Xie, Shang-Ping

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    Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2013-09-19) Kosaka, Yu ; Xie, Shang-Ping
    Despite the continued increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases, the annual-mean global temperature has not risen in this century, challenging the prevailing view that anthropogenic forcing causes climate warming. Various mechanisms have been proposed for this hiatus of global warming, but their relative importance has not been quantified, hampering observational estimates of climate sensitivity. Here we show that accounting for recent cooling in the eastern equatorial Pacific reconciles climate simulations and observations. We present a novel method to unravel mechanisms for global temperature change by prescribing the observed history of sea surface temperature over the deep tropical Pacific in a climate model, in addition to radiative forcing. Although the surface temperature prescription is limited to only 8.2% of the global surface, our model reproduces the annual-mean global temperature remarkably well with r = 0.97 for 1970-2012 (a period including the current hiatus and an accelerated global warming). Moreover, our simulation captures major seasonal and regional characteristics of the hiatus, including the intensified Walker circulation, the winter cooling in northwestern and prolonged drought in southern North America. Our results show that the current hiatus is part of natural climate variability, tied specifically to a La Niña-like decadal cooling. While similar decadal hiatus events may occur in the future, multi-decadal warming trend is very likely to continue with greenhouse gas increase.