Computer climate models have grown much more sophisticated over the years. But there are still problems modelling some atmospheric processes, notably heat convection within clouds. And any model can only be as accurate as the data which goes into it. There is still a need, most researchers agree, for more data from the oceans, and on the role of aerosols small particles of dust, soot, soil and other substances in the atmosphere; but gathering that data is easier said than done.
NEW YORK -- Climate scientists armed with new data from the ocean depths and from space satellites have found that Earth is absorbing much more heat than it is giving off, which they say validates computer projections of global warming. Lead scientist James Hansen, a prominent NASA climatologist, described the findings on the planet's out-of-balance energy exchange as a 'smoking gun" that should dispel doubts about forecasts of climate change. A climate specialist from Germany called it a valuable contribution to climate research.
Hansen's team, reporting yesterday in the journal Science, said they also determined that global temperatures will rise by 1 degree Fahrenheit this century even if emissions of greenhouse gases are capped tomorrow. If carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions instead continue to grow, as expected, things could spin 'out of our control," especially as ocean levels rise from melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the researchers said.
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International specialists predict a degree leap in Fahrenheit readings in such a worst-case scenario. The NASA-led researchers were able to measure Earth's energy imbalance because of more- precise ocean readings collected by 1, technology-packed floats deployed in seas worldwide beginning in , in an international monitoring effort called Argo. The robots regularly dive as deep as a mile undersea to take temperature and other readings.
Their measurements are supplemented by better satellite gauging of ocean levels, which rise from meltwater and as the sea warms and expands. With this data, the scientists calculated the oceans' heat content and the global energy imbalance. They found that for every square meter of surface area, the planet is absorbing almost 1 watt more of the sun's energy than it is radiating back to space as heat -- a historically large imbalance.
Such absorbed energy will steadily warm the atmosphere. The 0. The computer models factor in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere -- including carbon dioxide and methane -- which are produced by everything from automobiles to pig farms.
Those gases keep heat from escaping into space. Significantly, greenhouse emissions have increased at a rate consistent with the detected energy imbalance, the researchers said. Scientists have found other possible 'smoking guns" on global warming in recent years, but Klaus Hasselmann, a leading climatologist from Germany, praised the Hansen report for its innovative work on energy imbalance.
In February, scientists at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography said their research -- not yet published -- also showed a close correlation between climate models and the observed temperatures of oceans, further defusing skeptics' criticism of uncertainties in modeling. Average atmospheric temperatures rose by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the 20th century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-organized network of scientists, says computer modeling predicts temperatures rising between 2. Glover, and C. Baker and Robert R.
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