Evidence Mounts Against So-Called Climate Change Hiatus

Evidence is mounting against the so-called climate change hiatus — a period lasting from 1998 to 2012 — when global temperatures allegedly stopped rising as sharply as they had before. This misconception can be explained, in part, by missing temperature data from the Arctic, a new study finds.

That seeming pause in rising global temperatures had been used as evidence by climate skeptics to suggest that the Earth wasn’t really warming at an unnatural pace.

To get around the data gap, researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and China created the first global data set of surface temperatures. They filled in the missing puzzle piece with data taken from buoys drifting in the Arctic Ocean during the so-called global warming hiatus, the researchers said. [6 Unexpected Effects of Climate Change]

“We recalculated the average global temperatures from 1998 to 2012 and found that the rate of global warming had continued to rise at 0.112 degrees Celsius [0.2 degrees Fahrenheit] per decade, instead of slowing down to 0.05 degrees C [0.09 degrees F] per decade as previously thought,” study co-researcher Xiangdong Zhang, an atmospheric scientist with UAF’s International Arctic Research Center, said in a statement.

The new estimates reveal that the Arctic heated up rapidly during this period — more than six times the global average, said Zhang, who is also a professor with UAF’s College of Natural Science and Mathematics.

The researchers used the newly reconstructed surface air temperature data to make this graphic, which shows the spatial distribution of the Arctic annual warming rate from 1998 to 2012. Figure courtesy of Xiangdong Zhang

Mind the gap

The reason for the data gap is simple: The remote Arctic doesn’t have a robust network of instruments that collect air temperature data, the researchers said.

To fill in the gap, the team used temperature data collected from the University of Washington’s International Arctic Buoy Programme, which allowed them to reconstruct Arctic surface air temperatures from 1900 to 2014, the researchers wrote in the study. The researchers also used newly corrected worldwide sea-surface temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Government temperature datasets are corrected, that is, vetted, before their official release, Live Science previously reported.)

The researchers incorporated the Arctic information with the global data. Then, they re-estimated average global temperatures…

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