Current slow-down in global warming is just a pause in climate change

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Researchers have shown based on an extensive analysis of temperature data spanning 200 years that the current slow-down in global warming is just a pause in the otherwise long-term upward trend and that it is not a sign of end of climate change.

Researchers have revealed that the short-term pauses in climate change are simply the result of natural variation and that the current hiatus in the increase in global temperatures is just a temporary phenomenon, which will end soon.

Researchers at University of Edinburgh analysed real-world historic climate records from 1782 to 2000, comparing them with computerised climate models for the same timescale. They separated the influence on climate trends of man-made warming – such as from greenhouse gas emissions – and of natural influences in temperature – such as periods of intense sunlight or volcanic activity.

This showed that random variations can cause short term interruptions to climate patterns in the form of a pause or surge in warming, in both the real data and in the models, typically lasting up to a decade. Extreme natural forces, such as strong volcanic eruptions, were shown to disrupt climate trends for decades.

The research highlights the impact of volcanic eruptions on climate, when particles produced can reflect sunlight from Earth, causing long-lasting cooling. The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 was among the biggest in recent times, causing a so-called year without summer. Scientists estimate that, if it occurred today, it would cause a 20-year climate hiatus.

Dr Andrew Schurer, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the research, said: “Human activity is causing the word to warm, and natural variability can cause this trend to slow down or speed up. Our study backs scientific understanding that climate change can experience periods of hiatus, but the overall trend is towards a warmer planet.”

The findings of the study are published in Geophysical Research Letters.