Sulfur stalls surface temperature rise | Science News

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Sulfur stalls surface temperature rise

Findings explain decade without warming

By
4:18pm, July 5, 2011

A new study demonstrates why global surface temperatures defied a decades-long trend and didn’t continue to rise between 1998 and 2008: Pollution-spewing, coal-burning power plants in Asia, while emitting warming greenhouse gases, simultaneously sent cooling sulfur particles into the atmosphere.

During that decade — sometimes cited as evidence to deny global warming — these Asian emissions mostly balanced one another and dampened the effects of natural cooling cycles associated with the sun and ocean temperatures.

A team of scientists led by Boston University’s Robert Kaufmann reached this conclusion by analyzing factors contributing to global surface temperature, including human-caused emissions, the 11-year solar cycle and a shift from warming El Ni±o to cooling La Ni±a climate patterns. Without human input, temperatures would have been expected to cool, based on the La Ni±a shift and decreasing solar radiation.

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