Cooler Climate May Hit N. America, Europe Next Decade

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"We're pretty convinced that this has an influence on the surface temperatures," said Richard Wood of the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter in the United Kingdom.

"We don't expect climate change to be just a smooth warming of the climate, each year after the next. It's superimposed on natural variations of the climate," added Wood, who penned a Nature commentary on the study.

"Especially if you are interested in things that are going to happen on the scale of a decade or two, those natural variations in the climate could be just as important on those time scales as the global warming signal," he said.

Wood also stressed that our understanding of ocean fluctuations—and thus our ability to include them in climate models—is currently in its infancy.

New ocean monitoring technologies—such as a network of automated sensor buoys—are only beginning to deliver the data that will help scientists to understand the ocean climate's intricacies and to better forecast climate on the decadal level.

Meanwhile, Keenlyside cautioned the effect he describes is a baseline natural fluctuation that will not deter larger global warming trends.

"We want to make very clear that we don't want to say that [anthropogenic] global warming is not here," he said.

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