Earth's energy imbalance

  • Trenberth K
  • Fasullo J
  • Balmaseda M
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Climate change from increased greenhouse gases arises from a global energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA). TOA measurements of radiation from space can track changes over time but lack absolute accuracy. An inventory of energy storage changes shows that over 90% of the imbalance is manifested as a rise in ocean heat content (OHC). Data from the Ocean Reanalysis System, version 4 (ORAS4), and other OHC-estimated rates of change are used to compare with model-based estimates of TOA energy imbalance [from the Community Climate System Model, version 4 (CCSM4)] and with TOA satellite measurements for the year 2000 onward. Most ocean-only OHC analyses extend to only 700-m depth, have large discrepancies among the rates of change of OHC, and do not resolve interannual variability adequately to capture ENSO and volcanic eruption effects, all aspects that are improved with assimilation of multivariate data. ORAS4 rates of change of OHC quantitatively agree with the radiative forcing estimates...

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  • Kevin E. Trenberth

  • John T. Fasullo

  • Magdalena A. Balmaseda

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