Scientists are starting to clear up one of the biggest controversies in climate science

The new study helps reconcile the models with the historical record. It suggests global warming occurs in different phases or “modes” throughout the planet, some of which happen more quickly than others. Certain slow-developing climate processes could amplify warming to a greater extent in the future, putting the models in the right after all. But these processes take time, even up to several hundred years, to really take effect — and because not enough time has passed since the Industrial Revolution for their signal to really develop, the historical record is what’s actually misleading at the moment.

This conclusion is supported by a growing body of research, which suggests that warming estimates made from the historical record alone are “potentially biased low, for reasons we are now just beginning to understand,” said Timothy Andrews, a climate scientist with the Met Office, the United Kingdom’s national weather service.

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