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Includes natural processes within the climate system: orbital patterns, solar radiation, oceans, atmosphere, water cycle, the natural greenhouse effect, carbon cycle, regional climates and differences between climate and weather.
Following a brief interlude of “neutral” sea surface temperature conditions this summer, La Niña has returned to the tropical Pacific Ocean. The cool phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern is expected to persist through winter.
Each summer, the seasonal unraveling of the Arctic’s blanket of ice exposes large areas of the ocean to solar heating. The smaller the ice extent, the larger the potential warming influence. Arctic sea ice extent in July 2011 was the lowest for that month in the satellite record.
The ocean is the largest solar energy collector on Earth. More than 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean. Not all of that heating is detectable at the surface because currents move some of the heat to deeper layers of water, where it can "hide" for years or decades.
Guest blogger Dennis Hartmann makes the case that warm waters in the western tropical Pacific—part of the North Pacific Mode climate pattern—are behind the weird U.S. winter weather of the past two seasons.