Recent slowdown in global warming

From the industrial revolution onwards, greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuel and changes in land use have caused the planet to warm. However, since 1998 — a year of record warmth — the rate of warming has been lower than in the late twentieth century. In this joint web focus, Nature Climate Change and Nature Geoscience present original research and opinion pieces that discuss the causes of the slowdown in surface warming and examine how the science has been communicated by researchers and the media.

Watch our panel discussion on the science and communication of climate change over the past two decades



Nature Climate Change: Scientist communicators


The slowdown in Earth's surface temperature increase has made headlines worldwide — but mainly to dismiss climate science.

Nature Geoscience: Hiatus in context


The recent slow-down in the rate of warming, averaged over the surface of the entire planet, has incited much discussion. As climate scientists are tracking down the causes, we must not forget that average surface temperatures are only one indicator of climate change.



Nature Climate Change: Recent observed and simulated warming

John C. Fyfe & Nathan P. Gillett




Nature Climate Change: Media discourse on the climate slowdown

Maxwell T. Boykoff


We must not fall victim to decontextualized and ahistorical media accounting of climate trends.

Nature Climate Change: Pause for thought

Ed Hawkins, Tamsin Edwards & Doug McNeall


The recent slowdown (or 'pause') in global surface temperature rise is a hot topic for climate scientists and the wider public. We discuss how climate scientists have tried to communicate the pause and suggest that 'many-to-many' communication offers a key opportunity to directly engage with the public on important climate science issues.

Nature Geoscience: Bumpy path to a warmer world

Martin Visbeck


Decadal climate variability has long received limited attention. With the slow-down in surface warming since the late 1990s, the decadal scale has rightly become a focus of attention: for assessing climate change and its impacts, it is of critical importance.

Nature Climate Change: Heat hide and seek

Lisa Goddard


Natural variability can explain fluctuations in surface temperatures but can it account for the current slowdown in warming?

Nature Geoscience: Reconciling warming trends

Gavin A. Schmidt, Drew T. Shindell & Kostas Tsigaridis


Climate models projected stronger warming over the past 15 years than has been seen in observations. Conspiring factors of errors in volcanic and solar inputs, representations of aerosols, and El Niño evolution, may explain most of the discrepancy.

Nature Climate Change: No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes

Sonia I. Seneviratne, Markus G. Donat, Brigitte Mueller & Lisa V. Alexander


Observational data show a continued increase of hot extremes over land during the so-called global warming hiatus. This tendency is greater for the most extreme events and thus more relevant for impacts than changes in global mean temperature.



Nature Climate Change: In the public's mind


The policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Bob Ward, talks to Nature Climate Change about the need for climate scientists to actively engage with the public.


News Feature

Nature Climate Change: Pacific puzzle

Olive Heffernan


Scientists have offered numerous explanations for the recent slowdown in global surface warming. Now, one study suggests that tropical trade winds may hold the answer.


News and Views

Nature Climate Change: Atmospheric science: Increasing wind sinks heat

Yu Kosaka


Surface global warming has stalled since around 2000 despite increasing atmospheric CO2. A study finds that recent strengthening of Pacific trade winds has enhanced heat transport from the surface to ocean depths, explaining most of the slowed surface warming.



Nature Geoscience: Volcanic contribution to decadal changes in tropospheric temperature

Benjamin D. Santer, Céline Bonfils, Jeffrey F. Painter, Mark D. Zelinka, Carl Mears, Susan Solomon, Gavin A. Schmidt, John C. Fyfe, Jason N. S. Cole, Larissa Nazarenko, Karl E. Taylor & Frank J. Wentz


Global warming has stalled since the late 1990s, puzzling researchers; here a climate model that includes observed sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific reproduces the hiatus as part of natural variation, suggesting that long-term global warming is likely to continue.



Nature Climate Change: Recent intensification of wind-driven circulation in the Pacific and the ongoing warming hiatus

Matthew H. England, Shayne McGregor, Paul Spence, Gerald A. Meehl, Axel Timmermann, Wenju Cai, Alex Sen Gupta, Michael J. McPhaden, Ariaan Purich & Agus Santoso


The slowdown in global average surface warming has recently been linked to sea surface cooling in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This work shows that strengthening trade winds caused a reduction in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.1–0.2°C. This may account for much of the warming hiatus and is a result of increased subsurface ocean heat uptake.





Nature Geoscience: Energy budget constraints on climate response

Alexander Otto, Friederike E. L. Otto, Olivier Boucher, John Church, Gabi Hegerl, Piers M. Forster, Nathan P. Gillett, Jonathan Gregory, Gregory C. Johnson, Reto Knutti, Nicholas Lewis, Ulrike Lohmann, Jochem Marotzke, Gunnar Myhre, Drew Shindell, Bjorn Stevens & Myles R. Allen


Nature Geoscience: Test of a decadal climate forecast

Myles R. Allen, John F. B. Mitchell & Peter A. Stott




Nature Climate Change: Overestimated global warming over the past 20 years

John C. Fyfe, Nathan P. Gillett & Francis W. Zwiers




Nature Climate Change: Communication of climate projections in US media amid politicization of model science

Karen Akerlof, Katherine E. Rowan, Dennis Fitzgerald & Andrew Y. Cedeno


The complexity and politicization of climate computer models can hinder communication of their science, uses and limitations. Evidence suggests that information on climate models in US newspapers is declining and that when it appears, it is often within sceptic discourses. Furthermore, model projections are frequently portrayed as probably being inaccurate, and political opinion outlets provide more explanation of model results than many news sources.


News & Views

Nature Geoscience: Climate science: Uncertain temperature trend

Judith Curry


Nature Geoscience: Climate science: Breaks in trends

Felix Pretis & Myles Allen


Nature: Climate science: The cause of the pause

Isaac M. Held


Nature Climate Change: Oceanography: Has global warming stalled?

Doug Smith




Nature: Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling

Yu Kosaka & Shang-Ping Xie


Global warming has stalled since the late 1990s, puzzling researchers; here a climate model that includes observed sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific reproduces the hiatus as part of natural variation, suggesting that long-term global warming is likely to continue.

Nature Climate Change: Retrospective prediction of the global warming slowdown in the past decade

Virginie Guemas, Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes, Isabel Andreu-Burillo & Muhammad Asif


In recent years the global warming trend has plateaued, despite increasing anthropogenic emissions. Now research attributes this plateau to an increase in ocean heat uptake, through retrospective predictions of up to 5 years in length. The ability to hindcast this warming plateau strengthens our confidence in the robustness of climate models.

Nature Geoscience: Atlantic Ocean influence on a shift in European climate in the 1990s

Rowan T. Sutton & Buwen Dong


The Atlantic Ocean has been suggested as an important driver of variability in European climate on decadal timescales. Analyses of ocean and atmosphere temperature data from observations suggest that the shift in European climate during the 1990s was a result of warming in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Nature Geoscience: A stratospheric connection to Atlantic climate variability

Thomas Reichler, Junsu Kim, Elisa Manzini & Jürgen Kröger


Stratospheric circulation is known to affect weather in the troposphere. Climate modelling reveals a connection between variations in the stratospheric and North Atlantic ocean circulation over the past 30 years, and demonstrates that the stratosphere is an important component of climate over multidecadal timescales.

Nature Climate Change: Model-based evidence of deep-ocean heat uptake during surface-temperature hiatus periods

Gerald A. Meehl, Julie M. Arblaster, John T. Fasullo, Aixue Hu & Kevin E. Trenberth


In some decades, such as 2000–2009, the observed globally averaged surface-temperature time series has shown a flat or slightly negative trend. A modelling study provides evidence that heat uptake by the deep ocean may cause these hiatus periods and may be linked to La Niña-like conditions.

Nature Geoscience: External forcing as a metronome for Atlantic multidecadal variability

Odd Helge Otterå, Mats Bentsen, Helge Drange & Lingling Suo


Instrumental records, proxy data and climate modelling show that multidecadal variability is a dominant feature of North Atlantic sea-surface temperature variations. Simulations with a coupled climate model suggest that the timing of this variability is determined mainly by external forcing, for example from volcanic eruption or solar forcing.

Nature: Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector

N. S. Keenlyside, M. Latif, J. Jungclaus, L. Kornblueh & E. Roeckner




Nature Geoscience: Statistically derived contributions of diverse human influences to twentieth-century temperature changes

Francisco Estrada, Pierre Perron & Benjamín Martínez-López


The causal connection between human activities and the evolution of climate warming over the past century is not fully understood. A state-of-the-art statistical analysis of time series of temperature and radiative forcing reveals that reductions in ozone-depleting substances and methane have contributed to the slow-down in warming since the late 1990s.

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