A new study from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Tsinghua University in Beijing has found that the global warming pause that was supposed to have occurred between 1998 and 2012 didn’t actually happen. The discrepancy was apparently due to incomplete data, making it appear that worldwide temperature increases had plateaued.
"We recalculated the average global temperatures from 1998-2012 and found that the rate of global warming had continued to rise at 0.112ºC per decade instead of slowing down to 0.05ºC per decade as previously thought," explains UAF professor and atmospheric scientist Xiangdong Zhang.
Zhang and his colleagues developed new methods of incorporating Arctic temperature data into the global dataset, making for a more accurate estimate of the rate of temperature change. The missing data that led to the lower initial estimates was due to the lack of an extensive network of sensors in the remote Arctic: sensor buoys are easy to deploy and disperse in the open ocean, but surface ice in the Arctic Ocean impedes this distribution process, meaning that in previous decades, sensors would have to be placed manually in these remote areas. The rate of warming in the Arctic is much more pronounced than it is at lower latitudes, so incomplete measurements from this region would make the increase in global average temperatures to appear to be much lower.
In addition to providing a more accurate estimate of average global temperature rise, the study also illustrated how dramatic the rate of temperature increase in the Arctic is: "We estimated a new rate of Arctic warming at 0.659ºC per decade from 1998-2014. Compared with the newly estimated global warming rate of 0.130ºC per decade, the Arctic has warmed more than five time the global average," said Zhang.