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Simulation tracks ocean's missing heat

Climate scientists suggest energy is buried deep undersea or released to space

Oceanographers may have solved one of the biggest sea mysteries in years: why the upper ocean didn’t warm between 2003 and 2010, even as heat-trapping greenhouse gases accumulated in the air above.

Natural climate fluctuations have combined to keep the upper ocean cool, scientists report in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters. Much of the sun’s trapped energy has been released back into space, the modeling study suggests, while another large chunk is tucked away deep beneath the oceans.

“This is not rare. This is the normal variable behavior of climate,” says lead author Caroline Katsman, an oceanographer at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute in De Bilt. “It’s not strange to go for eight years in a row with no heat gain.”

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