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Geographisches Institut

Heat stored in the Earth system 1960–2020: where does the energy go?

Our "out-of-balance" Earth accumulates more energy than it loses. But how much and where? An international, multidisciplinary research team used carefully calibrated, cross-checked, and well-documented data from the ocean, land, ice, and atmosphere. The World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) contributed the glacier data and calculations.

Earth heat inventory
  • Earth has accumulated nearly 0.5 W (0.48 + 0.1 W) over every square meter of its surface over the past 50 years (since 1971).
  • More recently (2006 to 2020), heating increased to more than 0.75 W (0.76 + 0.2 W) m–2.
  • Most heat entered the ocean (89 %).
  • Remaining heat went into land (6 %), ice (4 %), and the atmosphere (1 %).
  • Assessment of energy gained and disbursed represents a fundamental metric of changing global climate with implications for the ocean, land, ice, and atmosphere.
  • Efforts such as these require sustained international cooperation on monitoring and research.


von Schuckmann, K., Minière, A., Gues, F., Cuesta-Valero, F. J., Kirchengast, G., Adusumilli, S., Straneo, F., Ablain, M., Allan, R. P., Barker, P. M., Beltrami, H., Blazquez, A., Boyer, T., Cheng, L., Church, J., Desbruyeres, D., Dolman, H., Domingues, C. M., García-García, A., Giglio, D., Gilson, J. E., Gorfer, M., Haimberger, L., Hakuba, M. Z., Hendricks, S., Hosoda, S., Johnson, G. C., Killick, R., King, B., Kolodziejczyk, N., Korosov, A., Krinner, G., Kuusela, M., Landerer, F. W., Langer, M., Lavergne, T., Lawrence, I., Li, Y., Lyman, J., Marti, F., Marzeion, B., Mayer, M., MacDougall, A. H., McDougall, T., Monselesan, D. P., Nitzbon, J., Otosaka, I., Peng, J., Purkey, S., Roemmich, D., Sato, K., Sato, K., Savita, A., Schweiger, A., Shepherd, A., Seneviratne, S. I., Simons, L., Slater, D. A., Slater, T., Steiner, A. K., Suga, T., Szekely, T., Thiery, W., Timmermans, M.-L., Vanderkelen, I., Wjiffels, S. E., Wu, T., and Zemp, M.: Heat stored in the Earth system 1960–2020: where does the energy go?, Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 15, 1675–1709,, 2023. 

Weiterführende Informationen


Prof. Michael Zemp
World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS)
Department of Geography, University of Zurich
Phone: +41 44 635 51 39