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Earth now traps double the amount of heat since 2005. This energy imbalance is the difference between the amount of energy absorbed by Earth and the amount of energy emitted by it. A positive imbalance is when Earth absorbs more heat than it is losing. The new research is from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers measured Earth’s energy imbalance using satellite data.

The team used data from two separate sources. NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) and a system run by NOAA called Argo. CERES specializes in how much energy is entering and leaving Earth. Argo estimates the rate of temperature increase for the oceans. Ninety percent of the energy that is absorbed by the Earth system is absorbed into the oceans, so any significant energy imbalance would be seen as a heating up of the oceans. 

Data from both sensing platforms pointed to the same conclusions. Earth was absorbing more energy than it was emitting, that energy is then stored by the ocean, and the annual amount of energy stored has increased dramatically in the recent past.

Consequences of such a change in the energy imbalance are slightly less clear, as is the case with much climate science. There is a chance that this heat-trapping effect could speed the melting of the polar ice caps, thereby speeding up the rise in sea levels that many scientists fear will occur over the next 100 years. However, the question what is driving the acceleration is unanswered.

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