You were hoping for an erudite discussion of one of the works of Aristophanes? Not today. Instead we are going to look at how clouds and cosmic rays influence our weather and more importantly, climate.

Every one who has looked into the subject knows that climate science is no longer much about science. It is about politics.

When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works. We were treated to another dose of it recently when the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the Summary for Policymakers that puts the political spin on an unfinished scientific dossier on climate change due for publication in a few months' time. They declared that most of the rise in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases.
I was a global warming sceptic once. Now I'm a believer. Given the fact that we have a lot of evidence that other planets in our solar system are heating up as well, I'm not convinced that the global warming the Earth is experiencing is man made.
Twenty years ago, climate research became politicised in favour of one particular hypothesis, which redefined the subject as the study of the effect of greenhouse gases. As a result, the rebellious spirits essential for innovative and trustworthy science are greeted with impediments to their research careers. And while the media usually find mavericks at least entertaining, in this case they often imagine that anyone who doubts the hypothesis of man-made global warming must be in the pay of the oil companies. As a result, some key discoveries in climate research go almost unreported.
Solar output has increased about 0.5% over the last 100 years according to the latest estimates.
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.

A strictly radiation accounting shows that increased solar output accounts for about 60% of the global warming of the last 100 years. What could account for the other 40% if not man?

Well we have a new candidate. Cosmic rays. Or the lack of them actually.

Disdain for the sun goes with a failure by the self-appointed greenhouse experts to keep up with inconvenient discoveries about how the solar variations control the climate. The sun's brightness may change too little to account for the big swings in the climate. 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.

The only trouble with Svensmark's idea -- apart from its being politically incorrect -- was that meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation. After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.

So it would appear that increased solar output comes with an amplifying mechanism. Cosmic rays and clouds.

In Global Cooling I looked into how the sun powers our short term climate cycles. Longer term climate cycles appear to be driven by orbital mechanics such as the roundness of Earth's orbit around the sun and global wobble which changes the angle the Earth presents to the sun. Those are well known and are called Milankovitch Cycles.

There is another factor which needs attention. The Earth's magnetic field waxes and wanes. Currently we are in a waning phase. It has declined about 10% in the last 160 years.

I suppose that will give "the sky is falling" folks something new to be scared to death about and some new reason for them to declare that we have to raise taxes to have the money to fix the problem.

Some things never change.

You can read more about clouds, cosmic rays, and climate change at The U.K. Telegraph

Update: 13 Feb '007 1053z

Donalds Sensing discusses the issue with lots of charts, graphs, and pretty pictures of the sun.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 02.12.07 at 11:11 AM


You do realize that if the loons got their eyes on this data, it would certainly be contorted to the effect that 'climate change denial' is supported by data that aliens are blasting earth with cosmic rays. We would be the tin-foil hats of the world.

mdmhvonpa   ·  February 12, 2007 2:21 PM

No wonder the bureaucrats are in such a hurry!

Why do the bloggers have to keep spoiling everything?

Eric Scheie   ·  February 12, 2007 6:09 PM


That was my take on the big Climate Change Push of 2006.

They knew there would be science coming out to refute the CO2 is ruining everything idea.

M. Simon   ·  February 12, 2007 11:25 PM

Actually, there have been numerous magnetic field reversals in Earth's history. The fact that this was so was discovered due to WWII subsurface magnetic readings taken to try and find U-Boats. Once all the data got put together, identical stripes of different magnetic polarity could be seen on either side of the mid-Atlantic. This was one of the great insights that led to the first International Geophysical Year and the culmination of data from core samples on magnetism and radioactivity that led to the discovery that these stripes were coincident at the same time in history indicating they were placed at the same time. The mid-Atlantic ridge was analyzed and folks realized that new material was being forced out there and it contained the same magnetic orientation and strength as the surroundings as the rock cooled. The very first tape recorder had been discovered, save the 'tape' was oceanic basalt. Global studies of similar rocks pointed to the exact same magnetic orientation at the same time and the same changes over time. This has proven to be a long term key for analyzing rock strata, and measuring the orientation and radioactivity not only places it in time but in position.

From all of that continents now were seen as in motion... well, all geological plates were seen as in relative motion to each other based on sub-plate movement. All from trying to find U-Boats in WWII. That information required that we change how we look at the planet and ask it different questions and we found different answers, and so our view of the planet changed and changed again so we could understand what the rock was telling us.

Some magnetic flip-flops have been coincident with extinctions (large and small) but not all of them. Changes in background cosmic ray incidents is an indicator from the solar system's relative position within the galaxy and who its neighbors have been. That has also varied over time some changes, up and down, coincident with extinctions, some not. Continents coming together to form supercontinents and their break-ups have been a high, nearly 1:1 indicator of extinction events as habitats suddenly disappear or appear both having long-term impacts on life in those ecozones.

Volcanic activity can play a part, especially those large caldera events at Yellowstone, Toba and elsewhere, as they release large amounts of particulates into the upper atmosphere. The idea for for the amounts was put forward in a good way by a movie on the History Channel. Consider the ejecta to Mt. St. Helens to be a sugar cube. Tambora was a box of sugar cubes (the volcano responsible for the 'year without a summer'). Yellowstone is a 1m x 1m x 1m packing crate of sugar cubes. That gets pretty close to the scale differences involved for relative particulate output, save the actual crate is a bit bigger than the 1 meter cube. Yellowstone, itself, goes through different cyclic events, where it will rest for hundreds of thousands of years and then erupt and continue with smaller-scale, continuous eruptions for a long period and then go quiet. Considering that this same hotspot laid down the meters thick basaltic rock seen in Oregon and Washington States, that is nothing to be sneezed at.

We haven't even started in on the real disasters that can hit North America and will, sooner or later. Cyclicity and periodicity tell us that these things will return, sooner or later, as the geophysics behind them has not changed for them. Global Warming? Heh. Yellowstone! Because once it hits, it continues on for thousands if not tens of thousands of years... did it before and will do it again. And that will assuredly change climates on the planet... I wouldn't suggest trying to 'laser lance' it either. That would be like taking a can of soda, putting it in a paint shaking machine for half an hour, heating it up to couple of hundred degrees and *then* trying to put a small hole in the container. Not a good idea, at all, really. Just like trying to build flood protection on land that is sinking...

ajacksonian   ·  February 13, 2007 8:41 AM

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