U.K. Met Office Report Counters Claims on Significance of ‘Warming Pause’

A report from the United Kingdom’s Met Office makes the case that a decade-and-a-half-long ‘pause’ in warming provides no basis for backing off from concerns over continued warming.

A new three-part report from the United Kingdom’s Met Office lays out the science-based arguments likely to be at center stage in countering claims that the recent “pause in global warming” over the past decade or more means society can let down its guard in confronting climate change.

The Met office report comes at a time when leading climate scientists and communicators around the world are anticipating how best to communicate the scientific results of the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “AR 5,” the fifth assessment report. Elements of that report are expected to be officially released starting in the early fall, with more of the full report released over following months. Proponents of the IPCC reports anticipate climate “skeptics” and “contrarians” will focus hard on making the issues of climate sensitivity and of the recent “pause” a major frame in media coverage. The Met Office report is likely to be one of many efforts to counter that push.

“A wide range of observed climate indicators continue to show changes that are consistent with a globally warming world, and our understanding of how the climate system works,” the Met Office report emphasizes in Part 1.

“Periods of slowing down and pauses in surface warming are not unusual in the instrumental temperature record,” the Met Office concludes in Part 2 of the report. “Climate model simulations suggest that we can expect such a period of a decade or more to occur at least twice per century, due to internal variability alone.” The Met Office in Part 2 adds that “ocean heat re-arrangements, with a contribution from changes in top of the atmosphere radiation, could be important for explaining the recent pause in global surface warming.”

In Part 3 of the report, the Met Office says “the recent pause in global surface temperature does not materially alter the risks of substantial warming of the Earth by the end of this century. Nor does it invalidate the fundamental physics of global warming, the scientific basis of climate models, and their estimates of climate sensitivity.”

All three parts of the report –– with lengths of 28, 22, and 19 pages — can be downloaded as PDF files here.

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8 Responses to U.K. Met Office Report Counters Claims on Significance of ‘Warming Pause’

  1. Paul Quigg says:

    I have been charting global emissions, global concentrations and surface temperatures for about 15 years and while emissions and concentrations correlate quite well temperature results are all over the place. The global cooling from the mid forties to the mid seventies is a perfect example as emissions and concentrations were rising exponentially. The low period around 1910 is another example. Another 20 to 30 years will tell the story. The slow down from 1998 is of little significance unless it continues. I don’t think much of UK climatology since The Stern Review but I agree with this one.

    • John says:

      Have you seen these charts: http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators ?
      First, ocean temperatures are also important. Second, 1998 was an El Nino year (some call it the ‘El Nino of the Century’), but many seem to like it as a starting point since it was a high point in the temperature record.

      • Paul Quigg says:

        I see nothing significant in the 1998 El Nino records I looked at from NOAA, a few more El Nino’s then La Nina’s, no unusual extremes. Climate began billions of years ago when we start cherry picking “starting points”, we usually have a biased agenda. I couldn’t download your NASA site.

      • robert says:

        may i suggest you take another look at the NASA link . NASA data appears to conflict with their position.the sea level chart appears to show a mean lowering of sea level,certainly the areas above “normal level” are far less than those at or below normal.
        their own temperature trend appears to show slight cooling in the last decade.
        as the arctic summer ice extent chart can only show full years ,2012 low is highlighted. it would appear 2013 low will be millions of square kilometres greater.
        no matter how any organisation presents the data ,antarctic ice extent is increasing.

        • John says:

          Regarding sea level, I suggest that you look at the charts and not ‘eyeball’ the time series global map.

          Yes, the 5-year running mean for surface temperature is relatively flat since 2003. It shows a decline from 1989-1995, flat from 1965-1975, and flat again from 1946-1956. Over the entire record, temperature has increased by 0.8deg.C.

          Yes, Antarctic sea ice is increasing, but glacial ice is declining. I remember a commenter remarking about the low 2007 ice extent, saying that sea ice in the Arctic would turn around, and return to 1990 levels. Year-to-year variability exists, but, unfortunately, the trend is downward. So far, 2013 looks to show less ice extent than 2012, but still below the mean.

          • John says:

            Sorry, meant to say “2013 looks to show GREATER ice extent than 2012, but still below the mean.” Sorry.

  2. Matt Bidski says:

    I believe the recent ‘pause’ in average temperature rises are due to a number of different systems/effects.

    One of the largest factors is the Albedo Effect-The heavy and prolonged snowfall across the Northern Hemisphere last Winter meant that much of the solar radiation was reflected back out into space, rather than being absorbed by land masses. This theory has been backed up with a weaker hurricane season this year and the prediction of first snowfalls in the Northern US states.

    As a BSc Physical Geography graduate, i have never under-estimated the natural balances and forces in our climate systems which are so complex that it would be difficult to enter them into any standard computer model.