Climate scientists in Britain have issued a warning: the “pause” in global warming is ending, and global temperatures will likely hit record highs in the next few years as the effect of greenhouse gases combines with a severe El Nino, a natural warming of the Pacific Ocean.
Climate change deniers have often pointed to the so-called “pause” as evidence that climate change does not exist.
But the Met Office, a UK government agency that studies global weather patterns, released a report on Monday, peer-reviewed by the University of Reading's Prof. Rowan Sutton, that suggests the world is sliding into a warming trend, Sky News reports.
The Met Office's Prof. Adam Scaife said several global changes are occurring at once: "We believe we are at an important point in the time series of the Earth's climate and we'll look back on this period as an important turning point.
"That's why we're emphasising it because we're seeing so many big changes at once.
"A lot of those things are natural, we've had El Niños when we were cavemen, that's been going on a long time, and similarly there is evidence for variations in the Atlantic going back 1,000 years through various proxy measures.
"A lot of these things can occur without the influence of human beings.
"However, they are now occurring on top of the influence coming from man's activity, so when they occur, when an El Niño comes and raises the global temperature, that is the icing on the cake, that is the extra bit that creates a record."
Looming large in the scientists’ conclusions is this current El Niño, which the United Nations World Meteorological Organization has slated to be one of the strongest in more than 60 years.
The phenomenon of El Niño creates significantly warmer ocean temperatures, particularly in the eastern Pacific, which in turns affects weather patterns. This El Niño is forecast to peak between October and January.
The years 2014, 2015, and 2016 are likely to be at – or near – record level temperatures as the extra heat from the El Niño effect combines with solar radiation trapped by greenhouse gases, according to the Met’s report.
Record temperatures – the United Nations also reported in July that last year was the warmest since records began in the 19th century - and changes to climate patterns in the world’s oceans are among signs that a global warming pause is coming to an end, Britain’s Met Office said.
The report notes that the temperature shift is likely to mean drier than normal conditions for much of maritime Southeast Asia, India, Central America and northern Brazil. It also means an increased likelihood of wetter than normal conditions for the south western US (helping ease California's drought) and southern South America.
The report comes at an opportune time: a UN climate conference will convene 200 nations in Paris in November with the goal of curbing global climate change.
One of the existing goals of the UN climate pact is to stop global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, what scientists say is needed to stem the effects of climate change such as worsening floods, droughts, storms and rising seas.