New data from the University of Alaska Fairbanks shows that missing Arctic temperature data, not the climate, created the seeming “pause” of global warming from 1998 to 2012.
In fact, the improved datasets the researchers gathered shows that the Arctic warmed six times faster than the global average during the so-called global warming hiatus.
Atmospheric scientist Xiangdong Zhang collaborated with colleagues at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Chinese agencies studying Arctic warming to analyze temperature data collected from buoys in the Arctic Ocean.
“We recalculated the average global temperatures from 1998 to 2012 and found that the rate of global warming had continued to rise at 0.112 degrees C per decade instead of slowing down to 0.05 degrees C per decade as previously thought,” Zhang said.
How did the data lead scientists down the wrong path before?
Most current estimates use global data that represents a long timespan and provides good coverage of a global geographic area. But the Arctic, being so remote, lacks a comprehensive network of instruments to collect accurate temperature data.
To improve the dataset, Zhang’s team relied on temperature data collected from the International Arctic Buoy Program at the University of Washington. For global data, the team used newly corrected sea surface temperatures provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. By doing so, the team was able to re-estimate the average global temperatures during that time with more accurate and representative data.
The global warming hiatus is a hotly debated topic among climate scientists. Some say that an unusually warm El Niño in 1997-1998, followed by an extended period afterward that didn’t have an El Niño may have disrupted global warming.
It was a nice dream, but unfortunately, the new data sets and resulting estimates prove conclusively that global warming did not pause at all. Not only that, but until recently, scientists didn’t consider the Arctic big enough to greatly influence global temperatures.
“The Arctic is remote only in terms of physical distance,” Zhang said. “In terms of science, it’s close to every one of us. It’s a necessary part of the equation and the answer affects us all.”