The Dog That Didn't Bark

There may be something interesting coming out in the climate front over the next few weeks from CERN.

Years ago, a researcher named Henrik Svensmark developed a hypothesis that cosmic rays can seed cloud formation, and thus when there are more cosmic rays, there may be more clouds.  This is interesting because it may act as a sort of solar amplification.

Changes in the sun's output through varying solar cycles are measurable, but seem to some scientists to be too small to drive substantial temperature changes on Earth.  But a more active sun tends to blow cosmic rays away from the Earth, thus reducing their incidence.  Therefore, if a more active sun reduced cooling clouds, and a less active sun increased cooling clouds, this might explain a larger effect for the sun.

I have avoided discussing Svensmark much, since the evidence seemed thin, though several labs recently have confirmed his hypothesis, at least in the laboratory.  But Svensmark is definitely a topic among some climate skeptics.  The reason is that higher solar activity levels  in the second half of the twentieth century coincided with much of the 20th century warming that is blamed on manmade CO2.  Svensmark's theory, if true, might force scientists to apportion more of the historic warming to natural causes, thus reducing the estimated sensitivity of the climate to man-made CO2.

But apparently the CERN lab has been undertaking a substantial study to confirm or deny Svensmark's hypothesis.  The results have not been released, but skeptics are beginning to anticipate that CERN's work has confirmed the hypothesis of cosmic ray cloud seeding.  Why?  Because of the dog that did not bark, or rather was told not to bark.

Via Watts Up With That:

CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Welt Online that the scientists should refrain from drawing conclusions from the latest experiment.

“I have asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them,” reports veteran science editor Nigel Calder on his blog. Why?

Because, Heuer says, “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.”

Skeptics are suggesting that had CERN disproved Svensmark, and thus protected the hypothesis that CO2 is driving most current warming, they would not have hesitated to draw exactly this conclusion in public.  Only a finding considered more consistent with the skeptical position would cause them to go silent, trying to avoid the taint from the politically correct intelligentsia that would come from even partially confirming a skeptic talking point.

I have to agree that Heuer's comments seem to telegraph the result.  I have read a ton of global warming related studies.  And every single one I have read that has ever published negative results vis a vis the hypothesis of catastrophic manmade global warming has felt obligated to put in a sentence at the end that says something like "but of course this does not in any way disprove the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming and we fully support that hypothesis despite these results."  The absolute fear of becoming an outcast for coming up with the "wrong" result is palpable in reading these papers, sort of like the very careful language a report in Soviet Russia might have used to even mildly criticize some aspect of the state.  Of course, no such disclaimer can be found with narrow positive results - these are always immediately extrapolated  (in fact over-extrapolated in press releases) to be the final nail in the coffin proving once and for all that man is changing the climate in dire ways.

  • Ted Rado

    Svensmark's work ties in with some others, such that, if confirmed, would go a long way toward an overall explanation of climate phenomena. An Israeli scientist explained the snowball earth climate hundreds of millions ago. When our solar system passes through the milky way on its sine curve path, it gets more cosmic radiation, which causes cloud seeding, thus causing a cold climate. The occurance of these "snowball" episodes seems to coincide with the passage through the milky way.

    Another scientist (Russian as I recollect) postulates that when the heavy planets line up on one side of the sun, there is much increase in solar activity (sun spots). The occurance of these events corresponds with observed sun spot activity. It is hypothesized that the change in gravitational pull causes (by movements of the sun's interior, as I understand it) changes in the sunspot activity. The different periods of solar events (11 year, etc) seem to correspond with the line-up of various combinations of planets.

    All this is sort of exciting. If it holds up, then we will have a clear explanation of major climate drivers. The short term solar activity drives short term climate changes, and the multi-hundred million year snow ball events are driven by the path of the solar system through the galaxy. The results of Svensmark's work will be a watershed in climate science if it confirms his idea. If not, back to the drawing board.

  • John Moore

    A recent paper by Balling & Cerveny paper did not find adequate correlation in the climate data. BTW, both authors are local (Tempe).

  • DrTorch

    @ John Moore: Reference?