Some people have recently been stating that global warming is over, or at least slowing down. Texas Senator Ted Cruz recently declared that the Earth has not warmed since 1998, and Fox News last year reported that global warming had stopped.
Global warming sceptics often pounce on statements like this, and use these arguments to try and cloud the real facts about the state of global warming. It is true that the current rate of warming has slowed, scientists accept it, however the reasons for the slowdown are temporary, a result of natural climate variation that will quickly reverse and send temperatures climbing upwards at a faster rate once more.
The problem is that the term global warming never refers to a relentless increase in temperature year on year, so having a few years of steady temperatures does not disprove the theory. Jerry Meehl, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, explained that “there’s always more than one thing going on in the climate system.” So some years might be hotter than normal, and others cooler, but according to the World Meteorological Organisation each decade since the 1950s has been hotter than the previous.
Mother Jones explains that global warming occurs due to an energy imbalance on the Earth. Greenhouse gases prevent heat from escaping the atmosphere, so more heat is absorbed by the planet, than is released back out into space. When people think about global warming they usually think of the air temperature, but actually only a tiny fraction of the heat remains in the atmosphere, the majority (93%) is absorbed by the oceans.
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According to a leaked report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the rate at which the planet’s surface temperature warms up has fallen over the past 15 years, and from here the stem the claims that global warming is over. However, the oceans, the main indicator of changing temperatures, continue to warm up.
Sydney Levitus, an oceanographer from the University of Maryland, said that “the important thing in terms of climate change is that the world ocean has continued to store heat.” He also calculated that if all heat energy absorbed by the oceans from 1955 to 2010 were to be released into the atmosphere, the global air temperature would increase by around 18.3 °C.
Anthony Broccoli, a climate researcher at Rutgers University, explained that “you might think of the atmosphere as the tail, and the ocean being the dog, as far as heat is concerned. Although the tail may wag around a little, what it's really doing is following the dog.”
Scientists explain the slowdown in the rising surface temperature to be a result of several factors, including more heat being absorbed deeper into the oceans, a reduction in solar activity, and more active volcanos; all of which help to reduce temperature in some form or another.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com