Earth Energy Imbalance: How HEAT Impacts Ocean, Land, Cryosphere, Atmosphere

Earth Energy Imbalance – EEI: How HEAT Impacts Ocean, Land, Cryosphere, and Atmosphere: Part 1 of 2 // Sep 25, 2020

Human-induced atmospheric composition changes cause a radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere driving global warming. The Earth Energy Imbalance (EEI) is the most critical number defining the prospects for continued and accelerating global warming and climate change. Understanding the heat gain of the Earth systemparticularly how much and where the heat is distributed – is fundamental to understanding consequences like:

  • warming oceans,
  • atmosphere and land;
  • rising surface temperatures;
  • rising sea levels; and
  • loss of grounded and floating ice,

which are all fundamental concerns for society.  I chat about a new peer-reviewed study, part of Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) efforts to update Earth’s heat budget and give updated numbers on ocean warming and heat gain in the atmosphere, cryosphere and land. The long-term Earth system heat gain over the period 1971–2018 comprises a total heat gain of 358 ± 37 ZJ (Z – Zeta is 10**21) equivalent to a global heating rate of 0.47 ± 0.1 W/m2.

Heat distribution has the global ocean with 89%, broken down into 52% in the upper 700m ocean depths, 28% for the 700–2000m depths and 9% for below 2000m depths.

Heat gain over land amounts to 6%, 4% is available for the melting of grounded and floating ice, and only 1% is available for atmospheric warming.

EEI is not only continuing, but also increasing: it amounts to 0.87±0.12 W/m2 during 2010–2018. Stabilization of climate, the goal of the universally agreed upon United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, requires that EEI be reduced to approximately zero to achieve Earth system quasi-equilibrium.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere needs to be reduced from about 410 ppm to 353 ppm to increase the amount of heat radiation to space by 0.87 W/m2, bringing Earth back towards overall energy balance. This simple number, EEI, is the most fundamental metric that the scientific community and public must be aware of as the measure of how well the world is doing in the task of bringing climate change under control, and we call for an implementation of the EEI into the global stocktake based on the best available science.

Continued quantification and reduced uncertainties in the Earth heat inventory can be best achieved through the maintenance of the current global climate observing system, its extension into areas of gaps in the sampling, and the establishment of an international framework for concerted multidisciplinary research of the Earth heat inventory as presented in the study.

Ref 2:  Heat stored in the Earth system: where does the energy go?
von Schuckmann, Cheng, Palmer,  Tassone, Aich, Adusumilli, Beltrami:  Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 12, 1–29, 2020.
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Earth Energy Imbalance – EEI: How HEAT Impacts Ocean, Land, Cryosphere, and Atmosphere: Part 2 of 2 // Sep 25, 2020

Second video.

Ref 2: The global energy balance as represented in CMIP6 climate models, by Martin Wild: May 2020
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About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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