(INDEPENDENT) — Huge amounts of heat – equivalent to the power of 150 billion electric kettles – are being continuously absorbed by the deep ocean, which could explain why global warming has “paused” over the past 10 to 15 years, scientists have concluded in a series of reports to explain why the Earth’s rate of warming has slowed down.

Global average temperatures are higher now than they have ever been since modern records began. However, after a period of rapid temperature increases during the 1980s and 1990s there has been a significant slow-down since the turn of the century, leading some sceptics to claim that global warming has stopped.

A scientific assessment of the planet’s heat balance has found that the most likely explanation for the recent hiatus in global warming is the continual absorption of thermal energy by the huge “heat sink” of the deep ocean many hundreds of metres below the sea surface, according to scientists from the Met Office.

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