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Continental heat gain in the global climate system

Beltrami, Hugo; Smerdon, Jason E.; Pollack, Henry N.; Huang, Shaopeng

Recent estimates have shown the heat gained by the ocean, atmosphere, and cryosphere as 18.2 • 10²²J, 6.6 •; 10²¹J, and 8.1 • 10²¹J, respectively over the past half-century. However, the heat gain of the lithosphere via a heat flux across the solid surface of the continents (29% of the Earth's surface) has not been addressed. Here we calculate that component of Earth's changing energy budget, using ground-surface temperature reconstructions for the continents. In the last half-century there was an average flux of 39.1 mW m⁻² across the land surface into the subsurface, leading to 9.1 • 10²¹J absorbed by the ground. The heat inputs during the last half-century into all the major components of the climate system--atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, lithosphere--reinforce the conclusion that the warming during the interval has been global.


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Published In
Geophysical Research Letters
Publisher DOI
1167 - 1167
American Geophysical Union
Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
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