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Seattle scientist co-authors study that finds missing heat in Atlantic Ocean

Atantic Ocean off Rio
Atantic Ocean off Rio
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Climate deniers have made the claim for years that global warming can't possibly exist if average global temperatures have remained steady, instead of rising.

Researchers have long known that a majority of heated air gets drawn into ocean “sinks” and stored there.

In some cases, even more than into the atmosphere and new studies confirm that oceans are the key to explaining where the heat has gone.

The impact of El Nino on the Pacific Ocean was identified in January of this year by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, as part of the mystery, according to a report in Nature.

“The 1997 to ’98 El Niño event was a trigger for the changes in the Pacific, and I think that’s very probably the beginning of the [hiatus],” says Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at NCAR. “[But] eventually, it will switch back in the other direction.”

In addition, on August 25th a study done by two researchers and published in Science suggests that a majority of the missing heat is trapped in the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ka-Kit Tung, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle and oceanographer Xianyao Chen at the Ocean University in China collaborated, while using additional research beyond computer models.

According to a report in National Geographic, the study involved an ocean-wide network of sensors that included “floats that dive nearly a mile (1,500 meters) beneath the surface to measure the temperature and salt content of the water.”

Proponents of curbing carbon emissions say that whether it is in the sub-surface of the Pacific Ocean or the cascading escalator effect into the deep waters of the Atlantic, the heat is there and while the so-called “hiatus” may continue for another decade, which will only enlarge the volume of captured heat, all researchers involved agree it will “inevitably” switch back in rapid from.

"The frightening part," Tung said, is "it's going to warm just as fast as the last three decades of the 20th century, which was the fastest warming we've seen. Only now, we'll be starting from a higher average surface temperature than before.”

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