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Ars talked to climate scientists Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann, who both emphasized that the new paper is in keeping with a variety of other studies that have come out in the recent past, with Mann saying, "This looks like a thoughtful and careful analysis that adds further weight to other recent studies (including our own recent GRL ‘Frontier’ article) confirming that the temperature trends of the past decade do not, as some have claimed, contradict model-predicted global warming. The so-called 'speed bump' in global warming is consistent with the expected random fluctuations associated with natural, internal climate variability."
But if the paper's a solid bit of evidence that's in keeping with other results, it seems likely that it was meant to be a bit more than that: ammunition in the arguments that keep erupting on the Internet. In a rather unusual situation for a climate paper, one of the authors is a psychologist. And not just any psychologist, but Stephan Lewandowsky, best known for whipping climate contrarians (and journal editors) into a frenzy with his "Recursive Fury" paper. And the last author is Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science best known for her book Merchants of Doubt, which chronicles the role of think tanks in fostering doubt over the reality of climate change.
Regardless of why these two researchers decided to step into the realm of climate science, their paper clearly shows that some climate models have accurately predicted the recent slowdown in warming. But only because they accidentally got El Niño right.
If you look at the four models that were the worst at reproducing ENSO behavior, then you'd think climate modelers were incompetent, as these models all showed rapid warming from 1990 onward. But, if you picked the four that had the best match to real-world ENSO data, then you see exactly what reality produced: a relatively slow rate of warming starting at about the beginning of the century.