Question: What is the long-term heat balance of Earth?

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  1. Hi!
    The Earth’s energy budget takes into account the amount of incoming shortwave radiation that gets to the Earth and the outgoing longwave radiation that goes back into space. These energy fluxes are actually really important to understand climate change, because this can cause changes in the Earth’s energy/heat balance.
    The Sun warms the Earth in equatorial regions more than at the poles. This unbalance in heat is re-distributed around the planet through several processes both in the ocean and in the atmosphere and their interaction.
    So there is an equilibrium in the energy/heat budget (radiative equilibrium) when there are the same amount of incoming solar radiation and of outgoing heat into space. When this is the case global temperatures are relatively stable.
    Some human activities can disturb this equilibrium, for example the emission of heat-trapping gases. Today we have a positive radiative forcing situation because of the presence of these greenhouse gases. They reduce amount of longwave radiation emitted back to space by trapping part of it, which disturbs the radiative equilibrium (incoming and outgoing radiations are not balanced).
    So I think that the long term heat balance will change a lot depending on our activities and the amount of greenhouse gases emissions.


  2. Hi denizimamoglu,

    Alice is right, but this is valid for the “outer Earth”. The inner Earth, which is pretty hot. Is in unbalance with the universe and it loses energy all the time. This is the reason for Plate Tectonics, it is just a consequence of the cooling down on the planet. There are some forces that increase a bit the heat though, tidal forces and the radiometric decay of several elements like Uranium. But in the end, in many years the Earth would be just a big, rounded cold stone.


  3. good answers from Alice and Daniel so nothing more I can add! 🙂