"The longer [the pause] goes on, the more significant it becomes," Lindzen said. At some point, he continued, models will be so clearly wrong that the public will reject them.
Is 'pause' the right scientific description?
To Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University best known for the famed "hockey stick" graph showing a dramatic warming in surface temperatures from 1,000 years ago to the present, even framing the slowdown in surface temperature increases as a "pause" can be misleading, because global warming has continued.
Mann agreed with other researchers that the oceans are likely taking up a certain amount of heat and that the recent small volcanic eruptions probably also have played a role in keeping surface warming at bay.
"The problem isn't that we cannot explain the temporary slowdown in warming -- the problem is that there are so many explanations for it, we're not yet sure what the true role is for each," he wrote in an email.
Mann also pointed out that surface temperatures, even if their rate of increase has slowed, still fall within the range of IPCC model projections.
Both Santer and Trenberth agreed that models could probably improve their representation of natural variability, solar cycles, and cooling factors like volcanic eruptions and aerosols.
But picking a period of a decade or so where one part of the Earth's climate system fails to warm and using it to discredit all of climate science is a fallacious argument, and one driven by those with an agenda to discredit climate scientists, the researchers say.
Especially when over longer periods of time, as Mann's hockey stick graph demonstrates, the warming signal is so clear.
"Cherry-picking isn't allowed. You can't look at one highly unusual 15-year period and say, 'This is my yardstick for measuring climate models,'" Santer said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500