Global Warming and Solar Activity Posted by: Dale Franks
on Sunday, February 11, 2007
Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, has written an op/ed piece for the Times of London in which he says the orthodoxy of CO2-forced global warming must be challenged.
Enthusiasm for the global-warming scare also ensures that heatwaves make headlines, while contrary symptoms, such as this winter’s billion-dollar loss of Californian crops to unusual frost, are relegated to the business pages. The early arrival of migrant birds in spring provides colourful evidence for a recent warming of the northern lands. But did anyone tell you that in east Antarctica the Adlie penguins and Cape petrels are turning up at their spring nesting sites around nine days later than they did 50 years ago? While sea-ice has diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.
So one awkward question you can ask, when you’re forking out those extra taxes for climate change, is “Why is east Antarctica getting colder?” It makes no sense at all if carbon dioxide is driving global warming. While you’re at it, you might inquire whether Gordon Brown will give you a refund if it’s confirmed that global warming has stopped. The best measurements of global air temperatures come from American weather satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.
That levelling off is just what is expected by the chief rival hypothesis, which says that the sun drives climate changes more emphatically than greenhouse gases do. After becoming much more active during the 20th century, the sun now stands at a high but roughly level state of activity. Solar physicists warn of possible global cooling, should the sun revert to the lazier mood it was in during the Little Ice Age 300 years ago.
Climate history and related archeology give solid support to the solar hypothesis. The 20th-century episode, or Modern Warming, was just the latest in a long string of similar events produced by a hyperactive sun, of which the last was the Medieval Warming.
This is not a new theory, either. It has been propounded upon at length by Sallie Baliunas (among others), the Harvard astrophysicist who is the Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Observatory. It also has gotten some converts recently, such as astrophysicist Nir Shaviv, who no longer subscribes to the CO2 theory.
He has recanted: "Like many others, I was personally sure that CO2 is the bad culprit in the story of global warming. But after carefully digging into the evidence, I realized that things are far more complicated than the story sold to us by many climate scientists or the stories regurgitated by the media.
"In fact, there is much more than meets the eye."
Dr. Shariv's digging led him to the surprising discovery that there is no concrete evidence — only speculation — that man-made greenhouse gases cause global warming. Even research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change— the United Nations agency that heads the worldwide effort to combat global warming — is bereft of anything here inspiring confidence. In fact, according to the IPCC's own findings, man's role is so uncertain that there is a strong possibility that we have been cooling, not warming, the Earth. Unfortunately, our tools are too crude to reveal what man's effect has been in the past, let alone predict how much warming or cooling we might cause in the future.
All we have on which to pin the blame on greenhouse gases, says Dr. Shaviv, is "incriminating circumstantial evidence," which explains why climate scientists speak in terms of finding "evidence of fingerprints." Circumstantial evidence might be a fine basis on which to justify reducing greenhouse gases, he adds, "without other 'suspects.' " However, Dr. Shaviv not only believes there are credible "other suspects," he believes that at least one provides a superior explanation for the 20th century's warming.
"Solar activity can explain a large part of the 20th-century global warming," he states, particularly because of the evidence that has been accumulating over the past decade of the strong relationship that cosmic- ray flux has on our atmosphere. So much evidence has by now been amassed, in fact, that "it is unlikely that [the solar climate link] does not exist."
Dr. Shaviv's work looks at solar activity, rather than solar radiance, and the effect that cosmic ray flux has on the atmosphere. Along with the work of Henrik Svensmark in Denmark, which Calder has an upcoming book about, experiments indicate that cosmic rays stitch together sulfuric acid and water to begin the condensation and cloud formation process.
This is not a particularly new experiment, either.
But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.
He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun’s magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.
Yet the IPCC report barely even acknowledges this astronomical work, and the implications for climate change. By concentrating on irradiance, the IPCC has essentially dismissed the sun as a major player in climate change. But irradiance isn't the mechanism that astrophysicists have identified.
A cynical observer would say that, if solar activity is the culprit, there's essentially nothing that can be done to change it, which means there would be no reason to fund the modeling studies so beloved by global warming scientists.
If the sun's magnetic field blocks cosmic rays that increase cloud formation, then the effect of CO2 is such a minor factor that it can be safely ignored. Naturally, climatologists are resistant to an explanation that makes their research irrelevant.
Assuming, of course, that they're even aware of it.
The bottom line is that we've had much higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere in the past. Currently, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 378 parts per million (PPM). During the Jurassic period, CO2 concentration was at 1800 PPM. During the Cambrian, it was 7000 PPM.
And yet, despite CO2 concentrations 7 to 20 times current, there was no runaway greenhouse effect that threatened all life. Indeed, the main cause of the mass extinction at the Cambrian/Ordovician boundary period appears to have been global cooling.
So, if the CO2 problem is the danger the environmentalists tell us it is, then we need to know why massively higher concentrations of CO2 in the Cambrian and Jurassic periods didn't result in a runaway greenhouse effect then, but will now.
"cosmic rays stitch together sulfuric acid and water to begin the condensation and cloud formation process"
This reminded me of the Wilson cloud chamber;
"Cloud chambers were first developed by Charles T.R. Wilson around 1911 for experiments on the formation of rain clouds. Wilson knew that water vapour condensed around ions, atoms which have become charged by gaining or losing electrons."
I read a book of Calder’s some years ago. It was what first turned me onto the idea that climate change was only affected by the sun. In particular the work of Friis-Christeinsen, Lassen and the Svensmark (which he cited) seemed very compelling in terms of explaining the effect. Particularly the papers from 1991 1997 and 1998. Up until then there was always a problem between explaining the relatively small changes in energy output from the sun and the larger changes that were observed on Earth, some form of amplification method was necessary - some colleagues of mine are working on the prospect of large scale planetary wave forcing controlled by small changes in the upper atmosphere.
The Svensmark cosmic ray cloud seeding cloud theory seemed very persusasive - the correlation between cloud cover and aa index was quite compelling. The aa index is a simple measure of the strength of the magnetosphere, and Lassen and Svensmark posited that a strong magnetosphere (caused by a strong solar wind interaction) would mean less cosmic ray penetration and hence less cloud formation (aerosol cloud seeding can be reproduced in cloud chambers). They took this to indicate that the sun can indirectly account for changes in climate if we accept that the overall activity of the sun (trends outside of the standard 11 or 22 year cycle) is increasing. Basically our cosmic ray shielding is increased. It is a nice theory and very convincing even with the caveat that correlation does not equal causation.
However, the story does not end there. The cloud seeding discussion has continued, partly due to claims that their data handling was not as rigorous as it should have been - some assumptions on the types of clouds formed (low altitude warmers rather than high altitude coolers) were challenged (the original papers did not (could not, I think) make the distinction between the type of cloud data they had. I think I am right in saying that it is actually quite hard to get good cloud data and they did the best with what they had - it is difficult to measure low clouds with a satellite when a high cloud is in the line of sight. Others have lambasted the correlation by suggetsing that it is an artifact - caused by data selection. Some authors have studied the data set and found no correlation with individual types of cloud. In addition some authors pointed out a lack of a downward trend in the galactic cosmic ray flux - this does not invalidate the mechansim at all, but it does make it difficult to speak of trending temperature increases being caused by the GCR. I know of at least one co-author on the recent Svensmark paper, that concentrated on the chemical aspects, that seems to disagree with the phrasing of the press release. By this I mean that they thought it added another dimension to the debate (which it does) but in no way offers a conclusive, overarching explanation that some seem to want to spin it as.
I offer all of this, not to try to debunk the work of Svensmark et al., but rather to show that the issue is not cut and dried. It is too easy to jump on a press release and say ’oh, that makes sense’ especially when it is consistent with our personal views. Similarly, those who dismiss the hockey-stick out of hand because it has been challenged by other scientists should treat this the same if they want to be consistent. My advice is to treat all things with an open mind and then follow the arguments through to wherever they go. Svensmark (and co-workers) might be dead on and it would be a shame if his work was dismissed because of some holes in the data and/or analysis. At the same time it could be rubbish, and the correlation could be an artifact of the data selection. But it really does go both ways.
The effects of the sun on climate are far from fully quantified and the cosmic ray mechanism is still a topic of much discussion. Oh and if you doubt my motives I offer that I am a solar-terrestrial physicist and it is much more within my interest (funding wise) to act as a nay-sayer to human-induced climate change and to argue that what we really need is to quantify the sun’s effect (we do) as it may be the main cause of climate change (?).
DALE RESPONDS: Yes, but the whole point is to HAVE that discussion. Not foreclose it by declaring that the consensus has spoken, and no further investigation is required.
Just to be a conspiracy theorist, this might explain the recent all-out push on global warming. If the trend is poised to reverse, then this excuse for widespread government intervention in the economy goes away, and then capitalism runs rampant.
Dale, I thought since they weren’t valid tags, that they would be left alone.
But if you can get everyone’s computer to say Erb three times in Ben Stein’s voice whent they load the thread—that would be hysterical.
Yours, thanks, Tom Perkins, ml, msl, & pfpp
DALE RESPONDS: Nope. I allow HTML, so I don’t interfere with the HTML tags, except for those that imply scripting, which get stripped. If it tried to compare every HTML tag with valid tags, 1) it’d take forever to post a comment, and 2) I’d constantly have to recode every time W3C came up with a new HTML standard. So, invalid HTML tags are left alone. They don’t do anything. But, they get treated like HTML tags, which means they don’t get displayed. Again, use the "<" and ">" entities to display the faux HTML tags.
"My advice is to treat all things with an open mind"
"Anybody remember the Alar scare?"
Oh, yeah. One of my favourites. Interesting how 60 minutes and Mike Wallace still have credibility in some circles. They have improved, though; they have gon from fake and inaccurate to fake but accurate.
If the sun’s magnetic field blocks cosmic rays that increase cloud formation, then the effect of CO2 is such a minor factor that it can be safely ignored. Naturally, climatologists are resistant to an explanation that makes their research irrelevant.
is a tremendous leap in the interpretation of the results of the work as they currently stand. It is not so much a resistance to an explanation that makes their research irrelevant as it is to a hypothesis that has not yet held up to scrutiny - much more needs to be done before we can call it a theory. It is not just climatologists who suggest that it is wrong, a number of solar/STP scientists also contest it. Who is right? I don’t know yet.
Actually I started to look at the cause for global warming by looking at the data and favor the Sun amd Svensmark’s theory as the major source for climate change. There are much talking but how many of you actually look at the data of the competing theories. On http://www.global-warming-and-the-climate.com I discuss this. Most climate scientists have only studied thermodynamics and meteorology and because of that favor greenhouse gases as a cause for global warming.