Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have revealed in a new study that Earth's "energy imbalance approximately doubled" from 2005 to 2019. The rise was described as "alarming."
The term "energy imbalance" refers to the discrepancy between how much of the Sun's "radiative energy" is absorbed by Earth's atmosphere and surface and how much "thermal infrared radiation" is reflected back into space.
"A positive energy imbalance means the Earth system is gaining energy, causing the planet to heat up," NASA said in a statement.
This results in warmer waters, such as oceans and hot drought-like conditions, such as those presently scorching the American West.
Scientists utilized indicator data from satellite sensors and ocean barges to estimate changes in air temperatures in the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Other evidence pointing to rising global temperatures include increases in greenhouse gas emissions, including methane and carbon dioxide, both of which contribute significantly to the energy imbalance Earth is experiencing.
All of these warming changes create environmental degradation on Earth, such as snow and ice melt, as well as increased water vapor and cloud changes, which can exacerbate the warming.
And it appears to be worsening; scientists report that the heat imbalance has more than doubled in the 14 years from 2005 to 2019.
"The trends we found were quite alarming in a sense," said Norman Loeb, lead author for the study and principal investigator for CERES at NASA's Langley Research Center.
Cooler-than-average temperatures, according to Loeb and his colleagues, also contribute to the observed energy imbalance in the Earth's atmosphere. Some weather patterns, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, exist naturally and amplify the impacts of human-caused climate change.
Thus, the extra heat entering the Earth's atmosphere is most likely the consequence of a combination of factors, some of which are anthropomorphic (caused by humans) and others that are natural
However, Loeb said that this research just gives a glimpse into long-term climate change, and that "it is not possible to predict with any certainty what the coming decades might look like for the balance of Earth's energy budget."
The study did conclude that until the rate of heat uptake decreases, more climatic shifts are to be expected.