It has been the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community for a long time that human activity and other external factors are responsible for the continuing rise in global temperature. Despite this widespread agreement, there have been those who argue that natural ocean cycles might be influencing global warming over the course of multiple decades.
A new study, published in the Journal of Climate, provides an answer to the question of how much influence natural cycles might have, and that answer is very little to none.
The study looked at observed ocean and land temperature data since 1850 and, apart from human-induced factors such as greenhouse gas concentrations, took into account other occurrences such as volcanic eruptions, solar activity, and air pollution peaks. The findings demonstrated that slow-acting ocean cycles do not explain the long-term changes in global temperatures.
Based on the study, the researchers can state with confidence that human factors like greenhouse gas emissions and particulate pollution, along with year-to-year changes caused by natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions or El Niño, are sufficient to explain virtually all the long-term changes in temperature. The idea that the oceans could have been driving the climate either in a colder or warmer direction for multiple decades in the past and therefore will do so in the future is unlikely to be correct.
A number of previous studies have compared flawed observations with flawed modeling results to claim that naturally-occurring ocean cycles have played a large role in global temperatures. The new study shows that such cycles have little influence on the climate. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is really what we need to do.
Global temperature change attributable to external factors, confirms new study
Photo, posted November 13, 2007, courtesy of Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.