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Seasonal aspects of the recent pause in surface warming

Abstract

Factors involved in the recent pause in the rise of global mean temperatures are examined seasonally. For 1999 to 2012, the hiatus in surface warming is mainly evident in the central and eastern Pacific. It is manifested as strong anomalous easterly trade winds, distinctive sea-level pressure patterns, and large rainfall anomalies in the Pacific, which resemble the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). These features are accompanied by upper tropospheric teleconnection wave patterns that extend throughout the Pacific, to polar regions, and into the Atlantic. The extratropical features are particularly strong during winter. By using an idealized heating to force a comprehensive atmospheric model, the large negative anomalous latent heating associated with the observed deficit in central tropical Pacific rainfall is shown to be mainly responsible for the global quasi-stationary waves in the upper troposphere. The wave patterns in turn created persistent regional climate anomalies, increasing the odds of cold winters in Europe. Hence, tropical Pacific forcing of the atmosphere such as that associated with a negative phase of the PDO produces many of the pronounced atmospheric circulation anomalies observed globally during the hiatus.

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Figure 1: Global mean surface temperature from NOAA, as anomalies relative to 1900–1999 plotted with linear trends for 1970–2013 (blue) and 1998–2013 (red).
Figure 2: The PDO based on an empirical orthogonal function analysis of SST anomalies with the global mean removed from 1900 to 2012 in the 20°–70° N, 110° E–100° W region of the North Pacific, which explains 25% of the variance.
Figure 3: Regime differences between 1999–2012 and 1976–1998.
Figure 4: Vertically integrated diabatic heating and divergent wind component for the difference between 1999–2012 and 1979–1998.
Figure 5: The 300 hPa streamfunction for the differences between 1999–2012 and 1979–1998.
Figure 6: Modelled 300 hPa streamfunction response.

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Acknowledgements

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. This research is partially sponsored by NASA under grant NNX09AH89G.

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K.E.T. led the writing of the paper and conceived the study. J.T.F. and A.S.P. analysed the data to produce most of the figures, G.B. carried out the modelling. All authors contributed to data interpretation and writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kevin E. Trenberth.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Trenberth, K., Fasullo, J., Branstator, G. et al. Seasonal aspects of the recent pause in surface warming. Nature Clim Change 4, 911–916 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2341

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