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Heading for the dark side? How Earth has 'dimmed' by 0.5% since 2017

Heading for the dark side? How Earth has ‘dimmed’ by 0.5% since 2017 when viewed from space

  • Researchers have found that Earth is he equivalent of 0.5 per cent less ‘shiny’ 
  • It is not a difference anyone walking on Earth could notice, or even an astronaut
  • But the reduction in ‘Earthshine’ or albedo is due to a recent loss of clouds 

Viewed from space, the ‘pale blue dot’ we know as Earth has dimmed since 2017, scientists have discovered.

Researchers who have been steadily tracking our planet say it has lost brightness by the equivalent of half-a-watt per square metre, making it the equivalent of 0.5 per cent less ‘shiny’ since 2017.

It is not a difference anyone walking on Earth could notice, or even an astronaut in space, unless they had a specialist telescope. 

If less sunshine is bouncing back off the clouds it also means more sunshine is staying on Earth, which could contribute to global warming.

But the reduction in ‘Earthshine’, also known as albedo, is due to a recent loss of clouds, which reflect back half of the sun’s rays, over the eastern Pacific Ocean.

This is thought to have been caused by the warming of the ocean.

And if less sunshine is bouncing back off the clouds it also means more sunshine is staying on Earth, which could contribute to global warming.

Lead study author Professor Philip Goode, of New Jersey Institute of Technology, said: ‘This was not what we expected at all, as for 17 years there has been scarcely any change in the Earth’s brightness.’

The brightness, or reflectiveness, of the Earth is measured using a telescope little larger than an amateur would use, at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in Southern California, by looking at the sunlight bouncing between the Sun, Moon and Earth.

The study, in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, looked at the dimming of the Earth between 2017 and last year

However, the scientists predicted the dimming will reverse itself in the next couple of years, because the ocean becomes cooler over time, based on the change in the Pacific current.

The study, in the Geophysical Research Letters journal, looked at the dimming of the Earth between 2017 and last year.

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