Climate models are able to predict the recent global warming slowdown if they are in phase with natural variability, such as the effects of El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), reports a paper published online in Nature Climate Change this week.
The global warming slowdown over the past 15 years has raised questions about the accuracy and credibility of climate models. Current models provide a single representation of the climate system, which do not track natural cycles of variability. To provide an accurate near-term projection, the models must start in phase with these decadal cycles.
James Risbey and colleagues investigate the ability of present models to reproduce temperature observations for the past 15-year period. The authors study a collection of 18 global climate models that are able to represent ENSO through sea surface temperatures. Of these they identify a subset which accurately represent the current state of El Nino/Southern Oscillation through comparison with observations. The selected models are able to provide more accurate estimations of temperature trends over the past 15 years as well as the recent spatial trends in Pacific Ocean surface temperature.