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A fluctuation in surface temperature in historical context: reassessment and retrospective on the evidence

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Original languageEnglish
Article number123008
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number12
DateAccepted/In press - 23 Nov 2018
DatePublished (current) - 19 Dec 2018


This work reviews the literature on an alleged global warming 'pause' in global mean surface temperature (GMST) to determine how it has been defined, what time intervals are used to characterise it, what data are used to measure it, and what methods used to assess it. We test for 'pauses', both in the normally understood meaning of the term to mean no warming trend, as well as for a 'pause' defined as a substantially slower trend in GMST. The tests are carried out with the historical versions of GMST that existed for each pause-interval tested, and with current versions of each of the GMST datasets. The tests are conducted following the common (but questionable) practice of breaking the linear fit at the start of the trend interval ('broken' trends), and also with trends that are continuous with the data bordering the trend interval. We also compare results when appropriate allowance is made for the selection bias problem. The results show that there is little or no statistical evidence for a lack of trend or slower trend in GMST using either the historical data or the current data. The perception that there was a 'pause' in GMST was bolstered by earlier biases in the data in combination with incomplete statistical testing.

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via IOP at DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aaf342/meta. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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    Licence: CC BY


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