Researchers at the University of Alabama Huntsville say data from NASA's Terra satellite show that when the climate warms, Earth's atmosphere is apparently more efficient at releasing energy into space than current climate models have been programmed to consider, a university release reported Friday.
Resulting climate forecasts predict substantially faster warming than is actually occurring, Roy Spencer of the university's Earth System Science Center says.
"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."
Not only does the atmosphere release more energy than previously thought, it starts releasing it earlier in a warming cycle, in contrast to models that forecast the climate should continue to absorb solar energy until a warming event peaks.
"At the peak, satellites show energy being lost while climate models show energy still being gained," Spencer said.