Wind patterns could mask effects of global warming in ocean

Feb 07, 2008

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that natural variability in the earth’s atmosphere could be masking the overall effect of global warming in the North Atlantic Ocean. The research is published in journal Science.

Scientists have previously found that surface temperatures around the globe have risen over the last 30 years in accord with global warming. New data, however, shows that heat stored in the North Atlantic Ocean has a more complex pattern than initially expected, suggesting that natural changes in the atmosphere also play a role.

The Liverpool team, in collaboration with the University of Duke in the US, analysed 50 years of North Atlantic temperature records and used computer models to assess how the warming and cooling pattern was controlled. They found that the tropics and mid-latitudes have warmed, while the sub-polar regions have cooled.

Professor Ric Williams, from the University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, explains: “We found that changes in the heat stored in the North Atlantic corresponded to changes in natural and cyclical winds above the North Atlantic. This pattern of wind movement is called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which is linked to pressure differences in the atmosphere between Iceland and The Azores.

“The computer model we used to analyse our data helped us to predict how wind and heat exchange with the atmosphere affects the North Atlantic Ocean’s heat content over time. We found that the warming over the mid latitudes was due to the wind redistributing heat, while the gain in heat in the tropics and loss in heat at high latitudes was due to an exchange of heat with the atmosphere.

“These local changes in heat storage are typically 10 times larger than any global warming trend. We now need to look at why changes are occurring in wind circulation, as this in itself could be linked to global warming effects.”

Although natural variability appears to be masking global warming effects in the ocean, scientists still believe that global warming is occurring, as evident through a wide range of independent signals such as rising surface and atmospheric temperatures, reduced Arctic summer sea ice and the reduced extent of many glaciers showing changes in the environment.

Source: University of Liverpool

Explore further: Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Melting during cooling period

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —A University of Maine research team says stratification of the North Atlantic Ocean contributed to summer warming and glacial melting in Scotland during the period recognized for abrupt cooling ...

Big climate report: Warming is big risk for people

Mar 24, 2014

Top climate scientists are gathering in Japan this week to finish up a report on the impact of global warming. And they say if you think climate change is only faced by some far-off polar bear decades from ...

The Atlantic Ocean dances with the sun and volcanoes

Mar 31, 2014

Natural fluctuations in the ocean temperature in the North Atlantic have a significant impact on the climate in the northern hemisphere. These fluctuations are the result of a complex dance between the forces ...

Recommended for you

Magnitude-7.2 earthquake shakes Mexican capital

Apr 18, 2014

A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NotParker
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 07, 2008
"surface temperatures around the globe have risen over the last 30 years"

If you pick 1977 as a base point, then yes, since 1977 was among the coldest years in the last 80 years.

However, in the US, 1934 is the warmest year.

Thr rise in temps from 1910 to 1934 was much faster ... and it was done without Co2 increases of any significance.

Therefore it wasn't Co2.

And it isn't Co2 now.

Its the Sun.
NotParker
2 / 5 (4) Feb 07, 2008
January.

Cold.

http://www.ncdc.n.../na.html

CO2 isn't having any affect.
plaasjaapie
2 / 5 (4) Feb 08, 2008
I get really tired of "studies" like this. You start out presuming global warming and then when you find that a big chunk of the observations don't support your bias you confect a "computer model", structure undescribed, to allow you to twiddle a few variables that are very hard to quantify, like forced air convection over the ocean surface via wind. Then you twiddle your variables in your rotten computer model to "explain" why the data doesn't support your original bias.

"Scientists" like this need to take training for a new career. Repeat after me, "do you want fries with that?" :-/

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.