Simple Climate Model
We begin with a very simple analog model for our planet’s climate (figure below) in which solar energy enters the system, is absorbed (some will have been reflected), stored (some will have been transformed or put to work), and then released back into outer space. The amount of energy stored determines the temperature of the planet. The balance between the incoming energy and the outgoing energy determines whether the planet becomes cooler, warmer, or stays the same. Notice the little arrow connecting the box to the Energy Out flow — this means that the amount of energy released by the planet depends on how hot it is; when it is hotter, it releases, or emits, more energy and when it is cooler, it emits less energy. What this does is to drive this system to a state where the energy out matches the energy in — then, the temperature (energy stored) is constant. This energy balance, sometimes called radiative equilibrium, is at the heart of all climate models.