Global Warming? Temperature Up 'Very Close to Zero' Over 15 Years

Penny Starr | June 24, 2013 | 12:56pm EDT
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A flock of Geese fly past the smokestacks at the Jeffrey Energy Center coal power plant as the suns sets near Emmett, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

( – In a June 20 interview with Spiegel Online, German climate scientist Hans von Storch said that despite predictions of a warming planet the temperature data for the past 15 years shows an increase of 0.06 or “very close to zero.”

“That hasn't happened,” Storch said. “In fact, the increase over the last 15 years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) – a value very close to zero.”

Spiegel asked Storch why the Earth’s temperature has not risen significantly in the past 15 years despite 400 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) being emitted into the atmosphere from human activities.

“So far, no one has been able to provide a compelling answer to why climate change seems to be taking a break,” said Storch, a professor at the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg and director of the Institute for Coastal Research at the Helmholtz Research Centre in Geesthacht, Germany.

“We're facing a puzzle,” Storch said. “Recent CO2 emissions have actually risen even more steeply than we feared.

“As a result, according to most climate models, we should have seen temperatures rise by around 0.25 degrees Celsius (0.45 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 10 years,” he added.

“That hasn't happened,” Storch said. “In fact, the increase over the last 15 years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) -- a value very close to zero.

Storch said the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would have to address these facts in its next climate assessment report due out late next year.

The interview includes this exchange about what this 15-year data showing virtually no rise in the Earth’s temperature means going forward.

SPIEGEL: Do the computer models with which physicists simulate the future climate ever show the sort of long standstill in temperature change that we're observing right now?

Storch: Yes, but only extremely rarely. At my institute, we analyzed how often such a 15-year stagnation in global warming occurred in the simulations. The answer was: in under 2 percent of all the times we ran the simulation. In other words, over 98 percent of forecasts show CO2 emissions as high as we have had in recent years leading to more of a temperature increase.

SPIEGEL: How long will it still be possible to reconcile such a pause in global warming with established climate forecasts?

Storch: If things continue as they have been, in five years, at the latest, we will need to acknowledge that something is fundamentally wrong with our climate models. A 20-year pause in global warming does not occur in a single modeled scenario. But even today, we are finding it very difficult to reconcile actual temperature trends with our expectations.

In the interview, Storch also addressed the “hysteria” over global warming by some advocates.

“Would you say that people no longer reflexively attribute every severe weather event to global warming as much as they once did?” the interviewer asked.

“Yes, my impression is that there is less hysteria over the climate,” Storch said. “There are certainly still people who almost ritualistically cry, ‘Stop thief! Climate change is at fault!’ over any natural disaster.

“But people are now talking much more about the likely causes of flooding, such as land being paved over or the disappearance of natural flood zones -- and that's a good thing,” Storch said.

Storch, however, did not dismiss global warming completely when asked if changes in how scientist measure and predict the Earth’s climate will throw the whole concept into doubt.

“I don't believe so,” Storch said. “We still have compelling evidence of a man-made greenhouse effect. There is very little doubt about it. But if global warming continues to stagnate, doubts will obviously grow stronger.”

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