The Earth retains twice as much heat as it did 15 years ago

The Earth retains twice as much heat as it did 15 years ago

In the balance between energy absorbed and energy emitted by the Earth, that retained is growing. With consequences on the melting of the ice and the health of the seas

(photo: Arek Socha via Pixabay) The Earth is getting warmer and today it holds twice the heat than it did about 15 years ago. The new data, yet another evidence of ongoing climate change, comes from an analysis by NASA and Nooa (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in the United States. The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letter, indicates that the balance between absorbed and re-emitted energy is increasing and also significant: from 2004 to 2019 this imbalance doubled in size. In this case we speak of absorbed energy that comes from the Sun and energy that is radiated, thrown back. Furthermore, this excessive accumulation leads to an increase in the temperatures of the oceans and the atmosphere, worsening the situation and increasing the heat itself, a bit like a vicious circle.

The study

The authors combined satellite data with measurements and surveys collected over time. The information comes in part from the Ceres climate experiment (Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System), conducted by NASA, which allows us to evaluate both incoming and outgoing energy. In addition to the use of satellites, the experts carried out measurements and analyzed the in situ reliefs, which show a trend similar to that detected by the satellites.

The increase in heat blocked in the Earth is there and it is not insignificant. 90% of this excess of thermal energy ends up in the oceans and this could have new negative consequences, such as the rapid increase in ice melting. The remainder heats the rest of the planet, as the temperature of the atmosphere increases. The consequences, therefore, will be seen above all in the seas, with the melting of Arctic ice or the acidification of the waters which leads to damage to animal and plant organisms and imbalances in ecosystems. But even on land there is no need to rest assured: the increase in temperatures leads to a greater presence of water vapor, which in turn helps to raise the thermometer.

The causes: fewer clouds and the inevitable greenhouse effect

The causes of this internal overheating are mainly two. One of the main factors is the melting of sea ice and the decrease of clouds, which have an important "filter" function, increasing the amount of solar radiation reflected by the planet.

The other element that could not missing is the greenhouse effect, for which thermal energy from a nearby star, in this case our Sun, accumulates in the planet's atmosphere due to the growing presence of certain gases, called greenhouses, which trap it .

At the ocean level, one element to pay attention to is a known phenomenon Pacific Decadal Oscillation. It is a pattern of behavior of the North Pacific, studied by scientists, with which in practice there is a variability and some anomalies in ocean temperatures. The variation follows periodic fluctuations over ten years. In the last years of the study, from 2014 to 2020, this variability was strongly expressed with anomalies towards higher temperatures. If this anomalous behavior remains so, climate change could even get worse.

The next steps

Today, scientists have quantified this deterioration over the past 15 years. Studies like this are increasingly helping to focus on the extent of the problem and its roots. New studies and models are needed, the authors conclude, to better understand the real impact of this excess heat absorbed on rising temperatures, sea level change and hydrogeological cycle

Environment - 9 Jul

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