The Heat Budget

Denver Kunaka Last edited:August 4, 2020

Table of Contents

The earth is neither heating up nor cooling down as there is a balance between incoming insolation and outgoing terrestrial radiation. Cold and warm regions do not get increasingly cold or warm respectively. But there are significant variations within the atmosphere. So although energy is lost through radiation throughout the atmosphere the net gain in radiation is not experienced in the Polar Regions, instead there is a net deficit between incoming and outgoing radiation. At latitudes between 40 and 35 degrees there is a net surplus of radiation (positive heat balance) This imbalance is addressed by horizontal and vertical transfers of heat.

Horizontal Transfers

Sensible heat transfer

Parcels of air acquire heat at their source region and place this heat in areas they travel including the Poles or vice versa, examples include tropical storms and depressions.

Ocean currents

Warm water is carried from the equator to the Poles, conversley, cold water is carried by the ocean to the tropics.

Vertical Transfers

These supply energy to the atmosphere by means of radiation, conduction and convection.


Earth’s surface absorbs solar radiation which in turn heats the air above it.


Air parcels are heated by the earth’s surface,becomes lighter, rises and cools.


the transfer of heat through matter.

Latent heat

When condensation occurs heat trapped in the air parcel is released into the atmosphere.

Read more hereGlobal Heat Fluxes

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About Author

Denver is a Geographer, Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Blogger & Digital Marketer. He has come to know that everyday there's something new to learn :-)