08 Aug 2022
08 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Continental heat storage: Contributions from ground, inland waters, and permafrost thawing

Francisco José Cuesta-Valero1,2, Hugo Beltrami3,4, Almudena García-García1,2, Gerhard Krinner5, Moritz Langer6,7, Andrew H. MacDougall8, Jan Nitzbon6,9, Jian Peng1,2, Karina von Schuckmann10, Sonia I. Seneviratne11, Noah Smith12, Wim Thiery13, Inne Vanderkelen13, and Tonghua Wu14 Francisco José Cuesta-Valero et al.
  • 1Department of Remote Sensing, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, 04318, Germany
  • 2Remote Sensing Centre for Earth System Research, Leipzig University, 04103, Leipzig, Germany
  • 3Climate & Atmospheric Sciences Institute and Department of Earth Sciences, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, B2G 2W5, Canada
  • 4Département des sciences de la Terre et de l’atmosphère, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
  • 5CNRS senior scientist (Directeur de Recherche), LGGE Grenoble, France
  • 6Permafrost Research Section, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Potsdam, Germany
  • 7Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • 8Climate & Environment Program, St. Francis Xavier University Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada B2G 2W5
  • 9Paleoclimate Dynamics Section, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 10Mercator Ocean International, Toulouse, 31400, France
  • 11Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Zurich, 8092, Switzerland
  • 12Department of Mathematics, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom
  • 13Department of Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, 1050, Belgium
  • 14Cryosphere Research Station on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau, State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Northwest Institute of Eco–Environment and Resources (NIEER), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Lanzhou, 730000, China

Abstract. Heat storage within the Earth system is a fundamental metric to understand climate change. The current energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere causes changes in energy storage within the ocean, the atmosphere, the cryosphere, and the continental landmasses. After the ocean, heat storage in land is the second largest term of the Earth heat inventory, affecting physical processes relevant to society and ecosystems, such as the stability of the soil carbon pool. Here, we present an update of the continental heat storage combining for the first time the heat in the land subsurface, inland water bodies, and permafrost thawing. The continental landmasses stored 23.9±0.4×1021 J during the period 1960–2020, but the distribution of heat among the three components is not homogeneous. The ground stores ~90 % of the continental heat storage, with inland water bodies and permafrost degradation accounting for ~0.7 % and ~9 % of the continental heat, respectively. Although the inland water bodies and permafrost soils store less heat than the ground, we argue that their associated climate phenomena justify their monitoring and inclusion in the Earth heat inventory.

Francisco José Cuesta-Valero et al.

Status: open (until 30 Oct 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on esd-2022-32', Anonymous Referee #1, 26 Sep 2022 reply

Francisco José Cuesta-Valero et al.

Francisco José Cuesta-Valero et al.


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Short summary
Climate change is caused by the accumulated heat in the Earth system, with the land storing the second largest amount of this extra heat. Here, new estimates of continental heat storage are obtained, including changes in inland water heat storage and permafrost heat storage in addition to changes in ground heat storage. We also argue that heat gains in all three components should be monitored independently of their magnitude due to heat-dependent processes affecting society and ecosystems.