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CERN Studies Connection Between Cosmic Rays and Climate Change 193

Posted by Soulskill
from the outer-space-attacks dept.
Layzej writes with this quote from Nature: "For a century, scientists have known that charged particles from space constantly bombard Earth. Known as cosmic rays, the particles are mostly protons blasted out of supernovae. As the protons crash through the planet's atmosphere, they can ionize volatile compounds, causing them to condense into airborne droplets, or aerosols. It is hypothesized that clouds might then build up around the droplets — possibly affecting the Earth's climate. To find out, [Jasper] Kirkby and his team are bringing the atmosphere down to Earth in an experiment called Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD). ... Early results seem to indicate that cosmic rays do cause a change (abstract). The high-energy protons seemed to enhance the production of nanometer-sized particles from the gaseous atmosphere by more than a factor of ten. But, Kirkby adds, those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds."
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CERN Studies Connection Between Cosmic Rays and Climate Change

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  • Lack of (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sphealey (2855) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:24PM (#37222466)

    In other words, CERN studies lack of connection between cosmic rays and climate change.

    sPh

    • I would think the crucial information would be if there had been a significant change in the cosmic ray flux over the last century and how that correlates with a change in cloud coverage or density.
      • Re:Lack of (Score:5, Informative)

        by Layzej (1976930) on Friday August 26, 2011 @08:20PM (#37224370)

        I would think the crucial information would be if there had been a significant change in the cosmic ray flux over the last century and how that correlates with a change in cloud coverage or density.

        Studies in that area have been inconclusive. The IPCC AR4 summarizes:

        There appears to be a small but statistically significant positive correlation between cloud over the UK and galactic cosmic ray flux during 1951 to 2000 (Harrison and Stephenson, 2006). Contrarily, cloud cover anomalies from 1900 to 1987 over the USA do have a signal at 11 years that is anti-phased with the galactic cosmic ray flux (Udelhofen and Cess, 2001)

        Here are some more recent studies which also have been unable to show a definitive link:

        Calogovic, J., et al. (2010): Sudden cosmic ray decreases: No change of global cloud cover. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L03802, doi:10.1029/2009GL041327.

        Erlykin, A.D., et al (2009a): On the correlation between cosmic ray intensity and cloud cover. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 71, 17-18, 1794-1806, doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2009.06.012.

        Kulmala, M., et al. (2010): Atmospheric data over a solar cycle: no connection between galactic cosmic rays and new particle formation. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 10, 1885-1898, doi:10.5194/acp-10-1885-2010.

        Pierce, J.R., and P.J. Adams (2009): Can cosmic rays affect cloud condensation nuclei by altering new particle formation rates? Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L09820, doi:10.1029/2009GL037946.

        Sloan, T., and A.W. Wolfendale (2008): Testing the proposed causal link between cosmic rays and cloud cover. Environmental Research Letters, 3, 024001, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/3/2/024001.

    • Are you saying that's the null hypothesis they will be testing (pedantic) or are you merely saying they won't find a connection (unscientific)?
      • I think he's saying that he read the summary all the way through. Particularly the last line, "high-energy protons seemed to enhance the production of nanometer-sized particles from the gaseous atmosphere by more than a factor of ten. But, Kirkby adds, those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds."

        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          ...and since we all know that Slashdot summaries are flawless crystals of perfection...
          • by Layzej (1976930)
            I don't know, this one looks pretty good. I'm going to keep my eye open for more submissions from this Layzej guy ;)
    • Re:Lack of (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pino Grigio (2232472) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:49PM (#37222772)
      I'm honestly not sure how you can come to this conclusion. Look at the graph:

      Cloud Graph [wordpress.com].

      I was convinced there was more to this after reading Calder's book, "The Chilling Stars", quite some time ago. This experiment simply adds to the evidence gathered and presented there. The next question concerns the growth of CCN after this initial formation of small sized particles. It's interesting to me that this is immediately dismissed by hockey-stick fiddlers. There is a certain closed-mindedness to anything other than the current dogma in certain circles.
      • Re:Lack of (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bonch (38532) * on Friday August 26, 2011 @05:37PM (#37223238)

        There is a certain closed-mindedness to anything other than the current dogma in certain circles.

        Just look at the negative moderation of your post. Certain people have latched onto current climate change dogma so strongly that it's become a source of self-worth for them, proof of how much smarter they are than the "deniers." Nobody is even allowed to offer a calm, opposing opinion supported by evidence.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GameboyRMH (1153867)

          It's because the deniers have previously presented this theory as an alternative explanation to global warming vs. human-released fossil carbon, and while it was found that cosmic radiation can have some influence, the effects are nowhere near significant enough on their own.

          So of course when this theory shows up in an article the first reaction of scientifically-minded people is to put that dead horse back in the ground before the deniers get a chance to beat on it again, because that's a frustrating waste

        • by geekoid (135745)

          OR, they actually read the article and understand why his post was nonsense?

      • http://www.skepticalscience.com/no_global_warming_from_cosmic_rays.html [skepticalscience.com]
        http://www.skepticalscience.com/cosmic-rays-and-global-warming-advanced.htm [skepticalscience.com]

        Henrik Svensmark has proposed that galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) could exert significant influence over global temperatures (Svensmark 1998). The theory goes that the solar magnetic field deflects GCRs, which are capable of seeding cloud formation on Earth. So if the solar magnetic field were to increase, fewer GCRs would reach Earth, seeding fewer low-level clouds, which are strongly reflective. Thus an increased solar magnetic field can indirectly decrease the Earth's albedo (reflectivity), causing the planet to warm. Therefore, in order for this theory to be plausible, all four of the following requirements must be true.

        1. Solar magnetic field must have a long-term positive trend.
        2. Galactic cosmic ray flux on Earth must have a long-term negative trend.
        3. Cosmic rays must successfully seed low-level clouds.
        4. Low-level cloud cover must have a long-term negative trend.

        Fortunately we have empirical observations against which we can test these requirements.

        You like images more than words? http://ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/henrik-svensmark/image/image_view_fullscreen [ossfoundation.us]

      • by Layzej (1976930)

        The studies author concluded: "those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds. At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it's a very important first step."

        Labeling the graph a "cloud graph" is somewhat misleading.

    • by bonch (38532) *

      Which is the opposite of the conclusion, but okay, whatever goes along with Slashdot's groupthink, I guess.

    • by Livius (318358)

      Either way it's a step forward for human knowledge.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:25PM (#37222476)

    Face it, your desperate attempt to get a cute acronym has just left you looking like a CLOD.

  • No doubt (Score:4, Funny)

    by wsxyz (543068) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:28PM (#37222512)
    There is no doubt that if cosmic rays are driving global warming, then human activity is driving cosmic rays.
    • Re:No doubt (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei (128717) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:47PM (#37222760) Homepage

      Obligatory graph [photobucket.com]. That shows the different climate forcings, their medians, and their error bars. What the current study is working on is cloud formation. You'll notice that cloud formation has a pretty huge error bar; we're not very good at modelling it, and there's a lot of research to try to improve that. But note that even if you assume the best-case cooling effect from clouds, rather than the median (or the worst, for that matter), you're still not cancelling out the other forcings. Note the error bars on the net result at the bottom.

      • by Poorcku (831174)
        Bad modelling hasn't yet stopped "scientists" from influencing policy making... [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE] - if you know what I mean. Yes Greenpeace, I am looking at you.
        • There are other benefits to fighting at least what we perceive as Climate Change. It's hard to produce energy from fossil fuels without producing carbon dioxide so any research on alternative energy sources and conservation is a good thing (more so as oil becomes harder and harder to extract). Also, oceans of carbonic acid isn't very good for the food chain.

          I fully agree that this should be checked out. If the evidence comes out that cosmic rays are an influence (either as the majority or minority cause of

        • And what exactly does Greenpeace have to do with climate scientists?

      • Stratospheric water vapour and co2 are in the wrong forcing ratio on that graph. SWV is about 30% as effective as a ghg. It's been falling in concentration since around 2000 and partially explains the hiatus in warming. Solomon 2010 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1182488 [sciencemag.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Translation: My mind is made up, no scientific evidence need apply and no further study is necessary.
       
      Seriously, I find it disturbing as hell that climate change zealots and doomsayers point at scientific evidence to 'prove' their point.... (Of course, we all know that science at this level is about correlation and best fit models, not 'proof'.) But let someone investigate something that may disturb their dogma - and their support of science goes right out the window.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        TRANSLATION: I'm too stupid to RTFA.

        Keep ignoring the prediction they make, and keep spreading your ignorance of modeling and statistics.

      • This is the culture developed in the West. Defend our thoughts to the death! Never give an inch! Never admit guilt or responsibility! Pay them off just enough to make them go away.

        Man, it sucks how what goes around comes around.

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:36PM (#37222622)
    The problem with a lot of public climate science is a matter of language. Specifically, the utter abuse of language by the IPCC to imply absolute scientific certainty where there is in fact, little more than strong hints in need of further investigation. Which is not surprising, as an intergovernmental panel is not a scientific, but a political institution.

    This is in contrast with the particle scientists CERN, who are much more careful with their language, because they have not thrown scientific integrity out of the window in order to overstate their findings. Which is all the more remarkable given the huge expenditure on some experiments like the LHC. I've written a rather longish piece [wordpress.com] on that topic a few days ago.
    • by brit74 (831798) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:46PM (#37222740)
      Industry loves uncertain language, as well. Afterall, no action can be taken if everything is uncertain. No wonder they've been working so hard to raise doubts.
    • by quantaman (517394)

      Different fields have different capabilities to obtain data and achieve statistical certainty. My gut says particle physicists have an easier time collecting new of data, testing different hypothesis, and therefore can afford (and need) a higher standard of statistical confidence. If you're performing 20 different experiments, and one comes back positive, than 95% confidence doesn't mean much and you should easily be able to do better. But if you only have one real big experiment, and collecting another dat

      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        But if you only have one real big experiment, and collecting another data point means waiting another year, than 95% suddenly means a lot more and might be the best you can do.

        Sorry, no. This would amount to special pleading. 95% statistical certainty has the exact same meaning independent of whether you can get another data point within the next second or within the next year. And if that's the best you can do ... well, I'm terribly sorry, but then the best you can do, is just not very good.

        The difficulty of obtaining data doesn't change the likelihood of mistaking an effect for an artifact in statistical analysis (because math is blissfully ignorant of such difficulties),

        • by quantaman (517394)

          So there's two issues here.

          The first is you have to make do with what you can. For many problem types they can't achieve results with the rigour of particle physicists, but that doesn't mean the results they can get aren't useful science. Like it or not that's the confidence they can achieve, now the question is what do you do with that information. If someone is 95% sure something important is going to happen, and you choose to ignore them because they can't achieve the answer you want, than a lot of the t

          • by tp1024 (2409684)

            If someone is 95% sure something important is going to happen, and you choose to ignore them because they can't achieve the answer you want, than a lot of the time you're probably going to regret it.

            First of all, the 95% does not mean something happened the way you described it. It only means that the implied null-hypothesis has a chance of 5% to be true. That's it. It says nothing about the truth value of your hypothesis, nor does it say anything about the truth value of any other possible hypothesis that could give apparently similar results. (I recommend read Nicolas Nassim Taleb on those matters. Unfortunately, he closed down his ridiculously ugly, but also ridiculously informative, website fooledb

    • The Science is IN

  • by brit74 (831798) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:42PM (#37222690)
    I like how, when faced with decades of research on the CO2 - global warming connection, the anti-AWG crowd are completely skeptical. But, a hint that cosmic rays might affect cloud formation and climate change, and they're already convinced.

    It fits pretty nicely with other research that showed that people's willingness to accept global warming seemed to hinge on whether or not they needed to change their lives as a result. (As if facts were true or not depending on their consequences for their own lives.)

    In one version of the news story, however, the scientific study was described as calling for “increased antipollution regulation,” whereas in another it was described as calling for “revitalization of the nation’s nuclear power industry".... individualists who received the “nuclear power” [solution to global warming] were less inclined to dismiss the facts [of global warming] related by the described report http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/nuclear-power-makes-individualists-see-green/ [wordpress.com]

    • by skids (119237)

      a hint that cosmic rays might affect cloud formation and climate change, and they're already convinced.

      Don't worry, they will return to being skeptical when someone shows them the graph clearly indicating that cosmic ray levels haven't been increasing during the warming trend.

    • by subl33t (739983) on Friday August 26, 2011 @05:06PM (#37222962)

      Skeptics are pro-objective. Even the main body of the IPCC AR report is filled with "maybe"s, "likely"s, and "possibly"s.
      It's the summary for policy makers that's tacked-on to the end that's filled with "impending doom!" - it's an entriely political document, not a scientific one.

      • Yeah the main body says nice scientific things like.

        "Likely will kill between 2million and 3million people but maybe more."

        It's that political doomsday document tacked on that has outlandish non-scientific conclusions like "Since it's probably going to kill 2 million people, we should probably do something to stop it."

    • by bonch (38532) *

      I like how, when faced with decades of research on the CO2 - global warming connection, the anti-AWG crowd are completely skeptical.

      That's because there is also decades of opposing evidence as well as convincing criticism of many of the pro-AWG conclusions. Hell, even the lead scientist of the study on those drowning polar bears in Al Gore's movie is now on administrative leave after a federal investigation into the fact that all he saw was four corpses from 1,500 feet up in a helicopter--no actual collecti

      • by geekoid (135745)

        George Carlin's jobs was that of a comedian, not to present logical fact based argument.

        And I use 'Comedian' in the loosest term. He turned into a stupid ranting old man about as funny as a crazy old man at the park.

    • by medcalf (68293)
      I'm certainly more skeptical of people who want us to spend trillions of dollars and remake our political institutions because of their theories, than I am of people whose theories cause them to say, "Huh. That's odd."
    • It's a well known phenomenon called confirmation bias [wikipedia.org]. It's one of the things you have to learn not to be fooled by to do science. In fact, it's after I actually started doing scientific research of my own (in an unrelated field) that I stopped being an AGW "sceptic", as I noticed how strongly that view was affected by it. I don't think it's a coincidence that the most vocal AGW sceptics have no scientific research experience of any kind.

    • by sdguero (1112795)
      What does anti-AWG stand for?
  • I remember... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GooberToo (74388) on Friday August 26, 2011 @04:46PM (#37222744)

    ...posting on this very topic a couple of years back in a climate change thread. I was troll moderated to hell and quickly attacked by the slashdot masses about how this could never cause anything to happen. Never mind such research has been going on for easily a decade, if not the very preliminary work for over two decades.

    So according to the slashdot herd, this is completely wrong and there is absolutely no need to ever study it as they long ago confirmed this is all nonsense. Hurry! We've all been saved by the massive stupidity which is the slashdot masses.

    • Link or it didn't happen. I mean be serious, if you are going to claim that you wrote something and the reaction here condemns "the slashdot herd" to hypocrisy, lets see exactly what you are basing your claims on. I've got this funny feeling the reality of what happened isn't anywhere near as drastic as you want to make it out to be.

      Or is it that you just expect everyone here to take it all on your word without any actual evidence? That would be rich.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098)

      And yet, the CERN research showed that cosmic rays are at best a tiny fraction of the nucleation factors that create clouds.

      I remember when this possibility came up during climate change discussions. What you were most likely modded down for is that you took a very speculative article with little supporting evidence, and trumpeted it as proof that AGW is bogus.

      Sometimes, the masses are right, and they are laughing at Bozo the clown.

      • It has shown that the current explanations using sulfates and ammonia for nucleation can be boosted by a factor of ten pending on the presence of cosmic radiation. They also say that further research will be required to see what effect cosmic rays have on the nucleation properties of other compounds to get the full picture.
        • by hawkfish (8978)

          It has shown that the current explanations using sulfates and ammonia for nucleation can be boosted by a factor of ten pending on the presence of cosmic radiation. They also say that further research will be required to see what effect cosmic rays have on the nucleation properties of other compounds to get the full picture.

          Not [realclimate.org].

          Thus the nucleation change as a result of real world GCR modulation is going to be much smaller than seen in these experiments, and much less important than the amount of pollutants.

          In summary, this is a great example of doing science and making progress, even if it isn’t what they first thought they’d find.

          • by tp1024 (2409684)
            I read it and found it interesting. But I don't have enough information on my hands to reply to this in a meaningful way, so right now I can't say much more than I (truly!) appreciate your comment, however bland that may read.
        • I'm not going to go through the paper again to show you the quote that you misunderstood, so I'll just ask you to support your claim by quoting the relevant part of the original paper. Good luck with that.

      • by bonch (38532) *

        I love how you constructed a "most likely" hypothetical scenario with no direct evidence and then used it to call someone names.

    • by pz (113803)

      I've similarly posted in many climate threads about my friend's research dating back 15 years now that strongly suggested that cosmic DUST (not ray) accretion is a strong climate driver, based on variations in the Earth's orbit sweeping out slightly different parts of space and thus accreting different amounts of dust. Just like the Perseid meteor shower changes slightly each year because the relative position between the Earth and that quasi-static dust lane changes from year to year, the Earth encounters

    • by bonch (38532) *

      Someone else here made an excellent observation [slashdot.org] that many, and perhaps most, of those who embrace the idea of anthropogenic global warming also happen to be people whose cure for the global warming involves solutions that align with their political views. It's strange that there seems to be no recognition of the link between anti-industry, centralized-economic politics and belief in manmade global warming.

      An even more interesting observation is the one made by Michael Crichton--environmentalism follows a re

      • An even more interesting observation is the one made by Michael Crichton--environmentalism follows a religious model so common that it just might be ingrained in humans. The world starts as a Garden of Eden (pristine nature) that is then sullied by the existence of man (industry and technology), a sin that must be purged through sacrifice and prayer (environmentalist policies).

        The major difference being, of course, that just about anyone can see for themselves the pollution caused by man. It doesn't even take something as dastic as the Cuyhoga catching on fire either. Anyone in LA can see the smog and anyone who has lived in LA since the 70s can see the effect of 'sacrifice and prayer' (lol!). It shouldn't be all that hard to distinguish the effects of those environmental policies from some virgin sacrifice to bring a bountiful harvest.

    • by Dadoo (899435)

      Well, I can't speak for any of the people who modded you down, back then, but pretty much every person I've talked to, who doesn't believe in climate change, has an ulterior motive. It's always an excuse like "OH NOES, I CAN'T DRIVE MY FORD EXPEDITION 100 MILES TO WORK EACH WAY!!" or "OH NOES, I CAN'T HAVE EVERY LIGHT IN MY HOUSE ON 24 HOURS A DAY!!" or "OH NOES, I MIGHT HAVE TO BUY SMALL CAR!!" Sorry, but when you're talking about a global problem that could potentially cause a death toll in the billions (

  • "Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets" makes the acronym CLOD, you insensitive cloud!
    • "Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets" makes the acronym CLOD, you insensitive cloud!

      I completely agree with you, but it's not even close to the worst example of bad acronym-ization I've seen.

      Here at UW one group was working on an RFID-using location service for friends and co-workers. Since it allowed for instant notification, and because Twitter had recently exploded onto the public consciousness... although the acronym they picked was "RFIDder", they initially tried to get everyone to pronounce it as "fritter" [washington.edu]* even though the letters are in the wrong order. Apparently they hoped no one

  • So, here's a question: if Cosmic Rays *are* found to be able to seed clouds, and, presumably, more cloud cover means less warming, couldn't we build a giant gamma ray beam and shoot it up into the sky?

    [Answering my own question: not with current technology. From here [wikipedia.org], "Cosmic rays can have energies of over 10^20 eV, far higher than the 10^12 to 10^13 eV that Terrestrial particle accelerators can produce."]

    • by tp1024 (2409684)
      If only people would remember how quickly earth ran out of energy reserves in that movie, once the sun was blocked ....
    • by Toonol (1057698)
      There's some evidence that jet contrails have altered temperatures by up to a degree. They've based this on statistical analysis of temperatures during the grounding of all flights after 9/11. One article is here. [csmonitor.com]
      Actually, I think that's crazy, and I would bet money it was a spurious effect. If it was true, then it would easily be within our capability to lower temperatures several degrees on demand. But just because I think it's crazy, doesn't mean it it's necessarily wrong.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        It's plausible, look at how much surface ares a con trail has,and it's high in reflective. Look at how many there are.

        However ti is not a tool to prevent global warming. Because we need light for plants so we can eat.

  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Friday August 26, 2011 @05:17PM (#37223078) Journal
    AGW is even worse than we expected!
  • by FridayBob (619244) on Friday August 26, 2011 @07:31PM (#37224096) Homepage

    The name of this project is horribly contrived and invented only to result in a certain cool acronym, which it does not! It's easy to see that someone spent some time thinking about the name, but obviously not enough.

    Clearly the acronym for "Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets" is CLOD, and possibly CLOuD, but not CLOUD!

    Was the lead author as incompetent and unimaginative with the rest of his project? If he conducted his research the same way he arrived at his acronym, it doesn't bode well! Of course, I could check by reading his paper, but since I refuse to pay Nature's subscription fee, I don't feel like giving him the benefit of the doubt.

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