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Trade winds cause hiatus

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Climate
Trade winds cause hiatus Shutterstock
01 Apr
2014
A new study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that an unprecedented strengthening of the equatorial trade winds has played a major role in the observed pause in surface warming

According to the study’s authors, the acceleration of the winds has invigorated the circulation of the Pacific Ocean, increasing the amount of heat being taken out of the atmosphere and transferred into the subsurface ocean, while also bringing cooler waters to the surface.

‘Scientists have long suspected that extra ocean heat uptake has slowed the rise of global average temperatures, but the mechanism behind the hiatus remained unclear,’ said the study’s lead author, Matthew England of the University of New South Wales. ‘But the heat uptake is by no means permanent: when the trade wind strength returns to normal – as it inevitably will – our research suggests that heat will quickly accumulate in the atmosphere. So global temperatures look set to rise rapidly out of the hiatus, returning to the levels projected within as little as a decade.

‘The winds lead to extra ocean heat uptake, which stalled warming of the atmosphere,’ England continued. ‘Accounting for this wind intensification in model projections produces a hiatus in global warming that is in striking agreement with observations.’

This story was published in the April 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

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