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Earth's Energy Imbalance and Implications





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James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, Karina von Schuckmann


Improving observations of ocean temperature confirm that Earth is absorbing more energy from the sun than it is radiating to space as heat, even during the recent solar minimum. This energy imbalance provides fundamental verification of the dominant role of the human-made greenhouse effect in driving global climate change. Observed surface temperature change and ocean heat gain constrain the net climate forcing and ocean mixing rates. 

The basic physics underlying this global warming, the greenhouse effect, is simple. An increase of gases such as CO2 makes the atmosphere more opaque at infrared wavelengths. This added opacity causes the planet's heat radiation to space to arise from higher, colder levels in the atmosphere, thus reducing emission of heat energy to space. The temporary imbalance between the energy absorbed from the sun and heat emission to space, causes the planet to warm until planetary energy balance is restored. Continued...

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