Cosmic rays and global warming

By Phil Plait | July 3, 2007 7:36 pm
Credit: Danish National Space Center

Global warming is a very contentious issue. A lot of this is because some people with partisan views have purposely tried to confuse the issue. It’s a fact of life that corporations put a lot of money in some politicians’ pockets, and it’s another fact that a lot of politicians — I’m looking at you, Senator Inhofe (R-19th Century) — have made baldly incorrect statements and have obstructed real debate about the issue.

It’s also a fact that this issue was at first denied by such politicians; they said global warming didn’t exist (Inhofe called it a "hoax"). Under relentless pressure from scientists and other reality-based people, these guys have finally admitted that yes, GW exists. Now, of course, they are trying to lay blame anywhere but on the corporations that pay them so handsomely.

They have looked everywhere to push this blame: solar heating, natural orbital cycles, incomplete data. We can be pretty sure the first is not to blame, and the second is on much longer timescales than the very sudden rise we have been seeing in the past few years/decades. As for the third– well, it’s easy to say "We’re awaiting new data." But it’s not terribly satisfying.

And now, it looks like another potential natural cause may be going the same way. Fraser Cain, webmaster of Universe Today and blogger for Wired magazine, has an excellent new post up describing how cosmic rays are also not to blame for global warming.

Cosmic rays are subatomic particles (generally protons and helium nuclei) that are moving through space at very near the speed of light. They are almost certainly accelerated to these incredible speeds by shock waves inside of supernovae, exploded stars. These particles scream across space, and many impact the Earth high in the atmosphere. When they do, they pack so much energy that they leave a trail of ionized atoms in their wake; atoms that get stripped of one or more of their electrons.

It has been theorized that water vapor can condense around these trails, aiding low-altitude cloud formation. So when we get more cosmic rays, we get more low-altitude clouds. Clouds reflect sunlight, so the more clouds there are, the cooler it can get. So more CRs means more cooling, and fewer CRs means less cooling, and therefore more warming.

The next part of theory says that periods of warming appear to be correlated with periods of fewer incoming CRs. This fits with the above scenario…

…except, as Fraser’s article points out, scientists have investigated this theory, and found it to be very unlikely, to say the least.

First, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation with incoming cosmic rays and middle to high-altitude cloud formation, even though the ionizing effects of CRs are greater at those greater heights. In other words, you’d expect to see more clouds at all altitudes, not just low altitudes. That’s not the case.

Second, it’s not clear that CR ionization trails really can make clouds. The scientists found the ionization rate to be too low to explain the amount of clouds seen.

Third, CRs are channeled to the north and south poles by the Earth’s magnetic field, so you’d expect to see the strongest correlation there. We don’t, and in fact the trend is opposite what’s expected!

And there’s more; go read Fraser’s article for the low down.

Bottom line: cosmic rays are not a very good excuse for global warming as yet. I hate to sound like Inhofe, but we do need to look into this more to understand the situation; it’s fiendishly complicated. But a simple look at the data and claims seems to indicate that if you’re looking for some cause of global warming other than man, then you’d better keep looking. The hidey holes are getting smaller every day.


Comments (77)

  1. I’m really, really sick of lobbyists. I’m beginning to think that folks like us should start a grass roots thing to end lobbying entirely.

    It’s extremely disturbing to see that the HMO’s have for lobbyists for every congressman (according to Michael Moore’s new doc, “Sicko”) and organizations like the Secular Coalition of America have JUST ONE lobbyist.

    Granted, with global warming, we’re not looking at health care and individual freedoms per se, but possibly the end of the world as we know it. No good, I tell you! No good!!

  2. John Fleming

    I thought, according to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, that global warming was inversely proportional to the number of pirates. I also seem to recall a graph showing an undeniable link between the two!

  3. Remek

    Oh, for goodness sake! Geez, if it’s to the point they have to scrounge up cosmic ray excuses, they must really be getting desperate.

  4. Murff

    It’s the cows. You can always blame the cows!

  5. TheBlackCat

    I think this is really the most damning piece of evidence:

    “There is no connection between global warming and cosmic rays. That’s because there’s no trend in cosmic rays. It’s completely bogus,” remarked Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt, a NASA researcher and contributor to

    (emphasis added)

    Whether changes in cosmic rays can increase or decrease warming is irrelevant. There has been no net change in cosmic rays hitting the Earth over the necessary time period. Cosmic rays can only cause changes if the cosmic rays themselves are changing.

  6. I’m really, really sick of lobbyists. I’m beginning to think that folks like us should start a grass roots thing to end lobbying entirely.

    An anti-lobby lobby?


  7. Mark UK

    They’ll keep going though. It won’t make any difference to these people…

  8. NOYB

    Stick to Astronomy:

    * Glaciers are growing in the Himalayan Mountains, confounding global warming alarmists who recently claimed the glaciers were shrinking and that global warming was to blame.
    * The snowcap atop Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro is shrinking due deforestation of the mountain’s foothills. Without the forests’ humidity, previously moisture-laden winds are now drier. No longer replenished with water, the ice is evaporating in the strong equatorial sunshine.
    * The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in February that there has been no scientific link established between global warming and tornadoes.
    * Hurricane activity is no higher now than in decades past. The number of major hurricanes making landfall on the U.S. Atlantic coast has declined in the past 40 years. Global warming would enhance wind shear, which would prevent a significant increase in future hurricane activity.
    * Africa’s deserts are in ‘spectacular’ retreat, making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa.
    * The Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins and growing inland, with a small overall mass gain.”
    * In late 2006, the Danish Meteorological Institute reported that the past two decades were the coldest for Greenland since the 1910s.
    * Antarctica as a whole has been dramatically cooling for decades.
    * Satellite measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet showed significant growth between 1992 and 2003.

    Oh, the real cause of anthropogenic warming has been found:

  9. Maugrim


    * Cherry picking data does not a valid argument make.
    * You have your head in the sand. I suggest extracting it so you can smell the castle of bulls**t you’ve built yourself.

  10. DavidHW

    The point of the corporate elites is to delay action until such a time that no action can be taken, warming and its effects are irreversible, and said elites will have figured out the best way to profit in the chaotic new climate. They’re just buying time for the top 0.01% of the world’s wealthy to consolidate their power and ability to “weather” (pardon the pun) the change.

  11. NOYB

    Neither do ad hominem attacks make valid arguments. The signal to noise ratio is still less than one.

  12. Mark UK


    You cleverly removed the associated details from that rubbish you posted. Don’t take your information from editorials. Try science next time.

    Anyway, some background on your claims can be found here:

    Just one example (it’s long article, as there is a lot crap to debunk…)…

    “…ice sheet expert Eric Steig points out:

    The Heartland Institute’s propagation of the notion that the Kilimanjaro glacier retreat has been proved to be due to deforestation is even more egregious. They quote “an article published in Nature” by Betsy Mason (“African ice under wraps,” Nature, 24 November, 2003) which contains the statement “Although it’s tempting to blame the ice loss on global warming, researchers think that deforestation of the mountain’s foothills is the more likely culprit.” Elsewhere, Heartland refers to this as a “study.” The “study” is in reality no scientific study at all, but a news piece devoted almost entirely to Euan Nesbit’s proposal to save the Kilimanjaro glacier by wrapping it in a giant tarp. The article never says who the “experts” are, nor does it quote any scientific studies supporting the claim.”

  13. Dustin

    “but we do need to look into this more to understand the situation; it’s fiendishly complicated.”

    And that’s good science? “Aw, guys, it’s too hard, let’s just take the easy way out.”

    Bullsh*t. It is our moral and ethical responsibility as scientists to research this further. No trends for cosmic rays, you say? Prove it! Oh, there are no trends because we just don’t have a long enough historical record of that data? Then your argument is moot. Cherry picking data, huh? I’d say (with some exceptions), he’s pointing out data that has been ignored because it clashes with climate change dogma.

    You know, just saying something doesn’t make it so. Are we responsible for some part of the climate change? Certainly, there is considerable evidence to show. To what extent? Nobody, and I mean nobody, knows. There is still too much data to mine, too many models to refine (or create, for that matter), and not enough historical record for all the salient data points.

    I’ll say again: It is our moral and ethical responsibility as scientists to research this further.

    You don’t stop because you found a tidy answer, you try to disprove it. Scientific claims must be falsifiable and fallible. The fact of global climate change (yes, it is a fact, our climate is changing — there is significant historical data that proves that our climate changes considerably throughout time) leads to the theory that humans are mostly responsible for said change, but it is required that we continue to refine that theory, which means we must try to disprove it. We must ensure that the models of that theory can “predict the past” as well as the future.

  14. Dustin

    I retract my first two lines, I mis-read your words. I feel like a tool for that. But the rest of the post stands. Sorry for the misinterpretation, BA.

  15. DrFlimmer

    The theory of the Cosmic Rays says that the number of CRs hitting the earth is different during a sun-cycle. When the sun is active it better holds back the CRs and when the sun is not that active the CR can hit the earth more easiely. Well, and there have been found a long corrolation between the sun’s activitys and the earth’s temperature. But because with low activity the sun doesn’t release less energy, there had to be something else, so they thought of the effect with the CRs like Phil explained above so good!

    You said, the last decades have been the coolest for Greenland.
    Well, I don’t know if this is correct, maybe it ist. BUT: It is also correct that the average temperature of the whole world has risen during the last decades more rapidly then ever seen.
    Until the fifties or sixties the earth’s temperature followed the sun-cycle like a river its riverbed. But since a few decades the temperature makes nothing else than rising. And we have data to prove this!
    And for all the GW-deniers: Maybe global warming is not that bad, but we have only one chance! We should not try!

  16. Are all skeptics here clear about whether global warming as we see it happen today (and continuation of it) will lead to disaster and “the end of the world” or not?

    I’ll add that I’m certainly new at this whole thing, so please enlighten me here. (Taken one basic enviormental course this year, that’s it.)

  17. Mark UK

    It certainly won’t be the end of the world. The world will do just fine.
    For us, the impacts will differ. Some areas will be OK, other will be harder hit. It looks like the US South West will be in for a tough ride. Africa, India and China won’t be doing that great. Canada might be a bit better off.

  18. Mark UK

    I’d like to explain it but according to WordPress I have already said it. Though my post was completely different… Crap software.

  19. Frank Ch. Eigler

    Re clouds in higher altitudes: remember that there is very little water vapour way up high – the dew point is well below the already low temperatures. Down low in the troposphere, there is plenty of water looking for condensation nucleii.

  20. Chris

    Hey don’t worry everyone. Everything’s fine. We’re all going to be saved by this: lol

  21. See:

    … re the significance of Greenland’s climate trends. Broadly speaking, it’s a bad place to look for anthropogenic surface warming, due to the stabilizing effect of the ice sheet and the ocean.


    … re Antarctic cooling. Precis: in fairness, some inland stations have been slightly cooler over the past 20 years, tho’ generally warmer averaged over the past 40, but the data are sparse in that area, and more are definitely needed. On the other hand, the Antarctic peninsula has unquestionably warmed over the past 20, with definite ice sheet degradation and collapse … see . There are probably reasons, again, Antarctica is comparatively buffered from overall warming effects, principally, again, that the southern ocean acts as a big heat sink.

    Generally, again: local cooling does not contradict global warming. It is a slightly sounder argument to point to decades long cooling trends for a region than is saying ‘but last summer was warmer in my city’… but not much.

    Re the Himalayan glaciers: broadly speaking, glaciers worldwide are retreating dramatically. See:

    There are certainly some advancing sheets; Norway has a few that are often cited by denialists. It means very little. Again: local cooling can occur in the face of larger warming trends.

  22. Quiet_Desperation

    >> A lot of this is because some people with
    >> partisan views have purposely tried to confuse
    >> the issue.

    You mean like continuous ad hominem attack against anyone who doesn’t toe the “Weeza allz gonna dieeeeeeee!” line?

    NOTE: I’m *NOT* a denier, but the pro side has far too many religious aspects for me to be at all comforatble with it:

    1. Dogma
    2. Iconic, unquestioned leaders
    3. Persecution of heretics

    Oh, and the added bonus of the unquestioned leaders hypocritically demanding that everyone else make sacrifices. I see little philosophical difference between:

    1. An imam sending followers out to blow themselves up while he sips lemonade back at the mosque.
    2. A minister preaching morality while having a mistress on the side.
    3. A politician with 900 times my “carbon footprint” telling me I need to cut back.

    Just too much rhetoric, guys. Same thing with general skepticism. Bludgeons rarely convert people to your way of thinking. I’m looking at YOU, Penn & Teller.

  23. Science Teacher

    It is a shame that the Bad Astronomer doesn’t stick to science where his brilliance lies. It is always best to lead by example rather than blather on and on about global warming and the creationists.


  24. Mark UK


    On what planet do you live?

  25. Will. M

    Isn’t astronomy a science? Doesn’t BA write this blog? Isn’t his choice about what to blather?
    What’s with you folks who read this blog and then criticize it for what it comments about? Most of the global warming deniers distort the available science to fit their fallacious or misinformed arguments. There is science in the Creationist’s arguments; but it is merely a collection of highly edited and selective data which obfuscates the real issues which these folks espouse: inserting religion into the science curriculum of public education. Notice that science is the similar base for the above statements; BA is a scientist. What’s the problem?

  26. Adi

    Thanks for this post.

    As a non-scientist, I can at best sit on the sideline and try to get a picture of what’s going on.

    However, scientific facts are not the end of it. If they were, global warming would not be controversial: “We have the facts, now isn’t that nice?” It matters because it begs the question: “What should WE do about it?”

    In other words, is it “good”/”evil” that the Earth is heating up? I think it’s fair to say that matters that involve $trillions in potential (government) spending are to be looked at seriously.

    The scope of governmental increase is just too great, the potential for corruption too high to let a political solution happen, regardless of the nature of the threat.

  27. Mark UK

    “The scope of governmental increase is just too great, the potential for corruption too high to let a political solution happen, regardless of the nature of the threat.’

    I would just like to say: Huh?!

    How about war? There’s scope for corruption. Better not get politics involved…
    Just give everybody a club and see what happens.

  28. Adi

    “I would just like to say: Huh?!

    How about war? There’s scope for corruption. Better not get politics involved…
    Just give everybody a club and see what happens.”

    You’re begging the question and make the improper assumption that I consider war necessary. I do not.

  29. Mark UK

    It was just an example. Your reasoning that the problem is so serious we should not look for a political solution, because there is the chance of corruption is just… I don’t know. I have never, and I have read a lot of weird and stupid stuff, seen anything that stupid and ridiculous.

    And yes, I know that’s not nice to say. I’m just lost for words.

  30. DrFlimmer

    Well, “saving our planet” is not just a political issue, everyone will feel and see what will happen. So everyone should make as much as possible (some can do more, some can do less, but most should do at least a little bit!) to save this very one earth!
    We don’t know what will really happen, BUT as I mentioned before: We only have one chance! Don’t let it come so far!

  31. The BA is less than rigorous on this point.

    Phil writes: “as Fraser’s article points out, scientists have investigated this theory, and found it to be very unlikely”.

    It is not “scientists”. It is _some_ scientists. Two of them.

    Fraser Cain has reported on a single work on the subject, by T. Sloan and A.W. Wolfendale.

    _Other_ scientists disagree.

    The field is open wide enough to be very interesting indeed.

    See for example “Experimental Evidence for the role of Ions in Particle Nucleation under Atmospheric Conditions” in “Proceedings of the Royal Society A”, October 3rd 2006, by Henrik Svensmark, Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen, Nigel Marsh, Martin Enghoff and Ulrik Uggerhoj.

    That’s the Proceedings of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom. Does that make Svensmark a scientist? Not sure one can get much more scientific than the Proc Royal Soc.

    A report on Svensmark’s work can be found on Space Daily: “Exploding Stars Influence Climate Of Earth” Copenhagen, Denmark (SPX) Oct 06, 2006:

    Note the final remarks:>>> “Many climate scientists have considered the linkages from cosmic rays to clouds to climate as unproven,” comments Eigil Friis-Christensen, who is now Director of the Danish National Space Center.

    “Some said there was no conceivable way in which cosmic rays could
    influence cloud cover. The SKY experiment now shows how they do so, and
    should help to put the cosmic-ray connection firmly onto the agenda of
    international climate research.”

  32. Regarding the obvious unchanging nature of the cosmic rays, the idea is that it’s (part of) the Sun’s activity that varies with time, and that would then modulate the amount and energy of cosmic rays reaching Earth.

    So the Little Ice Age would be linked to a period with a very quiet Sun.

    I am not saying that “is” the Truth. I am just trying to explain why the objection “cosmic rays don’t show any trend” is simplistic.

  33. To complete my contributions for now: time and research will tell if Sloan is right, or if Svensmark is right.

    Why oh why then did the BA (and Fraser Cain) opened their minds on just one side of the story? Is there any evidence that the more recent paper is any more or less scientific than the one before? Why would Sloan and Wolfendale be labelled as “scientists” and Svensmark not even get a mention?

    In October 2006, did the BA and Fraser Cain report on the Svensmark work, if not, why?


    All in all this is just another example on the simple fact that in good Science there is no point in trying to pretend people of differing opinions do not even exist.

    Unfortunately, when the topic is Climate Change, good Science gets usually thrown out of the window.

  34. Mark UK

    The problem is not one of unfair reporting. Let’s get a few things straight. There are several thousand papers supporting the currently accepted theory of global warming. This theory is the result of several decades of work.

    Every once in a while somebody shows up and offers an alternative theory. This is one of them. It was looked at by scientists and it was reported to death. First of all the paper leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Which is why at great cost further work will be carried out at CERN. However, the paper does not actually offer any real explanation as to how this would work in reality. The relationship is not there between our climate and solar radiation. Could radiation influence cloud cover? Maybe.

    That does not mean it is the cause of global warming or a major influence. For that it would also have to provide convincing evidence that the forcing of solar or cosmic radiation is stronger than CO2 emissions and levels.

    Science does not work on the back of one paper. One paper does not overturn decades of established work. One paper creates curiosity and further work.

    It is a standard denialist tactic to put forward one paper as proof that the case is still open. Last year it was the oceans lost heat paper for a while. When that was discredited (by the authors) they quietly dropped it.

    A final point is the constant cries of “not being fairly heard” as the other side of the debate. Which is utter rubbish. The amount of attention the denialists get in the media compared to the actual research they produce is ridiculous.

  35. > Science does not work on the back of one paper


    Phil’s blog was just about using the one paper as “proof that the case is closed”.

    Note that I did not mention fairness. I mentioned rigour. Given the economic/social issues at stake, it is only by using extreme rigour in analyzing these issues that we can truly free ourselves from the lobbyists.

    And so I am not saying the BA is a “true believer”. I am just disappointed by the fact that areas where remarkable discoveries are likely (such as climatology) get the same treatment as well-established fields (such as astronomy, or relativity).

    And so if anybody comes up with some doubts and/or interesting new findings, they are roughed up like astrologists, whilst “Science” is portrayed as having a single voice.

    Hey! Even in cosmology, where the consensus is definitely around Dark Energy and Dark Matter making up the vast majority of the Universe, scientists can still publish papers about new theories of gravitation, without being labelled as “denialists”.

  36. John Phillips

    Maurizo: Actually, BA’s post didn’t say that the matter was now closed, that is your projection. For what he said was that the issue of CR, not AGW, was likely closed, his exact phrase was “And now, it looks like another potential natural cause may be going the same way”

    He himself then went on to say that we need more research even in this area, how is that saying that the matter is closed.

  37. (apologies if it comes in duplicates)

    I already mentioned the non-correct usage of the term “scientists” (implying that somehow people like Svensmark were no scientists at all)

    How about this then: “cosmic rays are also not to blame for global warming.”…so much for having a doubt.

    “a simple look at the data and claims seems to indicate that if you’re looking for some cause of global warming other than man, then you’d better keep looking. The hidey holes are getting smaller every day.”…in other words, either one believes in AGW, or one is a denialist.

    Let’s be thankful that such an attitude is only about Climate Change. Imagine calling Einstein a denialist when he refuted the Newtonian idea of an absolute frame of reference?

    AGW looks more like those Aristotelian philosophers that couldn’t look into Galileo’s telescope, because as every learned man knew at the time, the Moon was made of perfect, heavenly substance, and so could not have craters or mountains.

  38. NOYB

    Again you resort to ad hominem attacks and strawman arguments rather than presenting data to support anthropogenic global warming. I contend that the so called “signal” is not above the background noise.

    Satellite data does not support the idea that the planet is significantly warming. (Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and former NASA scientist).

    Surface stations are becoming more unreliable due to urbanization, poor siting and questionable maintenance. The data obtained from these faulty stations are used as input to climate models thus skewing the results. (

    Recent growth in the interior regions of the Greenland Ice Sheet was also reported by a Norwegian-led team of climate scientists. The growth is estimated to be about 6 cm per year during the study period, 1992-2003. They derived and analyzed the longest continuous dataset of satellite altimeter observations of Greenland Ice Sheet elevations by combining tens of millions of data points from European Space Agency (ESA) satellites, called ERS-1 and ERS-2, and NASA. This allowed the scientists to determine the spatial patterns of surface elevation variations and changes over an 11-year period between 1992 and 2003. (Johannessen, Ola M., Khvorostovsky, K., Miles, M. W., Bobylev, L. P. (2005) Recent ice sheet growth in the interior of Greenland. Science 310: 1013-1016)

    An article in the current July-August issue of American Scientist states that global warming is not responsible for the decline of Kilimanjaro’s mountaintop glacier. Most of the glacier’s retreat since the end of the Little Ice Age occurred before significant global warming occurred. Moreover, the scientists showed the retreat that has occurred in recent decades is not caused by global warming, but by fluctuating solar radiation and drier updrafts caused by local land-use practices. Indeed, temperatures atop Kilimanjaro rarely rise above freezing, regardless of any recent global warming, the scientists noted.

    There, I presented facts with references.

  39. John Phillips

    Maurizio. As to why BA didn’t previously mention Svensmark I can’t really comment for him. However, possibly like me he had looked at it as well as the analysis of his work and found it wanting, to say the least. That is not to necessarily completely dismiss his hypothesis, at least as having a possible minor effect on climate. However, much of the data he uses is disputed, or at least how he makes use of it, as are his conclusions. I.e. he goes from a hypothesis that GCR could have an effect on cloud formation to almost claiming that the present GW is caused by GCR and is often presented as the latest favoured cause du jour by those who refute AGW. If he had stuck at the ‘GCR could have an effect on GW’ hypothesis, then it would have been an interesting paper waiting further research. But to go from a hypothesis to a claim that it is the cause of GW requires that it be research of the highest quality, which from even a casual analysis, it is obviously not. has a good analysis of his work;

  40. NOYB

    The gist of the article that started this post (Cosmic Rays and Global Warming, Sloan and Wolfendale, 2007, 30th International Cosmic Ray Conference) is that we looked for evidence to support a correlation, but we could not find any. This is an ad ignorantiam argument. Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence.

    Sorry Phil, the door is still open.

  41. Scott Wood

    One question and one observation:

    Q: In your estimation, does one have to accept the entire Al Gore apocalyptic to meet your standards, or can someone take an intermediate view, such as, I am told, the recent IPCC report? (I haven’t seen/read either, so am relying on secondary sources. So one answer could be that the two are so fundamentally the same that the issue is moot.)

    Observation: Focusing your ire on “corporate lobbyists” in general is quite mistaken. Some corporations will find it in their interests to fight various global warming inspired legislation, and other corporations will find it in their interests to support it. Focus on arguments instead.

  42. to John Phillips: IMHO the BA has been led astray by his belief in AGW, and by Fraser Cain’s incomplete reporting. As you mention, Svensmark’s work has been analyzed by RealClimate itself, and just a little mention of it may have been even enough.

    Instead the casual reader of this blog, and of Cain’s article, would leave with the blatantly wrong impression that some Exxon-funded loonie had suggested a role for cosmic rays in climatology, but “scientists have investigated this theory, and found it to be very unlikely”.

  43. Mark UK

    Scientists HAVE investigated this theory and the HAVE found it to be very unlikely. If you don’t like it, sorry…

  44. Dustin

    There are plenty of examples in history of scientists investigating a theory and finding it unlikely, when we later learn that it was dead on. See Hoyle vs. Hubble, for example.

    For as long as it’s been recorded, scientists have always called other scientists wrong, loony, off their meds, etc. The existance of a nay-sayer doesn’t make the theory incorrect. Even a group of scientists downplaying a theory doesn’t make the theory false. Whether or not you choose to believe it, scientists can and do play politics. Further, they can and do play the “cover your ass” game to perpetuate their own careers.

    Scientists who dare to say that we don’t know the full extend of human involvement in global climate change are committing professional suicide, and I admire their courage in doing so. After all, science is furthered by crazy ideas, isn’t it? Concepts that beat consensus?

  45. to Mark UK:

    > Scientists HAVE investigated this theory and the
    > HAVE found it to be very unlikely. If you don’t like it,
    > sorry

    I am not sure what you want to demonstrate.

    The only things we can say are: some scientists (Svensmark et al.) have put forward this theory, done experiments and published their results in at least one peer-reviewed prestigious journal.

    And then, other scientists (Sloan and Wolfendale) are going to present their new research in a conference. Their conclusions are not less scientific, however we all know that the real litmus test is the publication on a journal, not just at a conference.

    At best, it’s up to Sloan and Wolfendale to get something good enough to become a fully-fledged scientific paper.

    For all intents and purposes, the question is open. If you don’t like it, sorry…

  46. John Phillips

    Maurizio: So your complaint against BA is that he didn’t quote or mention the original researchers, Svensmark et al, responsible for the claim that GCR may be the cause of GW. Fair enough I suppose. However, I think you are stretching with your

    “Instead the casual reader of this blog, and of Cain’s article, would leave with the blatantly wrong impression that some Exxon-funded loonie had suggested a role for cosmic rays in climatology”

    statement. As nowhere does Cain mention any such thing or even imply it while BA, as I see it, is not so much knocking Svensmark in this respect, but more those who have tried to use the disputed research of people like Svensmark for their own political ends and simply mentions this article about the new paper as another nail in the coffin for the GCR/GW hypothesis. As to your statement that I quoted, again I think you are projecting just a tad. Additionally, anyone truly interested only had to follow the links to find the new paper which, for obvious reason, itself references Svensmark’s work. Though I agree with you that this new paper will carry more weight when it is published in a peer reviewed journal, but for me personally it simply confirms other analyses I have seen of the GCR/GW hypothesis.

  47. Mark UK

    I’m amazed at the total lack of understanding as to how science works and how theories are formed… If we can find fault anywhere with BA it is maybe we need more posts just explaining a bit about the workings of science…

  48. From the web site of the cosmic rays conference, a little gem that escaped Messrs Cain and Plait, no doubt

    “On the trend of Atlantic Hurricane with Cosmic Rays”

    “…the purpose of this study is to examine the cosmophysical periodicities that could possible be related with a modulation in the number and magnitude of hurricanes…”

    No further comment is necessary

  49. Brant D

    One additional problem for the GCR argument is that there is little agreement in cloud climatology projects about trends in global cloud cover. Granted clouds are hard to measure climatologically, particularly low clouds (which are often obscured by high clouds), but it seems reasonable that the amount of change in cloud cover necessary to cause global warming would be apparent in multiple cloud climatologies. Such is not the case.

    Quiet Desperation: “NOTE: I’m *NOT* a denier, but the pro side has far too many religious aspects for me to be at all comforatble with it:

    1. Dogma
    2. Iconic, unquestioned leaders
    3. Persecution of heretics”

    Are you talking about the political supporters, or the scientific supporters? Don’t confuse the two. If scientists were actually successful in gagging dissent and ostracizing opponents, then you would not even be aware of attempts at alternation explanations like GCRs and such.

  50. “people with partisan views have purposely tried to confuse the issue”

    Pot. Kettle.

    Phil, you’re a skeptic, and you appear to pride yourself on skepticism, particularly of religion. How disheartening to see that you have embraced animism.

    Throw the virgin into the volcano to please the volcano god == destroy the economies of the democracies to please Gaia and stop global warming.

  51. Irishman

    Ed Minchau, you are projecting. Nowhere has Phil mentioned volcano gods or Gaia, “the great Earth goddess”. Nowhere has Phil framed his stance on anthropogenic global warming in mystical terms. He has repeatedly and consistently framed his position in terms of the results of climatologists in scientific terms and the potential impacts of the changes to our living conditions.

  52. “people with partisan views have purposely tried to confuse the issue”

    Let me translate:

    “Conservatives have partisan views and are trying to confuse the issue. Liberals are completely free of partisan views and are just trying to get out the truth.”

    Scientists are getting fired for disagreeing with the notion of global warming. As someone said earlier, global warming has become a religion and heretics are persecuted.

    Funny that no one here has mentioned that water vapor contributes far more to warming than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. It’s an inconvenient truth — to Al Gore.

    It is nice to know though that more and more scientists are risking their careers and are publicly rejecting some of the global warming religion.

  53. Irishman, I know he never mentioned volcano gods or Gaia. Such things are implicit – anthropoegenic global warming was animism right from the start and has its roots in the same hubris. It has simply become a convenient bludgeon for the Left. Its scientific basis is nonexistent: models that cannot predict the last 20 years when given weather data up to 1987 are being used to project climate for the next 100 and guide public policy. And anyone with any disagreement with the public policy goals is denounced as not being a member of “reality-based” society or a (implied holocaust) “denier”. Gotta drum the heretics out of the civil discourse, you know, so that the weak-minded aren’t swayed by such things as rationality and the scientific method and logic.

  54. Brant D

    Michael McCullough: “Scientists are getting fired for disagreeing with the notion of global warming.”

    State climatologists do not investigate global warming as part of their job requirements. This guy makes claims about global warming without giving any supporting evidence or showing any relevant research. In short, he is abusing his title of “climatologist” to convince people of his opinion (or at least confuse them) without scientific reason. That is a fairly damnable offense in any science, not just climatology.

    And don’t forget that the blade cuts both ways here. There is strong evidence of gagging orders put in place in certain NASA and NOAA branches, such as GISS, and the weather service and the hurricane center.

  55. State climatologists do not investigate global warming as part of their job requirements.

    Did you read the article? If they don’t investigate global warming, then why have they been monitoring snow pack in the Cascades since the 1940s. In fact, the article states that the fired climatologist’s boss “had become well-known within the scientific community through his work documenting an asserted decline in Cascade Mountain glaciers.” He’s a state climatologist and he’s investigating global warming.

    Again, if you go back and read the article, you would find that the fired climatologist was conducting research. The year that his boss was using as a baseline to prove global warming was a year with heavy snow. The University of Washington Atmospheric scientist who agreed to referee the debate between the fired scientist and his boss and review the research (that you claim never happened) agreed with the fired scientist that one’s assesment of the amount of snow pack decline (or gain) depended upon the baseline year. The U of W scientists agreed with the fired scientists that the Cascades have shown an increase in snowpack since the 1970s.

    Once Albright’s research was proven correct, his boss fired him. The science didn’t reflect the boss’s opinion so he got rid of the thorn in his side. Is that how science is supposed to be conducted? Albright was guilty of exposing an Inconvenient Truth to the global warming crowd and paid for it with his job.

    There is strong evidence of gagging orders put in place in certain NASA and NOAA branches, such as GISS, and the weather service and the hurricane center.

    Prove it.

  56. pough

    Funny that no one here has mentioned that water vapor contributes far more to warming than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. It’s an inconvenient truth — to Al Gore.

    OMG. Someone has dredged up that old canard? Dude, you’re one or two years behind on the stupid. Feedback. Forcing. Not the same. Look ’em up. It’s neither true nor inconvenient. Wake up and smell the current stench of denialism. Don’t bog us down with old lies.

  57. Marc

    Astronomy is actually a field with close scientific links to climate studies. Astronomers specialize in understanding the interaction between light and matter; we have to solve the equation of radiative transfer. We are also used to dealing with complex physical systems, and there are several specifically astronomical drivers of climate change. These would include the Sun and orbital changes, as well as more speculative ideas such as cosmic rays. I am a theorist who constructs solar models, for example, and I have definite opinions on the role of the Sun in climate change.

    The denialists appear to be out in force in this thread, and it’s a depressing sight indeed. We see the claim that because we can’t predict the weather, we can’t predict the climate. We see people claiming that water vapor is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2 – which is partially true, but irrelevant. Molecules only absorb certain wavelengths of light, and when you have enough of something (like water), you simply don’t block much light from escaping. CO2 is important because it fills in the transparent gaps between spectral regions that are opaque to water. This is why even rarer species, like methane, are important greenhouse gasses. There are the conspiracy theorists (it’s all grant funding). Yet, strangely enough, virtually all astronomers reject astronomical explanations of global climate change, even though increased funding would result if they were correct. We see cherry-picked local examples, Al Gore invoked, and so on. What this adds up is something that looks an awful lot like creationism. It is one thing to honestly disagree with proposed solutions, which involve broader nonscientific issues. But the denialists, whatever cobbled-up lists they arrive with, are not engaged with or even interested in science.

    People on the political right in the USA simply do not accept science if it conflicts with their ideology. By contrast, people on the political left are rethinking old positions (such as opposition to nuclear power) on the basis of new imformation (on climate changes). This has not always been the case – e.g. new age crystal power and the like. But it is the reality of the George Bush Republican party.

  58. Ralph Siegler

    Taking a mere two decades of cosmic ray measurements and then trying to draw any conclusion about global warming is absurd, that’s way too short a time period. We don’t have cosmic ray measurements for centuries. Oh well, it makes sense bad science can go on a website called Bad Astronomy…..

  59. Do u really think about anything else than yourselves??

    I think that the big problem is the lack of vision.

    If you think your country or even your town is the center of the world, your wrong, if you think your mind is the only truth you re more wrong, and if you think that what we are doing will make this planet better your sick.

    Put a balloon around your head and start smoking and you will feel the difference, take a walk in Mexico City or move to New Orleans if you can´t find a balloon.

    If the Poles are melting don´t worry, you will always have new weapons to stop refugees.

    WE are the only animal that falls twice with the same stone

  60. jonasaugustus

    This is a real nice article on the topic.

    Our atmosphere is a big gaseous soup. Every ingredient, be it cow farts, cars, solar rads, cosmic rays and rads, etc. adds to the flavor of the soup and changes the flavor of the soup. What matters is the intensity of those contributions.

    Yes, cosmic rays effect global climate change. Anyone who denies this denies basic chemicistry, physics, and climateology. The question is to what degree as compared to other factors do cosmic rays effect climate changes.

    The biggest problem facing climateology is that most of the science on the subject relies on correlational data collection, rather than controlled causation data collection. There is no reasonable way, at our limited means of measure, to adjust for all variables as regards climate science. Instead, we rely on scientists to observe data, rather than engage in controlled tests.

    What passes for climateology (for the majority, not always) is correlational data and not causation. It is as *true* and valid as any pseudo social science experiment.

  61. J Clarkson

    I am a climate change scientist and having read all of Svensmark’s study and his various theories, I have to agree with him. He has a very potent case. In fact the CO2 theory never did stand up. e.g. it couldn’t explain why antartica got cooler when greenland was warm, and visa versa. One can even question the measurements: ships measures appear to depend on which way the wind was blowing (as the funnel heat affected the temp reading) urban heat, and growth around weather stations also means that you cannot really rely on the data. The satellites don’t agree with the ground readings. Lots of things just didn’t add up. Over the years I have become more and more disillusioned. But then Svensmark came up with this idea and showed us real experiments and real data.

    As far as I can see this theory alone is good enough to explain the heating and cooling phases of the atmosphere. The rest is so small as to be only contributory. And CO2 gets locked up in colder climates so then has a part to play in the story. In warmer times it similarly gets released. But human CO2 is so small compared with natural CO2 and the large affects of clouds, as to be immaterial to the show.

    As for the so called ‘swindle’ case that is not true. Every scientist who cares about our planet is concerned about human emissions because they damage our ecosystem: and if it turns out that they might stand a chance of causing major global warming then we need to act on a precautionary principle. The fact that Svensmark has found out that this might not be the case is good news for all of humanity. Let’s face it, if the sun can shield the earth from causing ice ages, then that’s a great thing to find out! As for warming, we then need to make sure we don’t exacerbatet the problem during those times – when cosmic rays are failing to make it into our atmosphere.

    Svensmark’s results though IS NO EXCUSE to pollute this planet. We should still continue cutting pollution as this is good for human health, plant and soils and of course the ecosystems health in general. We should consider how to adapt to both kinds of climate change, and look for means to defend our planet from asteroids, and learn to travel in space to try to go to new worlds. (The latter though may turn out to be so expensive, and so demanding on resources that it might not be possible without some kind of population control.)

    In the longest term we will probably be eliminated as a species by a gamma ray burst, or just plain human greed and stupidity. Either way, we need to build intelligent machines that can carry on our work into space. These robots may one day learn to save the universe. The robots we make should be small, light and portable, so as able to travel vast distances quickly, using new and exotic ways to travel into deep space.

    It may however be impossible to make an intelligent robot – something that has self-awareness like us – and a desire to survive come what may because of that self-knowledge. They may just turn out to be machines that look, sound, and smell of intelligence, but are really just highly developed algorithms.

    This then brings me on to my next idea: our lives were created out of the purposelessness of space and time, and we shall each go back to that chaos – unless you believe that our minds somehow escape into spacetime and survive in a higher dimension, a by-product of our special universe? (Who knows?) Perhaps these thoughts alone should remind us all that we have only two things to do in this life: help one another and fight against inhumanity, injustice and unnecessary greediness. These are our only real legacies.

  62. God

    The sun is the only thing in our solar system that provides heat. FACT. The sun is the primary heater of all planets.

    How can an idiot say solar activity has no bearing?

    Stupid is as stupid does.

  63. m_b

    Here’s a quote from Terry Sloan (Sloan & Wolfendale 2008), to give a slightly different slant than the media hyperbole on this paper…:

    “We have never said that there is no connection between cosmic rays and cloud formation. Some part of cloud formation could come from cosmic rays but it not the whole story according to our work.”

  64. I would suggest that the best course of action is to assume that carbon emissions (which are directly correlated with the use of a diminishing resource – oil) may be a contributing factor to climate change, but at the same time to continue to watch solar cycles and see which theories are in fact better at modeling the climate moving forward. The LONG pre-24 solar minimum is a good test case – if this continues and we see effects of global cooling manifest over the next few years then it’s very likely to be indicative that it plays a big part – even if we do not know what the exact mechanism is that is being employed.

    Keep in mind that in the early 1970s, journalists were worried about the possibility of Global Cooling, because the weather had been so abnormally cold. Over the course of the next thirty six years (three eleven year or 1 1/2 twenty two year solar cycles) we’ve also had two volcanoes erupt (St. Helens in 1980, Pinatubo in 1991), potentially increasing the amount of pollutants by a significant amount beyond those produced by human intervention – and while it may be the carbon in those pollutants that are the problem, it may also be that glaciation thinning at the edges is due to higher levels of pollutants in the ice acting as heat providers.

    This is only a hypothesis (and likely wrong), but I bring it up in order to point out that we may be discounting viable alternatives because they are becoming politically untenable. I’m a fairly progressive Democrat, have a Bachelor’s Degree in Astronomy, and have followed climate change issues for several years now. I’m pretty much in agreement with J. Clarkson, above, in saying that Svensmark’s arguments are persuasive, though I’m not sure that I completely think that the cosmic rays by themselves are in fact the nub of the matter.

    Cosmic rays are important not only for their energy, but because such particles are protons. They carry an electric charge, and mediate a magnetic field. The Sun’s twenty three year cycle is almost certainly set by Jupiter’s 11.8 terran years solar year, with additional perturbations induced by Earth’s much weaker field (making it a three body problem, albeit on that at first approximation is two body). All three bodies are spinning, which means that they are all three creating lines of magnetic flux that can be erratic, especially when applied to masses of ionized air that are themselves spinning due to coriolis forces, add in a locally perpendicular galactic gravitational flux (that is not necessarily uniform) and its perhaps not all that surprising that we have quasi-periodic cycles that can extend for years or decades.

    The only problem with this kind of hypothesis is that it is hard to get accurate data given the comparatively small window of time that we’ve had for measurements. It’s difficult to measure magnetic flux on scales smaller than centuries. It should be possible to correlate sunspot cycle with the Jovian orbit to see if there is in fact sufficient evidence to suggest a connection.

    There are any number of perfectly good reasons to reduce out carbon footprint, which is why I believe that even if the above theory is a contributing factor ignoring either at the expense of the other is dangerous.

  65. Richard Lee

    Talk about partisinship, today it’s mostly on the side of the global warming alarmists, who do everything they can to block and discourage debate least their non-scientific fraud be exposed to the rest of us skeptics (or holocaust deniers, as you much prefer) who are growing in number. Even when the evidence of fraud is obvious, given the Vostok Antartic ice core samples showing CO2 always lagging behind increasing temperatures by 800 Years, willful erronious math as used in the “hockey stick” false temperture portrayal (Mann et al), and admissions of deceit used to promote their case in public and privately in E-mails, the denials and rationalizations continue endlessly.
    For better evidence of this from a good scientific web site of an environmentalist, but firstly a scientest, go to Science Bits and read about the real influence of solar wind modulated cosmic ray influence as a major driver.

  66. Dave

    Thw world is warming. Mankind is a minor contributor. Why can’t normally sensible people see this? Why does there always have to be a disaster occurring? The only suffering due to climate change is in the amount of money being ripped off people all over the world to pay for bogus science and bogus “carbon buying schemes”. Wake up, world. If the problem were as severe as these idiots say it is, what difference to the situation would paying for the emitted carbon make?
    Sometimes I despair for the future of our civilisation with so many fools out there falling for this crap. Plant a tree – that will make you feel better.

  67. RK

    Just wondering if any of the “settled science”, “since there is no God, we’d better take over the weather” types would like to comment on the recent finding from the CERN CLOUD results?

    Anyone? C’mon, stick that arrogant neck out there. Let me guess, “BIG CARBON LOBBYISTS HAVE TAKEN OVER SWITZERLAND!!!”

    Grow up.

  68. Bookeater

    “josh.f13 Says:
    July 3rd, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    I’m really, really sick of lobbyists. I’m beginning to think that folks like us should start a
    grass roots thing to end lobbying entirely.”

    We’re working on it Josh.


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