National Geographic Daily News
Earth Vision Trust

Brian Clark Howard

National Geographic

Published April 25, 2014

Although global temperatures have been rising over the past century, a slowdown in the rate of warming in the past few years has left some scratching their heads over a seeming "global warming pause."

The suggestion that global warming has stopped is "nonsense," climatologist Richard Alley of Penn State University said last fall. The fact that the year 2012 was no warmer than 2002, he said, ignores the long-term trend of warming.

But scientists say that trend has been partially obscured by the ocean, which is likely absorbing the excess heat.

A paper published in the journal Nature in August 2013 by staff of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, suggests the extra heat has been absorbed by the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean, aided by the warming and cooling cycles of weather patterns known as El Niño and La Niña. (See: "Is El Niño Back? Climate Scientists Forecast Its Arrival.")

Another theory is that the deep, cold ocean has been absorbing the excess heat, says Jerry Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado (see video, above, produced by Earth Vision Trust). That process couldn't continue forever, as eventually the air above the ocean would resume warming as well.

Yet another theory that doesn't discount ocean absorption of heat but may also help explain global warming pause was published in February the journal Nature Geoscience. The scientists suggested that 15 percent of the global warming pause could be attributed to the impact of active volcanoes, which spew ash and gas that can reflect the sun's heat back into space.

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63 comments
stefan parzer
stefan parzer

"...which is likely..."

"...suggests the extra heat..."

"...Another theory is that..."

"...Yet another theory ..."

Seems to me, there is no longer a "97 %" consensus among the Climate scientist...?

Mike Precobb
Mike Precobb

Don't the oceans always absorb heat, or is this something they decided to do in just the last 10 years?

James Dey
James Dey

So climate scientists explanations are pure conjecture. Since when was that science?

Gerald Wilhite
Gerald Wilhite

I wonder if John Holdren has discussed and explained this issue to President Obama. If he has, why does the President say the science is settled? If Holdren believes that, why doesn;'t he take a little time to explain it to the rest of us?

William Mosby
William Mosby

How about phase change? We were reading about how various ice bodies were melting faster than expected a while back. That would soak up a certain amount of heat with no temperature increase until all the ice is gone.

Jack Walters
Jack Walters

Face it, Penn State, your climate models failed.  Now you are scrambling with excuses and reasons that seem just as unlikely as your prediction of global warming doom in the first place.  If the earth was warming, the oceans would not be cooling.  But as is now the case with the land surface, the earth is cooling.  All of the ad hominem attacks, the character assassinations, the lobbying groups in Washington cooperating with Obama to destroy opponents of massive subsidies to green businessmen or the hiding of the decline in temperatures at the University of East Anglia cannot stop the revealing of the truth. 


Earth's temperatures are primarily correlated with variations in the radiation emanating from the sun.  Co2 is such a minor player in the planet's temperature that there is no real correlation between the amount of co2 in the atmosphere and the Earth's temperatures.  Further, mankind is not a major player in the amount of co2 in the atmosphere.  95% of co2 is created by sources having nothing to do with man.  The emperor is naked.  It is only a matter of time before the world believes the real scientists, not the political scientists..

Doc Climate
Doc Climate

The title of this article is very misleading. it should be The Lack of Science Behind the So-Called Global Warming "Pause."

Monica Shirey
Monica Shirey

Please stop confusing "theory" and "hypothesis." When writing about science, these words mean two very different things.

KK Aw
KK Aw

The issue of global warming should be framed based on the principles of energy and not temperature.  Unfortunately, IPCC dug themselves into a hole by using temperature as the indicator.  With this pause, they are now forced to switch their focus to energy but unfortunately, many of their postulations based on temperature are now ridiculous. 

A new expression "Global Energy Inventory" is introduced in AR5 - chapter 3.


Now that  IPCC energy is in focused, scientists should investigate extreme weather events, which are huge energy events that would cause changes in the "Global Energy Inventory."  I wonder how this will affect the climate models?  Is the global energy inventory part of the climate models to start with?

Philip Heywood
Philip Heywood

Climate is a question calling for the application of science and logic. Let us therefore do so in a way which answers the questions of ‘the man in the street’. We may note that media thrive on controversy,so science and logic, which end controversy, are not always welcomed by the media.

1). No climate model as such exists, for the universally understandable reason that weather is a ‘chaos’ phenomenon.  In fact, weather is the classic, widely quoted example of ‘chaos’ mathematics. Chaos mathematics, in some sense like pi, essentially solves at or near to infinity.  I.e., only God can fully predict and ‘solve’ the weather. The Bible, of course, says the same.

2). Global temperature  being but one aspect of climate, it is not entirely unreasonable to attempt to predict temperature, or at least to investigate the control factors thereof. This implicates classical physics and ‘cutting edge’ quantum physics.  We shall touch on the former with the note that the latter may throw a completely revolutionary light on the scene.

3). According to classical physics, Earth vaguely approximates to a ‘blackbody’.  In the case of theoretical ‘blackbody’, if we imagine it to be in isolation except for an external source of heat, and assume the body’s structure remains constant, then emission of heat from the body rises according to the 4th power in proportion to temperature. So, theoretically, the increase in heat given off in response to a tenfold temperature rise would be ten thousandfold.  Earth of course having an atmosphere does not suffer such extreme effects.  Living on the moon would be a different story!

4). If we assume that relatively minor so-called greenhouse gases such as carbon gases, nitrous oxide, CFC’S etc., are a major greenhouse contributor – opinion remains divided here, although the satellite measurements of the wavelengths of re-radiated light and certain other ‘test tube’ measurements are suggestive – then we have the prospect that the recent increase in CO2 from 0.0003 atmospheres to 0.0004 atm., partly due to human activity, could trigger a bank run style flow-on effect which proves catastrophic. This despite the ‘blackbody’ proportionately greater increase in re-emission.  So there are reasons to take global warming seriously – even if Scripture and common sense tell us that Man is foolish to worry over matters which are ultimately beyond him.

5). In the 4 thou. mill. yrs during which life reliant upon atmospheric carbon existed, by estimation of carbon bearing geologic deposits, of the order of 12 atmospheres equivalent pure CO2 was processed through our atmosphere and buried.  This contrasts with the pre-industrial revolution level of 0.0003 atm. – near the level which must have been maintained as the minimum for life, 4 thou. mill. yrs.  In that incomprehensible time, the sun certainly fluctuated in output to boot. Atmospheric carbon and temperature fluctuated, although, contrary to claims, there is no known way of getting accurate palaeocarbon or palaeotemperature readings.  The Earth nevertheless did not run to totally destructive heat or cold in all that time – although as far as geologic documentation goes (not far!) it went close once or twice!  

6). The two seemingly worst epochs of climate difficulty  – (Late Carboniferous-Permian  and Late Cretaceous) were associated at least circumstantially with  carbon – the names bear this out; (creta is latin for chalk); with extinction/renewal events (the former saw the advent of the dinosaurs; the latter, their near-extinction) ; and ........ with the two best documented periods of magnetic field reversal ‘jamming’ in documented geologic history.

7). As an everyday but largely ignored fact, circulating conductors such as ion streams and salt water, cutting a magnetic field, generate a magnetic field.  Therefore in fact our (circulating) atmosphere and oceans generate part of our magnetic field.  What proportion,  is unknown, but the statistics show correlation between ocean current strength and secular or time variation of the field. Yet another hitherto mysterious yet startling modern correlation  exists between atmospheric carbon rise –-- and fall of magnetic field cohesion (Earth is not a bar magnet as such but a collection of magnets which, when cohesive, act as a bar).  And – not surprisingly – magnetic field reversal behaviour/frequency is of the ‘stochastic’ statistical category.  ‘Stochastic’ is in the same family as ‘chaos’  -- the statistics of climate/weather.  So climate is linked to our magnetic field and our magnetic field links to the sun’s field.

We have not even begun to delve into global temperature control here , having not introduced the leading edge  recent quantum physics angle. All we have to date from the ‘experts’ is some anachronistic classical physics and some possible indicators.    

Dirty MouseBalls
Dirty MouseBalls

One problem. Your computer models never predicted a "pause".


A theory that results in every possible outcome... hot, cold, mild, freezing, wet, dry, drought, floods. That's a crap theory.


You said it was going to get hot, it should be getting hot. You didn't say it would "pause" in the middle for 16 years.

eric osterhaus
eric osterhaus

lol, they blurred out the graph... reminds me so much of inconvenient truth with its misleading graphs...I wish more people would actually read the scientific reports and come to their own conclusions... its sad that people see this and don't realize that this guy isn't a scientist he can't even fathom being wrong and will model everything so he can appear to be right. If they were really after the truth they would say it appears we were wrong and have to develop a new hypothesis, but they can't do that so they keep twisting facts to fit their own desires...sad

Joe Lucido
Joe Lucido

The "Pause" In warming, just might be, that this was junk science to begin with.

 Funny how when some scientists can't explain something they find excuses, and others follow the facts, and say we need more information.


No doubt that the climate is changing, but is it really due to man made activities?

The earth will keep changing, just has it has since the beginning, but to blame it on man without sufficient evidence is junk science, and since it is mostly politicians who support, and push the theory of "Man made climate change" I think I'll take a pass on supporting this theory. Since when have they ever told the truth? They lie for a living.


I know some of you are going to call me an idiot, and a denier, but if the facts were there for this "Man made climate change" I would be the first to support it.

 I would believe in my gut, before I would ever believe any politician.

Half Rock
Half Rock

Dear Editors, The article is interesting. But the earth shattering unspoken concession is that the CAGW predictions had no skill in prediction and therefor have been falsified. It is very nice to postulate that the failure demonstrated by a ridiculous amount of "missing heat" is to be found in the deep oceans where it can't be measured, however that does not preserve the CAGW theory. Deep Ocean Heating is just casting around for increased complexity. Occam's Razor basically refutes attempts to perpetuate failed theories by supposing increased complexity. We should take a deep breath, listen to the sage of philosophy of science, Karl Popper, and let this failed theory go.


I am afraid that there will be a bubble to burst because so much has been built around the failed predictions so the acknowledgement of their failure will be accompanied by economic adjustments.


I personally am only interested in having a better understanding of how the science works to explain climate variability and  glacial cycles and expect a focus by scientists not on preservation of a failure but  on the development of skillful theories that can provide us with reliable insights and understanding  so our decisions are the most effective.


Testing  is not complex, it is simple, one doesn't have to be a Phd. and understand the complexity of the models to compare the predictions with the data. The criteria is just demonstrated skill.





John C.
John C.

It indicates a huge flaw in the theory and modeling, despite the certitude we're always hearing that the science is completely settled.

Robert Strahlendorf
Robert Strahlendorf

Why didn't the oceans absorb the heat during the previous 10, 20, 30 or 40 years? If these scientists can answer that question, then we might have a new variable to climate prediction, as well as volcanos, the sun, etc..

J Hampson
J Hampson

Global warming is just getting more and more hilarious. "The ocean is eating my global warming". Really?

Bill drnedel
Bill drnedel

Carbon dioxide and water in the atmosphere naturally absorb some of the heat energy of the earth (that it receives from the sun) before it can escape back into space. This keeps our global temperatures in a comfort zone for life. However, when we artificially disturb this balance by adding more CO2, this causes our atmosphere to retain additional energy. This heats up the earth. For this not to happen there would need to be a negative feedback mechanism associated with the warming that would help reverse it or balance it out. Such mechanisms are quite conceivable and probably happen to some extent, unfortunately, the feedback mechanisms that we actually see happening are primarily of the positive type, which means that the added warming is feeding back to cause even more warming. Such phenomena as melting polar ice and methane release from thawing tundra are examples of this. The basic scientific concepts of global warming via greenhouse gas emissions are well established and date back nearly 200 years. They did not originate in recent decades and do not involve Al Gore, liberals, or political conspiracies. They are routine science. They are not even remotely in doubt scientifically. If denialists don't think all this added CO2 is warming the earth, then at the very least they should propose what magic is allegedly happening to prevent this. When you retain additional heat energy from the sun the earth warms. Why is this considered to be so shocking and unbelievable and why does it elicit conspiracy theories, etc.? 

Justin Smith
Justin Smith


Far too many on the left think that the Temperature of the planet is suppose to be static and unchanging, to be maintained at any and all cost.


I wish I could find a statistic on the number of people who wail against climate change but yet still use cars, electricity or any item that causes CO2 emissions. If all those who say climate change is a serious problem actually stopped using/doing anything that caused CO2 that would go a LONG way to solving the problem.  Too bad they  ignore that one little word called hypocrite. 

Chris Crawford
Chris Crawford

Well, here we go with the deniers showing up denying science. They don't know anything about the science and have not bothered to read any of the scientific papers mentioned in this article, but they're absolutely certain.


Deniers, either learn the science or leave science to the people who DO take the time to learn it. Pontificating about what you do not know is just electronic pollution.

Doc Climate
Doc Climate

The title of this article is unfortunate. It makes it sound like there is some actual science behind the denier pause myth.

Steven Litvintchouk
Steven Litvintchouk

It may come as a surprise to folks here that the U.S. has already reduced its CO2 emissions to the lowest level in *twenty years*.  In fact, when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the U.S. is the most successful nation on earth right now.


http://news.yahoo.com/rich-nations-greenhouse-gas-emissions-fall-2012-led-141426852--finance.html


The nations that have the worst track record are China and India.


Just once--JUST ONCE--I would like to see the American Left protesting them for a change instead of us.

How about if all the environmentalists in America go marching through Beijing for a change?



Gerald Wilhite
Gerald Wilhite

@William Mosby  As I said above, Mr. Mosby, you've made an excellent point that significantly changes everything. I think you are absolutely right. Are both of us missing something? If so, somebody please tell us.

Isn't it true that your same argument applies to the phase changes of H2O in the atmosphere? 

Gopal Pai
Gopal Pai

@Jack Walters  : how do we know this was not a myth created so as to create demand for various products or to reduce the pace of industrialization in certain upcoming countries like India ??!!

George Sorrell
George Sorrell

@Jack Walters  I'd like to address the points in your comment. First off, your ad hominem accusations (which, I might add, are completely missing from this article) are followed immediately with an ad hominem attack, leading me to question your understanding of the term.


Next, I'd like to point out that your facts are false. You first claim that the oceans wouldn't be cooling. The article states that the oceans absorb the excess heat. This is warming. This is exactly what warming is. The result is cooling in whatever used to have the heat.


Lastly, I'd like to know what "real scientist" told you that carbon dioxide is a "minor player" in forcing effects. The issue with your points is that total carbon dioxide production is not even close to the same as net production. That which is produced from dead organisms is nearly perfectly balanced by that which is consumed by living plants and algae. It's the extra 5% from humans that those things cannot handle, and that results in an increase of greenhouse gases. The common argument about CO2 being small amounts due to "water vapor" being in large amounts meaning that has to play a larger role is a complete fallacy. Different materials behave differently, as anyone should be able to deduce. We don't pour Mountain Dew into our gas tanks because it isn't the same as gasoline. That's not to say water has no effect, though. Only when it condenses and refracts light (which is radiation) does it create what is known as cloud-albedo forcing.


What I find most fascinating about this is that clouds make the daytime cooler because they block the short-wave radiation from the sun and the nighttime warmer because they keep the long-wave radiation from the earth in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has a similar forcing effect, although instead of reflecting short-wave radiation, it reflects long-wave radiation. Winter months can still be cold because snow-covered grounds reflect sunlight as short waves instead of absorbing it and releasing it slowly as infrared heat. This can still allow for cold winters with slowly increasing summer temperatures.


In summary, your points are pseudoscience, layman assumptions, and misinterpreted information that completely disregard the esteemed and intelligent scientists backed up by data and who publish their findings to the peer review of other experts in their field and not to the masses who clearly have never taken an introductory level earth science course.

Gerald Wilhite
Gerald Wilhite

@Monica Shirey  Thank you Monica. Your comment reminded me of my 8th grade English teacher. She drummed it deep in my thick teenage head that sloppy language begets sloppy thinking. If we didn't get so lazy by allowing some folks to get away with intentionally or unintentionally using sloppy language, we'd all make a lot more progress on these blogs. 

Andrew O.
Andrew O.

@Joe Lucido  You said: "No doubt that the climate is changing, but is it really due to man made activities?" 


In the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused primarily by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases.[2][3][4][5][6] No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view,[7] though a few organizations hold non-committal positions.[8]


You said: "if the facts were there for this "Man made climate change" I would be the first to support it."


Happy reading. Welcome aboard! 

Cameron Spitzer
Cameron Spitzer

@Half Rock Climate models aren't supposed to be able to make short term predictions.  Climate is about decades to centuries.  We'll know in another twenty years how accurate the models of ten years ago really were.  Would you measure the thickness of a dime with a yardstick?

N A
N A

@J Hampson The ocean absorbs heat, man, it's basic science. I hope you're just joking with your comment.

Philip Heywood
Philip Heywood

@Bill drnedel  You obviously have some clues yourself. Science advances by people solving seemingly impenetrable mysteries.  Einstein though about light always measuring the same speed irrespective of the speed of the measuring device.  Look where that seeming magic led him. 


I attempt to explain magic occurrences, myself.  See my publications if inclined. (Philip Bruce Heywood. "Climate Moderation")

John C.
John C.

@Bill drnedel


200 years is a miniscule sample out of millions, and data have only been accurately measured for several decades at most. If C02 was the primary driver, as the models and theory surmise, we should see a straight forward increase in global temperatures as C02 levels increase. We don't see that, which means the theory is not taking into account major pieces of the climate puzzle. When the models can accurately predict climate 5 years from now, let alone 100, they will be useful.   

Jim Satterfield
Jim Satterfield

@Justin Smith  There is change, then there is the rate of change. The fact that you can't understand that the latter presents problems for us as a civilization says far more about your ignorance than you realize.

Doc Holiday
Doc Holiday

@Justin Smith  far too many on the right think spewing pollution into the air, rivers, and oceans is harmless.



Ultimo Patriarch
Ultimo Patriarch

@Chris Crawford  Such sweeping generalizations mock s your own claim to scientific lucidity. I personally know two climate scientists, one a Professor one a Doctor, both of who have published papers holding a contrarian position to your new religion. Yes I am calling your belief a religion as you do not question it but believe what you are told.


Climate always changes, the mechanisms for why it does are, as yet, not well understood. Human generated CO2 may indeed turn out to be a major driver of climate change, as may orbital variations, Solar variances (Maunder minimums etc), and other as yet unknown processes. 


The constant evolution of the Global Warmists through to Climate Changers as each model and prediction fails doesn't inspire the rest of the world with confidence in the scientific rigor used to assemble the constantly failing models. Your position may indeed be correct but until we all do a lot more real science we can't really know. Several classic errors in the Warmist camps apart from biasing data, includes failing to account for the effects of the oceans (now finally being rectified), effects of atmospheric water/ice/water vapor..... 


This is not to say that reducing pollution/ increasing energy efficiency isn't important. It just says that we still cannot be certain what drives the climate and until we do the appropriate amounts of research speaking as if we have certainty is foolish.

travis t.
travis t.

@Doc Climate When you call someone a denier, I can't tell if it's science or a religion that the accused is denying.

John C.
John C.

@Doc Climate


Ah, the science is that global temperatures have been stagnant for 15 years, a phenomenon that the models and theory never predicted.

Half Rock
Half Rock

@Cameron Spitzer @Half Rock Beg to differ. The  IPCC did make climate predictions with in the framework of their models... so you disagree with the IPCC.  Ok so you now  take the position that the predictions which have specific dates and temperature correlations which are  very clear in the IPCC reports and have absolutely failed to show any skill should be given a "second chance". Even the IPCC has not advanced this approach.  Am I to understand that you would propose that  the failure of these theories should be  ignored and the failed predictions  recast into the future with out making any modifications? JUST CONTINUE THE GRAPHS!!!???? and wait around until the amount of energy necessary to make us the difference becomes preposterous to the most uneducated individual? (l being the lower common denominator?) They are already off by 3 to 5 times. Calculate how much heat would have to be added to the system to catch up based upon the geological record ( Vostok Ice Cores) you would have to postulate a whole new theory any how..


My response is simple that the predictions are undeniably clear and these  predictions failed therefore there no skill is shown with in the time frames of their predictions. EQD!  This is a go no go analysis.


By your response you are acknowledging the failure and offering another vague  theory with out making a falsifiable prediction. Clearly a new working theory is necessary. Unfortunately not yours, your methodology is unscientific by the definition offered by Karl Popper and which Scientific theories are presently judged. .

travis t.
travis t.

@N A @J Hampson A more likely theory that it's leaving the atmosphere.  Isn't that how displacement works?  Also warming would rise not fall into the ocean.  But wait, that wouldn't coincide with alarmist beliefs.

Doc Holiday
Doc Holiday

@John C. @Bill drnedel  are you kidding?


we can drill ice samples and find direct examples of what the air was like going back millions of years.  it's frozen in the bubbles...

Justin Smith
Justin Smith

@Jim Satterfield @Justin Smith   So you call me ignorant when I never once denied climate change nor did I mention anything about the rate of climate change. Wow I guess if you can't argue a point just name call instead.

Bill drnedel
Bill drnedel

@Ultimo Patriarch @Chris Crawford  You fail to acknowledge that all of the studies need to rigorously dismiss these various other sources of climate variation have already been done quite well and quite thoroughly. They are no longer in question by real scientists who actually seek the truth. Deniers keep rehashing all these things as if they have not already been discovered to be irrelevant to what is actually happening. What's happening is quite simple. Solar variance cannot account for it, nor can anything else. It's much simpler than that. The added CO2 of our civilization is causing the atmosphere to retain additional heat energy (beyond what it normally would) from the sun before it radiates back into space. This warms the planet, just as natural sources of CO2 and H2O normally do to keep us in a comfort zone for life to exist. What magic is it that you think is occurring that is somehow preventing extra CO2 emissions from warming the planet?

Doc Holiday
Doc Holiday

@John C. @Doc Climate  no they have not.  all the warmest years have been in the last decade. there is no pause. it's BS made by politicos.

Philip Heywood
Philip Heywood

@Doc Holiday @John C. @Bill drnedel  Going back perhaps one million years if we are lucky.  Beyond that, geologically, very difficult if not impossible to get a  reliable palaeocarbon or palaeotemp. measurement. 


Ice seemingly should have exact readings but at this stage --  in question.   Why?  The assumptions involved.  CO2 selectively leaches out of the air pockets and the CO2 readings become a best guess as a result.  Please Google "Ice core CO2 leaching Jaworowski',  if curious.  (Jaworowski did this stuff.) 


Then we get to ice core palaeotemp. analysis, which appears to assume that the water vapour that condensed to form snow above the future drill site did so at the exact same barometric pressure for the past mill. odd yrs.  (Temp. and press. being inverse in their effect upon condensation of gases) --  The temp. analysis relies upon preferential condensation of isotopically heavier molecules, but pressure obviously has a hand in gas condensation. 


Not to say the ice cores don't tell us something. 


I thought I was rough as a geologist -- believe me, geologists don't have to prove a thing!

Harold Seneker
Harold Seneker

@Doc Holiday @John C. @Doc Climate  This is perfectly consistent with stagnation - when the temperature change stalls after a period of rising, then obviously all the readings during the stagnation will be at or near the peak temperature. You are merely confirming and supporting the contention with your post.

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