A new diagram of the global energy balance

Gert.Koenig-Langlo [ at ] awi.de


Here we provide a new assessment of the global mean energy fluxes from a surface perspective and present an associated diagram of the global mean energy balance, adapted from the study by Wild et al. (2013) [1] with two slight modifications as outlined in this paper. The radiative energy exchanges between Sun, Earth and space are now accurately quantified from new satellite missions. Much less has been known about the magnitude of the energy flows within the climate system and at the Earth surface, which cannot be directly measured by satellites. In addition to satellite observations, we make extensive use of the growing number of surface observations to constrain the global energy balance not only from space, but also from the surface. We combine these observations with the latest modeling efforts performed for the 5th IPCC assessment report to infer best estimates for the global mean surface radiative components. Our analyses favor global mean downward surface solar and thermal radiation values near 185 and 342 Wm-2, respectively, which are most compatible with surface observations. Combined with an estimated surface absorbed solar radiation and thermal emission of 161 Wm-2 and 398 Wm-2, respectively, this leaves 105 Wm-2 of surface net radiation available for distribution amongst the non-radiative surface energy balance components. Considering an imbalance of 0.6 Wm-2, the global mean sensible and latent heat fluxes are estimated at 20 and 84 Wm-2, respectively, to close the surface energy balance. The global mean surface radiative fluxes derived here in combination with a latent heat flux of 84 Wm-2 may be able to reconcile currently disputed inconsistencies between energy and water cycle estimates. The findings of this study are compiled into a new global energy balance diagram.

Item Type
Primary Division
Primary Topic
Publication Status
Eprint ID
DOI 10.1063/1.4804848

Cite as
Wild, M. , Folini, D. , Schär, C. , Loeb, N. , Dutton, E. G. and König-Langlo, G. (2013): A new diagram of the global energy balance / R. Cahalan and J. Fischer (editors) , America, AIP Publishing, 996 p., ISBN: 978-0-7354-1155-5 . doi: 10.1063/1.4804848

Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Research Platforms


Edit Item Edit Item