Monthly Earth's Energy Imbalance

What is the Monthly Earth's Energy Imbalance?

This is the monthly imbalance of the energy that the Earth receives from the sun compared to the energy that it radiates back into space. The energy imbalance leads to the warming or cooling of the Earth.

Almost all incoming energy comes from the sun. Outgoing energy is dependent on factors like the albedo of clouds and ice sheets, greenhouse gases like water vapor, natural and human-made carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide from volcanic eruptions and industrial activities.

The IPCC adopted the concept of energy balance under the term radiative forcing.

Wikipedia: Radiative Forcing
Wikipedia: Earth's Energy Budget
IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report

Units and measures

The energy balance is expressed in Watts per square meter (W/m2), which means the energy increase (or decrease) per square meter of the Earth. The Earth’s surface is expected to heat up by 0.8 °C (1.44 °F) for each 1 W/m2 increase.

Wikipedia: Climate sensitivity parameter λ 0.8 °C / (W/m2)

Insights from this chart

A higher difference means more energy imbalance; these are highlighted as yellow and pure blue areas.

The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo caused a major increase in the energy radiated out by the Earth.

Wikipedia: 1991 Eruption of Mount Pinatubo

Many humps in the energy imbalance graph can be explained by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation variation. The El Niño and La Niña phases have complex consequences for energy imbalance and global warming.

Wikipedia: El Niño Southern Oscillation

Since 1994 there has been a consistent positive difference (more energy and warming), which appears as the yellow area in the chart (energy from the sun). The IPCC has high confidence that the main driver of the current imbalance is due to the reduction in the Earth's energy radiation caused by greenhouse gases.

About the data

We combine two NASA satellite-based data sets and apply rolling averages and linear interpolation.

The CERES EBAF-TOA Ed4.2 data product started collecting data in the year 2000. We calculate the yearly rolling averages from CERES EBAF-TOA Ed4.2 in order to highlight the trend, because monthly sinusoidal data would obscure the trend.

The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) provides an average time series of yearly global values from 1985 to 1999.

Data sources

Update cycle: monthlyDelay: 3-5 months