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‘Cosmoclimatology’ – tired old arguments in new clothes

Filed under: — rasmus @ 9 March 2007 - (Português)

Image from cosmosIn a recent issue of the journal Astronomy and Geophysics (A&G), Henrik Svensmark coined a new term: ‘cosmoclimatology’ . I think ‘cosmoclimatology’ is a good and refreshing name for anything combining our cosmos with our climate. However, all other aspects of the article I found very disappointing. We have already covered most of these topics before, but the A&G articles provides us with some new aspects to discuss. Furthermore, Svensmark is the Director for Center for Sun-Climate Research, Danish National Space Center, and therefore influential. He is also the co-author of a recent book with Nigel Calder that received some attention. Furthermore, a laboratory experiment of his also managed to make some headlines. It seems that solar forcing is one of the sceptics’ last trenches in the debate about climate change. In my view the A&G paper therefore merits a comment as long as the same old and worn arguments resurface without discussing misgivings from the critics.

There are a number of issues which really make the A&G paper poor in my view. One is the neglect in addressing old criticisms of the hypothesis that galactic cosmic rays (GCR) change our climate by modulating clouds (see here, here, & here). Svensmark is very vague on the lack of any trend in GCR or other solar proxies since 1952. I confronted him about this question on an European Geophysical Society (EGS) conference in Nice a few years ago, and have since published a paper also making the point. The A&G article makes selective references, without answering the serious criticism forwarded by Damon & Laut (2004), Laut (2003), or myself. To be fair, the critical paper by Kristjansson and Kristiansen (2000) is cited, albeit only to say that Svensmarks’s own conclusion is “a counter-intuitive finding for some critics“. The remaining treatment of critical aspects is completed in the A&G article without further qualifications other than the following passage (my emphasis):

The chief objection to the idea that cosmic rays influence cloudiness came from meteorologists who insisted that there was no mechanism by which they could do so. On the other hand, some atmospheric physicists concluded that observation and theory had failed to account satisfactorily for the origin of aerosol particles without which water is unable is unable to condense to make clouds.

I don’t think this is meant as a joke, and I don’t know if the article tries to make a point about classifying critics and supporters of his ideas as ‘meteorologists’ and ‘physicists’ (I’m a physicist). But that’s a tiny detail compared to the more substantial misconceptions embedded in this passage. There are plenty of ‘seeds’ in the air on which water can form, also known as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). According to my old text book ‘A Short Course in Cloud Physics’ by Rogers and Yau (1989, p. 95 in Third edition): “Condensation nuclei of some sort are always present in the atmosphere in ample numbers: clouds form whenever there are vertical air motions and sufficient moisture”. The CCN tend to consist of mineral dust, sea salt, or sulphur-based matter.

I have serious misgivings concerning the following – vague yet false – statement put forward in the A&G article :

Attempts to show that certain details in the climatic record confirm the greenhouse forcing (e.g. Mitchell et al., 2001) have been less conclusive. By contrast, the hypothesis that changes in cloudiness obedient to cosmic rays help to force climate change predicts a distinctive signal that is in fact very easily observed, as an exception that proves the rule.

Again, no further qualifications or references. The irony is that Svensmark ignores (in addition to the lack of trend in GCR) the fact that the night-time temperature has risen faster than the day-time temperature, which I did pester him about on a Nordic Meteorology Meeting in Copenhagen in 2002. A journalist from Jyllands Posten present at the conference got the message, as my criticism was echoed in a news report the following day (“Klimaforskere i åben krig” [translation ‘Climate researchers in open war’], May 28, 2002): It’s tricky to explain how a warming caused by decreasing albedo would be stronger at the night-side (dark) of the planet.

Another newer puzzle is the surprisingly good correlation between low clouds and GCR (se figure below), since higher clouds (global mean cover ~13%) or middle clouds (~20%) which are not influenced by GCR, mask the lower ones (which represents between 28% and 30% of the globe). It’s indeed a surprisingly good fit between the two curves in the A&G article (reproduced below), considering the time structure of both the high-cloud, middle-cloud, and low-cloud curves, and the satellites cannot see the low-level clouds where there are higher clouds above blocking the view. The fact that the variations are small (~1% amplitude!) compared to the total area, suggest that the overlap/masking effect by the higher cloud must be very small for a high correlation to shine through the upper clouds. Even if the clouds hypothetically were completely determined by GCR, one would expect to see deterioration of the correlation if viewed from above due to the presence of higher clouds not influenced by GCR. Another issue is that the cloud data used in this analysis was only based on the infra-red (IR) channel, and a better analysis would include the visible observations too, but if the visible data are included, then the correlation is lower (private communications, Jørn Kristjansen).

Extracts of Figures 2 & 3 in Svensmark 2007

On a more technical note, there seems to be inconsistencies between the GCR presented in Fig 2 and 3 in the A&G article (see red circles in the plot above), and this is not explained in the article. In Fig. 3 (left panel above) the GCR count increases by 10% but the maximum value is about 0% in Fig. 2 (right panel above), and the minimum value is abut -18% in Fig 3 but only -13% in Fig 2. It seems as if Fig 2 & 3 were based on different data sources. To be fair, both GCR and ISCCP are continuously updated and revised. But I am surprised that routine update and revision would result in as large differences as seen here. It looks as if the curve has been readjusted at some stage, but it is then a bit strange that the curve representing the global lower cloud cover doesn’t seem to have been re-scaled: the difference between maximum and minimum is about 3% in both figures (it’s annoying that the vertical axis for the cloud cover are given in different units in Fig.2 & 3). Is this important? I don’t know. But it could be a sign of sloppy work. There is not sufficient information about methodology that I could repeat the results presented here.

The adjusted cloud dataLow level clouds. Global ISCCP low cloud cover from IR measurements

Svensmark must have adjusted the cloud data too. Shown below is a figure from a previous paper where he justified an adjustment from a break in the difference between low and high clouds. The question is: why would the error be in the lower cloud measurements and not the high clouds? I haven’t seen any other independent statements about breaks or problems in the data series for low clouds after ~1995. Apparently, there are some biases in the ISCCP data, and Stordal et al. (2005) suggest that there is a spurious “footprint” from METEOSAT imprinted on the high (cirrus) clouds, and the problems with the ISCCP trends are now becoming well known. Besides, the fundamental error Marsh and Svensmark made in their ‘correction’ has discussed before, but since this issue keeps re-appearing, the ‘adjustment’ is shown again (left) while the ‘adjustment’ cannot be discerned in independent plots of the most recent data (right, and a second opinion sought in an independent analysis by K. Gislefoss).

In the A&G article, GCRs get the blame for the ‘snowball earth‘ episodes, and Svensmark writes:

A surprising by-product of this line of enquiry is a new perspective on changing fortunes of life over 3.5 billion years ago.

Extract from figure 4 in Svensmark 2007 Furthermore, the paper claims to explain the ‘faint sun paradox‘, by the complete absence of low clouds because there were allegedly no GCR at the time. Presumably, it is seriously meant. Proposing that the GCR is the only factor affecting low clouds, is inconsistent with the result shown in his very own Fig. 4 (the scatter plot shown left). In the A&G article, Fig 4 doesn’t really show the relationship between GCR and clouds, but between ion density and numbers of ultra-small (radius greater than 3 nano-meters) aerosol nucleation. The large scatter suggests that the number of ultra-small aerosols is fairly weakly affected by the number of ions – otherwise all the points would lie close to the diagonal line. This implies that other factors must influence the formation of ultra-small aerosols in addition to some effect due to ionization. And this is only in the laboratory environment – on the outside of Svensmark’s test chamber, more factors may play a role.

In the laboratory experiment ‘SKY’, UV-light was modulated to mimic the variations in the Sun, but it is not clear whether the effects observed due to changes in the UV are transferable to GCR. The experiment also involved natural GCR (as opposed to a particle beam which presumably would be easier to control), supplemented with gamma rays. Then the aerosols were according to the article stable ultra-small clusters of sulphuric acid. So, what about the larger aerosols which play a role in cloud formation? According to “Atmospheric particles and nuclei” by Götz et al. (1991), Junge (1963) proposed on the basis of aerosol measurements that ‘large’ and ‘giant’ particles (radius greater than 0.1 micro-meter) constitute the majority of CCN, independently of their chemical composition. Besides, the Köhler curve (also see here) based on theoretical work from 1926 and onwards indicates that droplets only start to grow spontaneously only the droplet is greater than a critical size (they are then ‘supercritical’). The number of sulphuric aerosols is also influenced by the availability of sulphur in general. The amount of sulphur can vary, e.g. with the combustion of fossil fuels, volcanic eruptions, as well as due to biological activity (i.e. through the emission of dimethyl sulphide, or ‘DMS’; Götz et al. ,1991, p. 108), and presumably the number of sulphuric acid clusters formed over the past billion years can have been affected by several of geological factors. Besides, it is the vapour pressure (or ‘supersaturation’) which really control whether cloud drops or not, seeing as aerosols tend to be around anyway. I also have some general questions regarding isotopic evidence from pre-historic times. Are isotopes from the distance past only created by GCR bombarding Earth’s atmosphere or could there be other sources? Could some be introduced by meteorite/astroid impacts, volcanic activity, or different emission of radon gas from Earth’s interior?

I would expect the albedo effect presented by clouds to be weak over the mostly snow/ice covered Antarctica, but Svensmark argues that the clouds here warm rather than cool the temperature. This claim is not quantified. Is he suggesting some GHG-effect kicking in during the Antarctic winters? Is the sense/chronology of causation really determined? What about temperature affecting the cloudiness (e.g. advection of mild and moist air), and the role of circulation patterns? For sure, there is no simple one-way relationship. I think that the A&G article is bit too cavalier about the complexity involved in the atmospheric processes. The cavalier attitude seems to be a trademark of cosmoclimatology.

I presume that many celestial bodies and complicated calculation of gravitational pull must make the modelling of the galaxy dynamics difficult, and star formation processes must have altered the distribution of mass and hence the gravitational field. So, surely the dynamics of the stars over billions of years can be characterised as chaotic? Is it really possible to re-construct the constellations and our solar systems trajectory around the galaxy more than 2 billion years ago with a precision which precedes that of calculating the effect of increasing the GHG concentrations at present day? Is the story as simple as the one narrated by Svensmark? He even suggests that his ideas amount to a paradigm shift, that ‘scientifically speaking’ is as secure as the prevailing paradigm of AGW. I find this sweeping statement a bit puzzling as no further qualification is made on the matter of AGW. Exactly what are the weak points in the AGW paradigm? I wonder if Svensmark really knows what he talks about.

It is possible that GCRs do have an effect on climate through the modulation of clouds, but I don’t think it is very strong. I also think that Svensmark’s claims are wildly exaggerated, but most of my objection lies in the way the arguments have been presented in this A&G article. I have the impression that the A&G article comes from the same school as “The Skeptical Environmentalist“, which also has been criticised for cherry picking references to make mere speculation appear as more solidly founded. To ignore aspects that don’t fit the hypothesis is definitely not science. Neither is adjusting data so to provide a good fit without a solid and convincing justification. Science, however, means objectivity, transparency, repeatability, and in principle the possibility of falsification. Furthermore, it is only a lack of respect for the readers to publish an article that doesn’t provide all relevant sides to the story. I hope that Svensmark reads my comments and responds to them here at RealClimate. I also hope that this is read by scholars and journalists who start asking the critical questions. I do not know the answer to the questions that I pose here, so I’d be interested to hear your view.

AcknowledgementsThanks to Jørn Kristiansen for comments and input to my post and Kristian Gislefoss for one figure on global low cloudiness.

73 Responses to “‘Cosmoclimatology’ – tired old arguments in new clothes”

  1. 1
    Mark Lynas says:

    The figures showing a strong correlation between low cloudiness and GCRs was also the high-point of a television climate-denier polemic shown last night on Channel 4 here in the UK, entitled The Great Global Warming Swindle. Made [characterisation removed] Martin Durkin, whose previous anti-environmental film on genetic engineering got the broadcaster into trouble with television regulators (contributors had been edited to make their statements misleading, amongst other things – it had to make a prime-time on-air apology), it featured repeated contributions from all the usual deniers – Lindzen, Singer, Stott etc. There was no attempt at balance at all – only the climate-sceptic view was presented, and GCRs were the crux of the supposedly scientific attempt to show that CO2 is irrelevant in forcing climate change.

    Perhaps the weakest argument of all was the conspiracy theory – advanced particularly by Dick Lindzen – that pretty much all climate science nowadays is just chasing grants, and that the whole field is therefore distorted towards ‘alarmism’ by financial self-interest. That’s ironic, considering that the oil, coal and automotive industries, who one presumes have an interest in the climate denier case (hence all the well-established funding links) are hardly bit-players in the global political and economic scene…

  2. 2
    Marco Parigi says:

    Well, I don’t think you do any less “cherry-picking” than Lomborg, at least in the references you choose to attack or criticise. Much of this post is again selecting paragraphs and attacking them, straw-man style. Is this more about demonizing certain scientists and individuals than it is about venting frustration at their sloppiness and bias?

    [Response: Can you suggest any references that you think I should have included? E.g. on the trend in GCR, adjusting the ISCCP data, on how there is a shortage of aerosols/CCN?, on the observations of low clouds and high clouds, or on the role of ultra-small aerosols for cloud drop growth? -rasmus]

  3. 3
    Timothy says:

    The irony is that Svensmark ignores (in addition to the lack of trend in GCR) the fact that the night-time temperature has risen faster than the day-time temperature

    I thought the SPM had concluded that new data, or new analysis of data, since the TAR had contradicted this result.

    The lack of trend in the GCR is a more fundamental problem, and it may well be that night time temperatures have risen faster than day-time temperatures, but I didn’t think we could say that with certainty at present.

    [Response:In the last few years, the diurnal temperature range (DTR) hasn’t changed, but it did diminish before then for a while. If we are talking about the warming since 1970s, then a reduction in the DTR would still matter for part of the period. -rasmus]

  4. 4
    Nick Riley says:

    Well done!. This was one of the main arguments used in a very biassed and scientifically inaccurate programme aired by Channel 4 (UK) last night. Indeed I found the political tone of the programme, especially linking the science of GW to being responsible for holding back economic development of the third world offensive.

    I am writing to the producer to complain.

    Nick Riley

  5. 5
    Alex Nichols says:

    re 1 & 4

    The programme needs to be answered point-by-point by serious climate scientists. Why not approach Channel 4 for a right to reply?

    Complaints can be addressed here:

    The group Durkin was involved in have a long track record on issues like GM crops & even silicone implants, of supporting libertarian corporatism. They’re clearly not what the label on the tin says.

  6. 6
    Fergus Brown says:

    Re #5: The content of the programme was familiar to anyone who has dealt with the standard ‘contrarian’ websites. Calder & Svensmark have a new book coming out. William has discussed the programme here:
    There isn’t really any case to answer, as per…

  7. 7
    pete best says:

    Climate Change on Mars

    I believe that a newer angle on the Sun increased output is the fact that for 3 consecutive years now one of the poles ice caps has shrunk and that shows increased radiation outut by the Sun.

    Like to hear something on this one as I guess the CO2 atmosphere of Mars is unchanging so another forcing must be involved. Can it be natural variability ?

    [Response:See the post Global Warming on Mars? -rasmus]

  8. 8
    pete best says:

    This article from the UK (right wing bias broadsheet) Daily Telegraph newspaper seems to give it some credence especially as it has an experiment yet to be done tagged to it.

  9. 9
    Charles Muller says:

    #3 Vose et al. 2005 thereafter (included as a robust feature in IPCC AR4 and SPM) do conclude that the most recent period 1979-2004 have an equal trend for Tmin and Tmax, so no trend in DTR. Interestingly the DTR decrease 1950-80 and null trend 1980-2004 fit well with a global dimming / brightening influence on recent temperatures. But there are surely other hypothesis.

    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 32, L23822, doi:10.1029/2005GL024379, 2005
    Maximum and minimum temperature trends for the globe: An update through 2004
    Russell S. Vose, David R. Easterling, Byron Gleason

    Abstract – New data acquisitions are used to examine recent global trends in maximum temperature, minimum temperature, and the diurnal temperature range (DTR). On average, the analysis covers the equivalent of 71% of the total global land area, 17% more than in previous studies. Consistent with the IPCC Third Assessment Report, minimum temperature increased more rapidly than maximum temperature (0.204 vs. 0.141°C dec^-1) from 1950-2004, resulting in a significant DTR decrease (~0.066°C dec^-1). In contrast, there were comparable increases in minimum and maximum temperature (0.295 vs. 0.287°C dec^-1) from 1979-2004, muting recent DTR trends (~0.001°C dec^-1). Minimum and maximum temperature increased in almost all parts of the globe during both periods, whereas a widespread decrease in the DTR was only evident from 1950-1980.


    Rasmus, a typo : “paper paper” doubled in second paragraph.

    [Response:Thanks for pointing thius out – it’s now fixed. -rasmus]


    Concerning Svensmark cosmoclimatology, and if I try to summarize what I’ve understood, it seems the main points of debate are :
    – is there any trend in GCR for past 50 yrs / 100 yrs?

    [Response:No/not sufficient data (some anecdotal indication of trend during beginning of 20th century, though. ]

    – is there any correlation GCR/low cloud amount since 1980?

    [Response:This has been disputed]

    – is there any physical mechanism GCR/nucleation/CCN?

    [Response:There is probably some – see i.e. cloud chambers used to detect GCR, but my impression is that this is of secondary importance in nature.]

    – is there any influence of GCR on surface temperature 1850-2005?

    [Response:not sufficient data as GCR measurements started in the 1950s. ]

    – is there any influence of GCR on Tsurf on geological times?

    [Response:Now we are talking about uncertainties, both in the paleo-reconstructions of GCR and Tsurf . My impression is that since GCR affects the isotope ratio but Tsurf often affects different isotopes differently, the analysis easily gets tangled up (circular argument?). Perhaps someone can shed some more light on this?]

    Before “heating” the discussion with conflictual views or entering technical details, it would be nice to answer simply like “Yes there is for X, Y and Z, No there isn’t for A, B and C”, ABC and XYZ being peer-reviewed papers. Then, if we have contradictory views on a point, to go further in debate and try to evaluate which position seems more conclusive.

    As there have been many debates here on these points, such a clarifying and basic approach would be useful for lay readers. (For those who possess Rasmus book, part 7.10 pp. 179-191 is to be read)

  10. 10
    AdeV says:

    #1 – The first sentence of your argument started well, but turned into a rather boring ad hominem attack without any substance. Shame.

    #4 – Erm, I find the political tone of some of the AGW apologists (particularly the more vociferous ones) to be offensive. What makes me sad is the “pro-AGW” agenda receives 1000’s of times more television air-time than “anti-AGW” – and yet there IS good science going on on both “sides” of the debate.

    With regards to the article itself; there is some interesting stuff, but I find it a bit concerning that you can dismiss the GCR theory as a “last trench of the sceptics”, despite your own admitted surprise at the closeness of the GCR & temperature fit. I’d also be keen to know more about the sunspot activity vs. temperature, which according to Channel 4’s “The Great Global Warming Swindle” is also an excellent fit with temperature.

    You also state: “It is possible that GCRs do have an effect on climate through the modulation of clouds, but I don’t think it is very strong.” – on what basis do you think it is “not very strong”?

    Also, one final question: Are the Americans *really* spending US$4bn/year on climate research?

    [Response:I think we should be a bit careful here about accusing each others and too much personal views. It was my fault that the offending characterisations were passed through, but I have deleted that now. Let’s stick to the science or the issue of disseminating science. The link provided with the second last question here is to a paper which finds a statistically significant link between the diffuse light ad GCR, but the scatter of points between the two looks like a messy cloud rather than a well-defined line. Thus, a weak link. I don’t know how much Americans *really* spend on climate research. -rasmus]

  11. 11
    Alex Nichols says:

    re 6. I wasn’t thinking of the blogosphere, I was thinking of the TV viewers who don’t, or can’t wade through the scientific arguments, but would have absorbed the tritely illustrated points which were made every 5 minutes before the commercial break.

    While the TV coverage of the issue has been quite balanced so far, there are always insidious attempts to undermine the basic science behind AGW.

    What I was thinking of was something of a more popular nature on TV which operated on a similar level to the Channel 4 prog. Failing that, a downloadable podcast.

    The internet is a powerful medium, but TV works on a different level.

  12. 12
    Fergus Brown says:

    On the GCR/low cloud issue:
    Kudos to uncle Eli and nexus 6 for first spot of this. Comments are on both their blogs.

    On the Cloud chamber experiment paper, I recall a statement something like; ‘the formation of CCNs as a result of ionisation is therefore shown to be possible in the absence of other cloud-forming nuclei..’

    Please excuse the paraphrase.


  13. 13
    P. Lewis says:

    Of course, all of what follows is purely of ‘academic’ interest, given the stated lack of a trend in the GCRs with the climatology (and a generally adequate source of CCN); but, given

    … since higher clouds (global mean cover ~13%) or middle clouds (~20%) which are not influenced by GCR…

    Why is this supposed/true? Is this just down to a higher probability of an ionisation cascade effect much lower in the atmosphere than, say, in the stratosphere or top of the troposphere?

    [Response:If you view the clouds from above, as the satellites do, you will have problems seing the low clouds underneath high clouds where these overlap. Thus from a practical observational view, the obseervations of low clouds is not ideal.-rasmus]

    I’m not into cloud physics in any way, which is why I ask the question, but I’m was once well acquainted with supercooling and the need for heterogeneous nucleation in most things material.

    Might not GCRs, at least on initial inspection, be thought to have a greater effect at greater altitude? Given the lower temperatures and lower water vapour content at higher altitudes and a need for high supercooling to initiate condensation (in the absence of sufficient normal CCN), wouldn’t an increased source of nuclei, in the form of GCRs, enhance high- and middle-altitude cloud formation?

    [Response:True, the GCR, at least the primary particles, may be more aboundant at high altitudes, but if there are reactions where the GCRs produce showers of secondary particles through the collision, then this has implications for other altitudes too (eg see here). The higher up, the lower water content, and it is moisture which is most important for cloud formation. -rasmus]

    I know the auroras are well above any weather-producing region, but how low in the polar atmospheres could/do the ionisation cascades get that produce the auroras. If these ionisation cascades get to the ‘weather layer’, wouldn’t the poles be cloudier on average than expected, cf. at lower latitudes (and accounting for water vapour differences between the two extremes)?

    [Response:Auroras tend to be associated with solar particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field, rather than GCR. both, however, are modulated by the solar activity. -rasmus]

    And with regard to Svensmark’s (“vague but false”) assertion about meteorologists and a lack of a mechanism, I can only presume that arises because all those meteorologists (presumably those that Svensmark was associated with/contacted on the matter — or does he mean all meteorologists?) only ever used one of those “whirly things” to gauge humidity. I don’t suppose they ever used a chilled-mirror dewpoint meter complete with 241-Am to nucleate said vapour to obviate supercooling to provide consistent results (IIRC). Ionisation on, instant (admittedly very small) ‘cloud’ formation.

  14. 14
    pete best says:

    Great article about Mars, thanks for the link.

    From the Daily Telegraph article I deduce that scientists not totally immersed in the climate side of things possibly believe that svensmark has demonstrated enough interest that additional experiements are required to quantify the cloud formation forcing of GCR. Is it not possible to define experiments to resolve this one to a greater degree of accuracy. Would RC welcome more experiments or do you believe that the matter is settled?

  15. 15
    P. Lewis says:

    I see the article has changed slightly since I penned my post, and “vague but false” is now “a counter-intuitive finding for some critics”. I don’t think this changes my perspective though, but would be happy for it to be edited if someone thinks it does..

  16. 16
    P. Lewis says:

    Huh! I hear people saying. All will become clear, I hope. A post is in abeyance!

  17. 17

    What are the sources of cosmic rays in the first place? Are there particular locations in the sky where they are stronger? Maybe from supernovae in other galaxies, or pulsars and nebulae closer by? If the distribution is not perfectly even, there ought to be a way to check the GCR effects by whether they affect the hemisphere that is never exposed to them (I know the Earth’s axial tilt reduces that area somewhat, but it’s still there). If the GCRs fail that test…

  18. 18
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #1. Just a clarification about describing Martin Durkin as a “Revolutionary Communist”. He is an associate of a number of people who were members of a weird little UK outfit called the Revolutionary Communist Party, which moved from a variety of Trotskyism to anti-environmentalist libertarianism with remarkable speed, then disbanded. I have not been able to discover whether Durkin was himself a member, although in the ’90s he described himself as a Marxist. Along its ideological trajectory the RCP’s magazine (initially “Living Marxism”, renamed “LM” – a surprisingly glossy publication for a party with a tiny membership and no other visible means of support) found time to deny that genocide took place in Rwanda, and accuse reporters for British television company ITV of faking footage of Bosnian Muslims in a Serb-run detention centre. LM’s publishers were sued for libel by ITV over this, and the magazine was forced to close. Ex RCP-ites now run “The Institute of Ideas”, “Sense about Science” and “Spiked Online”. The last of these hosted Lomborg’s visit to Britain, and has close links with the corporate-funded denialist organisation, the “International Policy Network”.

  19. 19
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 16: Galactic cosmic rays are extremely high-energy ions (mostly protons) that impinge on us more or less isotropically from all directions. The peak in the GCR spectrum occurs at about 1 GeV per nucleon, although energies over 10^21 eV have been measured. It is thought that most GCRs attain their high energies by being accelerated by the high magnetic fields and shock waves from Supernovas. The fluxes of GCR are low–roughly 5 particles per square cm per second, and they are modulated by the 11 year solar cycle, with fewer GCR reaching the inner solar system during solar maximum (high solar wind) and more during solar minimum.
    Only moderately high-energy GCR make it through Earths Magnetic field without being deflected. Fewer still generate showers that make it into the Troposphere. GCR showers are responsible for most of the high neutron levels found in the upper atmosphere (>15000 meters).
    GCR showers also create lots of charged particles, and these charge tracks are thought to be the mechanism of cloud nucleation.

    OK, so here’s my question–we already know we get a big modulation in GCR flux between Solar Max and Solar Min. Has anyone looked to see if Solar Min years are notably cloudier than Solar Max years? That should be a pretty easy thing to do, and it ought to put the issue to bed unless I’m missing something?

  20. 20
    jhm says:

    I have to say that this is mostly over my head, but I note that a recent Scientific American article on how cosmic rays might be the seeds for a cascade which results in lightning, and that without these rays, lightning might not happen was pretty cool.

  21. 21
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Echo comment #19 about the issue being over my head. A very technical post.

    I understand the lack of correlation between GCR and temps since 1950, but then the significance of rasmus’s objections simply becomes opaque. I’m guessing that there are technical problems with Svensmark’s data and curiosities about the actual physical process of creating clouds. And possibly some historical questions about whether Svensmark’s laboratory described process actually has happened in the real world.

    Close enough?

  22. 22
    Charles Muller says:

    #9 Thanks for answer, Rasmus. In the rest of the discussion, I’ll try to go back on some listed points still unclear for me.

    I’ve just finished Svensmark-Calder book, Chilling Stars. A New Theory of Climate Change, the popular version of cosmoclimatology. At first glance from what I’ve previously read about the topics, including on RC, I’d say it’s a seductive hypothesis, with fascinating links from terrestrial climate to galactic events, but that it’s still a weak hypothesis. On a purely rhetoric point of view, the authors too often jump from “GCR have an influence on climate” to “GCR are the main driver of climate on all timescales”. It would be more convincing for critical readers (I’m skeptic after all :D) to better demonstrate and quantify the first kind of assertions before drawing galactic perspectives on life destiny of the second kind.

    Anyway, I think the debate here must actually concentrate on scientific matter, and try to avoid injuring personal attacks.

  23. 23
    ldavidcooke says:

    Hey All;

    Just a quick question, is it possible that there may be some relationship between ICME and GCR that could participate in high altitude barometric activity? (For instance, sufficient helium nuclei to add enough weight at the TOA to participate in a falling region which cooler air would flow to form a anti-cyclonic event.)

    [Response:No – William]

    The follow up is, is there a possible interrelationship between GCR and ICME events that can be established by correlation to barometric/Ross waves? Thanks for your consideration, I am curious as to US agency supporting data sets separate from the work done in the Netherlands recently.

    Dave Cooke

  24. 24
    Daniel C. Goodwin says:

    I know you’ve got to do it; it’s a big part of what RealClimate does. But given the talent and accomplishment of RealClimate posters, and the breathtaking developments in climate science lately (the dynamics of subglacial lakes, for instance), sometimes it strikes me as a little sad that you have to devote so much energy to refuting the utter twaddle emitted by denialist nincompoops, time and time again. Keep up the good fight, though!

    [Response: Personally, I find the problems of solar activity and climate really intriguing, especially put in the historical context. You can find thoughts about sunspots and climate variations dating back to the 17th century, so it’s one of the big classical problems. Over the centuries, one has tried to find a link between the two, and so it amuses me to see examine new claims of purported causes in details, and the history seems to be a good guide – the hypotheses keep toppling over once they are put in a critical light. On the other side, the GCR idea still has a few supporters in Scandinavia. Considering the new book and so on, it’s worth restating the obvious. Also, Svensmark & co say that it’s important to challenge the orthodox view, but it’s even more important to challenge new ideas. That’s how science works. -rasmus]

  25. 25
    Hank Roberts says:

    At one specific energy range, about a 4% difference in direction reported (from the center of our local galaxy, in the direction of the constellation Cygnus):

    I don’t know of any cloud data variability, don’t know how much the solar cycle variability is compared to this, and don’t know how many other energy ranges are being investigated.

    Found that while trying to look up the maximum energy for cosmic rays, and it’s apparently on the order of “enough to knock you down if it hits you” — a particle moving nearly at the speed of light has a huge mass.

  26. 26
    Charles Muller says:

    I think the 11 yr modulation you mention is just a particular aspect of the general problem of GCR/cloud cover correlations. You can analyze this correlation day by day, year by year, cycle by cycle, etc.

    Evidences are not clear (but climatologies of clouds are poor, even for recent period).

    For example, except Svensmark et Friis-Christensen 1997, Marsh et Svensmark 2000, 2003 (and Laut 2003 critics on their methodology) :
    – Kristjansson et Kristiansen 2000 found no correlation on ISCCP / ERBE data, except for some marine midlatitudes (see also Kristjansson 2002, 2004).
    – Wagner 2001 found on Switzerland a correlation the period studied by HS (1980-1995), but not before
    – Udelhofen et Cess 2001 over USA 1900-87 found a phase correlation for solar cycles and cloud variations (rather than antiphase predicted by GCR hypothesis).
    – Sun et Bradley (2002) found for 1983-93 a weakened correlation limited to Atlantic Ocean, nothing elsewhere (including no 11 yr cycle signature), notably on tropical and extratropical lands.
    – Kristjannsson 2002 found on ISCCP data a better correlation of low clouds with TSI variations than with GCR.
    – Usoskin 2004 found a correct antiphase correlation with 11 yr cycles, but limited to some regions with low level of cloudiness.
    – Harrison et Stephenson 2006 over UK from 1947 found a small and non-linear effect of GCR on clouds (day-to-day, so also sensitive to minimum-to-maximum mean variations).

    I probably miss other studies. There are many factors affecting cloud formation at different latitudes and altitudes (including anthropic aerosol emissions), many difficulties for monitoring clouds at their different layers, and so many interrogations about statistical robustness for these correlations (or absence of). But Rasmus will correct if I’m wrong.

  27. 27
    Nathan Rive says:

    I watched the Great Global Warming Swindle on Channel 4 last night, took notes and undertook an annotated deconstruction of all their arguments – and posted them here on our PhD blog.

    While I am not a climate scientist, I have an undergrad physics degree and I am a PhD researcher in climate policy. I have annotated the article with peer-reviewed sources as much as possible.

    I agree with a poster above, who worried about how the documentary attempted to appeal to emotion and fear about a global conspiracy. Equally damaging (if not more so) than the misinformation about climate they presented.

  28. 28
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 24: The maximum energy seems to be about the same order of magnitude as a 100 mile per hour baseball! These are few and far between–only a few hit Earth per day. Interestingly, the argument goes that these should have to be produced fairly locally, since they are so high energy that they can interact with cosmic microwave background photons to produce an electron-positron pair. Yet at the highest energies, the flux is isotropic–implying extragalactic origin.
    Here’s a link to an interesting presentation:

    For climate purposes, the highest energies are irrelevant, as the flux is so low.

  29. 29
    Hank Roberts says:

    >extragalactic origin
    Hmmm, I suppose if particles are constantly popping into existence and disappearing again from the background ‘quantum foam’ — there’s no reason they shouldn’t pop into existence moving at almost the speed of light, eh? And I recall that a photon, moving _at_ the speed of light, doesn’t experience time elapsing, so why should it be in any hurry to pop back out of existence once it’s arrived. Nah, too weird.

  30. 30
    M.Dinova says:

    If you’re real honest scientists then program in the cloud nucleation, the cosmic particle flux, the flux modulation by Earth and solar magnetic fields, and the changes in the latter across the solar cycles, into your GCMs. And see what the models say, versus the historic record. That’s the MO of the real scientist.


    [Response: Since there is no trend in solar flux, why program one in? – William]

  31. 31
    M.Dinova says:

    > [Response: Since there is no trend in solar flux, why program one in? – William]

    Because it’s one of many processes that affect climate, and therefore part of the model that underpins climate science.

    Oh, and I notice that you deleted that part of my post that referred to the role of models in science, and how the honest scientist should behave with respect to the models and the scientific method. Less than honest of you.

  32. 32
    Ray Ladbury says:

    M. Dinova. So, how would you “program in” this effect? I mean since there is no clear trend (upward or downward) in cosmic ray flux over the period we’ve been able to measure them directly; and since we do not see a significant difference in climate over the 11 year solar cycle between Solar Max and Solar Min (and this modulation is much larger than the one Svensmark is talking about); and since it is not clear how important the ionization from GCR is in cloud formation; and since the anthropogenic ghg mechanism does just fine reproducing the data, exactly how do you foresee implementing this “effect”?
    What separates science from other forms of empirical enquiry is that it is guided by understanding–what effects are important and what effects are not. I have yet to see any compelling evidence that this effect even really exists, let alone that it could contribute to climate.

  33. 33
    tom says:

    Boy you guys are so right on . These are such tired arguments. Why can’t we all just agree global warming is man made and ignore the mountain of data that might question that assumption???

  34. 34
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Re 32: Gee, Tom. Must have missed that mountain. Given that it seems to be impossible to construct a climate model that even comes close to matching observed trends without an anthropogenic ghg mechanism, it’s hard to imagine where such a model could be hiding.

  35. 35
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    Re: 31, M.Dinova
    I think you are missing the thrust of William’s argument. If there is no trend in GCRs, how can one incorporate the non-existant “changes” into GCMs? Creating an arbitrary trend in GCRs would just create an arbitrary result. Pretty much all existing GCMs take into account changes in cloud albedo effects (though these are still characterized by a fairly high level of uncertainty). Eventually, when we know more about the effects of the mechanisms involved, fluctuations in cosmic rays could be incorporated in helping model cloud albedo changes. However, the absence of a trend in GCRs corresponding with the recent increase in global surface temperatures suggests that GCR changes have a negligable effect on currently observed temperature changes that are (apparently correctly) ascribed to anthropogenic GHG emissions.

    Its not like solar flux is being ignored; far from it, as many of the realclimate authors have written about the effects of solar radiative changes on the earth’s climate in the peer reviewed literature. Galactic cosmic rays, however, still have a lot of details to define before they can be incorporated into any sort of predictive models. Svensmark has done some pioneering and interesting work that has led to suggestions that GCRs can, at least in theory, play some role in cloud formation. His error, however, is in suggesting that this discovery (with limited understanding of its magnitude) somehow throws into doubt existing models of AGW (which are based on much more firmly established physical processes with trends in different climate forcings that are directly testable against the historical temperature record).

  36. 36
    tom says:

    re: #19.

    “agree with a poster above, who worried about how the documentary attempted to appeal to emotion and fear about a global conspiracy. Equally damaging (if not more so) than the misinformation about climate they presented. ”

    Sounds like the flip side version of Inconveneient Truth. Would you agree with that assessment?


  37. 37
    M.Dinova says:

    What really concerns me about all this is that the backlash that’s bound to come will affect all of science indiscriminately, not just the bad scientists who are willfully disregarding processes that don’t suit them, but also those good scientists who don’t endorse any particular view but let the scientific method decide.

    After this utterly non-scientific debacle is over, we’re all going to suffer.

    Science is not about advocacy nor partisanship to a *belief*. It has nothing to do with what you personally feel is correct or incorrect, and it certainly has nothing to do with bashing other scientists’ views.

    Put the theories into your models for every last natural process that could possibly have an effect, and do the usual hypothesis testing that you all know very well is the bedrock of science. Nothing else matters.

    [Response:I tend to concur. But to try to find out which hypothesis is wrong and which is right, both the old and new views have to be challenged. Svensmark has challenged the established view, and I have challenged his (because I’m not convinced by his arguements). -rasmus]

  38. 38
    tom says:

    #34 .To say there is not a subsantial amount of data out there which challenges the assertion that global warming is significantly caused by humans is massively disengenous at best.

  39. 39
    James says:

    Re #31: [Because it’s one of many processes that affect climate, and therefore part of the model that underpins climate science.]

    Assuming that changes in the flux of GCRs do affect weather and/or climate – and as far as I can tell, there’s little if any evidence that it does – you still have the problem of explaining why & how changes in the flux can have affected the climate for the last 50 years or so when the flux hasn’t changed in that period. So if you’re doing an honest job of programming it into a climate model, all that happens is that you change things by some small constant factor.

    Unfortunately, it seems that just about everyone pushing this GCR notion is working backwards. You all start with the marvelous notion that GCRs (or whatever your alternative theory du jour happens to be) is exactly sufficient to explain observed changes, which – and this is the point of the exercise – allows you to disclaim responsibility for dealing with climate change. You then reverse-engineer your theory, without offering any intermediate evidence, so that the cause you postulate gives exactly the effects you want.

    Sorry, guys, but that’s not science, it’s just wishful thinking, :-)

  40. 40
    tamino says:

    Re: #36

    To say there is not a subsantial amount of data out there which challenges the assertion that global warming is significantly caused by humans is massively disengenous at best.

    We’ve looked at the evidence. We haven’t avoided it or waved it away. It has been weighed, it has been measured, and it has been found wanting. It’s not disingenuous; it’s just honest.

    Re: A question

    For those who do GCMs: has anyone played with putting in artificially high (or even realistic) solar variations or albedo variations with a solar-cycle (11-yr) period, to gauge the climate sensitivity to high-frequency (11-yr period) forcings?

  41. 41
    makarov says:

    “I think ‘cosmoclimatology’ is a good and refreshing name for anything combining our cosmos with our climate.”

    As it is international heliophysical year,Would not it be more proper to use the UN designation of heliophysics.

    Then interested participants would discover a substantial scientifc community dedictated to plasmaphysics and high energy mechanisms as described by Nasa as THE NEW SCIENCE OF THE SUN-SOLAR SYSTEM CONNECTION

    “Heliophysics concentrates on the Sun and its effects on Earth, the other planets of the solar system, and the changing conditions in space. Heliophysics studies the magnetosphere, ionosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, and upper atmosphere of the Earth and other planets. Heliophysics combines the science of the Sun, corona, heliosphere and geospace. Heliophysics encompasses cosmic rays and particle acceleration, space weather and radiation, dust and magnetic reconnection, solar activity and stellar cycles, aeronomy and space plasmas, magnetic fields and global change, and the interactions of the solar system with our galaxy.”

    The IHY has an intersting monologue on the differences of the understanding of influences of coupling in the science of Aeronomy..

    “Atmospheric scientists tend to divide the gaseous regions above a planet into two broad categories called simply lower and upper atmosphere. For Earth, the study of the lower regions (troposphere and strato-sphere) form the discipline of meteorology. The study of the upper regions (mesosphere, thermosphere, exosphere) and their ionized components (the ionosphere) form the discipline of aeronomy. The negative aspect of such a two-fold division is that it encourages thinking of the various atmospheric-spheres as isolated regions of self-contained physics, chemistry, and (in the case of Earth) biology. In reality, there is consider-able coupling from lower to upper regions, an aspect of aeronomy fully appreciated only in the last decade. Com-plimenting this external influence from below, an upper atmosphere has long been known to experience forcing and coupling to and from regions far above it. Aeronomy thus deals with one of the most highly coupled systems in space science — with neutrals, plasmas, and electromagnetic processes that link the planets, moon, and comets from their surfaces to the solar wind and ultimately to the Sun itself.”

    With about 250 papers and 15 reviews to be published this year up to the substantive multidisciplinary publications from the combined Russian and CIS academies of science in October I would expect to see enhanced assimilation of various radiative stochastic fluctuations with their various mechanisms of amplification and attenuation as causal agents in specifc phenomena.

  42. 42
    Charles Muller says:

    Concerning all the arguments above on the theme “you need first to have a clear signal of GCR effect on past 20, 50, 100, etc. yrs”, I think it’s not really conclusive. Fourier or Arrhenius were OK and true scientific pioneers about CO2 greenhouse effect without any model for detecting and attributing a CO2 signal in 18th or 19th century temperature.

  43. 43
    Jim Prall says:

    Notice how many contrarians chime in with “Wait, I found a different forcing factor, the area of my research focus, which accounts for all the recent variation better than all your previous ideas. So, relax, CO2 is not a greenhouse gas after all; the climate sensitivity to CO2 must be zero” (though they never say it this clearly.) This howling non-sequitur just keeps popping up like a game of whack-a-mole: Abdusamatov for solar variation, Svensmark & co. for GCRs, and so on.

    The skeptics (used to?) try to argue we don’t have a clear signal of recent warming, that the data is too uncertain, 1998 ended the trend, blah blah. Yet they turn around and find absolute certainty that they’ve found a long-term trend in solar irradiance, where our direct measurements span only a couple of decades, barely more than two full 11-year cycles, and we’re up against serious challenges on inter-satellite calibration. But they’re eager to wave away those doubts and declare the trend is known with certainty, and is big enough to sweep away all other forcings.

    Given that we have even less direct measurement of GCR levels or trends, this same irony is doubly applicable. How good a proxy do we have for century-scale GCRs, anyway? But the contrarians are a lot more willing to follow any proxy that leads away from GHGs.

  44. 44
    Jim Prall says:

    How much does the US spend on climate research? I had to look a bit but I found the CCRI – Climate Change Research Initiative, under the CCSP – Climate Change Science Program. The funding for CCSP in 2004 was nearly $2 billion, with $237 million of that slated for CCRI:
    I think much of the rest must be for earth observation (fed through NASA) though I haven’t found the numbers.

    The higher figures of $4 billion might have come from including R&D funding for renewables and hydrogen and/or subsidies for adoption of cleaner options (relevant for climate but not research on climate).

    The funding leveled off or fell for FY06, according to

    A current US .gov page on these programs’ budget is:

    It lists FY06 request for CCRI at $172 million, CCSP at $1 billion. Another $880 million goes to NASA for space-based observations.

    On the nav bar of that page I found a link to a history of these programs’ funding since 1985:
    CCSP funding in real terms peaked in 2004 and has dropped significantly each year since.

  45. 45
    Jim Prall says:

    Now I’m fixated on finding out what the US spends on climate modeling (the skeptics make it sound like quite a gravy train.) The key point to tease out is that those budget figures with a B for Billion cover the entire science process, with the lion’s share of the money going to data collection – paying for high-precision instruments to go on satellites, the cost of the launches, ground station operation to track and capture the data, miles of backup tapes for the petabytes of raw data…

    The bodies that actually do the modeling get some number of millions with an M. According to the 2007 budget (request?) for NCAR is $85.7 million. At it shows NCAR covers several projects: CISL for modeling, but also EOL and ESSL which do lab and field science ($$$) So let’s guess CISL gets 1/3 of $86M or $29M. This year they’ve installed a 12 teraflop supercomputing cluster named Blueice with 4 TB of RAM and 150 TB of disk. I imagine that’s spread over a few years’ budget…

    IBM did not release the price for Blueice:
    That article mentions that NCAR staff number 1200 scientists and researchers. They are getting by on $86M, or $71,670 per researcher. Most of that has to be going to salaries, benefits and overhead, with at most 10-15K per researcher for all that leading edge supercomputing. Given the prominence of their work, it’s notably cost effective. Of course I’m piecing all this together by guesswork, and their budget may be more complex (e.g. separate capital funds for supercomputers? Surely the remote earth observation must fall largely under NASA’s budget with NCAR just paying for the data capture end? All guesses!)

    Anyway, a bit of a different picture than the skeptics’ putative Billion-dollar modeling gravy train.

  46. 46
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    Solar Forcing of Climate. 1: Solar Variability
    Space Science Reviews 120 (3-4), 197 (2005)

    …”We describe the variations with time of the solar irradiance and of the flux of ejected magnetised plasma. We discuss the probable cause of solar variability. Planetary influences are ruled out; the variability is intrinsic and is described by the solar dynamo. The dynamo is characterised by internal toroidal and more superficial poloidal fields, interchanging and alternating in a 22-year periodicity. From these two components in the solar magnetic fields emanate two possible scenarios for the Sun-climate interaction.”…

    …”The variable part of the solar radiation flux is mainly emitted by the chromospheric parts of the CAs. That radiation component does not reach the Earth’s troposphere since it is absorbed in the higher, stratospheric terrestrial layers. Tropospheric solar-driven variations should therefore be due to stratosphereâ??troposphere coupling. The Group Sunspot number R Gs is a proxy for the variable irradiance component and for the toroidal field variations.”…

    …”Thus, by emitting magnetised plasma, the Sun influences the Earth’s atmosphere indirectly, by heliospheric modulation of the component of the galactic cosmic radiation (CR) that reaches tropospheric levels. Modulation is only important for cosmic ray particles with energies below about 50 GeV. Cosmic ray ionisation plays a minor role at ground level but it is the predominant ionising agent in higher atmospheric layers, already above a few kilometres. The amplitudes of the CR variations depend on those of the solar cycle. The atmospheric rate of ionisation varies with CR-intensity. A current hypothesis is that the variable ionisation may affect the degree of cloudiness. Cosmogenic radionuclides such as 10Be are proxies for this influence and for the poloidal field variations.
    The R G and cosmogenic radionuclide proxies, although loosely correlated, refer to the two different aspects of the solar dynamo with their different terrestrial effects; they do not reach maximum intensity simultaneously and should therefore neither be confused nor be interchanged. Cases have occurred in which the one varied strongly while the other did hardly or not at all. The explanation must be intrinsic in dynamo theory.

    …”There is a significant solar signal in the troposphere; it depends on latitude and longitude. A physical investigation of the cause of the Sun-climate relationship based on one unique Î?T(time)-curve, assumed valid for the whole Earth’s surface, is therefore basically incorrect. Never during the past 10,000 years has the Sun been as active in ejecting magnetised plasma as during the past few decades. Estimates suggest that the level of solar activity may recently have passed its maximum and that it may decrease in coming decades.”…

    …”â??The future of such a chaotic system is intrinsically unpredictableâ??.

  47. 47
    Eli Rabett says:

    WRT 37 and the reply, it is not that Svensmark and Co have a new hypothesis, it is not new, I have found one such proposal from the mid 70s , Shaviv has a link back to Edward Ney making a similar proposal in 1959, and if you go looking on sci.environment there is a ton of stuff about similar claims from the early 90s.

    The idea is obvious, but keeps getting proposed because those who propose it are pretty clueless about climate and get sucked in by correlations in tricky data. There is also some reasonable suspicion is that on occasion they have, ahem, massaged the data in tricky ways. For example, the 1990 papers by Friis-Christensen and Lassen after tearing up the town were sent to a watery grave when it was shown that the supposed cosmic ray signal was El Nino.

    The recent Svensmark paper on forming clusters is another case. The assumption was that the limiting factor was the formation of nanosized clusters, but the folks who study CCNs know that there are more than enough nanosized little things in the air from dust, etc, that a few more don’t matter. The whole thing puts me in the mind of cold fusion. A few die hard advocates, with political cover, pushing their peanut up the hill.

  48. 48
    Eli Rabett says:

    WRT 37 and the reply, it is not that Svensmark and Co have a new hypothesis, it is not new, I have found one such proposal from the mid 70s , Shaviv has a link back to Edward Ney making a similar proposal in 1959, and if you go looking on sci.environment there is a ton of stuff about similar claims from the early 90s.

    The idea is obvious, but keeps getting proposed because those who propose it are pretty clueless about climate and get sucked in by correlations in tricky data. There is also some reasonable suspicion is that on occasion they have, ahem, massaged the data in tricky ways. Another example, the 1990 papers by Friis-Christensen and Lassen after tearing up the town were sent to a watery grave when Paul Farrar showed that the supposed cosmic ray signal was El Nino.

    The recent Svensmark paper on forming clusters is another case. The assumption was that the limiting factor was the formation of nanosized clusters, but the folks who study CCNs know that there are more than enough nanosized little things in the air from dust, etc, that a few more don’t matter. The whole thing puts me in the mind of cold fusion. A few die hard advocates, with political cover, pushing their peanut up the hill.

  49. 49
    BarbieDoll Moment says:

    Henrik Svensmark (2007)
    Cosmoclimatology: a new theory emerges
    Astronomy & Geophysics 48 (1), 1.18â??1.24.

    …”By 2005 we had found a causal mechanism by which cosmic rays can facilitate the production of clouds (Svensmark et al. 2007). The data revealed that electrons released in the air by cosmic rays act as catalysts. They significantly accelerate the formation of stable, ultra-small clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules which are building blocks for the cloud condensation nuclei.”…

    Incidentally I did not see in the paper and within their hypothesis an exclusion of lightning (ground or top based) in conjunction with their proffered explanation of an electron charge induced cloud nuclei. And or all other possible explanations for the origins/sources of said electrons said to induce such an effect. Additionally, it’s two entirely separate issues, when you break it down, to even sort the matter out.

    Origins/sources of nuclei inducing material is one issue and another is the causual explanation/evidence of how those sources/origins would form mechanisms that would produce nuclei, and, in turn how those nuclei produce clouds rather than something else.

    Then the paper further takes on climate change and other issues (ideas about ideas).

    Seems to me there are many steps missing just in relation to one issue, let alone
    multiple topics and issues.

    It’s a paper that is written with great assurance but where is the true scientific process methodologies (for example: ruling out all other sources/causes/explanations) to back their conclusions/beliefs, rather than speculations and assumptions offered regarding their ideas on the matter?

    This is another in the line of mass produced hypothesis generating papers we see rather than a hypothesis confirming or supporting paper. But sadly, it appears impressive, I would imagine
    to the average joe public, because of the assuredness and authority of the authors presentation of
    the matter.

    Lightning’s Shocking Secrets
    SANDRA BLAKESLEE (July 18, 2000)

    …”Their eight-week experiment, called the Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study, or Steps, ended on Sunday. Scientists say that the experiment turned up some stunning surprises that may force them to revise their theories of how lightning is produced.”…

    ..”Preliminary data show that charge fields — the layers of positively and negatively charged particles within clouds — do not fall into the conventional pattern, Dr. Krehbiel said. They are often upside down, meaning negative on top and positive below. “…”In a positive-to-ground lightning strike, positive charges first rush from the cloud to the ground, creating a lightning channel through which electrons flow from the ground back up to the cloud. Such lightning strikes tend to carry more charge, last tens of seconds longer and be less branched than the more common negative-to-ground lightning. But how this reversal of charge occurs remains something of a mystery, Dr. Rust said.”…””Storms may reverse their polarity all the time, but we just never knew it,” Dr. Krehbiel said.”…”Somehow, he explained, lightning discharges in the lower atmosphere are having effects in the upper atmosphere. “…

    [Response:I left out the notion of lightening because the post was already getting quite long and because I think we do not know much about the relationship between lightenig, climate, and solar activity. Dr. Krehbiel was my supervisor for one year before I gave up lightening and thunder because I felt it was a difficult topic in which it was difficult to make good observations. He is an excellent scientist, though. -rasmus]

  50. 50

    If rasmus really thinks that Svensmark rides a dead horse, is the ongoing CLOUD experiment at CERN (which probably will be ready in 2010) a superfluous spending of fundings?. See here for the link to the CLOUD documents.