UPDATE 2 (Aug 29, 2013): If you haven’t seen Judith Curry’s post about Kosaka and Xie (2013), it is very much worth a read:
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The recently published climate model-based paper Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling [Paywalled] by Yu Kosaka and Shang-Ping Xie has gained a lot of attention around the blogosphere. Like Meehl et al (2012) and Meehl et al (2013), Kosaka and Xie blame the warming stoppage on the recent domination of La Niña events. The last two sentences of Kosaka and Xie (2013) read:
Our results show that the current hiatus is part of natural climate variability, tied specifically to a La-Niña-like decadal cooling. Although similar decadal hiatus events may occur in the future, the multi-decadal warming trend is very likely to continue with greenhouse gas increase.
Anyone with a little common sense who’s reading the abstract and the hype around the blogosphere and the Meehl et al papers will logically now be asking: if La Niña events can stop global warming, then how much do El Niño events contribute? 50%? The climate science community is actually hurting itself when they fail to answer the obvious questions.
And what about the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO)? What happens to global surface temperatures when the AMO also peaks and no longer contributes to the warming?
The climate science community skirts the common-sense questions, so no one takes them seriously.
Another two comments:
Kosaka and Xie (2013) appear to believe the correlation between their model and observed temperatures adds to the credibility of their findings. They write in the abstract:
Although the surface temperature prescription is limited to only 8.2% of the global surface, our model reproduces the annual-mean global temperature remarkably well with correlation coefficient r = 0.97 for 1970–2012 (which includes the current hiatus and a period of accelerated global warming).
Kosaka and Xie (2013) used the observed sea surface temperatures of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific as an input to their climate model. By doing so they captured the actual El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal. ENSO is the dominant mode of natural variability on the planet. In layman terms, El Niño and La Niña events are responsible for the year-to-year wiggles. It’s therefore not surprising that when they added the source of the wiggles, the models included the wiggles, which raised the correlation coefficient.
Table 1 from Kosaka and Xie (2013) is also revealing. The “HIST” experiment is for the climate model forced by manmade greenhouse gases and other forcings, and the “POGA-H” adds the tropical Pacific sea surface temperature data to the “HIST” forcings. For the modeled period of 1971-1997, adding the ENSO signal increased the linear trend by 34%. Maybe that’s why modeling groups exclude the multidecadal variability of ENSO by skewing ENSO to zero. That way El Niños and La Niñas don’t contribute to or detract from the warming. Unfortunately, by doing so, the models have limited use as tools to project future climate.