After 30 years of dimming, the planet’s surface is brightening, an international collaboration concludes this week in Science magazine
Earth’s surface has been getting brighter for more than a decade, a reversal from a dimming trend that may accelerate warming at the surface and unmask the full effect of greenhouse warming, according to an exhaustive new study of the solar energy that reaches land. Ever since a report in the late 1980s uncovered a 4 to 6 percent decline of sunlight reaching the planet’s surface over 30 years since 1960, atmospheric scientists have been trying out theories about why this would be and how it would relate to the greenhouse effect, the warming caused by the buildup of carbon dioxide and other gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, a group led by Martin Wild at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, home of the international Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) archive, had gone to work collecting surface measurements and crunching numbers. "BSRN didn’t get started until the early ’90s and worked hard to update the earlier archive," said Charles N. Long, senior scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and co-author of a BSRN report in this week’s issue (Friday, May 6) of the journal Science. "When we looked at the more recent data, lo and behold, the trend went the other way," said Long, who conducted the work under the auspices of DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program.
Bill Cannon | EurekAlert!
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