New Study Casts Doubt on “Missing Heat” Hypothesis

(Originally pubished on Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang)

Updated graphic of total heat content from Church et al 2011. You'll see that the oceans are absorbing most of the extra heat from rising amounts of greenhouse gases. Credit:

Have you heard the tale about the “missing heat” in the climate system? Well, it turns out it may not have gone missing after all.

Global warming is driven by an imbalance between how much energy the planet takes in from the sun, and how much it lets back out into space in the form of thermal radiation. The planetary energy balance has been off kilter ever since humans started burning massive amounts of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, for energy and transportation. (Natural factors have altered the energy balance in the past, causing ice ages, for example.)

Today, it’s widely agreed that the planet is warming because we’re taking in more energy than we’re letting out, thanks to growing concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which help keep outgoing energy from escaping into space.

In recent years, some researchers have focused on a problem with the planetary energy ledger.

(Read the rest of the story at the Capital Weather Gang blog)