"The Cold Sun"

"The Cold Sun"

The Sun will be playing a “starring” role in the climate over the next few decades, if predictions of a forthcoming solar decline are proved correct. This is going to be a very interesting time for all sides of the climate debate, because when the Sun decides to take it easy for a few years, it will, with luck, demonstrate clearly the magnitude of the effect the our nearest star has on our terrestrial climate, and how it compares to that of man-made greenhouse gases.

As we have seen, the AGW consensus team (“The Cause”) like to assure us at every turn that the only mechanism by which the Sun can alter the climate is by means of changes in solar irradiance. Earlier this week, the Met Office insisted that a predicted reduction in solar output over the next few years would be too small to offset greenhouse gas warming.

IPCC AR4 dismisses solar irradiance changes as too small to have any significant effect on our climate, but at the same time rates understanding of indirect solar effects as “very low”. Despite this, AR4 was still able to claim that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations” (Summary for Policymakers, p10).

How the IPCC could have made that leap of faith is a matter of political expediency rather than scientific certainty. But that’s the IPCC for you – a political organisation making political statements.

Svensmark and Calder’s “The Chilling Stars” (Amazon link) set the scene for novel mechanisms by which the Sun could modulate the Earth’s climate, apart from the traditional method of changes in solar irradiance. The most prevalent of these is modulation of cosmic rays via solar wind.

Put simply, increasing solar wind from an active Sun shield the planet from galactic cosmic rays (GCR), resulting in a reduction in cloud cover and consequent increase in global temperature. Conversely, when the Sun is dormant, the reduced solar wind allows more GCR, which act as cloud formation nuclei, thereby increasing cloud cover and reducing global temperature.

Recent experiments at the CLOUD facility have confirmed that the mechanism appears to have a basis in science.

Now we have articles appearing which indicate that Solar Cycle 25 could be the smallest in 300 years. If this were indeed the case, we could be looking at a “Grand Minimum” like the famous Maunder Minimum in the 17th century, during which the River Thames regularly froze and fairs were held on its icy expanses.

And from No Tricks Zone in Germany, news that a prominent environmentalist, Fritz Vahrenholt, has abandoned the faith and is predicting global cooling:

Fritz Vahrenholt wrote one of the standard books for the environmental protection movement, was the most well-known green-type social democrat, and today leads a company that is investing billions in renewable energy. But now not even he believes any longer in the forecasts of the IPCC and the Potsdam Institute concerning climate warming. More on that in tomorrow’s FOCUS (only in the print edition, not online). Also there is an interview with physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson, who feels global cooling is far more problematic than a warming.”

Vahrenholt has written a book, Die kalte Sonne, The Cold Sun, which Amazon.de describes thus:

The IPCC is certain: global warming is man-inflicted. But are the infamous greenhouse gases indeed primarily responsible for our climate? And why is it not warmer? Vahrenholt and Lüninghave in the course of their studies intensively engaged with the different climate models. They come to the conclusion that global warming over the past 150 years is part of a natural cycle that is characterised primarily by the sun. The next decades will likely lead to a slight cooling rather than further heating. This provides time to develop renewable energy sources focused and make this change in an economically rational and sustainable manner.

Let’s hope for an English version sometime soon.

One thing is certain – if there is a solar decline as predicted and temperatures are unmoved as a result, we must accept that it is therefore more likely that the GHGs were the dominant cause of the modern warming. However, if temperatures fall significantly, then The Cause will have some serious thinking to do.

Another paper suggests cosmic ray influence on clouds

Figure 5 - click to enlarge

This time based on real-world experimentation, rather than laboratory test results as with CERN/CLOUD. In this case, the paper looks at the link between Forbush decreases, which are a decrease in the galactic cosmic ray flux in response to a burst of gas ejected from the Sun towards the Earth, and the change in diurnal temperature variation (i.e. the difference between night and day). Fewer cosmic rays mean fewer clouds, which means colder nights and warmer days, in theory…

From Nigel Calder:

More than a year ago I began a succession of posts on whether or not observations in the real world support or falsify the Svensmark hypothesis. The most explanatory was the first – see link

The focus was on the “natural experiments” in which big puffs of gas from the Sun block some of the cosmic rays coming from the Galaxy towards the Earth. The resulting falls in cosmic ray influx, called Forbush decreases, last for a few days. The game is to look for observable reductions in cloudiness in the aftermath of these events. The results are most clearly favourable to the Svensmark hypothesis for the Forbush decreases with the largest percentage reductions in cosmic rays. Scientists keen to falsify the hypothesis have only to mix in some of the weaker events for the untidiness of the world’s weather to “hide the decline”. 

The Serbs avoid that blunder by picking out the strongest Forbush decreases. And by using the simple, reliable and long-provided weather-station measurements of temperature by night and day, they avoid technical, interpretive and data-availability problems that surround more direct observations of clouds and their detailed properties. The temperatures come from 184 stations scattered all across Europe (actually, so I notice, from Greenland to Siberia). A compilation by the Mount Washington Observatory that spans half a century, from 1954 to 1995, supplies the catalogue of Forbush decreases.

The prime results are seen here in Dragić et al.‘s Figure 5 [image top right]. The graphs show the increase in the diurnal temperature range averaged across the continent in the days following the onset of cosmic ray decreases (day 0 on the horizontal scales). The upper panel is the result for 22 Forbush events in the range 7−10%, with a peak at roughly +0.35 oC in the diurnal temperature range. The lower panel is for 13 events greater than 10%. The peak goes to +0.6 oC and the influence lasts longer. It’s very satisfactory for the Svensmark hypothesis that the effect increases like this, with greater reductions in the cosmic rays. The results become hard (impossible?) to explain by any mechanism except an influence of cosmic rays on cloud formation.

The case for the Sun influencing climate by modulating cloud cover becomes stronger, little by little. By the way, just for the benefit of the Consensus Boys, this is how science works.

Read it here.

Bravo! ABC's balanced report on CLOUD

No bias! Hooray!

Credit where credit is due. I don’t want to knock Auntie just for the hell of it, so I am very happy to shower ABC Science with praise (OK, bit strong perhaps, maybe just a gentlemanly “well done” will suffice) for a balanced and sensible report on the CLOUD experiment at CERN.

No alarmism, no rubbishing the results, no questioning of the funding, no sneering comment from David Karoly or Andy Pitman, no pompous soundbites from Robyn Williams or Bernie Hobbs, no caveat that it’s still “really” all down to CO2 – none of that, just a fair and reasonable reporting of the results. Excellent.

Climate scientists have discovered a mystery factor in climate change models, following new research at the CERN particle accelerator, near Geneva.

First results from the CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets) experiment show that trace vapours in the atmosphere, which until now had been thought to account for all aerosol formation, actually only explain a minute proportion of atmospheric aerosol production.

The research, published in the journal Nature, also shows that ionisation from cosmic rays may play a significant role in the process.

Understanding how new aerosol particles form in the atmosphere, and the effect these particles have on climate, is one of the big challenges of atmospheric science.

[ACM editor falls off chair at this point]. See? You can do it. It really isn’t that hard. Well done to author Carl Holm for this piece.

Read the rest here.

Reactions to CLOUD

Science at work

The various polarised reactions to the CLOUD experiment’s initial results demonstrates how the climate debate has become mired in politics, petty point scoring and one-upmanship.

What would a proper, impartial scientist say in response to yesterday’s news? I guess something like “these results are really interesting because they add to our understanding of cloud formation mechanisms in the atmosphere, which will add to our understanding and attribution of climate change. As a scientist untainted by politics or funding, I don’t object to the fact that these results may contradict or challenge my ideas about climate, my only goal is to seek the scientific truth.”

Yet what did we get? Hordes of alarmists desperately trying to rubbish and dismiss the experiment before the ink was even dry on the paper. Media organisations either ignored it, or reminded us all that it was all CO2’s fault, and nothing in this experiment changes any of that. How tragic.

Unfortunately, entire research departments are built on the wobbly foundations of CO2 being the primary driver of climate change (together with the attendant funding that such a view attracts), and that position must be defended from possible attack at all costs.

And no sensible climate sceptic would go further than saying that this is an interesting course of further enquiry, and confirms that there may be some climatological effect from galactic cosmic rays – and that there is still more to learn about the climate – duh. The commenter yesterday who claimed we were all rejoicing at “another nail in the AGW coffin” not only misrepresents the sceptic community, but paints our thought processes in the same light as those of the funded and politicised alarmists. They are not.

If there is anything that reaction tells us, it is that mainstream climate science is more politics than science.

CLOUD experiment confirms cosmic ray action

Science at work

This experiment, carried out at CERN, was to test Henrik Svensmark’s hypothesis that cloud cover could be modulated by galactic cosmic ray intensity, which in turn is modulated by the Sun’s magnetic field. Stronger magnetic field, fewer cosmic rays reach the atmosphere, fewer clouds, therefore warming. Weaker magnetic field, more cosmic rays, more clouds, more reflectivity, therefore cooling. Nigel Calder reports:

Long-anticipated results of the CLOUD experiment at CERN in Geneva appear in tomorrow’s issue of the journal Nature (25 August). The Director General of CERN stirred controversy last month, by saying that the CLOUD team’s report should be politically correct about climate change (see my 17 July post). The implication was that they should on no account endorse the Danish heresy – Henrik Svensmark’s hypothesis that most of the global warming of the 20th Century can be explained by the reduction in cosmic rays due to livelier solar activity, resulting in less low cloud cover and warmer surface temperatures.

Willy-nilly the results speak for themselves, and it’s no wonder the Director General was fretful.

Jasper Kirkby of CERN and his 62 co-authors, from 17 institutes in Europe and the USA, announce big effects of pions from an accelerator, which simulate the cosmic rays and ionize the air in the experimental chamber. The pions strongly promote the formation of clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules – aerosols of the kind that may grow into cloud condensation nuclei on which cloud droplets form. 

And Calder has some choice words on the treatment of Svensmark’s hypothesis:

For the dam that was meant to ward off a growing stream of discoveries coming from the spring in Copenhagen, the foundation was laid on the day after the Danes first announced the link between cosmic rays and clouds at a space conference in Birmingham, England, in 1996. “Scientifically extremely naïve and irresponsible,” Bert Bolin declared, as Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

As several journalists misbehaved by reporting the story from Birmingham, the top priority was to tame the media. The first courses of masonry ensured that anything that Svensmark and his colleagues might say would be ignored or, failing that, be promptly rubbished by a warmist scientist. Posh papers like The Times of London and the New York Times, and posh TV channels like the BBC’s, readily fell into line. Enthusiastically warmist magazines like New Scientist and Scientific American needed no coaching.

Similarly the journals Nature and Science, which in my youth prided themselves on reports that challenged prevailing paradigms, gladly provided cement for higher masonry, to hold the wicked hypothesis in check at the scientific level. Starve Svensmark of funding. Reject his scientific papers but give free rein to anyone who criticizes him. Trivialize the findings in the Holy Writ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Read it here.

UPDATE: This story is, naturally, missing in action in both Fairfax and the ABC, the latter of which chooses to report this instead:

“Study proves climate a trigger for conflict”

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