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August 22, 2003

A Cloudy Outlook For Global Warming

The various arguments over the causes of global warming rest entirely on dueling temperature graphs. Proponents of global warming as a result of human activity base their opinions on the "hockey stick" temperature chart produced by University of Virginia professor Michael Mann. Those who posit a more stellar origin for global warming use the 1997 Huang temperature chart, most recently referred to by Drs. Soon and Baliunas in their recent paper, Climate History and the Sun. You can see an earlier post about the differences between the two charts here

Now there's a third entry into the debate, from Dr. Nir Shaviv, an astrophysicist at the Racah Institute of Physics in Jerusalem, and Professor Jan Veiser, a geochemist at the University of Ottawa, who hypothesize that global temperature levels are heavily affected by cosmic rays.

First, the graph, for those who prefer seeing conclusions to wading through explanations.

Note that as the amount of cosmic rays hitting the earth increases, the global temperature (red line, bottom half of the graph) decreases. As the cosmic ray flux declines, temperatures rise.

Variations in the cosmic ray flux can be caused by a number of things, but the main variable as far as the Earth is concerned is the solar wind. During periods when the solar wind is strong, the number of cosmic rays hitting the earth decline. When the solar wind weakens, the flux increases.

Cosmic ray flux can be tracked, over days as well as years, and what scientists have noticed is that the amount of flux impacting the earth correlates over time with the amount of cloud cover in the lower atmosphere. In short, more rays equal more clouds, and fewer rays on a given day result in a lower number of clouds.

This is important because cloud cover affects the earth's albedo. When sunlight hits a cloud, some of its energy, and thus its heat, is reflected back out into space. The more cloud cover there is, the more heat is reflected away. The more heat that is reflected away, the lower the temperature.

Variations in the cosmic ray flux can be tracked back in the historical record by examing the way isotopes form in iron meterorites. Variations in global temperature can be traced in much the same way, by examining the amount of oxygen isotope in rocks formed from marine fossils. As the graph above shows, the two do show a good degree of correlation.

Finally, note the green line. That's a measurement of global carbon dioxide levels. According to the conventional global warming wisdom, carbon dioxide is the major factor in the recent temperature rise. The more Co2 in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet.

If so, then Co2 levels should vary in relation to the Phanerozoic temperature measurements, which they obviously do not. If anything, Co2 levels lag behind the temperature curve, suggesting that global warming causes carbon dioxide levels to rise instead of the reverse. According to the Shaviv/Veiser paper, Co2 has a role to play global climate, but a much less important one than originally thought.

So, feel free to exhale.

Posted by Bigwig at August 22, 2003 03:55 PM | TrackBack
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.

Bigwig, you are so wrong. Everybody knows that global warming comes from OooiiiilllTm and from SUVs. Sure, you could mention that we were all going to die from Global Cooling just 15 short years ago, and we all knew this to a moral certainty, but I've shredded that memory... and you could bring up that guy Michael Mann, but he hasn't done anything good since Miami Vice.

So go ahead, keep trying to confuse me with the facts. I believe in Global Warming, I believe it's caused by Dick Cheney's SUV, and that Buck Fush the pResident is responsible for this.

Oh, and one other thing.

If what you posted up there becomes widely known, it will drive Sierra Club fundraising through the roof. Nothing makes people adhere to their religion like a good debunking of it; and environmentalism (unlike environmental science) is a religion with more beliefs and assumptions than facts.

Posted by: Blackavar at August 23, 2003 12:49 AM

So, what you're ultimately saying is that as the Earth cools we'll all get powers like the Fantastic Four, is that it?

Posted by: Mike at August 23, 2003 02:07 AM

That's it exactly. I call Mr. Fantastic.

Posted by: bigwig at August 23, 2003 02:21 AM

So now here's the thing: why is it that I constantly hear from certain news sources that the "vast majority" of scientists agree that the earth is warming AND that humanity is causing it?

Yet then I read things like this, or the Oregon Petition, and I ask myself why there's so little press on these things. Is this because what you're presenting here is "fringe science?"

Posted by: Dean Esmay at August 23, 2003 04:39 AM

Damn, Dean. You know how the media is. It can't keep more than one thought in its head at a time on any particular story.

The paper was published in a presumably respected journal and it cited tons of previous works byu other scientists.

Moreover, it didn't attract nearly the level of opprobrium tht the renst Soon/Baliunas paper did, implying that the authers are at least a tad more respected.

Presumably you read the .pdf I linked to that contained the paper. What do you think?

Posted by: bigwig at August 24, 2003 03:10 PM

science, n., religion for those who are uncomfortable the idea of God.

scientific method, n., process of positing theories, supporting or falsifying the theories using the empirical method, and allowing the results to speak for themselves, regardless of whether they comport with one's religion.

Usage: "At first the environmentalist believed in global cooling theory and said all dissenters were heretics; then he believed in global warming theory, and said dissenters should be burnt at the stake but for the CO2 emissions; then Lomborg published his book and the environmentalist said "damn your scientific method, Descartes."

Posted by: Blackavar at August 24, 2003 04:28 PM

Have been wondering aloud---any relationship here to Solar System's position with respect to an arm of the galaxy, as in passing into/out of one as galaxy rotates?

Would cosmic ray flux increase while in the vicinity of a spiral arm, decrease when out of it?

Posted by: Fuz at August 25, 2003 12:36 AM

Fuz, that sort of thing happens on the scale of tens or hundreds of thousands of years, not years or even tens of years.

Posted by: David Perron at August 28, 2003 09:10 AM

I think this site provided good information for me,for my project on Global Warming. But i think you should add more graphs to help kids like me in the 8th grade to understand it more. Thanks

Posted by: Rebecca at March 31, 2004 03:29 PM

I agree with Rebecca, I'm an 8th grade student working on a project. And altho I understood classmates didn't really...but I still got a good grade. :)

Good information though!

Posted by: Clint at May 6, 2004 09:53 PM
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