Quick Bite: Budget Your Money, Budget Your Energy
What does someone mean when they say they're "on a budget"? Usually it means that they want to maintain a certain amount of money in their wallet or bank account, which in turn means that they have to balance how much money they spend vs. how much money they save. Just like you and I might have a financial budget, Earth has an energy budget. The earth's energy budget describes the balance between the energy that is reaching the earth from the Sun and the energy is that flowing back out into space from the earth. In the simplest sense, if this energy budget stays balanced, Earth's temperature stays constant. If the energy budget is thrown off balance, Earth's temperature will increase or decrease to restore balance.
The Arctic plays an important role in Earth's energy budget. Scientists on the 2019-2020 MOSAiC Arctic research expedition were trying to better understand this and how things are changing.
Photo: Scientists on the ice during Leg I; Photo credit: Esther Horvath
Take a look at this diagram of Earth's energy budget from NASA which shows energy flowing into the earth's system (arrows pointing towards the earth) and energy flowing out of the earth's system (arrows pointing away from the earth's surface). The different colors indicate different kinds of energy, but we're going to ignore those for now. Create a T-chart and label the columns "In" and "Out". In the "In" column, list ways in which the energy coming into the earth's system could increase or decrease. For example: The earth's surface could absorb more energy. In the 'Out' column, list ways in which energy leaving the earth's system could increase or decrease. For example: The atmosphere could emit more energy. What specific events or processes could change the amount of energy coming into or leaving the earth system?
Diagram of Earth's energy budget