Climate Change The map shows the 10-year average (2000–2009) global mean temperature anomaly relative to the 1951–1980 mean. The largest temperature increases are in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Published on September 19th, 2013 | by Michael Ricciardi


Leaked Details From the Upcoming 5th IPCC Report Show Warming ‘Slow-Down’, Climate Skeptics Sure To Pounce

The map shows the 10-year average (2000–2009) global mean temperature anomaly relative to the 1951–1980 mean. The largest temperature increases are in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

[Updated, Sept. 27 & 28, 2013; corrections and added data] This past June, leaked details from the soon-to-be-released UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th report started circulating around the web, and more recently, began appearing in major print outlets like the Wall St Journal. The leaked details include observations that the rate of global warming for the period between 1998 and 2012 appears to have slowed down (though that period includes the hottest decade on record).

Since then — and although the full report has not been released yet — several national governments (such as Hungary, Germany Belgium) have expressed concern that the purported slow-down in warming will lead to more inertia on serious climate change policy as well as feed the climate change denialist movement.

Many climate denialists and skeptics believe that global warming has been slowing since the late 1990′s and that we are actually in a “cooling period”. The problem with such a deceptive statement is that even with rising temperature trends, any slight decline in this rate, could be deemed “less hot”, and therefore, “cooling”.

The IPCC reports are critically important for providing the scientific basis for a global climate treaty (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — UNFCCC — to be adopted in 2015). Those who oppose such global treaties and/or deny the consensus on anthropogenic climate change are naturally eager to point out any slight change in climate change projections amongst scientists, even while they selectively deny that consensus.

Climate scientists who are involved with the 5th IPCC report and/or with research utilized in the report are feeling mounting pressure from governments to get ahead of the news story and address these leaked details in the context of what in known about human-caused climate change.

In an Associated Press article published today on Yahoo News (see link below), Union of Concerned Scientists spokesperson Alden Meyer responded:

“I think to not address it would be a problem because then you basically have the denialists saying, ‘Look the IPCC is silent on this issue.”

Noting that the rate of warming from the 1998-2012 period was about half the rate since 1951, the leaked draft of the report  explains this apparent slow-down by citing natural climate variability as well as cooling impacts from increased volcanic activity and a weaker than average solar cycle (solar cycle 24).

Government scientists and policy makers from Belgium objected to using 1998 as a starting reference for the temperature study since it was an exceptionally warm year, and most years since then have been slightly cooler. Had the report used 1999 or 2000 as its starting reference date, the data would show a slowly increasing temperature curve, rather than a more flattening temperature distribution.

The government of  Germany has also criticized the use of the 1998-2012 period  “misleading” in that a 10-15 year time period does not accurately reflect general climate trends which tend to act over decades, even centuries, and has urged the IPCC to delete the reference to the slow-down altogether.

The main point of contention is a .5°C downward adjustment in what is known as the Climate  Sensitivity Equilibrium which is an estimation of the range of surface temperature increase if a doubling of atmospheric CO2 occurred.

[Addendum, Sept. 26, 2013] The new IPCC report states that such a doubling of CO2 would raise surface temperatures by between 1.5 and 4.5°C (2.7 to 8.1°F). The 2007 IPCC report estimated this range to be between 2-4.5 (3.6-8.1F) which was itself a slight increase in estimation from the previous IPCC reports (which are identical to the  ranges in the earlier IPCC reports).

The Leading Hypothesis

Other climate researchers have asserted that the slow down is the result of natural ocean oscillations such as El Niño* and La Niña which tend to mask or enhance short to longer-term climate trends.

global warming diagram showing heat sinks

A recent (2013) study by Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, data showed dramatic warming in the deep ocean — below 700 meters — while sea surface  temperatures in the upper ocean strata (300m and higher) stalled or stabilized. This deep ocean warming — concentrated in the 700m to 2000m range –  may be the previously unknown heat sink  responsible for the warming slow down (although “spatially homogenous ocean temperature” data has only been available since 2003, via the Argo system of ocean sensor buoys).

Further, 2013 research by Balmeseda et al using a new “observation-based re-analysis” of ocean temperatures showed an overall warming trend for the period 1958 – 2009, punctuated by transient cooling effects that correlate with volcanic events. This warming pattern persisted even when the more recent Argo data was removed from the analysis. The trend is believed to be driven by “intensification of the trade winds in subtropical gyres” (see: Science, 19 July, 2013, pg. 217 for quoted material above)

This deep ocean heat transference is considered the “leading hypothesis” for the slowdown in warming and US Policy makers have urged the IPCC to stress this fact.

[ADDENDUM] Climatologists (Kosaka et al) from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, have developed a new climate model combining aerosol concentrations, GHG concentrations, solar cycle variation, and sea-surface temperature changes in the (eastern) tropical Pacific ocean for the period 2002 – 2012. The combined models successfully reproduced the observed records and indicate that a cooling trend in this patch of the ocean is responsible for the “pause” in the global warming trend.

Back to the Leaked Report

The 5th IPCC report is expected to raise the level of certainty from “very likely” (in the 2007 report) to “extremely likely” that human activity (fossil fuel burning, deforestation, etc.) is responsible for more than half of the warming observed since the 1950s.

Leaked details of the draft also show that the IPCC has raised its 2007 projections of sea level increases from 7-23 inches (18-59 centimeters) to 10-32 inches (26-82 centimeters) by the end of the century (note: This upward adjustment in sea level rise takes into account projected meltwater contributions from Greenland and Antarctica).

IPCC Spokesperson Jonathan Lynn declined to comment on the full report’s content as it has not been finalized, but did state that it would offer “a comprehensive picture of all the science relevant to climate change, including the thousands of pieces of scientific research published since the last report in 2007 up to earlier this year.”

Amidst all this current, early draft “controversy” over a atmospheric warming slow down, skeptics seemed to have missed the draft’s conclusion: if current carbon emissions continue, or increase, then this would “induce changes in all components in the climate system, some of which would very likely be unprecedented in hundreds to thousands of years.”

[Correction/Addendum]: The complete and final (official) 5th IPCC report is not expected to be ready until 2014. A Summary for Policymakers (WORKING GROUP I: The Physical Science Basis) will be released next week (September 27) at the panel’s meeting in Stockholm.

* Although known as the warm phase of the Southern oscillation, the unusually large 1997-1998 El Niño had a pronounced cooling impact on global temperatures, in general , probably due to the fact that low atmospheric pressure tends to occur over warm water, and this brings more cloud cover, cooler temperatures, and fewer Pacific hurricanes (La Niña has the opposite effect, in general, producing above average hurricanes in the Atlantic).

Some source material (including scientist quotes) came from the AP/Yahoo News article: ‘Warming lull haunts authors of key climate report‘ (AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report).

Top Map: The map shows the 10-year average (2000–2009) global mean temperature anomaly relative to the 1951–1980 mean. The largest temperature increases are in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula. Source: NASA Earth Observatory via

Bottom Diagram: The increase in ocean heat content is much larger than any other store of energy in the Earth’s heat balance over the two periods 1961 to 2003 and 1993 to 2003, and accounts for more than 90% of the possible increase in heat content of the Earth system during these periods (credit: Skeptical Scientist File:WhereIsTheHeatOfGlobalWarming.jpg (vectorized by User: Dcoetzee).



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About the Author

Michael Ricciardi is a well-published writer of science/nature/technology articles as well as essays, poetry and short fiction. Michael has interviewed dozen of scientists from many scientific fields, including Brain Greene, Paul Steinhardt, Arthur Shapiro, and Nobel Laureate Ilya Progogine (deceased). Michael was trained as a naturalist and taught ecology and natural science on Cape Cod, Mass. from 1986-1991. His first arts grant was for production of the environmental (video) documentary 'The Jones River - A Natural History', 1987-88 (Kingston, Mass.). Michael is an award winning, internationally screened video artist. Two of his more recent short videos; 'A Time of Water Bountiful' and 'My Name is HAM' (an "imagined memoir" about the first chimp in space), and several other short videos, can be viewed on his website ( He is also the author of the (Kindle) ebook: Artful Survival ~ Creative Options for Chaotic Times

  • mememine

    The very name; “planetsave” is fear mongering itself.

  • mememine

    Since science has only agreed it could happen not will happen, would you remaining climate blame believers be willing to be subjected to criminal charges for uttering your CO2 death threats to billions of helpless children with a crisis YOU say WILL happen when science has never said it themselves?

    • Michael Ricciardi

      Mr. Mememine:

      your statement: “…criminal charges for uttering your CO2 death threats to billions of helpless children with a crisis YOU say WILL happen when science has never said it themselves?”

      …is astounding in its denial and ignorance. I perhaps should not give the denialist trolls too much attention, but sometimes, one has to address the mess…to wit:

      1] climate scientists have made no death threats, only issued predictions and warnings (which is their job, in part); as modern day ‘Cassandras’, they risk being attacked for their anti-’business-as-usual’ stance (read: antifossil fuel and deforestation), but that comes with the territory…if one smells smoke, one should look for a fire; if one finds a fire (growing) then one must find someway to protect oneself (or leave the fire zone); advocating taking preventive methods to prevent future fires is prescient and reasonable (as well as sane). This is in contrast to your comments.

      2] As to the second part of your comment: Yes, SCIENCE has said that climate change is happening, that it is being fed (accelerated) by human activity, and that it will lead to many crises (ecosystem loss, ocean acidification, intensified droughts/floods, food insecurity, etc.)…there is indeed a consensus amongst the vast majority of climate researchers. Try reading the actual research papers instead of denialist blogs.

      AS to “criminal charges”…what is criminal is the lack of reasonable action to curb carbon emissions (and other GHGs) and to continue unsustainable resource exploitation (forests, oceans, land use conversion to palm plantations, etc.).

      One can only speculate as to your true motives in trolling this site.

  • Don Ragon

    Their own Science debunks their own theories! The fools in this case are those that claim they are scientists, but cling to their Religion, Humanism!

    • Michael Ricciardi

      Mr. Ragon

      Your comment belies you pre-existing bias; the science does not “debunk” the previous science…it is doing what science is supposed to do: provide continuous refinement/improvement on previous data so as to explain (as best as possible) any gaps, questions, uncertainties or discrepancies that may arise. There are always uncertainties when dealing with the behavior of complex systems.

      The research does NOT say that human-caused global warming is not happening (or not increasing)…it says that the rate of warming appears (based upon the data sets utilized) to have slowed…do you see the difference?

      I speculate here that, as the capacity of the deep oceans to take up this excess heat levels off (warmer water absorbs less CO2, same with dissolved oxygen) we will see the rate of atmospheric warming begin to increase once more (assuming a business-as-usual scenario).

  • ScienceIsSkepticism

    Why are you so afraid of the real scientific method? We can’t let facts get
    in the way of political agendas based on pseudo-science can we now?

    “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

    “I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of great
    complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth, if it
    be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they
    have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to
    others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their
    lives.” Leo Tolstoy

    • Michael Ricciardi


      Thanks for your comment. I am not sure to whom you are addressing your question (I presume it is me).

      I think that you are somewhat confused. Use of the “real” scientific method (as opposed to the “unreal” one? Or, perhaps you mean the traditional form of the method?) is what generates the results that have led to scientific consensus on climate change (which ‘skeptics’ still question), and, does not preclude newer experiments/research that (can or may) produce slightly differing results.

      This is because the findings of any given application of the scientific method may often vary depending upon the hypothesis proposed and the experimental design (plus the size of the sample or resulting data set).

      More practically (as evidenced by the work of the two cited scientists in the article), scientific research seeks to answer questions and/or explain discrepancies that arise from previous studies, in this case, the question of the apparent slow-down in warming (despite increasing levels of CO2)…the cited researchers (Trenberth, Balmaseda et al) found that the ‘extra’ heat was being taken up / localized in the deep ocean (as evidenced by a pattern of increasing temperatures below 700 meters).

      Quotes are a double-edged sword, my friend; using quotes (and I do love a good quote) is surely a good means of exercising one’s memory, but not one’s intellect.

    • mememine

      No, they have never said it will happen, only could so be happy it’s not a crisis.

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