Prospects for a prolonged slowdown in global warming in the early 21st century

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Global mean temperature over 1998 to 2015 increased at a slower rate (0.1 K decade-1) compared with the ensemble mean (forced) warming rate projected by Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) models (0.2 K decade-1). Here we investigate the prospects for this slower rate to persist for a decade or more. The slower rate could persist if the transient climate response is overestimated by CMIP5 models by a factor of two, as suggested by recent low-end estimates. Alternatively, using CMIP5 models' warming rate, the slower rate could still persist due to strong multidecadal internal variability cooling. Combining the CMIP5 ensemble warming rate with internal variability episodes from a single climate model - having the strongest multidecadal variability among CMIP5 models - we estimate that the warming slowdown (<0.1 K decade-1 trend beginning in 1998) could persist, due to internal variability cooling, through 2020, 2025 or 2030 with probabilities 16%, 11% and 6%, respectively.




Knutson, T. R., Zhang, R., & Horowitz, L. W. (2016, November 30). Prospects for a prolonged slowdown in global warming in the early 21st century. Nature Communications. Nature Publishing Group.

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