Using satellites, data from buoys and computer models to study the Earth’s oceans, scientists have concluded that more energy is being absorbed from the Sun than is emitted back to space, throwing the Earth’s energy “out of balance” and warming the planet.
Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (Washington, D.C.), The Earth Institute at Columbia University (New York), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (California) have confirmed the energy imbalance by precisely measuring ocean heat content occurring over the past decade.
The study, which appears in this week’s Science Express, a feature of Science magazine, reveals that Earth’s current energy imbalance is large by standards of Earth’s history. The current imbalance is 0.85 watts per meter squared (W/m2) and will cause an additional warming of 0.6 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. This is equal to a 1-watt light bulb shining over an area of one square meter or 10.76 square feet. Although seemingly small, this amount of heat affecting the entire world would make a significant impact. To put this number in perspective, an imbalance of 1 W/m2 maintained for the last 10,000 years is enough to melt ice equivalent to 1 kilometer (6/10ths of a mile) of sea level.