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    CLOUD And The Cosmic Ray Climate Change Blow Up
    By Hank Campbell | August 30th 2011 03:44 PM | 22 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    When I saw some preliminary results in Nature about CERN's CLOUD experiment a while ago, I didn't regard it as interesting enough to write about.  

    Seriously, does anyone not think the Sun impacts the climate by now?

    I know, I know, in the 1990s it was all carbon dioxide, but it's no longer 2006 - anyone gullible enough to believe the French and the Germans insisted on a 1990 date in the Kyoto protocol based on science, rather than the fact that Germany simply had to close a few post-unification Soviet-era factories from World War II and France had already brought more nuclear plants online to more easily meet their goals, well, they were too stupid to keep their money anyway.

    But I guess there is still a debate that radiation, and the Sun's magnetic field, can be a driver of climate and temperature, so much so this barely-noticeable experiment is getting attention.  But it is getting attention not for the science but rather that Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN since 2009, told a German newspaper
    I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate. One has to make clear that cosmic radiation is only one of many parameters.
    Well, only now is it a given that there are multiple parameters?  An offhand claim in a magazine about melting Himalayas was considered primary literature and included in the 2007 IPCC report but this has to be strictly data and no context, interpretation or framing for the public?

    Cosmic rays hit us all of the time and, on their journey, they can create aerosols and therefore clouds.  Can they create enough to impact the climate?

    Well, that's what researchers mean by parameters.  There are a lot of knobs turning in climate models but 5 years ago, when Science 2.0 started, deviating from the Cult of CO2 by discussing actual, you know, science, got us claims of 'Holocaust Deniers!' from the goofier science blogging constituency.

    The CLOUD experiment (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets) is a chamber with air, ozone, ammonia, water, etc., the stuff clouds are made from.   Then they hit it all with protons and monitor what happens in that artificial atmosphere.

    CLOUD experiment during the first beam run December 2009
    The CLOUD experiment during the first beam run, December 2009. Credit: CERN

    Really, that's it.  I thought it was interesting but I was more excited about building a trebuchet with my kids (coming soon!) and the results were, as they said, preliminary.   But climate change researchers who have never found any numerical climate model worth criticizing, no matter how suspect, are suddenly 'skeptical' of this one, despite it being in the planning stage for 10 years and conducted rather robustly compared to some ice core studies I have read.  

    This result set off the skeptical community and Heuer's comment did not help matters; why no interpretation now, why no discussion of parameters in 1996 when this idea was first introduced?  Instead, IPCC chairman Bert Bolin said then, “I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naive and irresponsible.”

    No less an astute climate change expert than string theorist Luboš Motl was, just this once, a voice of reason on the matter, so you know how polarizing the discussion must be elsewhere:
    One could perhaps understand if all scientists were similarly gagged and prevented from interpreting the results of their research in ways that could be relevant for policymaking. However, the main problem is that many people who are trying to work on very different phenomena in the climate are not prevented from interpreting - and indeed, overinterpreting and misinterpreting - their results that are often less serious, less reliable, and less rigorous, perhaps by orders of magnitude, than the observations by the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
    Well, it took a decade to get this thing off the ground so critics may be right that gagging is occurring selectively.  Looking at the results objectively, since I got no dog in the climate change fight other than liking to slaughter every sacred cow I find, this is hardly worth getting excited about yet, it isn't evidence that the Sun's magnetic field is controlling cosmic rays and therefore our temperature far more than mankind and pollution are doing.

    It is simply science at work - finally, after a decade and a half of circling the wagons, hypotheses that were dismissed as conspiratorial nonsense by zealots get a chance to live or die by the scientific method and not by aggressive posturing.  Yes, these results introduce more questions than they answer, but claiming the issue was 'settled' did a lot more harm than good in implementing a responsible policy decision so it's time to try science.

    If Heuer is simply the herald of a new age in climate research, where all participants are not 'interpreting' early results and publishing media talking points as fact six months before studies are released, that's good for everyone.  The IPCC has had a disastrous decade so far and more rigor and less framing will be good for the entire world, perhaps physicists at the LHC are just the group to show them how things should be done.

    Citation: Jasper Kirkby, Joachim Curtius, João Almeida, Eimear Dunne, Jonathan Duplissy, Sebastian Ehrhart, Alessandro Franchin, Stéphanie Gagné, Luisa Ickes, Andreas Kürten, Agnieszka Kupc, Axel Metzger, Francesco Riccobono, Linda Rondo, Siegfried Schobesberger, Georgios Tsagkogeorgas, Daniela Wimmer, Antonio Amorim, Federico Bianchi, Martin Breitenlechner, André David, Josef Dommen, Andrew Downard, Mikael Ehn, Richard C. Flagan, Stefan Haider, Armin Hansel, Daniel Hauser, Werner Jud, Heikki Junninen, Fabian Kreissl, Alexander Kvashin, Ari Laaksonen, Katrianne Lehtipalo, Jorge Lima, Edward R. Lovejoy, Vladimir Makhmutov, Serge Mathot, Jyri Mikkilä, Pierre Minginette, Sandra Mogo, Tuomo Nieminen, Antti Onnela, Paulo Pereira, Tuukka Petäjä, Ralf Schnitzhofer, John H. Seinfeld, Mikko Sipilä, Yuri Stozhkov, Frank Stratmann, Antonio Tomé, Joonas Vanhanen, Yrjo Viisanen, Aron Vrtala, Paul E. Wagner, Hansueli Walther, Ernest Weingartner, Heike Wex, Paul M. Winkler, Kenneth S. Carslaw, Douglas R. Worsnop, Urs Baltensperger&Markku Kulmala, 'Role of sulphuric acid, ammonia and galactic cosmic rays in atmospheric aerosol nucleation', Nature 476, 429–433 (25 August 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10343

    Comments

    wow, someone with common sense speaks up! great work, keep it up!

    Dude, I don't know if anyone told you but the science is settled. You should have learned that in science school.

    It doesn't matter what we find now. It's a done deal.

    Hank
    Very nice!  The people who really hate 'the science is settled' statements are environmentalists and organic food people, because there is lots of 'settled' science they choose not to believe despite overwhelming evidence.  Generally, the science is only settled when it matches a political worldview.
    I love how non-scientists (and propagandists) like to say "the science is settled." Science is the continuing search for the demonstrable mechanisms of reality. As long as there is more to learn, the search is NEVER "settled." A small group of politically-motivated miscreant "scientists" attempting to prove man is destroying the world may try to ignore missing or conflicting data, and they can certainly warp their own interpretations of purged data to fit their own misguided view of their flat Earth, but that doesn't qualify science.

    The first rule of science is to stay open to data that doesn't match your favorite hypothesis. If you fail to do this, you will soon find yourself in the company of young Earth creationists and political opportunists.

    I told you ManBearPig is real - I am super Cereal

    Hank
    You could at least embed the video and save me the 5 seconds of searching and...embedding:

    The keyword here is "artificial" when referring to the atmosphere that the protons are bombarding. It is not the actual atmosphere that is being tested or bombarded. So, while the results are interesting they are not definitive. To publish them in such a way as to attempt to influence the climate change arguments would be not only premature, but irresponsible and (dare I say it) unscientific.

    Hank
    The researchers were by the book, just as I said.  And I read it 10 days ago or so, whenever I saw it before the embargo lifted, and thought 'huh, cool' and let it go - it wasn't enough to write about for a non-agenda site.  It was the panic by the climate community and the glee by skeptics that got me to talk about it.
    Not being a science professional myself I have always wondered why the science community has been content to assume that CO2 is the whole cause for climate change and then jumped to the conclusion that humans caused it all. Why didn't anyone bother to go down and check if the earth crust is thinning and letting heat through to warm our oceans like is happening at the mid Atlantic rift? We humans are so important! Next thing they will blame us for the end of the ice age. Drive your car and melt off a thousand feet of ice over Iowa!

    Hank
    I don't think it's being content as a need to do something.   The conclusion was not jumped to, we know pollution is bad and emissions are bad so they picked the one that we had the most of - in reality, methane, soot and lots of other things are drivers as well so had we actually halted the economy in 1999 nothing would have been accomplished at all - we just would have tanked the economy 9 years before it tanked itself.

    The good news is CO2 emissions have dropped to 1995 levels - the bad news is that's because America is now relatively a third world country.
    Sorry guys. It was studied in the 80's and I read about it in the 90's when scientists were discussing its relevance to climate change. In fact, early particle detectors were called "cloud chambers," so the idea has been in scientists minds for a very long time. But as they improve climate models, it gets more and more important to know these effects with precision. I too suspect this is a long overlooked factor, but it is irrational to expect this experiment to invalidate what is known about all the other climate inputs--there are many.

    CO2 is of course a popular well known factor and there is good reason. It's affinity to absorb infra-red and create a greenhouse effect has been studied for over a hundred years. When you look at CO2 in infra-red band it is black. It is pretty simple. To discount it in entirety is like saying atoms don't exist. We all know if you pump the atmosphere up with black stuff it has some nasty affects. CO2 is just a black stuff that is clear in visible light. So it is naturally logical to wonder how CO2 affects our climate, and how climate change affects man kind.

    If an devastatingly huge asteroid was heading toward the earth, should we not prepare to block it because future scientific studies may show otherwise? Should we ignore it because it is not man made? Should we let it hit because we simply was not profitable to build a rocket that size yet?

    The real issue at hand is what are the costs and benefits of dealing with climate issues. This is the discussion that should be taking place, not haphazardly second guessing science.

    Not sure what you were studying in 80s, but it was definitely not science. Back to books, genius.

    Loads of CO2, methane etc, which even schoolchildren now know are warming gases, being pumped every second into the atmosphere for 200 years, is not the primary cause of climate change, no. It's the sun, the magnetic field, the angle of Earth axis, the freaking cosmic rays, the little green men, anything but the CO2. No, we are straight honest scientists, while everybody else is enrolled in the Cult, the Global Conspiracy to subvert the Truth. It's the multi-billion dollar global environmentalist corporations behind this fraud, trying to subvert the dirt-poor honest fossil fuel, car, livestock, logging industries etc who struggle to muster occasional donations to the Noble Cause.
    I don't really care about the numbers, as it's plain to me as day. I smell my car's exaust pipe, see the billowing industial smoke, traffic jams in cities, deforested plains covered with farting and burping livestock, and I don't need some conspirator to tell me that it's all having an effect. It must be, after 200 years, you bet. But, some people are a bit strange. They are jumping out of their skins to try to convince us that noone needs to do anything. No, everything is natural: a child was playing with matches and the house caught fire, but it was the lightning's fault and some people hate children. I'll fill up my V8, enjoy the view of coal power plants and don't worry about the atmoshere, it's all because of the sun. I dump my trash and don't recycle - there's still room for landfills and Pacific Garbage Patch either a fantasy or natural phenomenon. I buy furniture made from destroyed forests - too bad for the apes; it's natural selection and don't we still have zoos? I love my tuna; if the fish numbers decline, must be natural - the breeding cycle. Hey, there is only 7 billion poor souls like me who consume and discharge and if you tell me it's having an effect, I am a sceptic and you've got an agenda.

    Why do you confound environmentalism with co2? It is a disservice to the idea of sustainability. When someone riffs on co2 a little bit the wolves come out of the word work but, meanwhile, much more serious and obvious sustainability issues such as acidification are all but ignored. A few people figured out how to monetize co2 and a happy little band of yes men form behind them and they appear to be blind to much more readily apparent and maybe even more important issues. If people actually cared enough to champion these causes which do not rely on suspect computer models and incomplete knowledge something might actually get accomplished. Where is the outcry to stop ethanol subsidies, which are net energy, encourage deforestation, increase acidification and subsidize corn syrup and feedstock, and instead subsidize low cost healthy fruits and vegetables. Why is no one pushing to put a stop to oil subsidies through income tax and borrowing with a direct tax being used so that it reflects its real cost instead, if that was done taxes would not need to be a dime more than they are now and it would actually encourage alternatives. No one has figured out how to monetize those ideas so they remain dead in the water without the happy followers to push it along I guess. Environmentalism is not just co2 and there are sane methods that could be implemented to encourage sustainability in a way that quality of life would actually improve instead of being deteriorated.

    I believe "environmentalists" are not anti-CO2 only and champion other issues, some of which I have mentioned. As for acidification, the sulphur in the burned fuel is one of the major causes of it, and it comes hand in hand with CO2. I am OK with someone questioning what is to me the obvious - us trashing the planet with emissions of every kind, CO2 included - but I don't question the integrity of scientists who had the qualifications and time to look at the issue. Maybe the author thinks the other "environmentalist" issues I mentioned are not a big deal either, and curbing human consumption excesses in any way is detrimental to progress.
    I am with you on raising forests to grow pesticide-soaked crops to make ethanol. I believe, we need to tax every activity that is detrimental to the environment, so that the best and cheapest options for us would be to stick to organic veges and drive electric cars. I am in New Zealand, and the most vociferous anti-climate change lobby is the farmers. Why, are they impartial observers keen to know the truth? No, because their livestock is the major cause of greenhouse gases; sometimes the forests are raised to make room for dairy, and the rivers get polluted with livestock and fertiliser runoffs. So their honest opinion is influenced by their wallet, as they don't want to be held responsible and pay for anything: the things are fine the way there are. There has been kind of a funny evolution in the anti-climate change views: first, "it's not happening", then "it's happening, but due to other reasons", now it's "nobody's doing anything, so what we do won't matter".
    P.S. I wish to highly commend this website for not "moderating" the comments. Long live the freedom of speech.

    "Well, only now is it a given that there are multiple parameters?"

    This is, of course, pure fiction.

    Climate science has been examining multiple parameters of planetary temperature for more than two hundred years. There has NEVER been a claim that it is "all carbon dioxide". Go back to the first IPCC report and you will see that aerosols, volcanoes. and yes solar forcings are all considered. Indeed, most of the warming in the early 20th century has been attributed to solar forcing.

    That said, this idea that the Sun's magnetic field might significantly alter the amount of galactic cosmic radiation reaching the Earth's atmosphere and that those rays might then be able to significantly increase the formation of cloud condensation nuclei and that those would then spawn significantly more clouds and that these increased clouds would then have a significant impact on climate has been around for a couple of decades now. The new report out of CERN shows that the 'more cosmic radiation = more cloud condensation nuclei' part of it is POSSIBLE.

    However, the rest has long since been shown to be very weak. No significant change in GCR has been measured and the variations haven't correlated with observed temperatures at all. Likewise, there is no evidence of significantly increased cloud coverage. Finally, while cloud feedback effects are complicated (they have both positive and negative feedbacks which vary in strength by cloud altitude and type) most analyses indicate that they seem to have a small net positive feedback effect (i.e. more clouds = slightly more warming).

    Thus, even if CERN could eventually show that increased GCR leads to increased CCN, all available evidence suggests that any impact from this effect (if it even exists) has been too small to measure.

    Hank
    "Well, only now is it a given that there are multiple parameters?"

    This is, of course, pure fiction.
    You are using 'fiction' in a way outsiders do not understand the term.   'Pure' fiction would mean it is made up and there were no efforts to focus solely on CO2.   That would be pure fiction.

    We have to criticize a closed mentality before, during and after it happens to protect science from fundamentalism, even in its own ranks, and the IPCC has said it will improve now - but pretending there was some happy, enlightened wonderland where all drivers were calibrated fairly is in defiance of facts.  Anyone who disagreed with the assertion that CO2 was the primary problem was thrown off of the IPCC before the 2001 report - so going back to the first report and saying there was consideration of other issues is technically correct on your part, but it is doing an end run around the facts.
    You're revising your claim. Originally CO2 was the ONLY issue. Now it is merely the "primary" issue.

    I objected to the first claim because it was clearly false. The second is quite true... but also entirely supported by the evidence. CO2 IS the primary problem... and nothing in this new CERN report comes anywhere close to changing that. If CERN eventually shows that GCRs can increase formation of cloud condensation nuclei that would introduce the possibility of another climate impact (in addition a few dozen already known), but orders of magnitude smaller than CO2 in impact.

    Hank
    You're revising your claim. Originally CO2 was the ONLY issue. Now it is merely the "primary" issue.
    I am not revising nothing - the claims of many that CO2 was the only issue are well known.  You are choosing to use 'only' in a way I did not, meaning solely, whereas I clearly used it in the context of being the only gas many felt like mitigating.  I am not sure if you are being intentionally disingenuous in spinning my words that way or it's the only thing you can find flaw in; I assume it is the latter.
    Dear Hank,

    Back in the 1960's we learned in elementary school about the solar cycle and its impact on climate. The 70 to 90 year sun cycle was supported by analysis of 500 years of climate data. Although the particulars of climate change were not "settled", the energy physics, namely the dynamic nature of sun and its impact on earth, was. It was evident that refinement of the solar-climate model was one of the keys to future climate models.

    After Kyoto, the mundane scientific work related to sun and climate was suppressed in a Stalinesque manner. The great disservice of the "Global Warming" advocates was to promote pseudo scientific theory as fact, and to dominate the environmental agenda. While it is a excellent objective for many reasons to stop burning fossil fuels, this cannot have a predictable impact on climate. The result of the tactics used is to 1) focus world attention away from obvious man-made environmental catastrophes we can control, 2) to cause climate science to be distrusted from now on as political nonsense, 3) make future international cooperation less likely on the inevitable impact of climate change that requires improved management of water and food resources.

    We know that the 1930's was a very dry period in North America. North America became the bread basket of the world during the ensuing decades. We are now going into drought again. What is the plan? Where is the public discourse? I hear only nonsense spoken.

    Hank
    What information says there is a prolonged drought coming?  If climate science can't predict the weather how can you predict drought?  The 1930s were irresponsible regarding land usage and we know a lot more about it now so I don't see any drought evidence, much less the sort of dust bowl return you are implying.