Anyone with even a slight interest in the whole climate issue thing should be familiar with the iconic ‘Earth energy budget diagrams’ allegedly quantifying – by accounting for the various energy transfer fluxes to, from and within the Earth system – the so-called “atmospheric radiative greenhouse effect” (rGHE) and how it forces the global surface of our planet into a mean steady state temperature much higher than at a pure solar radiative equilibrium. The prototype of these diagrams appeared in the Kiehl and Trenberth 1997 paper (K&T97) “Earth’s annual global mean energy budget” (Figure 1), apparently already there setting the gold standard for compiling these budgets, for its successors have all essentially been showing the same thing, with only minor modifications to the original.
At first glance, the diagram might seem a bit confusing. What are we actually looking at here? What are we looking for? How to make any sense of it all? How to extract its core substance, its central message to the world? Robert A. Rohde of ‘Global Warming Art’ attempted to present the gist of the K&T97 Earth energy budget diagram like this:
You will notice how, in Rohde’s rendition of the K&T97 budget, the energy being continuously supplied to the surface from the Sun appears to be completely disconnected from the energy later going out from the surface. 168 W/m2 come in, but 492 (!!!) W/m2 go out. And by all means, you will find that same peculiar decoupled relation in the original diagram too, even though it might be a bit harder to immediately hone in on. Continue reading