Apparent Atlantic warming cycle likely an artifact of climate forcing.
Volcanic eruptions, not natural variability, were the cause of an apparent “Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation,” a purported cycle of warming thought to have occurred on a timescale of 40 to 60 years during the pre-industrial era, according to a team of climate scientists who looked at a large array of climate modeling experiments.
The researchers previously showed that the apparent AMO cycle in the modern era was an artifact of industrialization-driven climate change, specifically the competition between warming over the past century from carbon pollution and an offsetting cooling factor, industrial sulphur pollution, that was strongest from the 1950s through the passage of the Clean Air Acts in the 1970s and 1980s. But they then asked, why do we still see it in pre-industrial records?
Their conclusion, reported today (Mar. 5) in Science, is that the early signal was caused by large volcanic eruptions in past centuries that caused initial cooling and a slow recovery, with an average spacing of just over half a century. The result resembles an irregular, roughly 60-year AMO-like oscillation.
“Some hurricane scientists have claimed that the increase in Atlantic hurricanes in recent decades is due to the uptick of an internal AMO cycle,” said Mann. “Our latest study appears to be the final nail in the coffin of that theory. What has in the past been attributed to an internal AMO oscillation is instead the result of external drivers, including human forcing during the industrial era and natural volcanic forcing during the pre-industrial era.”
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Materials provided by Penn State. Original written by A’ndrea Elyse Messer. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.