Nigel Calder in the Times

As a prelude to a new book, Nigel Calder (who was the editor of New Scientist for four years in the 1960s) has written an op-ed for the Times (UK) basically recapitulating the hype over the Svensmark cosmic ray/climate experiments we reported on a couple of month ago (see Taking Cosmic Rays for a spin). At the time we pointed out that while the experiments were potentially of interest, they are a long way from actually demonstrating an influence of cosmic rays on the real world climate, and in no way justify the hyperbole that Svensmark and colleagues put into their press releases and more ‘popular’ pieces. Even if the evidence for solar forcing were legitimate, any bizarre calculus that takes evidence for solar forcing of climate as evidence against greenhouse gases for current climate change is simply wrong. Whether cosmic rays are correlated with climate or not, they have been regularly measured by the neutron monitor at Climax Station (Colorado) since 1953 and show no long term trend. No trend = no explanation for current changes.

213 comments on this post.
  1. Bryan:

    A quick look at the solar data ( shows that it increased slightly from 1900-1950 and has remained stable since. It doesn’t correlate with observed temperature for the 20th century ( at all, particularly for the the 1950-2005 period.

    Calder is also misleading when he goes on about the Antarctic not warming up as quickly and suggesting that this was somehow unexpected. This was predicted in the 2001 IPCC report and is due to the buffer effect of the Southern Ocean and the general isolation of the Antarctic from global climate. But the Antarctic is also predicted to catch up…

  2. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[Why do expect that solar output has to increase to cause warming to increase?]]

    Because over a long period of time, the Earth radiates out as much energy as it absorbs; i.e., it’s in thermodynamic equilibrium. To raise the temperature by Solar means you have to raise the Solar input, and that hasn’t been happening.

  3. Brian Schmidt:

    Re #200: I believe I’ve offered to bet Jim before and was met with the usual denialist silence. Jim, if I’m mistaken or if you’ve changed your mind, I accept your bet – please contact me to arrange terms.

  4. Brian Schmidt:

    My apologies, I put the wrong contact info in #203. The correct one is here.

  5. Jim Cross:

    Re #200, 203, 204

    Sure. I’ll bet. Not much. I could be wrong. Will you give 5 to 1 odds? We’ll settle up in 2026. Let me know.

    I don’t regard myself as a denialist. I believe global warming is happening and I believe GHG is a major part of it. I just think the solar influence is underestimated. Are you 100% sure it isn’t?

    The Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age were both associated with solar variations. I’ve seen arguments about ocean circulation changes and that these were really regional phenonmena. With the Earth and climate, there are no regional phenonmena.

  6. Brian Schmidt:

    This is why betting is useful. Jim has clarified his position in #205 to one where temps in 20 years are 80% likely to rise instead of fall.

    As to whether I’m 100% sure that solar influence is underestimated, I’m not, but I’m sure enough to offer bets to people who think the IPCC is wrong.

  7. Jim Cross:

    Re #206

    To be clear, the bet is that 2015-2025 will be cooler than 2000-2010. Temperatures might be warmer in 2025 than 2000. The bet is for a 10 year average.

    Actually I would bet at least even that temperatures will fall. I’m just trying to determine how sure you are and get the best odds. So apparently you are not 100% sure temperatures will rise and seem to be hedging some at 80%. How sure are you? Maybe we’re not so far apart after all.

  8. Hank Roberts:

    Are you two agreeing to hold anything constant? solar output, no asteroid impact?

  9. Jim Cross:

    Re #208

    Hank, I haven’t heard back from Brian. I think I should get 5 to 1 odds since the IPCC is 90% confident in their assessment of climate change. I would think he would be at least 90% confident in the warming side of the bet.

    I’m willing to cancel the bet on asteroid strike or major volcanic eruption even though it would more likely tilt the bet in my favor.

    Solar output is what the bet is about.

  10. Brian Schmidt:

    Funny, I wasn’t aware that we were in negotiation. I asked Jim to contact me as he hides his own contact information here.

    I have a standing offer, open for nearly 2 years, to bet 3:1 on temps rising in 20 years. 5:1 strikes me as high, and the IPCC overall projection of certainty doesn’t translate into a similar guarantee as to what will happen in a given time period.

    Jim’s bet translates into an over 80% certainty temperatures will increase and that’s not remotely skeptical. If Jim wants to take any of my bet offers, once again, please contact me directly.

    And finally, I’m not interested in betting token amounts.

  11. Steven Douglas:

    Regarding the graph of neutron monitor data collected at Climax Station in Colorado: Is that not local; data collected at one point, at a constant elevation, local pressure, temperature, relative also to atmospheric interactions at the point of collection? It’s my understanding that Svensmark is claiming that cosmic rays are interacting with the atmosphere, as one forcing for cloud formation that isn’t yet accounted for in any GCM. Are cosmic particles that seed cloud formation processes even detectable, and if not, was cloud formation data over the Climax Station even collected, or accounted for?

    The fact that the graph yields no obvious correlation looks to me like a straw man, given that it’s like trying to find a global correlation (for the last thirty years only, no less) based only on local data (of any kind – temperatures, tree rings, ice cores) collected from any one location.

    A GCM may have a rougher than tough time accounting for clouds, but it seems to me that a local correlation would be easy enough to find in a study where data is collected with correlations made between cosmic rays, clouds, other local atmospheric conditions. The graph cited just seems to be just one more set of data that is blind to clouds – or anything else, for that matter, other than time. Or am I missing something. Has a such a study ever been done?

    [Response: Any of neutron monitors or ion chambers would do since they are all highly correlated with each other. CLIMAX is often used becuase it has a long continuous record. Indeed, Svensmark used it when trying to show correlations with clouds. What they are measuring is something that depends on geomagnetic latitude, but since they are all being modulated by solar changes, you expect the modulation to be the similar regardless. -gavin]

  12. Steven Douglas:

    Thank you for your response, Gavin. It’s the “you expect the modulation to be the similar regardless” part that still has me wondering, because, as I said, I haven’t seen any study that could substantiate or falsify this theory based on data collection that accounts for actual atmospheric conditions. Indeed, if you look at the global temperature record, similarities abound there as well. Nothing is obvious until corrections are made, sensitivities are accounted for, and all data are combined in such a way that gives us a net global warming trend.

    One last thing. When you wrote:

    [Response:…In the past, solar forcing may have been important (along with volcanic) on multidecadal to century timescales, however, GHG forcing over the last 50 years dwarfs any concievable solar contribution. -gavin]

    To state a theoretical conclusion as a factual premise (that GHG forcing over the last 50 years dwarfs any conceivable solar contribution), is begging the question, otherwise known as circular reasoning. This is combined with a larger logical fallacy, known as the False Dilemma – where it’s assumed that either claim X is true or that claim Y must be true. This is fallacious, because it does not account for the possibility that neither claim may be true.

    Climate change, and specifically recent warming trends, are hardly in question. I don’t know of many so-called ‘deniers’ where either is concerned. You can dismiss solar contributions as the primary forcing responsible for recent warming trends, but that does not automatically mean that GHG (and more specifically, CO2) are the de facto primary forcing mechanism responsible for [most? all?] of recent warming trends. This is also a theory, one that you are advancing, which is still very much in question. I am not saying that you should not believe as you do, or come to conclusions; only that it’s logically fallacious and not very scientific, IMO, to state it in such a way – especially in light that you advancing logical arguments in support of a theory.

  13. Jeffrey Davis:


    I may be lunatic or forgetful, but there’s a calculable addition to our energy budget due to increases in CO2. If cosmic rays also have a large effect there would be 2 vectors, GHGs and cosmic rays, and the curious Maxwell’s Demon which siphons off the GHG component while leaving the cosmic ray contribution untouched.