Decadal Modulation of Global Surface Temperature By Internal Climate Variability

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 3:04 PM
Aiguo Dai, University at Albany, SUNY, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Albany, NY, United States, John C Fyfe, Environment Canada, Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis, Victoria, BC, Canada, Shang-Ping Xie, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States and Xingang Dai, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Beijing, China
Despite a steady increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs), global-mean surface temperature (T) has shown no discernable warming since about 2000, in sharp contrast to model simulations which on average project strong warming. The recent slowdown in observed surface warming has been attributed to decadal cooling in the tropical Pacific, intensifying trade winds, changes in El Niño activity, increasing volcanic activity and decreasing solar irradiance. Earlier periods of arrested warming have been observed but received much less attention than the recent period, and their causes are poorly understood. Here we analyze observed and model-simulated global T fields to quantify the contributions of internal climate variability (ICV) to decadal changes in global-mean T since 1920. We show that the Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) has been associated with large T anomalies over both ocean and land since 1920. Combined with another leading mode of ICV, the IPO explains most of the difference between observed and model-simulated rates of decadal change in global-mean T since 1920, and particularly over the so-called “hiatus” period since about 2000. We conclude that ICV, mainly through the IPO, was largely responsible for the recent slowdown, as well as for earlier slowdowns and accelerations in global-mean T since 1920, with preferred spatial patterns different from GHG-induced warming. Recent history suggests that the IPO could reverse course and lead to accelerated global warming in the coming decades.