Climate scientists said that while the Earth's rate of warming has slowed down, global warming is simply on pause and has not completely stopped.
Huge amounts of heat - equivalent to the power of 150 billion electric kettles - are being continuously absorbed by the deep ocean, which could explain why global warming has "paused" over the past 10 to 15 years, the Independent reported.
AdvertisementGlobal average temperatures are higher now than they have ever been since modern records began.
However, after a period of rapid temperature increases during the 1980s and 1990s there has been a significant slow-down since the turn of the century, leading some sceptics to claim that global warming has stopped.
A scientific assessment of the planet's heat balance has found that the most likely explanation for the recent hiatus in global warming is the continual absorption of thermal energy by the huge "heat sink" of the deep ocean many hundreds of metres below the sea surface, according to scientists from the Met Office.
Senior climate scientists said that they had always expected periods when the rate of increase in temperatures would level off for a few years and emphasised that the last decade was still warmer than any previous decade, with 12 of the 14 hottest years on record occurring since 2000.
Professor Rowan Sutton, a climate scientist at Reading University, said the temperatures have levelled off in the past, the latest example being in the 1940s and 1950s when sulphate pollutants from the post-war boom in industrial production may have acted as a shield against incoming solar radiation.
The problem for the Met Office is to explain why the rate of increase in global temperatures has declined in recent years while concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have continued to accelerate.
Sceptics claim that this shows there is not a strong link between the two, whereas climate scientists insist that rising carbon dioxide concentrations are largely responsible for the rise in global temperatures.
Professor Stephen Belcher, head of the Met Office Hadley Centre, said that a pause in the rate of increase in global temperatures lasting this long is unusual but not exceptional, with similar pauses of about 10 years expected on average twice every century.
The most likely explanation for the current pause is that excess heat trapped by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being transferred from the atmosphere to the oceans where it is being transported down to deeper layers that cannot be monitored by satellites, Professor Belcher said.
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