Scientists have concluded more energy is being absorbed from the sun than is emitted back to space, throwing the Earth’s energy "out of balance" and warming the globe.
Clouds and the Earths Radiant Energy System (CERES) measurements show the reflected solar radiation (left) and emitted heat radiation (right) for January 1, 2002. In both images, the lightest areas represent thick clouds, which both reflect radiation from the Sun and block heat rising from the Earths surface. Notice the clouds above the western Pacific Ocean, where there is strong uprising of air, and the relative lack of clouds north and south of the equator. Credit: NASA
The Earth’s energy balance refers to the amount of energy received from the sun (yellow arrows) minus the energy reflected and emitted from the Earth (red arrows). Clouds play an important role in regulating this balance. Thin cirrus clouds permit sunlight to pass through them, while blocking a significant amount of the heat radiating from the surface. Thick cumulus clouds reflect most sunlight, and block the majority of heat radiating from the surface. Credit: NASA
Scientists from NASA, Columbia University, New York, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif. used satellites, data from buoys and computer models to study the Earth’s oceans. They confirmed the energy imbalance by using precise measurements of increasing ocean heat content over the past 10 years.
The study reveals Earth’s energy imbalance is large by standards of the planet’s history. The imbalance is 0.85 watts per meter squared. That will cause an additional warming of 0.6 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) by the end of this century.
Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
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