The contentious "pause" in global warming over the past decade is largely due to unusually strong trade winds in the Pacific ocean that have buried surface heat deep underwater, new research has found.
A joint Australian and US study analysed why the rise in the Earth's global average surface temperature has slowed since 2001, after rapidly increasing from the 1970s.
The research shows that sharply accelerating trade winds in central and eastern areas of the Pacific have driven warm surface water to the ocean's depths, reducing the amount of heat that flows into the atmosphere.
In turn, the lowering of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific triggers further cooling in other regions.
The study, which is published in the journal Nature Climate Change, calculated the net cooling effect to global average surface temperatures as between 0.1C and 0.2C (32.2F and (32.4F), accounting for much of the hiatus in surface warming. The study's authors said that there has been a 0.2C gap between models used to predict warming and actual observed warming since 2001.