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Foreword: International Space Science Institute (ISSI) workshop on observing and predicting Earth’s energy flows

Bengtsson, L. (2012) Foreword: International Space Science Institute (ISSI) workshop on observing and predicting Earth’s energy flows. Surveys in Geophysics, 33 (3-4). pp. 333-336. ISSN 1573-0956 (This issue: Observing and Modeling Earth's Energy Flows)

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s10712-012-9194-y


The Earth’s climate, as well as planetary climates in general, is broadly regulated by three fundamental parameters: the total solar irradiance, the planetary albedo and the planetary emissivity. Observations from series of different satellites during the last three decades indicate that these three quantities are generally very stable. The total solar irradiation of some 1,361 W/m2 at 1 A.U. varies within 1 W/m2 during the 11-year solar cycle (Fröhlich 2012). The albedo is close to 29 % with minute changes from year to year but with marked zonal differences (Stevens and Schwartz 2012). The only exception to the overall stability is a minor decrease in the planetary emissivity (the ratio between the radiation to space and the radiation from the surface of the Earth). This is a consequence of the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas amounts making the atmosphere gradually more opaque to long-wave terrestrial radiation. As a consequence, radiation processes are slightly out of balance as less heat is leaving the Earth in the form of thermal radiation than the amount of heat from the incoming solar radiation. Present space-based systems cannot yet measure this imbalance, but the effect can be inferred from the increase in heat in the oceans where most of the heat accumulates. Minor amounts of heat are used to melt ice and to warm the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:31650

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