Consensus Report

Frontiers in Decadal Climate Variability: Proceedings of a Workshop (2016)

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A number of studies indicate an apparent slowdown in the overall rise in global average surface temperature between roughly 1998 and 2014. Most models did not predict such a slowdown--a fact that stimulated a lot of new research on variability of Earth's climate system. At a September 2015 workshop, leading scientists gathered to discuss current understanding of climate variability on decadal timescales (10 to 30 years) and whether and how prediction of it might be improved.

Many researchers have focused their attention on the climate system itself, which is known to vary across seasons, decades, and other timescales. Several natural variables produce "ups and downs" in the climate system, which are superimposed on the long-term warming trend due to human influence.

Understanding decadal climate variability is important not only for assessing global climate change but also for improving decision making related to infrastructure, water resources, agriculture, energy, and other realms. Like the well-studied El Nino and La Nina interannual variations, decadal climate variability is associated with specific regional patterns of temperature and precipitation, such as heat waves, cold spells, and droughts. Several participants shared research that assesses decadal predictive capability of current models.

Download the release briefing presentation (PDF).

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