Cosmic rays and the Titanic

Titanic link?

Nigel Calder explores the correlation between cosmic ray flux and its effect on the climate, in particular in relation to the sinking of the Titanic (100 years ago on 15 April):

Although it seems a strange thing to celebrate, the Titanic Festival in Belfast, where the ship was built, will very soon mark the 100th anniversary of the liner’s foundering on 15 April 1912 after hitting a south-wandering iceberg, with the loss of a multitude of passengers and crew.

Comparing the £100-million Titanic complex newly built in Belfast with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the travel writer Simon Calder has commented, “There is a great shipbuilding heritage, it is a divided city, but the Guggenheim is great on the outside but rubbish on the inside – unlike the Titanic building.”

What’s more, James Cameron’s movie “Titanic” has been remastered in 3D for the centenary.

Time then for me to dig out some slides that I’ve used off and on in lectures since 1999 as an illustration of Henrik Svensmark’s cosmic rays in action, controlling our climate. But first, just to show that I’m not being kooky, here’s a graph from a 2000 paper by E. N. Lawrence of the UK Meteorological Office. “The Titanic disaster – a meteorologist’s perspective,” related iceberg abundance at low latitudes to a scarcity of sunspots (see image top right).

And Steven Goddard recalls a much older article, from the Chicago Tribune in 1923, that also linked icebergs with sunspots.

The notion that the Sun is dimmer when there are few sunspots goes right back to William Herschel at the beginning of the 19th Century. The trouble is that the variations in solar brightness, as measured by satellites, are too small to explain the strong influence of the Sun on climate as recorded over thousands of years, and continuing into the 21st Century. That’s where Svensmark’s discovery of 16 years ago comes in, with the amplifier. Cosmic rays coming from the Galaxy are more intense when there are fewer sunspots and they increase the global cloud cover, so cooling the world.

Read it all here.

And while we’re on the subject of Svensmark and cosmic rays, Anthony on Facebook linked to an interesting series of videos in which Svensmark and Nir Shaviv are both interviewed. First three parts are excellent, will get to watch the remainder soon. There doesn’t appear to be a date, but from the upload information, it was made prior to the results of the CLOUD experiment.

One of the most astonishing quotes comes from Bert Bolin (he of the IPCC, who had decided prior to the IPCC’s formation that CO2 was responsible for the present warming), who says of Svensmark’s work:

“Scientifically extremely naive and irresponsible”

Yes, you read that right. The head of the IPCC said that reporting scientific results from an experiment was “irresponsible”. It is a wonderful quote to cite, because it exposes at a stroke the political agenda of Bolin and the IPCC, where the risk of derailing the pre-conceived plan to regulate CO2 is deemed “irresponsible”.

It’s also instructive to witness the hostility that Svensmark receives from The Cause. And they accuse the sceptics of being “anti-science”?

Here is the first:


"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 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.

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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