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February 22, 2007 12:19 AM   Subscribe

Scientists claim that cosmic rays from outer space play a far greater role in changing the Earth's climate than global warming experts previously thought. For a demonstration of how cosmic rays affect cloud formation, you can build a Cloud Chamber.
posted by augustweed (54 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
And when you've built your cloud chamber - play it like Harry Partch.
posted by strawberryviagra at 1:03 AM on February 22, 2007


Riiiiight. It's nothing to do with us and our CO2.

Actually, no. The idea that cloud cover is determining rates of climate change is just one of the many myths we need to rebut.
posted by imperium at 1:04 AM on February 22, 2007


This was covered by RealClimate last year. Also, they've made a shorted note of it recently. Choice quote:
Whether cosmic rays are correlated with climate or not, they have been regularly measured by the neutron monitor at Climax Station (Colorado) since 1953 and show no long term trend. No trend = no explanation for current changes.
posted by rycee at 1:08 AM on February 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


I knew it!
posted by jimmythefish at 1:23 AM on February 22, 2007


How many "scientists" claim this exactly, and what are their fields of expertise?
posted by pruner at 1:30 AM on February 22, 2007


what are their fields of expertise?

Gettin' rich quick.
posted by Citizen Premier at 1:41 AM on February 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


cosmic rays from outer space play a far greater role in changing the Earth's climate than my eating this ham sandwich.

In other news, Greenpeace rams cloud chamber; on fire, sinking.
posted by dreamsign at 2:04 AM on February 22, 2007


How many "scientists" claim this exactly, and what are their fields of expertise?

No time to read all the details, but he seems pretty legit:PRL link.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 2:08 AM on February 22, 2007


And it made my sister disappear and made my brother in law all stretchy and turned my buddy into a big pile of rocks. Cosmic rays. S'true.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:37 AM on February 22, 2007


8weed: that's the link for this news?

The predictable crapple effect.

Clouds can affect temperature.
posted by toma at 2:57 AM on February 22, 2007


Well, i still dislike Republicans anyway.

They bad. They just bad.
posted by ELF Radio at 3:00 AM on February 22, 2007


Smedleyman...[just guessing, given how these lone papers become bludgeons]... Your sis: 'Courage?' Your brother: 'Truth?' Your buddy: 'Years of experiment and rational argument?'
posted by toma at 3:21 AM on February 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


you need an academic or institutional (or personal) subscription to read it, but a more recent article is here.

the gist of it seems to be correlations between cloud density at low altitudes and cosmic ray flux. (though i don't see any reason why, if there is some causal relationship, it couldn't be the other way around - low cloud cover absorbs more cosmic rays? the cosmic ray measurements were taken from the surface.)

i think i agree with the notion that this evidence is "tenuous". but i am not a climatologist.

btw, if anyone is interested, here is the guy's homepage, with PDF reprints of some journal articles. he seems to've been flogging this for a while now!
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:36 AM on February 22, 2007


I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds shit at all.
posted by maxwelton at 4:12 AM on February 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is why I've always said that if political action is required to reduce C02 emissions the argument should focus on air quality. It gets around all of these counter "arguments" about climate change. It also does away with the fact that average citizens don't believe their weather man can predict next week, much less the next ten years. (And the distinction between weather and climate? Yeah, right...)

The average joe can see for himself that the air over his city is brown, he can taste the smog, and it's far, far more personal - everyone has to breathe. Lots of health scare stories about asthma, emphysema, chronic lung disease etc., and you'd have a lot more people worried and prepared to change their ways, and further to kick their local politician into doing something.

Or in other words, why is it now not socially acceptable to light up a cigarette, but still okay to fire up a smokestack?
posted by Zinger at 4:13 AM on February 22, 2007


I love getting blown. But prefer the other end. I have so much smoke up my ass right now I can fart rings.
posted by hal9k at 4:24 AM on February 22, 2007


heh.

so, the wikipedia article on cosmic rays has a section on cloud formation and cosmic rays, which plugs a svensmark article.

the section was added by 134.117.141.44 in a big glut of entries about global warming, on october 24 2006. that is eight days after the realclimate article that rycee linked to was published. that IP's location can be traced to ottawa, ON.

ottawa is the home of jan veizer, one of a list of scientists who oppose the global warming consensus.

much of the evidence in the svensmark article i linked to above comes from an article by vezier.

it's all so sordid and tacky. nor is it the behavior of an honest, objective mind. i don't know if it throws the conclusions into question or not; but it certainly makes me wonder. i have a really hard time accepting this as completely unbiased.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 4:27 AM on February 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Haven't read the journal articles (I make it a practice now not to even bother reading anything in the general press regarding climate change, or science in general, really) but I will do so tomorrow. However, the first thing that strikes me is that, even if cosmic rays do increase cloud formation, there are many other factors down here that have a much, much greater impact. Interestingly, a strong effect I've been dealing with is vegetation clearance; removal of forests and replacement with crops has been linked to decreased cloud formation in south-west Australia, leading to decreased rain. Drought follows land clearance, you could say. But I digress. Anyway as others have said, I doubt the graph of cosmic ray trend looks anything like the graph of atmospheric CO2 trend.
posted by Jimbob at 4:47 AM on February 22, 2007


Whenever I see "Scientists discover..." rather than "[names of people] at [accredited university] have published in [prestigious journal]..." I feel like the reporter's comprehension of research amounts to "SCIENCE!" (contains loud strobing obnoxiousness)
posted by ardgedee at 4:55 AM on February 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


Where is Reed Richards when you need him?
posted by GavinR at 5:01 AM on February 22, 2007


I goddamn knew it was aliens.

Where is Charlie Sheen when you need him?
posted by Muddler at 5:04 AM on February 22, 2007


wow, sergeant sandwich! I am humbled. Nice work.

I wish the connection to Jan Veizer was a little tighter, that I am glad there are people like you showing how far misinformation and downright tackiness or should I say misconduct can take some people.
posted by carmina at 5:22 AM on February 22, 2007


However, I do not agree with the Svensmark (2007) and the rationale is nicely given in the RealClimate entry. The story is that people have tried to correlate cosmic ray changes with cirrus clouds (typically at higher altitudes) which makes better sense. However, they couldn't find data to support such theories. They then found a coincidental agreement with low clouds *but only for a short period of the observed record*. They then --get this!-- argue that since the data do not agree with their theory, well, the data is wrong. Yep.
posted by carmina at 5:31 AM on February 22, 2007


Wow! That cloud chamber guy was my advisor once.

As with all theories, the link between CO2 emissions and global warming can be assigned an estimated probability of being the correct theory. Unlike, say, the general theory of relativity, the man-made climate change theory has been assigned a probability of being the "right" theory of 99% (or 2-sigma). That 1% leaves a lot of room for other theories. Even this cosmic-ray theory.

The problem comes when making science-based policy decisions, which is very far away from conducting science. Now I`m not a political science expert, but I would posit that a good application of decision theory would be in order. Assign an economic + moral (i.e. loss of life) cost to global climate change (over whatever time period you care about). Call this "A". Assign an economic cost to reducing CO2 emissions; call it "B". Then we have two options (of course, we actually have more - but for now):

1. Decrease CO2 emissions
  E1 = A + B*.01 
2. Do nothing
  E2 = B 
Here I've assumed that if global warming is not man-made, the economic damage will happen anyway. Now, you just make the decision that yields the lower cost. Whether or not this cloud cover theory is 1% likely or .005% likely, I'm guessing choice 1 is the correct one.
posted by noble_rot at 5:45 AM on February 22, 2007


Of course, I flubbed the equations above. Switch A and B.
posted by noble_rot at 5:51 AM on February 22, 2007


toma,

Clouds do change temperatures. But what changes clouds? Contrails is nice little example of how climate is affected by cirrus clouds in regions where air traffic is high. Like major metropolitan regions. Increased air temperatures (aka global warming) are observed over the middle of Pacific Ocean or even over Sahara and the Arctic.

Minnis et al showed that the radiative forcing (a measure of climate change) of contrails is up to 0.025 W/m^2 whereas the radiative forcing from the greenhouse gases is 2.7 W/m^2 (recent IPCC-AR4). This means cirrus clouds due to contrails cannot explain global warming, although they do have a positive effect.

and, guys! this is great discussion. Thanks.
okay, okay, I go away now.
posted by carmina at 5:51 AM on February 22, 2007


It also does away with the fact that average citizens don't believe their weather man can predict next week, much less the next ten years.

Huh? The "average citizens" are perfectly correct. If you believe otherwise, you must not spend much, or any, time listening to weather forecasts.
posted by languagehat at 6:01 AM on February 22, 2007


Here is some stuff on Svensmark I am going to wade through. Back soon!
posted by Mister_A at 6:20 AM on February 22, 2007


Hehe! These guys are trying to debunk global warming, not Svensmark.

I need coffee.
posted by Mister_A at 6:31 AM on February 22, 2007


sergeant sandwich: Just to refine your work a little, it turns out that Veizer is associated with University of Ottawa, whereas the 134.117.x.x IP address block is owned by Carleton University, also located in Ottawa. The two are not unconnected, of course, as Veizer is listed as a member of The Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, which is shared between the two universities.
posted by hangashore at 6:33 AM on February 22, 2007


While cosmic rays may indeed play some part in global climate, the amount of cosmic rays would have to be increasing in order for it to explain why the earth is warming.

Since the amount of cosmic rays is never going to change (I would imagine) how much it effects the earth's temperature isn't really that important.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 AM on February 22, 2007


The cosmic ray thing is why the IPCC report says "Very likely" (95%) instead of "Extremely likely" (99%) that global warming is man-made. Because Saudi Arabia and China were using it to try and get a "Likely" (50%), while every other country in the world was saying "Extremely likely", so they had to compromise with a "Very likely" to get it through.
posted by stbalbach at 7:07 AM on February 22, 2007


You guys may laugh, but cosmic rays cause bit rot, which is the #1 cause of non-gremlin-related software failure.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:16 AM on February 22, 2007


While cosmic rays may indeed play some part in global climate, the amount of cosmic rays would have to be increasing in order for it to explain why the earth is warming.

This needs repeating again and again.

We have seen no trend of increase in cosmic rays. So this idea, while interesting, has no bearing on the global warming debate.

It's that simple.

And yet, the global warming deniers will continue on, irrationally, until their beach-front home is swallowed by the ocean.
posted by teece at 7:44 AM on February 22, 2007


I love how much energy is put into debunking personal responsibility. I guess it's human nature. Why not continue investigating the multitude of causes of climate change while curbing emissions and pollution?
posted by NationalKato at 7:56 AM on February 22, 2007


So what I'm seeing so far in my brief search are data that show only weak and temporary real-world correlations among fluctuations in low-level cloud cover, solar magnetic activity, and measurements of cosmic ray levels at the surface or troposphere.

In addition, according to Laut
...the cloud cover is delayed by more than half a year relative to the cosmic rays. According to current theory (e.g. Yu and Turco, 2000) the build-up of cloud condensation nuclei is completed within less than a day after an increase of GCRI. Since the lifetime of these cloud condensation nuclei only amounts to a few days a possible formation of clouds must take place within this span of time and not several months later. Therefore, the cloud response to a change in GCRI should be practically instantaneous when viewed on the time scale of Fig. 2.
(3)

Another difficulty is the physical interpretation of low cloud cover data based exclusively on infrared measurements from satellites: most low clouds which are positioned below higher clouds cannot be detected from satellites, and since the range of variation of the different cloud types only amounts to a few percent of the respective cloud cover, an inaccuracy of a few percent could entirely spoil the apparent agreement shown in Fig. 2a.
There are lots of other holes in the theory, most notably that the two estimates of cloud cover (DMSP and ISCCP) used by Svensmark are at odds with each other. Removal of the inconsistent DMSP data effectively eliminates the apparent correlation. See figures 2b and 2c for a graphical representation. Laut goes on at length to explain holes in other non-anthropogenic models of global warming.

There is an angry rebuttal by Svensmark, apparently; I will post that after I have a minute to consider it.
posted by Mister_A at 8:09 AM on February 22, 2007


teece, the theory put forth by Svensmark et al is a little more complicated - the gist of it is that fewer cosmic rays make it to earth during periods of increased solar magnetic activity, and thus fewer cloud particle nuclei thingies are formed, meaning fewer clouds, meaning hotter temps. So the background cosmic radiation is steady, but variations in solar activity create variations in the amount of cosmic radiation reaching earth.

Naturally, one would think that cosmic rays would strike the upper atmosphere first, and maybe affect formation of higher altitude clouds, but there is absolutely no correlation between high-altitude cloud formation and solar activity or cosmic radiation. Svensmark dismisses this finding with some hand-waving about how there is always an ample supply of cosmic radiation in the upper parts of the atmosphere, and hence small variations do not produce changes in high altitude cloud formation. Hmmph.

It's pretty clear that this guy is trying desperately to cherry-pick data that conform to his theory, while also process adding layers of complexity to his theory to allow it to fit the available data.
posted by Mister_A at 8:23 AM on February 22, 2007


(please ignore the word "process" above)
posted by Mister_A at 8:28 AM on February 22, 2007


> And yet, the global warming deniers will continue on, irrationally, until their beach-front home is swallowed by the ocean.

No, not even then. </snark>
posted by ardgedee at 8:34 AM on February 22, 2007


Gamma rays have a deleterious effect on man-in-the-moon marigolds.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:40 AM on February 22, 2007


The answer is clear: to win the War on Global Warming, we must destroy the sun.

Despite reports of varied success, little headway has been made on the Sun battle front. Bush is still pushing Operation: Sunspot, a bold plan to shoot 20,000 more troops into the sun. "By the end of the day" Bush swears "We will see the Sun... go down."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:00 AM on February 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know there are scientists, neurobiologists even, who strongly advocate for Intelligent design as well? Just cause you have a Phd doesn't mean you can't be nuts and/or in denial.
posted by edgeways at 9:21 AM on February 22, 2007


In a book, to be published this week, they claim that fluctuations in the number of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere directly affect the amount of cloud covering the planet.

My first question is; why is this being published as a book and not in a peer-review journal?
posted by batou_ at 9:49 AM on February 22, 2007


The cosmic ray thing is why the IPCC report says "Very likely" (95%) instead of "Extremely likely" (99%) that global warming is man-made.

stbalbach, are you sure about that? I realize you might be better informed than I, but I seriously, very seriously doubt that cosmic ray flux theory has weighted so much in AR4. The cosmic ray theory has little traction in the community, the realclimate entry and Mister_A above explained it well, so I would be shocked if that was the reason for downgrading the experts' estimate.

There are other much more serious problems which are downgrading our virtual certainty of the man-made effect. These are, for instance, the aerosol indirect effect (i.e. interaction of clouds with aerosols) and the lack of reliable time series of black carbon and how it interacts with other aerosols.
posted by carmina at 10:18 AM on February 22, 2007


Just for laughs, Cosmic Ray.
posted by Mister_A at 10:44 AM on February 22, 2007


Consider this: The sun is very active right now. When the sun becomes increasingly active, so does its magnetic field, which deflects cosmic ray. More sunlight plus less cosmic rays means less clouds and more heat. Astronomers are also reporting unusual storms and increased surface temperatures on other planets in our solar system. If the sun is not responsible, then what is?
posted by augustweed at 11:24 AM on February 22, 2007


With you all the way there, carmina, and thanks for that Minnis paper.

I was a bit shocked, back in '02, to see that contrail clouds could have an immediate and direct effect on surface temperatures, that's why I posted it. If this dynamic is real, solar activity vs. cosmic ray cloud generation, I suppose it should be taken seriously. I'm just having a hard time believing it's the main culprit in global warming, and, by the looks of this thread, I'm not the only one.

augustweed: I tried to google something like "unusual storms and increased surface temperatures on other planets" but couldn't quickly find much. Please link those papers, I'd be interested to see those studies.
posted by toma at 12:51 PM on February 22, 2007




We may be at the tail-end of the last Ice Age. Sure we are poisoning this planet's atmosphere and surface . . . no doubt there, but are we really responsible?

Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future

posted by augustweed at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2007


. . . . but are we really responsible? (for the warming)
posted by augustweed at 2:11 PM on February 22, 2007


"Whether or not this cloud cover theory is 1% likely or .005% likely, I'm guessing choice 1 is the correct one."

+

"You know there are scientists, neurobiologists even, who strongly advocate for Intelligent design as well?"

=

Where's Pascal when you need a wager?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:42 PM on February 22, 2007


It seems intelligent to me to have the earth go through natural cleansing cycles . . . like taking out the trash. Long overdue! If it's true, I hope we leave enough archaeological evidence behind for the next "intelligent" species as a warning of how not to live.
posted by augustweed at 2:50 PM on February 22, 2007


More: New Storm on Jupiter Hints at Climate Change
posted by augustweed at 3:53 PM on February 22, 2007


carmina, in fact I read it on realclimate.
posted by stbalbach at 1:09 PM on February 24, 2007


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