Sunday, January 29, 2012

NASA finds Earth's missing energy

A while back, we discovered that a fair amount of the Earth's energy content was missing, by using satellite observations. Researchers found that there ought to be more energy than we can observe by looking at the Earth's heat. NASA performed a study to find missing energy, and found that the oceans have been accumulating more energy than we previously thought. This is important because it may contribute to climate change.

The Earth possesses a hot core and is constantly being heated by energy coming from the Sun. Researchers agree that much of the absorbed energy is stored in oceans in the form of extra heat. Inconsistencies found by satellite observations revealed there should be more of it than we actually thought. NASA has now found it, and claims oceans are storing the approximate amount of half a watt per square meter. Remember, watt is an expression of joules per second, which means the oceans' energy content is increasing.

While half a watt per square meter may not seem much, or even interesting, scientists agree that it could increase the temperature in the atmosphere by 0.3 centigrade worldwide. We already know the temperatures on Earth are rising, and the missing energy we found may be contributing to it. Especially because warmer oceans are less able to take up the greenhouse gas CO2.

Even though the increase in temperature may not seem to be much, we're talking about a global effect, and the Earth's climate system is governed by delicate processes that are easily disturbed. Additionally, regional variances may be much bigger, and have a greater impact. All in all the extra energy storage does not bode well for global warming.

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