Friday, June 08, 2007

Myths of global warming dispelled

Eric Berger over at Sciguy Blog has been beating the AGW drum for a while now. And while I like and respect Eric, I think he is wrong. I'll tell you why.

First off, I'm going to concede that the Earth would appear to be warming at a rate of about half a degree centigrade per decade.

Now before all you Al Gore fans start falling all over yourselves writhing in ecstasy that a conservative agreed with you, you might want to hear me out.

CO2 increases have historically lagged behind temperature increases. The reason has always been that most CO2 is sequestered in the oceans. Solubility of CO2 in water is inversely proportional to the temperature. The higher the temp, the lower the solubility. That is why a can of Coke left in the sun will expand and burst. The CO2 is boiling out of solution and taking up more space in the can. This is not news, this has been known for a century or more.

Current climatologists insist that the old paradigm of CO2 lagging temperature is no longer valid because we are generating far more CO2 into the atmosphere than the Earth has ever seen before. While I will concede that we are releasing far more CO2 than ever before, I am not yet prepared to assign a value to the heating value of the excess CO2. The reason is that there are far more variables to account for than this one.

In prehistoric times when most of the planet was covered in vegetation and animals, not only was CO2 released quite abundantly, but methane was as well. Methane is 23 times more efficient as a greenhouse gas than CO2. So strictly comparing CO2 levels then and now doesn't begin to tell the whole story. But even if it did, there is a much larger elephant in the room. The Sun.

Back in the 19th century, a man by the name of James Croll postulated that orbital harmonics would set up cycles of heating and cooling. His calculations were off, but his reasoning was sound. In the 1920's and 1930's a Serbian working in Belgrade by the name of Milutin Milankovitch recognized that there were three orbital mechanics cycles with differing periods that interacted to seriously affect the amount of and location of incoming solar radiation. At the time, his theory was dismissed by geologists, but by 1965, after new techniques in radiocarbon and isotopic dating were available, Milankovitch's ideas were no longer so easily dismissed. In 1966, one of Milankovitch's defenders, an Italian working at the University of Chicago by the name of Cesare Emiliani, launched what became the "Global Cooling" scare by postulating that the current warming trend was coming to a close soon and that within a millennia, we would be in the throws of another Ice Age. Later in 1972, he postulated that CO2 generation by humans might be able to overcome the glaciation. So in a way we can credit Emiliani with both "Global Cooling' as well as "Global Warming".

But that is far from the end of the story when it comes to extraterrestrial influences.

The sun has yet another trick up it's sleeve and it has recently been discovered by a Dane by the name of Henrick Svensmark. Nuclear Physicists have used something called a cloud chamber for nearly a century to detect particle tracks from nuclear experiments. A super-cooled, super-saturated chamber held in a state with not quite enough energy to begin nucleation of the moisture. Any charged particles passing through would trigger nucleation along the track of the particle's path. Magnetic fields are used to separate positive vs negative particles.

Dr. Svensmark has performed an experiment called SKY (which means "cloud" in danish) where he showed that the very same thing happens in the stratosphere when cosmic rays impact the upper atmosphere. This would appear to be a major driver for the formation of cloud cover.
But cosmic rays are not constant. They ebb and flow depending on two things: the level of solar activity, as well as the geomagnetic field strength. Increased solar activity not only warms the earth more due to an increase in radiation but it deflects cosmic rays away from the earth more. The geomagnetic field also deflects cosmic rays to a lesser extent but since our magnetic field is collapsing with the impending pole flip, it is not deflecting as much as it used to. The result is that while our field is collapsing, currently the sun is overwhelming the effect because it is in an active cycle. But that cycle is coming to an end. Solar activity follows approximately an 11.1 year cycle (varying from 9-14 years). Magnetic pole flips are more irregular occurring between 1 and 5 times every million years.

There is one more mechanism in play that affects cloud cover: Aerosols. These can be dust from windstorms in the Sahara, ash from volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and here is another dirty little secret, they can come from human pollution as well. Since the 1940's scientists in Norway, the US, Russia, and Israel have all noted a 15% drop in solar radiation making it to the ground. They postulate that human pollution is helping to form cloud cover. As a result of that research an experiment was done. Utilizing GPS, satellite imagery, and calibrated radiometers. scientists took simultaneous solar radiation readings in the middle of the Pacific Ocean both under the pollution plume coming off the North American continent, as well as farther north where the sky was clear of the aerosols coning off North America. They found a 20% difference in radiation making it to the surface. As the Clean Air Act has taken hold, we have put fewer and fewer aerosols into the atmosphere. This has had the ironic effect of INCREASING the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth thereby INCREASING global warming.

None of these variables are part of the current climate models. If and when they are incorporated into the models, we may find we know far less about the climate than we think we do.


Blogger Yankee Biz said...

Great article. I'm tired of hearing the likes of Gore telling us that debate is over. There's no consensus.

June 08, 2007 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Eric Berger said...


How dare you disagree with me!?! :-)

In any case, aerosols aren't a dirty little secret in the climate science community. In fact, the temperature trends in recent decades cannot be explained without them. Heavy aerosol use in the latter half of the 20th century acted to counter some global warming. The downside to cutting their use is that this check on anthropogenic warming has now been removed, and warming will likely accelerate in coming years.

As for the sun being the dominant cause of the warming -- and not gases from human activities -- it's a plausible theory. It's just not one subscribed to by many scientists whose business it is to study these questions. (If you disagree on this question, please provide scientific citations). I'll keep an open mind, but I'm not going to ignore what scientists are saying.


June 08, 2007 5:27 PM  
Anonymous JC said...

Just some food for thought on some of your ideas. Firstly to address the issue of the sun driving climate. Yes, the sun or more specifically, variations in solar output play a big part in climate change. When sunspot activity was low during the Maunder Minimum in the 1600's or the little Ice Age in the 1800's, the earth went through extreme cold periods. Alternatively, solar output rose dramatically in the early 20th century accompanied by a sharp rise in global temperatures.

However, solar irradiance leveled out in the 50's and has been steady over the past few decades as confirmed by direct satellite measurements that find no rising trend since 1978, sunspot numbers which have leveled out since 1950, the Max Planck Institute reconstruction that shows irradience has been steady since 1950 and solar radio flux or flare activity which shows no rising trend over the past 30 years.

Check out this graph of solar irradiance compared to global temperatures over the past century. In the early decades, solar output increased dramatically and global temperatures followed it - with a lag of a decade or so. But then solar output leveled out as did global temperatures. But then temperatures began shooting up again. Tellingly, solar irradiance stayed steady. This demonstrates very clearly that solar variations couldn't possibly explain the last few decades of global warming.

Secondly, the whole problem with the theory that cosmic rays (or lack thereof) are driving global warming is that cosmic radiation has shown no long term trend over the last 50 years. So even if cosmic rays are linked to cloud formation, all they'll find is the cloud formation 50 years ago is the same as it is now and has little to no impact on global warming today.

Lastly, the climate models do take in aerosols, sulfates, volcanic activity, solar variations - all the various forcings that influence climate. Check out this plot of observed temperature versus climate model results taking into account observed levels of CO2, sulfates, ozone, etc. Only by taking into account sulfate levels mid-century are they able to explain mid-century cooling.

June 08, 2007 8:40 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

JC, the problem with your direct satellite measurements are that they ARE satellite measurements, not surface measurements. Since I'm talking about cloud cover being influenced by the 11 year sunspot cycle, satellite measurements are irrelevant. Same with your cosmic ray data, it is not the overall cosmic ray intensity that is changing, it is how much of it reaches the atmosphere. Sunspot intensity variation between 1950 and today is all over the map, it is not as variable as the Dalton minimum, but it is at least as variable as the period between 1750 and 1800, and is as high as it was around 1770 or so. I have a hard time seeing how you can call the graph "flat". looks pretty bumpy to me, but even more importantly, the mean is as high as it ever was. To quote your own citation:

"The most prominent feature of this graph is the ~11 year solar magnetic cycle which is associated with the natural waxing and waning of solar activity.

On longer time scales, the sun has also shown considerable variability, including the long Maunder Minimum when almost no sunspots were observed, the less severe Dalton Minimum, and increased sunspot activity during the last fifty years, known as the Modern Maximum. The causes for these variations are not well understood, but because sunspots and associated faculae affect the brightness of the sun, solar luminosity is lower during periods of low sunspot activity. It is widely believed that the low solar activity during the Maunder Minimum and earlier periods may be among the principle causes of the Little Ice Age. Similarly, the Modern Maximum is partly responsible for global warming, especially the temperature increases between 1900 and 1950. Residual warming due to the sustained high level of activity since 1950 is believed responsible for 16 to 36% of recent warming (Stott et al. 2003)."

My point about the models is that they cannot predict future cloud cover, they deal with historical data by plugging in numbers until they fit the data. That is not the same thing. It's sort of like Einstein's "cosmological constant" which is a number needed to balance the equation, even though nobody knows exactly what that number means. In our case we cannot assume that the cloud cover will be constant, so separating it from the other predicted variables is impossible. And your last link goes to a site that has been suspended for exceeding it's quota.

And if incident solar intensity was unchanging (which your own citation refutes) why would Mars be warming as well?

June 08, 2007 9:58 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Eric, Did you follow Dr. Svensmark's link here?

There were several citations there. Including an admission that the latest batch of data from the ISCCP satellite shows a weakening correlation with his predicted values. He has no hard explanation be he speculates that one possible cause may be calibration drift in the satellite itself which is certainly possible.

June 08, 2007 10:08 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

By the way Eric, I sent an email inquiry to Dr Svenmark concerning the effect of a pole reversal would have on his theory, I have not heard back from him but I would expect that the chaotic collapsing field that resulted from a pole reversal would further increase cosmic ray incidence in the upper atmosphere.

If I hear back from him I'll forward the response to you. I would suggest that he might be an interesting person to interview if you could wrangle it.

June 08, 2007 10:14 PM  
Anonymous JC said...

Rorschach, thanks for the reply. Cosmic radiation levels are actually measured by neutron monitors at ground level.

As for sunspot variation, to determine long term trends, you need to average out the data. This reveals a 30 year rising trend at the start of last century which directly correlates with rising global temperatures. There is no such correlation after 1980 where global temperatures again began to rise but solar levels showed no long term trend.

Why is Mars warming? The planet has had massive planet darkening storms over the last 30 years that reduce the planet's albedo (reflectivity) which has a warming effect.

June 10, 2007 12:37 AM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

JC, neutron monitors on the ground would be equally useless because neutrons are neutral, they are not deflected by the sun's heliosphere nor the planet's magnetosphere. charged particles such as alpha and beta particles are the portion of the cosmic radiation that are operative here. They are not energetic enough to make it to the ground.

June 10, 2007 3:48 PM  
Anonymous JC said...

Rorschach, neutron monitors don't measure neutrons from space. They measure the production of neutrons when cosmic rays interact with molecules in our atmosphere. The Uni of New Hampshire who make their cosmic ray data available online have a page explaining how they work.

June 10, 2007 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Windguy said...

Um, before you keep on going about solar activity. I've thought about this process and If GW was due to the sun then we would see, the poles melting, extra cyclonic activity and coral bleaching, but no weather changes such as the droughts we are suffering now.

Because if you think about it solar activity heats up the planet differently than increased CO2 emissions. So far it's pointing to CO2 emissions

July 01, 2007 3:57 PM  
Blogger Rorschach said...

Poles melting? Check, we got that. Calving from the Ross Ice Shelf has increased. Even Al Gore is worried about Greenland ice sheets and polar bears having to learn to swim. Just not enough to actually curtail his use of his G5. He'd rather claim he is offsetting his carbon footprint with funny money carbon offsets of dubious worth/validity.

Extra Cyclonic Activity? That is a strong point of contention, a number of severe storm researchers do not believe that global warming would influence cyclonic activity, because cyclonic activity is a function of the temperature DIFFERENCE between the surface water and the air above it. If both increase at the same rate, then there would be no difference. But if you believe the ones that espouse it, they claim we apparently ARE seeing an increase in cyclonic strength/activity. Of course the problem is that a single data point makes it difficult to show a trend.

Coral Bleaching? As I understand it, coral bleaching is rampant.

And solar activity will increase CO2 by reducing the solubility of CO2 in the oceans, so I'm not saying greenhouse gasses aren't playing a role, just not the primary one.

July 01, 2007 8:06 PM  

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