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Thursday, December 08, 2022

A disturbing shift has affected Earth’s delicate energy balance, scientists report

Our living planet is unique among all that we have been able to find in the universe so far. From preventing too many temperature extremes from our axial tilt, to the state of our Goldilocks sphere, life on Earth depends on many finely balanced, intertwined cycles that come together to produce the precise conditions we need to thrive. Is.

One of these chakras is Earth’s delicate energy system – the inputs and outputs of energy received from the Sun.

This cycle determines all planetary climate systems. On Mars, seasonal changes in energy imbalances—about 15.3 percent between Martian seasons, compared to 0.4 percent on Earth—are thought to cause the planet’s infamous epic dust storms.

At least for some time, prior to the 1750s, this fluctuating energy cycle on Earth was relatively balanced. But we have now created an imbalance that has recently doubled in just 15 years.

“The net energy imbalance is calculated by looking at how much heat is absorbed from the Sun and how much is able to radiate back into space,” explains Kevin Trenberth, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“While it is not yet possible to measure the imbalance directly, the only practical way to estimate it is through an inventory of changes in energy.”

Trenberth and atmospheric physicist Lijing Cheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences reviewed data from all components of the climate system: land, ice, ocean and atmosphere between 2000 and 2019 to take stock of these changes.

Earth’s atmosphere reflects about a quarter of the energy that hits it, unlike the Moon which takes full effect of the Sun’s energy, raising its surface temperature to about 100 °C (212 °F). Much of that energy is then absorbed by the Moon and radiated back into space in the form of thermal infrared radiation, commonly known as heat.

Again, it is the atmosphere that drives this process change here on Earth. Some molecules in our atmosphere capture and hold that heat before it reaches space. Unfortunately for us, these are the greenhouse gases, which have now effectively covered the planet in a very comfortable blanket on top of the atmosphere.

The researchers explain in their paper that the extra trapped energy not only changes the place where it ends up, but also affects its surroundings on its way to its final destination.

They write, “It is important to understand the net energy gain, and how much and where heat is redistributed within the Earth system.” “How much heat can be purified from Earth through radiation where it can be carried to limit warming?”

While everyone is focusing mostly on the rising temperature, it is only a product of this extra energy. Only 4 percent of this goes to raising land temperatures and the other 3 percent to melting ice, Trenberth and Cheng worked out.

About 93 percent is being absorbed by the ocean, they found, and we are already seeing unpleasant consequences.

Although less than 1 percent of the excess energy circulates in our atmosphere, it is enough to directly increase the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, from droughts to floods.

However, increased atmospheric turbulence can also be helpful.

“Those weather events move energy around and help the climate system get rid of energy by radiating it into space,” explained the researchers.

Clouds and snow also help reflect solar radiation before it becomes long-wave heat that is trapped in gases. But the disruption in this energy cycle is reducing both the reflective cloud and the snow.

There is still too much missing information for a comprehensive Earth systems model that accurately predicts specific outcomes beyond the short term, Trenberth and Cheng say. But this can be improved upon, by including their Earth energy imbalance framework considering each Earth system component.

“Modeling the Earth energy imbalance is challenging, and requires relevant observations and improvements in their synthesis,” concluded Cheng.

“Understanding how all forms of energy are distributed around the world and sequestered or radiated back into space will give us a better understanding of our future.”

This research was published in environmental research climate,

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