Article | Published:

Seasonal aspects of the recent pause in surface warming

Nature Climate Change volume 4, pages 911916 (2014) | Download Citation

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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Acknowledgements

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

Author information

Affiliations

  1. National Center for Atmospheric Research, PO Box 3000, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA

    • Kevin E. Trenberth
    • , John T. Fasullo
    • , Grant Branstator
    •  & Adam S. Phillips

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Contributions

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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin E. Trenberth.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2341