01 Aug 2022
01 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Heat stored in the Earth system 1960–2020: Where does the energy go?

Karina von Schuckmann1, Audrey Minère1, Flora Gues1,2, Francisco José Cuesta-Valero3,36, Gottfried Kirchengast4, Susheel Adusumilli5, Fiammetta Straneo5, Richard Allan6, Paul M. Barker7, Hugo Beltrami8,51, Tim Boyer9, Lijing Cheng10,11, John Church7, Damien Desbruyeres12, Han Dolman13, Catia M. Domingues14, Almudena García-García3,36, Donata Giglio15, John E. Gilson5, Maximilian Gorfer16,4, Leopold Haimberger17, Stefan Hendricks18, Shigeki Hosoda19, Gregory C. Johnson20, Rachel Killick21, Brian King14, Nikolas Kolodziejczyk22, Anton Korosov23, Gerhard Krinner24, Mikael Kuusela25, Moritz Langer26,27, Thomas Lavergne28, Isobel Lawrence29, Yuehua Li30, John Lyman20, Ben Marzeion21, Michael Mayer17,31, Andrew H. MacDougall32, Trevor McDougall7, Didier Paolo Monselesan33, Jan Nitzbon26,34, Inès Otosaka35, Jian Peng3,36, Sarah Purkey5, Dean Roemmich5, Kanako Sato19, Katsunari Sato37, Abhishek Savita38, Axel Schweiger39, Andrew Shepherd35, Sonia I. Seneviratne40, Leon Simons41, Donald A. Slater42, Thomas Slater35, Noah Smith43, Andrea Steiner4, Toshio Suga44,19, Tanguy Szekely45, Wim Thiery46, Mary-Louise Timmermans47, Inne Vanderkelen46, Susan E. Wjiffels33,48, Tonghua Wu49, and Michael Zemp50 Karina von Schuckmann et al.
  • 1Mercator Ocean International, Toulouse, France
  • 2CELAD, Toulouse, France
  • 3Department of Remote Sensing, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, 04318, Germany
  • 4Wegener Center for Climate and Global Change and Institute of Physics, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
  • 5Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, San Diego, California, USA
  • 6University of Reading, UK
  • 7University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • 8Climate & Atmospheric Sciences Institute and Department of Earth Sciences, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, B2G 2W5, Canada
  • 9NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
  • 10Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  • 11Center for Ocean Mega-Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao, 266071, China
  • 12Ifremer, University of Brest, CNRS, IRD, Laboratoire d'Océanographie Physique et Spatiale, Brest, France
  • 13Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Den Burg, Texel, Netherlands
  • 14National Oceanographic Centre, Southampton, UK
  • 15University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
  • 16Center for Climate Systems Modeling, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 17Department of Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  • 18Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Germany
  • 19Japan Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Japan
  • 20NOAA, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, USA
  • 21Met Office Hadley Centre, Exeter, UK
  • 22University of Brest, CNRS, IRD, Ifremer, Laboratoire d'Océanographie Physique et Spatiale, IUEM, Brest, France
  • 23Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Norway
  • 24Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement, CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France
  • 25Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, USA
  • 26Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Permafrost Research Section, Potsdam, Germany
  • 27Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Geography Department, Berlin, Germany
  • 28Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Norway
  • 29European Space Agency, ESRIN, Via Galileo Galilei, 1, 00044 Frascati RM, Italy
  • 30University of Bremen, Germany
  • 31European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Reading, UK
  • 32Climate & Environment Program, St. Francis Xavier University Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada B2G 2W5
  • 33CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • 34Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Paleoclimate Dynamics Section, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 35Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, University of Leeds, UK
  • 36Remote Sensing Centre for Earth System Research, Leipzig University, 04103, Leipzig, Germany
  • 37Japan Meteorological Agency, Japan
  • 38GEOMAR, Kiel, Germany
  • 39Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  • 40Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, 8092, Switzerland
  • 41The Club of Rome, The Netherlands Association, 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
  • 42Glaciology and Oceanography, Univ. of Edinburgh, UK
  • 43Department of Mathematics, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 44Tohoku University, Japan
  • 45Ocean Scope, Brest, France
  • 46Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, 1050, Belgium
  • 47Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  • 48Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts, USA
  • 49Cryosphere Research Station on Qinghai–Xizang Plateau, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Northwest Institute of Eco–Environment and Resources (NIEER), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Lanzhou, 730000, China
  • 50Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 51Département des sciences de la Terre et de l’atmosphère, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada

Abstract. The Earth climate system is out of energy balance and heat has accumulated continuously over the past decades, warming the ocean, the land, the cryosphere and the atmosphere. According to the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this planetary warming over multiple decades is human-driven and results in unprecedented and committed changes to the Earth system, with adverse impacts for ecosystems and human systems. The Earth heat inventory provides a measure of the Earth energy imbalance, and allows for quantifying how much heat has accumulated in the Earth system, and where the heat is stored. Here we show that 380 ± 62 ZJ of heat has accumulated in the Earth system from 1971 to 2020, at a rate of 0.48 ± 0.1 W m−2, with 89 ± 17 % of this heat stored in the ocean, 6 ± 0.1 % on land, 4 ± 1 % in the cryosphere and 1 ± 0.2 % in the atmosphere. Over the most recent decade (2006–2020), the Earth heat inventory shows increased warming at rate of 0.48 ± 0.3 W m−2/decade, and the Earth climate system is out of energy balance by 0.76 ± 0.2 Wm−2. The Earth heat inventory is the most fundamental global climate indicator that the scientific community and the public can use as the measure of how well the world is doing in the task of bringing anthropogenic climate change under control. We call for an implementation of the Earth heat inventory into the Paris agreement’s global stocktake based on best available science. The Earth heat inventory in this study, updated from von Schuckmann et al, 2020, is underpinned by worldwide multidisciplinary collaboration and demonstrates the critical importance of concerted international efforts for climate change monitoring and community-based recommendations as coordinated by the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). We also call for urgently needed actions for enabling continuity, archiving, rescuing and calibrating efforts to assure improved and long-term monitoring capacity of the relevant GCOS Essential Climate Variables (ECV) for the Earth heat inventory.

Karina von Schuckmann et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2022-239', Anonymous Referee #1, 25 Aug 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on essd-2022-239', Anonymous Referee #2, 29 Nov 2022

Karina von Schuckmann et al.

Data sets

GCOS EHI Experiment 1960-2020 von Schuckmann, Karina; Minière, Audrey; Gues, Flora; Cuesta-Valero, Francisco; Kirchengast, Gottfried; Adusumilli, Susheel; Straneo, Fiammetta; Allan, Richard; Barker, Paul M.; Beltrami, Hugo; Boyer, Tim; Cheng, Lijing; Church, John; Desbruyeres, Damien; Dolman, Han; Domingues, Catia; García-García, Almudena; Giglio, Donata; Gilson, John; Gorfer, Maximilian; Haimberger, Leopold; Hendricks, Stefan; Hosoda, Shigeki; Johnson, Gregory; Killick, Rachel; King, Brian; Kolodziejczyk, Nicolas; Korosov, Anton; Krinner, Gerhard; Kuusela, Mikael; Langer, Moritz; Lavergne, Thomas; Li, Yuehua; Lyman, John; Marzeion, Ben; Mayer, Michael; MacDougall, Andrew; Lawrence, Isobel; McDougall, Trevor; Monselesan, Didier; Nitzbon, Jean; Otosaka, Inès; Peng, Jian; Purkey, Sarah; Roemmich, Dean; Sato, Kanako; Sato, Katsunari; Savita, Abhishek; Schweiger, Axel; Shepherd, Andrew; Seneviratne, Sonia; Simons, Leon; Slater, Donald; Slater, Thomas; Smith, Noah; Steiner, Andrea; Suga, Toshio; Szekely, Tanguy; Thiery, Wim; Timmermanns, Mary-Louise; Vanderkelen, Inne; Wijffels, Susan; Wu, Tonghua; Zemp, Michael

Karina von Schuckmann et al.


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Short summary
Earth climate is out of energy balance and this study quantifies how much heat has consequently accumulated over the past decades (89 %: ocean, 6 %: land, 4 %: cryosphere, 1 %: atmosphere). Since 1971, this accumulated heat reached record values at an increasing pace. The Earth heat inventory provides a comprehensive view on the status and expectation of global warming, and we call for an implementation of this global climate indicator into the Paris agreement’s global stocktake.