Heat stored in the Earth system 1960-2020: where does the energy go?

Karina Von Schuckmann*, Audrey Minière, Flora Gues, Francisco José Cuesta-Valero, Gottfried Kirchengast, Susheel Adusumilli, Fiammetta Straneo, Michaël Ablain, Richard P. Allan, Paul M. Barker, Hugo Beltrami, Alejandro Blazquez, Tim Boyer, Lijing Cheng, John Church, Damien Desbruyeres, Han Dolman, Catia M. Domingues, Almudena García-García, Donata GiglioJohn E. Gilson, Maximilian Gorfer, Leopold Haimberger, Maria Z. Hakuba, Stefan Hendricks, Shigeki Hosoda, Gregory C. Johnson, Rachel Killick, Brian King, Nicolas Kolodziejczyk, Anton Korosov, Gerhard Krinner, Mikael Kuusela, Felix W. Landerer, Moritz Langer, Thomas Lavergne, Isobel Lawrence, Yuehua Li, John Lyman, Florence Marti, Ben Marzeion, Michael Mayer, Andrew H. MacDougall, Trevor McDougall, Didier Paolo Monselesan, Jan Nitzbon, Inès Otosaka, Jian Peng, Sarah Purkey, Dean Roemmich, Kanako Sato, Katsunari Sato, Abhishek Savita, Axel Schweiger, Andrew Shepherd, Sonia I. Seneviratne, Leon Simons, Donald A. Slater, Thomas Slater, Andrea K. Steiner, Toshio Suga, Tanguy Szekely, Wim Thiery, Mary Louise Timmermans, Inne Vanderkelen, Susan E. Wjiffels, Tonghua Wu, Michael Zemp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

The Earth climate system is out of energy balance, and heat has accumulated continuously over the past decades, warming the ocean, the land, the cryosphere, and the atmosphere. According to the Sixth Assessment Report by Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this planetary warming over multiple decades is human-driven and results in unprecedented and committed changes to the Earth system, with adverse impacts for ecosystems and human systems. The Earth heat inventory provides a measure of the Earth energy imbalance (EEI) and allows for quantifying how much heat has accumulated in the Earth system, as well as where the heat is stored. Here we show that the Earth system has continued to accumulate heat, with 381±61ZJ accumulated from 1971 to 2020. This is equivalent to a heating rate (i.e., the EEI) of 0.48±0.1Wm-2. The majority, about 89%, of this heat is stored in the ocean, followed by about 6% on land, 1% in the atmosphere, and about 4% available for melting the cryosphere. Over the most recent period (2006-2020), the EEI amounts to 0.76±0.2Wm-2. The Earth energy imbalance is the most fundamental global climate indicator that the scientific community and the public can use as the measure of how well the world is doing in the task of bringing anthropogenic climate change under control. Moreover, this indicator is highly complementary to other established ones like global mean surface temperature as it represents a robust measure of the rate of climate change and its future commitment. We call for an implementation of the Earth energy imbalance into the Paris Agreement's Global Stocktake based on best available science. The Earth heat inventory in this study, updated from von Schuckmann et al. (2020), is underpinned by worldwide multidisciplinary collaboration and demonstrates the critical importance of concerted international efforts for climate change monitoring and community-based recommendations and we also call for urgently needed actions for enabling continuity, archiving, rescuing, and calibrating efforts to assure improved and long-term monitoring capacity of the global climate observing system. The data for the Earth heat inventory are publicly available, and more details are provided in Table 4.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1675-1709
Number of pages35
JournalEarth System Science Data
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2023

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