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11/15/2013

The Arctic conundrum: new research says warming has not slowed down

 

Has global warming stopped? Is it on a hiatus?

While much of the world debated that a few weeks ago when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its much-awaited 5th assessment on the state of global warming in Sweden, where it showed that temperatures haven’t increased as much in the past 15 years. Some scientists attributed the slowdown to heat going deeper into the oceans.

Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers, including one from the University of Ottawa, too, has an answer: they have found “missing heat” in the climate system.

They say that observational data, on which climate records are based, covers only “84 per cent of the planet and largely excludes the polar regions and parts of Africa.”

Their research, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, shows that the Arctic is warming at about eight times the pace of the rest of the planet.

(Previous studies by the U.K. Met Office, which covers about five-sixths of the globe, suggest that global warming has slowed substantially since 1997.)

The new research suggests that the addition of the 'missing' data indicates that the rate of warming since 1997 has been two and a half times greater than shown. Evidence for the rapid warming of the Arctic includes observations from high latitude weather stations, radiosonde and satellite observations of temperatures in the lower atmosphere and reanalysis of historical data.

In a statement, Robery Way of University of Ottawa, said that “changes in Arctic sea ice and glaciers over the past decade clearly support the results of our study. By producing a truly global temperature record, we aim to better understand the drivers of recent climate change.”

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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