News / Science & Technology

Global Warming Slowdown Trapped in Ocean

General view of beach shows breaking waves along the ocean beach front in Biarritz on the southern Atlantic Coast of France, Feb. 6, 2014. Global warming is in a temporary hiatus, in part because of heat absorbed deep into the Atlantic and Southern oceans.
General view of beach shows breaking waves along the ocean beach front in Biarritz on the southern Atlantic Coast of France, Feb. 6, 2014. Global warming is in a temporary hiatus, in part because of heat absorbed deep into the Atlantic and Southern oceans.
Rosanne Skirble

A climate change mystery is coming into sharper focus.

A new study released in the journal Science explains why despite the rise of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, global warming has slowed over the last 15 years. Some scientists point to the cooling effect of volcanoes or changes in solar activity.  

Lead author and University of Washington applied mathematics professor Ka Kit Tung suggests massive movement of heat from shallow to deep regions of the ocean is responsible.

“From the energy standpoint, the warming does not just warm the surface. It should warm the whole ocean column," said Tung. "There is evidence that the integrated temperature of the whole ocean column has been increasing even through the current period of pause.”

Global warming heat stored in Atlantic, Southern oceans

Ninety-three percent of the excess heat caused by global warming gases is stored in the oceans. Tung used underwater sensors to measure the temperature at various depths in the water column over the last three decades of the 20th century. Climate models indicated that the Pacific Ocean was hiding the heat.

But observations showed the heat is sinking deep in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans, part of a natural 30-year cycle. Tung said the current phase, with cooler temperatures at the ocean surface, started in 1999 when the rapid warming of the last century slowed down. “And we are currently in the middle of this 30-year period where more heat is going into the ocean, Tung said, “That’s why what [heat] remains near the surface has not been much, not much warming.”    

Salty seawater triggers heat migration into ocean depth

Tung's study finds that the excessive heat now stored in the ocean depths moves like a conveyor belt between the north and south poles. The warm water becomes saltier as it travels through the subtropics because there is more evaporation of surface water at those latitudes.

Salty seawater is heavier and sinks, making the sea surface - and the air above it - cooler. Tung said that accounts for the warming pause we’re experiencing now. Temperatures will rise, however, when the ocean cycle flips to its warm phase. “The rate of surface temperature increase will be just as high, or even higher, than what we experienced in the last three decades of the 20th century. But the actual temperature that it starts with is now the highest temperature, but it is going to go up very rapidly. So the next phase of accelerated warming is going to be very damaging.”

The current global warming slowdown, Tung predicts, could last a decade or longer.

 

 

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Science Officer from: Earth
August 22, 2014 1:59 PM
Odd, the rate of sea level rise has slowed, commensurate with the "pause" in atmospheric temperatures. You'd think all the heat in the oceans would make them expand and sea levels would rise faster. Now we have another mystery to solve

by: Asok Smith
August 21, 2014 10:07 PM
I'm confused. I thought the "science" was settled.
In Response

by: Terry from: Western us
August 23, 2014 2:39 AM
I get tired of hearing the debate about climate change is settled. No "theory" that continually does not produce the projected results is settled. Every time things don't go the way the alarmists project they produce another theory as to why. They said themselves in this report that the earth goes through cycles of temperature fluctuation that can last up to 70 years. That meanes the last 100 years of warming, minus the last 15 years it didn't warm could be a natural cycle. We need to be good stewards of our planet but not destroy our economy based on unproven theory.
In Response

by: ReduceGHGs from: Oregon
August 22, 2014 11:08 AM
The science regarding the core issue is settled; Humans are warming the planet and the consequences are not good. To avoid confusion read what the experts have been saying for years. Google: NASA Climate Change Consensus

by: BigBob from: USA
August 21, 2014 9:13 PM
The big run-away green house is just a scare tactic to scare dumb weak minded folk to vote for surrendering extremely large amounts of tax money to greedy university profs. and other dishonest government officials. If you only knew the funds these greedy swindlers took in. Don’t forget crony capitalism like Solarendra and GE. Have a big green time while they suck green dollars from your pockets. One of the heads of IPCC Dr. Michael Mann and colleagues had all their top secret emails flooded into public domain where all could see the giant scam. You would think it would have been the end of the issue. But no! Way too much money to be made yet. Liberals run the government and liberals almost never indict fellow liberals. That’s because they are all a bunch of hippy crooks! You don't think I have proof ? Where has the social security funds gone to?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs