NASA Warns Of Earth’s Alarming ‘Energy Imbalance’

by : Hannah Smith on : 20 Jun 2021 18:23
NASA Warns Of Earth's Alarming 'Energy Imbalance'PA Images

Earth is trapping almost twice as much heat as it did 14 years ago, leading to an ‘alarming’ increase in the planet’s ‘energy imbalance’, scientists have warned.

Research conducted by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), found that between 2005 and 2019, Earth’s positive energy imbalance – whereby the planet traps more radiation than it lets out – had approximately doubled.


The ‘unprecedented’ increase has led to the planet heating up faster, which in turn causes sea temperatures to rise, and increases levels of ice and sea melt.

A hotter Earth leads to increasing ice and snow melt (PA Images)PA Images

In a press release, NASA said:

Earth’s climate is determined by a delicate balance between how much of the Sun’s radiative energy is absorbed in the atmosphere and at the surface and how much thermal infrared radiation Earth emits to space. A positive energy imbalance means the Earth system is gaining energy, causing the planet to heat up.


Using satellite sensors and ocean floats, scientists were able to identify a ‘very large trend’ of excess energy, leading them to conclude that the imbalance was ‘a real phenomenon.’

Norman Loeb, lead author for the study and principal investigator at NASA’s Langley Research Centre, said ‘the trends we found were quite alarming in a sense,’ adding, ‘The magnitude of the increase is unprecedented.’

NASA warns of 'alarming' energy imbalance (NASA)NASA

Researchers found the energy imbalance was in part caused by increasing greenhouse emissions, which trap radiation, with a ‘naturally occurring’ shift in the Pacific ocean’s temperature also contributing.


NASA said the study, which was published last week in Geophysical Research Letters, could not predict the long-term future of Earth’s energy imbalance ‘with any real certainty,’ but did warn that unless the increase slowed, ‘greater changes in climate than are already occurring should be expected.’

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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: Science, Global Warming, NASA, Now


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