Pacific Ocean can slow down global warming process

Pacific winds appear to be the cause of a temporary slowdown in global warming.
By Kathy Fey | Apr 16, 2015
There has been a temporary slowdown in the rise of Earth's surface temperatures, and scientists think the Pacific Ocean might be the cause.

The study, published in the Journal of Climate, finds that powerful trade winds force heat down into the ocean, causing land masses to accumulate slightly less heat over a period of time. At the same time that heat is being pushed beneath the ocean surface, unusually cool water has been rising to replace warmer waters in the eastern Pacific. The wind and heat movement patterns may also be contributing to ongoing droughts.

"We know there's a lot of natural variability in the (climate) system," Thomas Delworth of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory said. "It's not surprising, but it's important to understand mechanisms for this hiatus."

According to Discovery News, the research team believes that the temperature changes in the Pacific region are also accountable for the reduction of precipitation in the western United States. Many rain-producing storms are being deflected north into Canada, and the study indicates that a full 92 percent of the western U.S.'s dry weather conditions can be linked to the shift in Pacific trade winds.

"This new work, along with earlier studies, shows the importance of tropical Pacific conditions for U.S. droughts. It also illustrates the need for accurate and long-range prediction of tropical Pacific climate anomalies," Shang-Ping Xie of the Scripps Institute for Oceanography said.

Worldwide, global warming continues to occur despite the brief respite afforded by the Pacific winds. As of now, scientists can only predict changes in Pacific-area weather changes a few months in advance. Further study may allow for more timely and accurate predictions of how the American west may be affected by shifting ocean currents and winds, as well as allow for a more complete view of the ocean's affect on global warming.

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