come out quickly." What caused the higher winds isn't clear, but warming in the Indian Ocean could be behind it. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who deny climate change entirely rose by 7% to 23% last year, and the number who say it is caused by humans has dropped, the Financial Times reports.

Inside a lagoon, a healthy and diverse coral reef grows near a group of limestone islands in the Republic of Palau.
Inside a lagoon, a healthy and diverse coral reef grows near a group of limestone islands in the Republic of Palau.   (Shutterstock)
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