Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have determined in new research that the Earth's atmosphere has been trapping an "unprecedented" amount of heat, with the planet's energy imbalance approximately doubling from 2005 to 2019. .
"Continued increases in concentrations of well-mixed greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and the long time-scales time required for the ocean, cryosphere, and land to come to thermal equilibrium with those increases result in a net gain of energy, hence warming, on Earth," the study's summary stated further.
"We show that these two independent approaches yield a decadal increase in the rate of energy uptake by Earth from mid-2005 through mid-2019, which we attribute to decreased reflection of energy back into space by clouds and sea-ice and increases in well-mixed greenhouse gases and water vapor," the summary said. .
Increases in greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and capture outgoing radiation, leading to warming and subsequently snow and ice melt and other changes.
"Earth’s energy imbalance is the net effect of all these factors," NASA said in the release, noting that the study's authors had examined changes in clouds, water vapor, combined contributions from trace gases and the output of light from the sun, surface albedo, aerosols and shifts in surface and atmospheric temperature distributions to reach their conclusions.
The doubling of the imbalance is due to the increase of greenhouse gases – or "anthropogenic forcing" – and increases in water vapor and decreases in clouds and sea ice.