London: Global warming has stalled since 1998, and in the next few years Earth's temperature will not rise as rapidly as feared, UK Met officials have claimed.
Over the next five years temperatures will be 0.43 degrees above the 1971-2000 average, instead of the previously forecast 0.54 degrees – a 20 per cent reduction, the Met office in UK has confirmed.
This rise would be only slightly higher than the 0.4-degree rise recorded in 1998, an increase which is itself attributed by forecasters to an exceptional weather phenomenon, a newspaper reported.
With all but 0.03 degrees of the increase having occurred by 1998, it means that no further significant increases to the planet's temperature are expected over the next few years.
The figures have been seized on by skeptics of man-made climate change, who claim that global warming has flat lined despite a large rise in greenhouse emissions in recent decades.
"That the global temperature standstill could continue to at least 2017 would mean a 20-year period of no statistically significant change in global temperatures," Dr David Whitehouse, science adviser to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said.
"Such a period of no increase will pose fundamental problems for climate models. If the latest Met Office prediction is correct, then it will prove to be a lesson in humility," Whitehouse said.
"Global warming is not 'at a standstill' but does seem to have slowed down since 2000, in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s," Dr Richard Allan of the University of Reading said.
"In fact, consistent with rising greenhouse gases, heat is continuing to build up beneath the ocean surface," Allan added.
He was backed by Bob Ward of the London School of Economics, who said it would be wrong to interpret that warming had stopped.
The Met Office said the updated five-year predictions were a result of a new modelling system, which takes into account changes in ocean surface temperatures, and was released as soon as practically possible.
It claims the slow-down in temperature rises after a steep increase in the 1990s could be explained by natural variability, changes in solar activity, and the movements of the oceans.
"A lot of people were claiming, in the run-up to the Copenhagen 2009 conference, that warming was accelerating and it is all worse than we thought," Professor Myles Allen of the University of Oxford said.
"What has happened since then has demonstrated that it is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends," Allen said.