Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Publication Date
27 January 2013

Energy Consumption and the Unexplained Winter Warming Over Northern Asia and North America



The  worldwide  energy  consumption  in  2006  was close  to exajoules. This is equivalent to an energy convergence of 15TW in to the populated regions, where energy is consumed and dissipated into the atmosphere as heat. Although energy consumption is sparsely distributed over the vast Earth surface and is only about 0.3% of the total energy transport to the extra tropics by atmospheric and oceanic circulations, this anthropogenic heating could disrupt thenormal atmospheric circulation pattern and produce a far-reaching effect on surface air temperature. We identify the plausible climate impacts of energy consumption using a global climate model. The results show that the inclusion of energy use at model grid points where it exceeds 0.4wm−2 can lead to remote surface temperature changes by as much as 1K in mid- and high latitudes in winter and autumn over North America and Eurasia.These regions correspond well to areas with large differences in surface temperature trends between observations and global warming simulations forced by all natural and anthropogenic forcings. We conclude that energy consumption is probably a missing forcing for the additional winter warming trends in observations.

“Energy Consumption And The Unexplained Winter Warming Over Northern Asia And North America”. 2013. Nature Climate Change, 466-470. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE1803.
Funding Program Area(s)