$30,000 Challenge Submission – The Cloud Mystery (Cosmic Rays)

Christopher- I submitted my comment last night, but can not find it so I’ll submit it again. The evidence I’d like to submit is that of Danish physicist, Dr. Henrik Svensmark. Specifically, I’d like to submit the documentary of his and his colleagues’ work called, The Cloud Mystery, which you can view here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANMTPF1blpQ In addition, I’d like to submit his supporting study which you can read here: http://www.leif.org/EOS/2011GL047036.pdf Please let me know if you have trouble accessing either one. Sincerely, Diane Cassidy

Response:

Reviewing these movies is the part of this challenge I enjoy the least. They are long, so they take a lot of my time to review, but more importantly, they are always filled with so many false statements that it is actually painful to sit there and listen to them. But, I made a commitment.

First, a little on cosmic rays.  Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) are these unbelievably high-energy atomic particles that come from deep space, far beyond the solar system.  They are charged particles, which means they are deflected by magnetic fields. This has two effects, the first being we can’t simply draw a straight line back to find out where they came from, but it is believed at least some originate in supernovae. The second effect is that the Sun’s magnetic field deflects them, resulting in a change in the number of GCRs that reach us (flux density) as solar activity changes. GCRs that do reach us strike molecules in the upper atmosphere and create secondary cosmic rays that can reach us here on the surface. We can measure the GCR flux density and we find an apparent correlation with solar activity. It appears that as the Sun’s activity goes up, the number of GCRs reaching us goes down, and as solar activity goes down, the number of GCRs reaching us goes up.

This is still controversial and there are some objections to the claims, but it isn’t new. Take a look at this except:

The most controversial suggestion for a direct effect of cosmic rays on climate is that they directly modulate the formation of clouds (Friis-Christensen and Svensmark, 1997; Svensmark, 1998;  Marsh and Svensmark, 2000, 2003; Udelhofen and Cess, 2001; Kristjansson and Kristiansen, 2000; Carslaw et al., 2002; Arnold and Neubert, 2002). This idea was first proposed by analogy to cloud chamber particle detectors – an analogy that is not valid because natural atmospheric supersaturations are much smaller than those needed to make a cloud chamber work. The idea has been revived by observed correlations over recent solar cycles between GCRs counts and the global composite of satellite cloud cover observations compiled by the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project, ISCCP (Rossow et al., 1996). Udelhofen and Cess (2001) found a solar cycle signal in ground-based data from 90 weather stations across the North Atlantic Continent. Instrument relocation and changes mean that a long-term drift in these ground-based data cannot be determined, but de-trended data show a clear and persistent solar cycle variation in coastal cloud cover in data that extends back to 1900. The best correlations between GCRs and global cloud cover has been obtained by Marsh and Svensmark (2000) from the infrared observations of clouds (10-12 [micro-]m) that make up the “D2” set compiled by ISCCP: these authors find that it is primarily liquid, maritime clouds, away from regions of an El Nino (ENSO) event, that correlate well with GCR fluxes. Other authors argue that the results are still influenced by ENSO events (Farrar, 2000). Correlations on shorter timescales due to Forbush decreases in GCR fluexes, have been reported in localised datasets by Veretenenko and Pudovkin (1997).

 Solar Variability and Planetary Climates, 2007 – page 97.

There is a lot more and the entire textbook is available at the link I provided, along with the index with all references. The names with years after them are referenced papers. The details on the actual papers can be found in the index at the end of the book. Look closely and you will notice a couple of things that are very interesting – the names of Friis-Christensen and Svensmark in the referenced papers and their papers go all the way back to 1997, long before they claimed they were rejected for making a new, controversial claim (2005). They had been submitting their work, and it was getting published, long before the date cited in the movie. I am not familiar with their paper they are discussing in the movie and I am not privy to the referees’ comments, but what this means to me is they were actually rejected for some other reason, not because it was a new idea.

And, here is a link to a paper that was published in 1989. More evidence that this was not some crazy, new idea in 2005 like the movie appears to be claiming.

Is there a link between solar activity and climate? I think the evidence is pretty strong and I am a firm believer that there is. I have no disagreement with the movie on that point. I do have some disagreement with some of their other claims, though.
Now, a little about clouds. These are the most difficult part of studying climate change. They are even sometimes called ‘the wild card’. Take a look at this video from NSF. Its only five minutes long.

Basically, there are so many variables with clouds that it has been difficult to model them and their effect. During the day, clouds reflect sunlight back into space and lead to a cooling effect. At night, they trap IR radiation and lead to warming. As the temperature goes up there is more water vapor in the air which can lead to more clouds, along with their confusing impact. Calling them the wild card is justified.

But, let’s be clear, they are not the driver of climate change. There are many factors involved with cloud formation and it is not correct to rely on only one factor. There is some feedback involved with clouds, both positive and negative, but they are not what is causing climate change. Certainly not today’s climate change. Here’s the proof. They claim (correctly) that as solar activity goes down, more GCRs reach the planet and create more clouds. As more clouds are made, temperature goes down. The problem is that solar activity is dropping, we are seeing more GCRs, but the temperature is going up. Take a look here:
http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/indicators/solar-variability.gif
 

One of the greatest ironies of this film is that I have already received a submission that claims we are headed into a new mini-ice age, not warming. Their evidence? The falling trend of solar activity.

A comment about spiral arms in the Milky Way, it is true that our solar system rotates around the center of our galaxy, but so does everything else and the spiral arms are not stationary. That means we do not go in and out of spiral arms, they are revolving about the center of the galaxy just like us. They were OK until they got into this part of their argument.

So, while they may be correct about the role of GCRs in the climate, this is actually evidence for man made global warming. According to their evidence, we should be seeing global cooling. The fact that we are seeing warming means something besides the natural effects is involved.

 
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