Into the oceans
Explanations for the current pause are the masking effects on greenhouse gases of pollution, the seasonal weather-disrupting El Niño phenomenon, and slight variations in the Sun's output. It also appears that much of the heat has been going into the oceans, rather than into the atmosphere.
Otto and his colleagues estimated how much warming, with rising emissions, the world is likely to experience by the time carbon dioxide levels have doubled since pre-industrial times. Their most likely estimate is 1.3°C, not the rise of up to 1.6 °C suggested by previous studies.
"In the short term, there is maybe a bit less warming than expected," Otto said.
On such a contentious subject some scientists would argue for caution in evaluating the research. A rise of 4°C in global average temperatures could mean far higher regional rises. The oceans are likely one day to give up much of the heat they are now absorbing, which will return to the atmosphere.
So warming could accelerate fast and unpredictably. And on present trends, fossil fuel use is likely to go on increasing for several decades at least.
There are qualifications and conditions in the research, "ifs" and "buts" which suggest there may be unknown unknowns ahead. And its central conclusion is that the world is still warming – slower, perhaps, than expected, but still much too fast for comfort.
This article originally appeared at The Daily Climate, the climate change news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.