Hiatus in global warming is due to Atlantic currents, study says, but will end in 2030


The Atlantic Ocean has masked global warming by soaking up vast amounts of heat from the atmosphere, but that process is likely to reverse from around 2030 and spur fast temperature rises, scientists say.

The theory is the latest explanation for a slowdown in the pace of warming at the Earth’s surface since about 1998. The hiatus has puzzled experts because it conflicts with the expected effects of rising emissions of greenhouse gases, especially from emerging nations such as China.

“We’re pointing to the Atlantic as the driver of the hiatus,” said a co-author of Thursday’s study in the journal Science, Ka-Kit Tung of the University of Washington in Seattle.

The study said an Atlantic current carrying water north from the tropics has sped up this century and sucked more warm surface waters down to 1,500 meters (5,000 feet), part of a natural shift for the ocean that typically lasts about three decades.

It said a return to a warmer period, releasing more heat stored in the ocean, is likely to start around 2030. When it does, “another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue,” the authors wrote.

Almost 200 governments aim to agree on a deal to combat climate change at a summit in Paris in late 2015, and the hiatus has heartened skeptics who doubt there is an urgent need for a trillion-dollar shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies.

Several previous studies have suggested that the larger Pacific Ocean is the likely site of the “missing heat” from man-made greenhouse gases, perhaps linked to a series of La Nina cooling events in the Pacific in recent years.

Other suggestions for the slowdown in warming have included a rise in industrial pollution that is blocking sunlight.

A separate team of scientists writing in the journal Nature Geoscience on Sunday said that factors including swings in the sun’s output and sun-blocking dust from volcanic eruptions may account for gaps in understanding the warming trends.

In addition, La Nina cooling events in the Pacific Ocean have played a role, according to the report, which examined why computer models of the climate have overestimated temperature rises in the past decade.

But no one knows for sure.

“It will be interesting to see how and if these ideas are connected” with the theory of the Atlantic, lead author Markus Huber said of the study, by the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science at ETH Zurich.

Thursday’s study said a shift in salinity may have caused more heat to be transferred to the depths of the Atlantic.

Warm, salty water from the tropics flows north in the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and sinks when it meets cooler water. The “great ocean conveyor belt” then makes cold water flow along the depths to the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.

Even though global warming has slowed, 13 of the 14 warmest years on record have been in this century, according to U.N. estimates.

A U.N. panel says it is at least 95 percent certain that human emissions, rather than natural variations in the climate, are the main cause of rising temperatures since 1960 that have caused more heatwaves, downpours and rising sea levels.

  • cleadd

    Easy way to make money that is working for me, do a search for “Traders Superstore “its swing trading the oil market and it really works.

  • JDooz

    LOL I guess the phony ‘climate change’ rhetoric has been unveiled for the absurdity that it truly is (was), and now this sudden ‘discovery’ is being rationalized as some mysterious event. Where’s Al Gore now?

  • NonPerplexed

    It’s the SUN stupid!!

    • Sam Gilman

      No it isn’t. However, I don’t think you’re stupid for thinking it’s the sun. To be honest, I don’t see the value in hurling insults if one has evidence on one’s side. Here’s a nice picture showing how the relationship between warming and solar activity ceased to be important a few decades ago (data from NASA and Krivova et al 2007)


      The science of global warming has been known for over a hundred years. I learnt pretty much all of the basics before I was 15 in regular science classes at school. Perhaps I was lucky to live in an area with a good school.

      Would you like me to talk you through the science of it all?

  • Jay_Sherman

    Hmmm, they “know” the details of global climate over the course of “millions” of years….but they didn’t see this coming? They can see far into the past and the future, but they can’t see the present until after it happens? LOL! Bet if the government and the “elite” weren’t funding 99% of what is called “science”, we’d see vastly different results…..

  • Sam Gilman

    It’s all a bit strange to see on this comments page that science denial about global warming still exists.

    One would have thought that the increase in extreme weather, as well as three successive hottest decades, as well as the exposés of the leading denialist organisation the Heartland Institute, as well as declarations in support of global warming by the peak science institutions of every major industrial country in the world, would have convinced pretty much everybody that this denialist stance was at least just a bit suspect.

    But no, apparently there are people out there who still choose their politics before their science.

    • Jay_Sherman

      Perhaps if YOU would look a little more closely, YOU would see how the data (rather scant data, at that, considering that precise temperature records in most places globally have barely been kept for 100 years) is manipulated to produce the outcome which is politically desired. For instance: Comparing daily highs and lows vs. “mean” or “average” daily temperature will give vastly different (even opposite) results. And even with the data being so manipulated, all they manage to do is claim a warming of 1 or 2 degrees F.

      And what about the 30,000 scientists who refute the idea of global warming? (Basically all the scientists who are not making their living off of agencies which are paying them to propagate the idea of global warming!)

      What about the Ice Age? Was that caused by man? What about the warm-up after the Ice Age; was that caused by man?

      But now, even though the output of all human endeavor since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution is not even equal to the output of ONE volcano….we are to believe that this global warming (amidst the coldest and snowiest winters of record) are somehow the result of cars, factories and cow farts!

      What utter nonsense!

      • Sam Gilman

        30,000 scientists? Jay, I’m afraid that would be the Oregon petition, a mixture of a fraud and a clownfest:


        I signed it myself (as various cartoon characters) as did people pretending to be the Spice Girls (the petition is that old, folks). I don’t see why anyone rational and informed (and, Jay, I’m sure you’re rational even if you didn’t know what the Oregon petition really was) would go with this petition rather than the peak science institutions of every major industrial country.

        As for volcanoes, I’m afraid someone’s been lying to you there as well:


        Jay, unless you want to believe that millions of scientists across multiple disciplines are being paid enough to sacrifice their integrity, with at least half of those scientists keeping silent about this whole purported scam even though they’ve been passed over for promotion and publication at various points in their lives, I really can’t see why someone as rational as yourself would believe instead the work of a few obscure scientists and bloggers with publicly known connections to the fossil fuel industry.

      • Sam Gilman

        You also put the words “mean” and “average” in quotations. Does that mean you don’t believe these concepts exist?

  • AnotherLover

    Ha ha. “We’re pointing at the Atlantic.” That’s exactly right, pal — you’re pointing: like a child trying to explain something he doesn’t understand — or like a scientist reaching for ad hoc explanations that will help ensure him a steady source of funding as long as the global warming just keeps on coming — even when it isn’t.

    The crowd screams “Koch brothers, Koch brothers!” Yeah? — and who paid this azhole to “point at the Atlantic?”

    Hey, and by the by, while we’re all looking at the sky, can someone tell me why my country has been blanketed for years in “very high” and “extreme” UV levels? Anybody want to tell me why contrails that used to disappear in seconds now seem to persist for hours, days, or weeks?

    I’m not holding my breath for an answer. I happen to love my carbon footprint :)

  • Sam Gilman

    This theory you have about the atmosphere being a filter and a buffer: I’m puzzled as to how it works.

    If it’s a buffer against the sun’s energy, how does it buffer without warming up? If it’s a filter, where’s the energy that it’s filtering going?

    In general, this discovery of yours that there are no such things as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, ie no such things as gases that warm up from the infrared when sunlight passes through them: have you offered it for publication anywhere? You really should, it would overturn well over a century of atmospheric chemistry.

    It would also make a big challenge to physics. Without the greenhouse effect, our planet should be tens of degrees cooler. Physicists would be scratching their heads and ripping up their textbooks.

    As for “easy money”, if you think I’m being paid to be informed about climate science, you’re sorely mistaken. Still, it’s telling that you need to smear me to get your point across.

  • Sam Gilman

    I didn’t miss those emails. You mean the ones about the tree ring divergence problem? (That’s the “hide the decline” issue that for some reason excited a lot of strange right wing people in the US) If you want to get your modern temperatures from tree rings rather than thermometers, that’s up to you, but it would be a bit weird. They’re not as accurate to start with.

    As for Canadian weather stations, I haven’t heard that one. (Do enlighten me) I tend to use the NASA satellite-based temperature series as they’re more user friendly. I assume you are aware that the UEA temperature series is not the only one in the world.

  • Sam Gilman

    Beth, seeing as you fancy yourself as a scientific expert, I have two questions for you:

    Which freezes more easily, salt water or fresh water?

    What happens to sea levels when sea ice melts?

    Actually, I’ll save time and answer them for you: fresh water of course freezes more easily, and when sea ice melts, nothing much happens to sea levels. It’s not like land ice.

    Now, what happens when the fresher land ice in Antarctica melts? It runs into the sea.

    So we have the sea around Antarctica now much fresher, with the fresh water not immediately mixing so well with the saltier stuff below. Bingo, more of the surface sea water freezes. You’ve pointed out evidence that the planet is warming. No doubt you will now change your mind on global warming given that you’ve accepted the issue of the increased flow of water from melting land ice.

    And, since you’re no fool, Beth, you’ll realise that melting land ice raises sea levels. And they’ve been rising. So it is all a bit serious.

    I’d like to welcome you into the science-based camp. Well done you.

    Oh, and if you can directly quote me that email about no warming, I can go over with you what was actually meant to put your mind at rest.

    Cheers, and again, welcome.

  • Sam Gilman

    In addition to my main answer previously about how the sea ice expansion shows the effects of global warming, if I understand you correctly, one of your main reasons for not believing in climate change is the website organisation of the US government.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand the connection you’re trying to make between how one particular government organises its agencies’ websites, and whether or not pumping more CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere will add to the greenhouse effect that, as we’ve known for 150 years, CO2 is an important part of in the first place.

    As you’re apparently a highly able scientist, you’ll no doubt be able to explain the connection between web addresses and global temperatures with great articulacy.

  • Sam Gilman

    “We” is human civilisation. If you don’t consider yourself part of that, that’s your choice. That CO2 is part of the greenhouse effect has been known for a very long while. Are you disputing the existence of the greenhouse effect, or that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or that it’s an important greenhouse gas.

    I’m not making up your thoughts. I’m trying to understand them.

  • Sam Gilman

    Beth, I think you’re forgetting that the Arctic isn’t a land mass. It’s all sea ice.

    As for the email, I’m not playing stupid. I believe you’ve made a mistake in your attribution of what is likely a misquotation anyway. Or perhaps the website you took the claim from made the mistake instead. I could be wrong, of course, which is why I asked for a source. I’m left wondering why you couldn’t just give me the text of the email you are citing straight away. Are you having trouble finding it?