Climate change: Earth’s energy imbalance is growing

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In the past 14 years, the earth has stored significantly more heat than it emitted. Between 2005 and 2019, the earth’s energy imbalance almost doubled, said the US climate agency NOAA and the space agency NASA. This trend is mainly due to the fact that solar radiation is less reflected by clouds and sea ice. At the same time, the long-wave radiation from the earth into space has decreased, among other things because of more greenhouse gases.

Human and natural factors combined caused warming that is causing a major change in the Earth’s energy imbalance. The extent is unparalleled, said the head of the study, Norman Loeb, according to the press release, “The trends that we have found are quite alarming in a way.”

The researchers from NASA and NOAA compared data from two independent measurements: from observations from the satellite-based Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) and from the Argo marine buoy fleet. The researchers investigated changes in the clouds that water vapor, trace gases and the light output from the sun, surface albedo, aerosols and changes in surface and atmospheric temperature distribution investigated. The data from both measurement systems showed great agreement.

Increasing emissions of gases such as CO2 and methane from human activity increase the greenhouse effect and capture reflected radiation that would otherwise escape into space, the research teams explain. The warming in turn leads to snow and ice melt, increased water vapor concentrations, which can further increase the warming.

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The energy imbalance caused by humans could have been favored by a natural climate phenomenon during the period under study, the researchers continue. In 2014 a warm phase of the Pacific Decade Oscillation began.

Loeb points out that the study is a snapshot of long-term climate change; it cannot be predicted with certainty how the development will continue in the coming decades. It can be said, however, that if the earth’s heat absorption does not decrease, major climatic changes are to be expected.

The study was carried out in the Geophysical Research Letters released. In March of this year, researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center presented direct observations for the first time as evidence of the Earth’s energy imbalance. In a climate impact and risk analysis, the German Federal Environment Agency recently explained how climate change could affect Germany.


(anw)

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