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16 Apr 2010: The Earth’s ‘Missing Heat’

Scientists are unable to account for about half of the heat that is believed to have accumulated in the atmosphere in recent years as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, according to a new study. Using data from satellites and other sources, scientists from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research

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Missing Heat

Science
Calculating the planet’s “missing” heat
(NCAR) calculated how much heat should have been measured on Earth as a result of incoming solar energy and heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Reporting in the journal Science, the researchers said that increases in ocean and air temperatures account for only half of the heat that should have built up on Earth since 2003. The extra heat may be accumulating deep in the oceans, below 3,000 feet, where few measurements are taken. It may also be manifesting itself in the rapid onset of the El Nino weather pattern last year, or the swift melting of glaciers worldwide. In any case, NCAR scientist Kevin Trenberth, lead author of the paper, said it is imperative that scientists devise methods to better measure the flow of energy through the Earth’s climate system. “That heat will come back to haunt us sooner or later,” said Trenberth. “It is critical to track the build-up of energy in our climate system so we can understand what is happening and predict our future climate.”


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