Changes in Earth’s Energy Budget during and after the “Pause” in Global Warming: An Observational Perspective
NASA Langley Research Center, Mail Stop 420, Hampton, VA 23681, USA
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
Science Systems and Applications, Inc., 1 Enterprise Pkwy #200, Hampton, VA 23666, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Climate 2018, 6(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/cli6030062
Received: 5 June 2018 / Revised: 6 July 2018 / Accepted: 10 July 2018 / Published: 11 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Postmortem of the Global Warming Hiatus)
This study examines changes in Earth’s energy budget during and after the global warming “pause” (or “hiatus”) using observations from the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System. We find a marked 0.83 ± 0.41 Wm−2 reduction in global mean reflected shortwave (SW) top-of-atmosphere (TOA) flux during the three years following the hiatus that results in an increase in net energy into the climate system. A partial radiative perturbation analysis reveals that decreases in low cloud cover are the primary driver of the decrease in SW TOA flux. The regional distribution of the SW TOA flux changes associated with the decreases in low cloud cover closely matches that of sea-surface temperature warming, which shows a pattern typical of the positive phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Large reductions in clear-sky SW TOA flux are also found over much of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in the northern hemisphere. These are associated with a reduction in aerosol optical depth consistent with stricter pollution controls in China and North America. A simple energy budget framework is used to show that TOA radiation (particularly in the SW) likely played a dominant role in driving the marked increase in temperature tendency during the post-hiatus period.