Abnormally strong trade winds since the 1990s have blown across the Pacific, possibly trapping heat from the air in the ocean's waters. This may explain why average global temperatures increased less than some computer models predicted.
However, when the winds slow down to normal, the heat could escape quickly and cause rapid warming of the Earth's atmosphere, suggests new research.
Although still approximately 1.53 degrees F (0.85 C) warmer than in 1880, the Earth's atmospheric fever has held relatively steady during the past decade.
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The reason for that climate change plateau puzzles atmospheric scientists. The answer may be blowing in the trade winds, persistent surface winds that flow from East to West near the equator.
"Scientists have long suspected that extra ocean heat uptake has slowed the rise of global average temperatures, but the mechanism behind the hiatus remained unclear," said Matthew England of the University of New South Wales and lead author of the recent study published in Nature Climate Change, in a press release.