There may be an abrupt rise in global average temperatures in about a decade, scientists have warned.
New research finds that strong trade winds have driven more of the heat from global warming into the oceans.
But when those winds slow, that heat would rapidly return to the atmosphere causing an abrupt rise in global average temperatures.
Heat stored in the western Pacific Ocean appears to be largely responsible for the hiatus in surface warming observed over the past 13 years.
The dramatic acceleration in winds has invigorated the circulation of the Pacific Ocean, causing more heat to be taken out of the atmosphere and transferred into the subsurface ocean, while bringing cooler waters to the surface.
"Scientists have long suspected that extra ocean heat uptake has slowed the rise of global average temperatures, but the mechanism behind the hiatus remained unclear," said Matthew England, chief investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.
"But the heat uptake is by no means permanent: when the trade wind strength returns to normal - as it inevitably will - our research suggests heat will quickly accumulate in the atmosphere," he added.
So global temperatures look set to rise rapidly out of the hiatus, returning to the levels projected within as little as a decade, he cautioned.
We are just seeing another pause in warming before the next inevitable rise in global temperatures, said the research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.