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Peer-Reviewed Study Rocks Climate Debate

By Marc Morano, Climate Depot

Nature not man responsible for recent global warming

Three Australasian researchers have shown that natural forces are the dominant influence on climate, in a study just published in the highly-regarded Journal of Geophysical Research. According to this study little or none of the late 20th century global warming and cooling can be attributed to human activity.

The research, by Chris de Freitas, a climate scientist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, John McLean (Melbourne) and Bob Carter (James Cook University), finds that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a key indicator of global atmospheric temperatures seven months later. As an additional influence, intermittent volcanic activity injects cooling aerosols into the atmosphere and produces significant cooling.

"The surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that made warming El Niño conditions more likely than they were over the previous 30 years and cooling La Niña conditions less likely" says corresponding author de Freitas.

"We have shown that internal global climate-system variability accounts for at least 80% of the observed global climate variation over the past half-century. It may even be more if the period of influence of major volcanoes can be more clearly identified and the corresponding data excluded from the analysis.”

Climate researchers have long been aware that ENSO events influence global temperature, for example causing a high temperature spike in 1998 and a subsequent fall as conditions moved to La Niña. It is also well known that volcanic activity has a cooling influence, and as is well documented by the effects of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption.

The new paper draws these two strands of climate control together and shows, by demonstrating a strong relationship between the Southern Oscillation and lower-atmospheric temperature, that ENSO has been a major temperature influence since continuous measurement of lower-atmospheric temperature first began in 1958.

According to the three researchers, ENSO-related warming during El Niño conditions is caused by a stronger Hadley Cell circulation moving warm tropical air into the mid-latitudes. During La Niña conditions the Pacific Ocean is cooler and the Walker circulation, west to east in the upper atmosphere along the equator, dominates.

"When climate models failed to retrospectively produce the temperatures since 1950 the modellers added some estimated influences of carbon dioxide to make up the shortfall," says McLean.

"The IPCC acknowledges in its 4th Assessment Report that ENSO conditions cannot be predicted more than about 12 months ahead, so the output of climate models that could not predict ENSO conditions were being compared to temperatures during a period that was dominated by those influences. It's no wonder that model outputs have been so inaccurate, and it is clear that future modelling must incorporate the ENSO effect if it is to be meaningful."

Bob Carter, one of four scientists who has recently questioned the justification for the proposed Australian emissions trading scheme, says that this paper has significant consequences for public climate policy.

"The close relationship between ENSO and global temperature, as described in the paper, leaves little room for any warming driven by human carbon dioxide emissions. The available data indicate that future global temperatures will continue to change primarily in response to ENSO cycling, volcanic activity and solar changes.”

“Our paper confirms what many scientists already know: which is that no scientific justification exists for emissions regulation, and that, irrespective of the severity of the cuts proposed, ETS will exert no measurable effect on future climate.”

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