Geophysicists recently discovered that El Niño events in the central Pacific Ocean increase global average surface temperatures less than El Niño events located in the eastern Pacific.
These central Pacific El Niño events may have contributed to decades-long slowdowns in the rate of climate change. That slowdown helped fuel climate change skeptics over the past few years as the pause in warming gained media attention.
A shift in this year's El Niño may change all that.
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Since 1900, five distinct slowdowns in global surface warming occurred despite the influence of increasing greenhouse gas levels on the climate, wrote the authors of a recent paper in Geophysical Research Letters. During each of these heating hiatuses, three to four El Niño events occurred. However all of these events were located in the central Pacific.
Every year of the warming slowdowns hosted Pacific Ocean conditions classified as neutral, central Pacific El Niño, mixed or La Niña. No eastern Pacific El Niño events occurred during slowdowns.