Refining Estimates of the Earths Radiation Budget
Global temperatures are determined by the balance between the energy the Earth receives from the sun and the heat it radiates back to space while the timescales of climate responses are dictated by the partitioning of this energy between the atmosphere and the oceans. Accurate observational estimates of the exchange of radiant energy between the sun, atmosphere, and surface are, therefore, a critical first step toward predicting future climate and we are currently applying our multi-sensor satellite radiative flux data products to improve estimates of the Earth's radiation budget for climate research and model evaluation. We are also using these datasets to determine how clouds influence global and regional radiation budgets.
Quantifying Global Energy Balance
Atmospheric radiation is just one component of an intricate system known as the global energy and water cycle (E&WC) that governs exchanges of water between the atmosphere, land, and oceans and, in turn, the exchange of energy between the atmosphere and the surface. Our group is actively engaged in the NASA Energy and Water Cycle Study (NEWS) program that seeks to use satellite observations to improve our characterization of the E&WC, its extremes, and its variability, and to use this knowledge to improve predictive capabilities of global models. As part of the NEWS E&WC Climatology Working Group, we are providing the science community with an important summary of state-of-the art estimates of energy and water fluxes in the climate system based on current NASA satellite observations. Several new datasets have been integrated to document the annual cycle of the Earth’s energy budget on continental scales and the results suggest that significant imbalances exist in surface energy fluxes as shown in the figure to the right. Through the application of an innovative optimization procedure that builds off rigorous uncertainty models for each energy flux, these benchmark E&WC estimates will provide a critical resource for evaluating climate models and establishing the primary causes of residual imbalances to target for future improvement.