Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cosmic Ray Blarney: Will the Flat-Earther Deniers Ever Quit?

One must scratch one's head at the incessant efforts of the know-nothing denier brigade to try to seize on something, any sort of tattered loose scientific end, to attempt to down the consensus theory of man-made global warming. First, they grabbed onto the Sun, but after numerous papers had shown that its irradiance levels were barely one fourth the heating from anthropogenic greenhouse forcing, they had to desist. Now, the next foray, based on some rather iffy experiments, is to try and invoke cosmic rays as a "natural alternative" theory (see, e.g. The Other Climate Theory, by Anne Jolis, in WSJ, Sept. 7 op-ed).

Jolis' piece was based on some new results from Jasper Kirkby's team at CERN in which they purportedly "re-created the atmosphere" in their lab, and injected into it cosmic rays created by CERN's own particle accelerators. A typical run in their "CLOUD" experiment commences by tracking the growth of 'seeds' from single molecules into clusters in the presence of UV radiation. Applying an E-field removes any ions present so the rate of seed growth is supposed to be equivalent to that in nature with no cosmic rays around. The E-field is then switched off, allowing actual cosmic rays to permeate the chamber for a while. Finally, artificial rays from CERN's accelerators were added to the mix.

On comparing rates of seed formation during the different phases of the experiment, the researchers were able to put a figure on cosmic rays contribution to the process. The results, reported in Nature, suggested naturally occurring rays enhanced molecular seed formation rates by a factor of ten. This implied that the rays' varying intensity could be affecting the climate.

Kirkby and his colleagues were nevertheless cautious on the finding as they also reported that the presence of certain atmospheric pollutants, such as H2So4 (which can incept "acid rain"- which appears when water molecules in the atmosphere react with sulphur dioxide or SO2). In that case, seed formation is repressed by up to 1/1000 of those needed to account for cloud seeding. Worse, it's already known that clouds are very poorly parameterized in climate models as a whole. This has led to an ongoing debate over the past 8 years on whether in fact the sign of albedo change is positive or negative. (See e.g. ‘Can Earth’s Albedo and Surface Temperature Increase Together’ in EOS, Vol. 87, No. 4, Jan. 24, 2006, p. 37).

What we DO know, and as the authors of the EOS paper first pointed out, is that relatively high albedo (hence net cooling) low clouds have decreased during the most recent years, while high clouds "have increased to a larger extent leading to both an increase in cloud amount AND an increased trapping of infrared radiation.” Thus, any experiment dependent on cloud "seeding" which doesn't take into account their actual altitudes is almost useless!

How many times do we have to waste time scuttling this recycled balderdash and those who invoke it to try and scuttle anthropogenic warming? It's like it goes into one ear and out the other with these denier idiots, and they don't even have a claim on lower educational status. Even today, in a letter to the WSJ (p. A16) a "Professor of Physics" - William Happer- from Princeton University no less, applauded Jolis' absurd apologia for climate naturalists, averring:

"That is a welcome message of realism on climate. Painful changes in the U.S. economy are being justified by the mantra that Earth's climate is dicatated by CO2 in the atmosphere"

Well, so much for the quality of physics education at Princeton. I do hope those students can get their money back! But at least the guy exposes his hand, like most deniers, by showing he's driven by the economic implications of what has to be done if anthropogenic warming is valid. We have a word for what he represents and hawks, it's called "agnotology". The word is derived from the Greek 'agnosis' and hence the study of culturally constructed ignorance'. It defines the trend of skeptic science sown for political or economic ends - e.g. in imparting ignorance and faux skepticism, and is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made.

But maybe then Mr "Princeton Physicist" needs to refer to the attached graph, showing the radiocarbon C-14 excess over C-12 over a 2,000 year period. In general, C14 is produced in the upper atmosphere via the impact –interaction with high energy cosmic rays, say from galactic sources. Solar activity in turn modulates the intensity of these cosmic rays via the action of the heliosphere which deflects a fraction of the intense cosmic ray flux and other harmful interstellar radiation. (This shield by the way is shrinking – see: )

At times the Sun is more active, so also will the heliosphere be stronger, shielding the Earth from more intense cosmic rays the effect of which is to reduce the C14 produced in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Conversely, when the Sun is less active – as it’s been from 2000- 2008 then the shield is weaker and more intense cosmic rays penetrate to our upper atmosphere yielding more C14 produced. It follows from this that if a record could be obtained of the ratio of say C14 to C12 then one would have a proxy indicator of cosmic ray activity as it influences our atmosphere and climate, for any time (With the C14 to C12 ratio extracted from tree rings or other plant tissue). Thus cosmic ray intensity will be seen to be modulated by the C14:C12 ratio, and the lower this ratio the lower the putative intensity.

Fortuitously, a 2000-year record of C14:C12 deviations has been compiled by P.E. Damon ('The Solar Output and Its Variation', The University of Colorado Press, Boulder, 1977) and this is shown in the accompanying graph. To conform with solar activity the plot is such that increasing radiocarbon (C14) is downward and indicated with (+). The deviations in parts per thousand are shown relative to an arbitrary 19th century reference level.

As John Eddy observes concerning this output (Eddy, op. cit. p. 17):

The gradual fall from left to right (increasing C14/C12 ratio) is…probably not a solar effect but the result of the known, slow decrease in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic moment.[1] exposing the Earth to ever-increased cosmic ray fluxes and increased radiocarbon production.The sharp upward spike at the modern end of the curve, representing a marked drop in relative radiocarbon, is generally attributed to anthropogenic causes—the mark of increased population and the Industrial Age. The burning of low radiocarbon fossil fuels- coal and oil- and the systematic burning off of the world’s forests for agriculture can be expected to dilute the natural C14/C12 ratio in the troposphere to produce an effect like the one shown.."

In other words, the evidence already inheres in this extended record that by the advent of the Industrial Age the natural C14/C12 ratio in the troposphere had begun to decline, disclosing the greater effects of anthropogenic causes- including the burning of low radiocarbon fossil fuels- coal and oil- and the systematic burning off of the world’s forests - and the mitigation of cosmic ray intensities in relation.

These results comport with modern findings that the last ten years have been the warmest ever, even as CO2 concentrations approach 550 ppm. . This is according to data from the World Meteorological Office. For reference: parts of Greenland had an average temperature 5.4 F above normal ni 2010. Meanwhile, Russian officials have ascribed 11,000 “excess deaths” due to heat, arising from their prolonged heat wave in the same year. This year has also been fearsome withmore than 7,500 heat records broken in the U.S. alone. From cosmic rays? Give me an effin' break!

The job for these cosmic ray beepers? Account for Prof. Gale Christianson's documentation, in his book ‘Greenhouse’ (Penguin, 1999, p. 203)that never have there been Ice ages when the CO2 concentration was less than 200 ppm. In effect, the cosmic ray kids need to show the evidence that their cosmic ray influence rivaled or exceeded the effects of CO2. In addition, one would like to see Kirkby's CERN team attempt to quantify C14/C12 ratios into the future using their findings. I.e. in 500 years, or one thousand, what would they expect this ratio to look like, hence quantifying the role of cosmic ray intensity.

More satisying, at least one WSJ letter writer today, Raymond L. Orbach of the University of Texas, Austin, did correctly note:

"Numerous measurements show that global atmospheric temperatures have been increasing and continue to rise.....There has been no significant change in cosmic ray intensity over the same period in which we have seen the increase in global temperatures.

The issue for climate change is not whether cosmic rays influence clouds, the issue is whether cosmic ray intensities have changed during the years when global atmospheric temperatures have changed. They have not."

Bingo! At least someone deserve an "A" in climate change physics, and it ain't the bozo from Princeton!

[1]This is estimated to be 10^25.9 Gauss-cm^3 and computed from:

m = r B(r, L)/ [1 + 3 sin^2(L)]^½

where r is the distance from the center of the Earth, and referenced to latitude L with B(r,L) the magnetic intensity.

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