Nasa study solves case of Earth's 'missing energy'

Jan 30, 2012
Clouds play a vital role in Earth's energy balance, cooling or warming Earth's surface depending on their type. This painting, "Cumulus Congestus," by JPL's Graeme Stephens, principal investigator of NASA's CloudSat mission, depicts cumulus clouds, which transport energy away from Earth's surface. Image credit: Graeme Stephens

(PhysOrg.com) -- Two years ago, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., released a study claiming that inconsistencies between satellite observations of Earth's heat and measurements of ocean heating amounted to evidence of "missing energy" in the planet's system.

Where was it going? Or, they wondered, was something wrong with the way researchers tracked energy as it was absorbed from the sun and emitted back into space?

An international team of and , led by Norman Loeb of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and including Graeme Stephens of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., set out to investigate the mystery.

They used 10 years of data -- spanning 2001 to 2010 -- from NASA Langley's orbiting Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System Experiment (CERES) instruments to measure changes in the net at the top of Earth's atmosphere. The CERES data were then combined with estimates of the heat content of Earth's from three independent ocean-sensor sources.

Their analysis, summarized in a NASA-led study published Jan. 22 in the journal Nature Geosciences, found that the satellite and ocean measurements are, in fact, in broad agreement once observational uncertainties are factored in.

"One of the things we wanted to do was a more of the uncertainties," Loeb said. "When we did that, we found the conclusion of missing energy in the system isn't really supported by the data."

"Missing Energy" is in the Ocean

"Our data show that Earth has been accumulating heat in the ocean at a rate of half a watt per square meter (10.8 square feet), with no sign of a decline," Loeb said. "This extra energy will eventually find its way back into the atmosphere and increase temperatures on Earth."

Scientists generally agree that 90 percent of the excess heat associated with increases in gets stored in Earth's ocean. If released back into the atmosphere, a half-watt per square meter accumulation of heat could increase global temperatures by 0.3 or more degrees centigrade (0.54 degree Fahrenheit).

Loeb said the findings demonstrate the importance of using multiple measuring systems over time, and illustrate the need for continuous improvement in the way Earth's energy flows are measured.

The science team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research measured inconsistencies from 2004 and 2009 between satellite observations of Earth's heat balance and measurements of the rate of upper ocean heating from temperatures in the upper 700 meters (2,300 feet) of the ocean. They said the inconsistencies were evidence of "missing energy."

Other authors of the paper are from the University of Hawaii, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, the University of Reading United Kingdom and the University of Miami.

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User comments : 12

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Lino235
1.6 / 5 (13) Jan 30, 2012
Well, what's heating up the oceans? It can't be the atmosphere simply on the huge difference in densities. So what is it? Likely, increased volcanic activity, with magma rising closer to the surface in many locations.

What does this mean for GW? That it is pseudo-science. But let's spend billions of dollars on it, because the elite of the world need to clean out the coffers of government collected tax money.
SoylentGrin
4.5 / 5 (8) Jan 30, 2012
Right. Atmospheric temperature can't heat up liquids due to density. That's why your cold drink stays cold without ice.

Note that the article states explicitly UPPER ocean. What kind of weird volcanos in your world heat from the surface down?
pRS317
1 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2012
"Our data show that Earth has been accumulating heat in the ocean at a rate of half a watt per square meter (10.8 square feet), with no sign of a decline,"

This statement needs a time frame to be a rate...is it 1/2 W per 10 years?
ryggesogn2
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 30, 2012
"Our data show that Earth has been accumulating heat in the ocean at a rate of half a watt per square meter (10.8 square feet), with no sign of a decline,"

How much heat is being added by all the thermal vents spewing 400C water?
SoylentGrin
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 30, 2012
How much heat is being added by all the thermal vents spewing 400C water?


Once again for the cheap seats...
The study shows the upper ocean heating faster. Thermal vents and volcanic activity would heat from the bottom up.
Deathclock
3 / 5 (6) Jan 30, 2012
"Our data show that Earth has been accumulating heat in the ocean at a rate of half a watt per square meter (10.8 square feet), with no sign of a decline,"

This statement needs a time frame to be a rate...is it 1/2 W per 10 years?


per year presumably, though you're correct they should state that.
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 30, 2012
How much heat is being added by all the thermal vents spewing 400C water?


Once again for the cheap seats...
The study shows the upper ocean heating faster. Thermal vents and volcanic activity would heat from the bottom up.

Warm water rises, cold water sinks.
The question remains unanswered.

There was some theory that somehow heat from the Antarctic atm was conducting through over a mile thick ice to melt the ice that contacted the ground resulting in glacial movement.
Antarctica has volcanoes. The pressure from the ice combined with heat from the earth couldn't be what creates the thin layer of water lubricating the river of ice?
pauljpease
5 / 5 (5) Jan 30, 2012
This is a measure of the difference in radiation balance. There is a net input of 0.5 W per square meter into the oceans. The heat is coming from the sun, not the air or volcanoes. And a quick calculation can tell you that while this is a huge amount of energy input, it won't change the ocean temperature much, which is why we won't notice that this is significant until it's too late. Specific heat of water is 4.184 J/g*deg C. So it takes 4.184 J to heat one gram of water by one degree C. 0.5 W is half a joule per second, and if all that is absorbed in the first 100 m of surface water then it is half a joule per second per 100 cubic meters of water. That is 100 million grams of water. So half a joule would raise the temp by one billionth of a degree C, per second. So a billion seconds (~32 years) to raise temp by one degree C. Add in circulation to deeper water, we'll never notice the change in temperature on a human scale of time, even though it is 180 trillion joules of heat per sec.
fmfbrestel
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 30, 2012
Warm water rises, cold water sinks.
The question remains unanswered.


The answer is that it is already fully accounted for. I think you are having trouble grasping the complexity and scale of ocean warming. And instead of trying to understand the complexities you are making sweeping over-generalizations to justify a position taken without regard to reality.
bart_laws
5 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2012
". . . a half-watt per square meter accumulation of heat could increase global temperatures by 0.3 or more degrees centigrade (0.54 degree Fahrenheit)." This statement is meaningless. A watt is a flow, not a stock. The amount by which this flow will increase global temperatures depends on the time frame, which the speaker does not supply.
Callippo
1 / 5 (6) Jan 30, 2012
Well, what's heating up the oceans?
IMO Earth is passing trough cloud of anti-neutrinos, which are accelerating the decay or radioactive elements inside of oceans and Earth mantle, which is the source of heat disbalance. It doesn't mean, the GW is nonsense, on the contrary. The people just attributing to it in lesser extent.
entropyrules
4 / 5 (2) Jan 30, 2012
There is a net input of 0.5 W per square meter into the oceans. The heat is coming from the sun, not the air or volcanoes.


No, you completely turned it upside down. As this should be a CO2 effect, it should be caused by downwelling shortwave IR radiation. By itself this is unlikely because IR can only penetrate the top few microns of water which are well within the evaporation zone and thus would enhence evaporation.

In your strange vision CO2 would prevent the ocean from radiating even before having any form of contact, or prevent evaporation which is not even a radiative process.