Direct observations by NASA confirm that humans are throwing the Earth’s energy budget out of balance

Simulation carbon

NASA’s supercomputer computer model shows how greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main driver of global warming – fluctuate in the Earth’s atmosphere throughout the year. Higher concentrations are shown in red. Credits: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio / NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office Fees

Earth is on a budget – an energy budget. Our planet is constantly trying to balance the flow of energy in and out of the Earth’s system. But human activities are throwing that balance, causing our planet to heat up in response.

Radiation energy enters the Earth’s system from the sunlight shining on our planet. Some of these Earth reflects the Earth’s surface or atmosphere back into space. The rest is eclipsed, warming the planet, and then the black asphalt heats up and radiates heat on a sunny day in the same way that thermal radiative energy is emitted as radiation. Eventually, this space also travels to space, but some of it is reabsorbed by clouds and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The absorbed energy can also be released back to Earth, where it will warm the surface.

Adding more elements that absorb radiation – such as greenhouse gases – or that it effectively removes – like aerosols – throws the Earth’s balance into balance, and absorbs more energy through the Earth instead of escaping into space. This is called radiative forcing, and it is an effective way of human activities affecting the climate.

The planet's energy balance

A simple animation of the energy balance of Earth’s planets: Planet’s energy balance is balanced between budget incoming (yellow) and outgoing radiation (red). On Earth, the amount of energy received by natural and man-made processes affects emissions as well as emissions back into space. This study filters out variations in the Earth’s energy energy budget due to feedback processes, which reflect changes in aerosols and greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Climate modeling predicts that human activities are the cause of the release of greenhouse gases and aerosols that are affecting the Earth’s energy budget. Now, a NASA For the first time, studies have confirmed predictions with direct observations: radiation rebellion is increasing due to human actions, affecting the planet’s balance and ultimately causing climate change. This paper was published online on March 25, 2021 in the journal Geographical research papers.

Ryan Kramer, first author and researcher on the paper at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said this is the first calculation of total radioactive force to push to Earth using global observations, taking into account the effects of aerosols and greenhouse gases. , And the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “This is direct evidence that human activities are changing the Earth’s energy budget.”

NASA’s Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) project studies the flow of radiation at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. A series of CERES devices have been flying over satellites since 1997. How much energy enters each earth’s system and how many leaves it makes, brings about an overall net change in radiation. That data, in conjunction with other data sources such as the measurement of ocean heat, shows that there is an imbalance of radiation on our planet.

“But it can’t tell us what factors are changing the energy balance,” Kramer said.

NASA CERS Earth's energy balance

NASA’s CERES devices monitor the Earth’s equilibrium balance. This image shows how excited longwave radiation can be compared with the difference between incoming and reflected shortwave energy radiation – absorbed solar energy radiation, in order to determine the Earth’s pure change in radiation. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

This study uses a new technique to quantify how much energy is changed by humans. The researchers calculated that numerous imbalances are caused by fluctuations in several factors, such as water vapor, clouds, temperature, and surface albedo (essentially the brightness or reflection of the Earth’s surface). For example, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite measures water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere. Water vapor absorbs energy in the form of heat, so a change in water vapor will affect how much leaves will eventually leave the earth’s system. The researchers calculated the energy change due to each of these natural factors, then subtracted the values ​​from the total. The rest is radiative pressure.

The team found that human activity increased the radioactive pressure on Earth from 2003 to 2018 by about 0.5 watts per square foot. This increase is largely due to the emission of greenhouse gases from things such as power generation, transportation and industrial production. Decreased reflective aerosols are also contributing to the imbalance.

The new technology is comparatively faster than previous model-based methods, allowing researchers to monitor radiative pressure almost in real time. This method can be used to track how human emissions affect the climate, to monitor how well various mitigation efforts are working, and to evaluate models to predict future changes in the weather.

Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, said, “Creating a direct record of the calculated radiative pressure from observations will allow us to evaluate how climate models can mimic these phenomena.” “This will allow us to make more confident predictions about how the climate will change in the future.”

Reference: Ryan J. Kramer, Hoz Ze Hee, Brian J. Soden, Lazaros Oriopoulos, Gunnar Mhre, Pierce m. “Observing Evidence of Rising Global Radiation Pressure” by Forster and Christopher J. Smith, March 25, 2021 Geographical research papers.
DOI: 10.1029 / 2020GL091585