The researchers say it’s a “remarkable” amount of energy that is already having far-reaching consequences.
“It’s the excess energy that’s being absorbed by the planet,” said Norman Loeb, NASA scientist and lead author of the study, “so that’s going to mean further increases in temperatures and more melting. snow and ice level rise – all the things society really cares about. “
The study, published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that what is known as the Earth’s energy imbalance – the difference between the amount of solar energy absorbed by the planet and the amount of energy returned to the planet. space – roughly doubled from 2005 to 2019. The result was “striking,” the research team wrote.
Life on Earth could not exist without energy from the sun, but the amount of energy sent back into space is significant. It is a delicate balance that determines the climate of the planet.
In addition to warmer global temperatures, the most obvious effect of a positive imbalance, Loeb told CNN “we are going to see changes in atmospheric circulations, including more extreme events like droughts.”
Using satellite data to measure the imbalance, scientists have found that the Earth is gaining more energy than it should and causing even greater warming of the planet, also known as positive energy imbalance.
About 90 percent of the excess energy from this imbalance ends up in the ocean. And warming ocean temperatures are causing acidification, which impacts fish and other marine biodiversity. When the researchers compared satellite measurements with data from a global network of ocean sensors, the results showed a similar trend. The remaining energy, on the other hand, stays in the atmosphere.
The cause of this energy imbalance is certainly due in part to human-made greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers report. It is also affected by some of the positive feedback loops caused by climate change: As the global temperature rises, so does the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, which further increases the temperature. Melting of the snowpack and pack ice – natural reflectors of solar energy – is also decreasing due to global warming.
Another contributing factor is how the Pacific Decadal Oscillation – often described as a longer-term climate pattern similar to El Niño in the Pacific – remained in an extremely hot phase from 2014 to 2020. Due to this shift suddenly from a cold phase to a prolonged hot phase. , the cloud cover over the ocean has decreased, allowing the Pacific Ocean to absorb more solar radiation.
“It’s a human-induced change that alters the makeup of the atmosphere, as well as fluctuations in climate systems,” Loeb said. “The observations are all kind of mixed up. “
Against the backdrop of the West’s historic drought and extreme heat, the study warns that the amount of heat the Earth traps must decrease or climate change will continue to worsen.
Loeb described the time period chosen by his team, from 2005 to 2019, as a simple snapshot of what’s to come in terms of climate impacts, adding that more long-term studies and observations need to be done in order to grasp fully the long-term trend.
“I hope the rate at which this energy imbalance will ease over the next few decades,” Loeb said. “Otherwise, we will see more alarming climate change. “
This story first appeared on CNN.com The amount of heat trapped by Earth has doubled in just 15 years, study finds