Wednesday, August 31, 2016

GWPF Newsletter: Cosmic Rays Intensity Increasing



New Study Suggests Sun More Important Than Thought On Earth’s Climate

In this newsletter:

1) Cosmic Ray Intensity Increasing: New Study Suggests Sun More Important Than Thought On Earth’s Climate
Vencore Weather, 29 August 2016

2) Solar Activity Has A Direct Impact On Earth’s Cloud Cover, Scientists Confirm
Technical University of Denmark, 24 August 2016

3) Construction Starts on Huge Chinese Cosmic-Ray Observatory
Physics World, 9 August 2016

4) Robert Matthews: Climate Science Debates Find Their Place In The Sun
The National, 28 August 2016

5) Matt Ridley: Ice Scares Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be
The Times, 29 August 2016

Full details:

1) Cosmic Ray Intensity Increasing: New Study Suggests Sun More Important Than Thought On Earth’s Climate
Vencore Weather, 29 August 2016
Paul Dorian

For the past year, neutron monitors around the Arctic Circle have sensed an increasing intensity of cosmic rays.
 
This colorized picture of the sun is a mosaic of ultraviolet images from the orbiting TRACE satellite sensitive to light emitted by highly charged iron atoms. Growing in number, the intricate structures visible are the Sun's hot active regions with temperatures over a million degrees Fahrenheit and their associated magnetic loops (courtesy NASA) 
This colorized picture of the sun is a mosaic of ultraviolet images from the orbiting TRACE satellite sensitive to light emitted by highly charged iron atoms. Growing in number, the intricate structures visible are the Sun’s hot active regions with temperatures over a million degrees Fahrenheit and their associated magnetic loops (courtesy NASA)
 
Overview
It has long been widely accepted that the sun is absolutely critical to all weather and climate here on Earth and yet there are still some aspects of this connection that are not too well understood and even controversial.  For example, there has been the belief by many atmospheric scientists that cosmic rays which penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere from outer space can play a significant role in the formation of clouds which, in turn, has a direct impact on climate.  Solar activity has a direct impact on the ability of cosmic rays to actually reach the Earth’s atmosphere.  A just published study has confirmed the notion that cosmic rays can indeed be an important player in Earth’s weather and climate and the role of the sun is critical.

Cosmic rays and clouds
Cosmic rays are high-velocity particles of enormous energy that bombard the Earth from outside the solar system. The exact origin of cosmic rays has long been a mystery in the field of astronomy.  Cosmic rays may produce showers of secondary particles that penetrate and impact the Earth’s atmosphere and sometimes even reach the surface. The connection between cosmic rays and clouds has been under investigation in recent years and somewhat controversial.  Some researchers have held the belief that cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere create aerosols which, in turn, seed clouds and thereby help in the formation of clouds.  This would make cosmic rays an important player in weather and climate.  Other researchers, however, have been dubious.  The skeptics have maintained that although some laboratory experiments have supported the idea that cosmic rays help to seed clouds, the effect is likely too small to substantially affect the cloudiness of our planet and have an important impact on climate.
 

Findings from a just published study
new study just published in the Aug. 19th issue of Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics comes down in favor of cosmic rays. According to spaceweather.com, a team of scientists from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has linked sudden decreases in cosmic rays to changes in Earth’s cloud cover. These rapid decreases in the observed galactic cosmic ray intensity are known as “Forbush Decreases” and tend to take place following coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in periods of high solar activity. When the sun is active (i.e., solar storms, CMEs), the magnetic field of the plasma solar wind sweeps some of the galactic cosmic rays away from Earth.  In periods of low solar activity, more cosmic rays bombard the earth.  The term “Forbush Decrease” was named after the American physicist Scott E. Forbush, who studied cosmic rays in the 1930s and 1940s.

The research team led by Jacob Svensmark of DTU identified the strongest 26 “Forbush Decreases” between 1987 and 2007, and looked at ground-based and satellite records of cloud cover to see what happened.  In a recent press release, their conclusions were summarized as follows: “[Strong “Forbush Decreases”] cause a reduction in cloud fraction of about 2 percent corresponding to roughly a billion tonnes of liquid water disappearing from the atmosphere.”

Current cosmic ray activity
We happen to be in a weak solar cycle (24) which is actually on pace to be the weakest cycle in more than one hundred years. Therefore, it would not be surprising to have relatively high cosmic ray penetration into the Earth’s atmosphere; especially, since we are now heading towards the next solar minimum phase when solar activity is generally even quieter.

In fact, for the past year, neutron monitors around the Arctic Circle have sensed an increasing intensity of cosmic rays. Polar latitudes are a good place to make such measurements, because Earth’s magnetic field funnels and concentrates cosmic radiation there. As it turns out, Earth’s poles aren’t the only place cosmic rays are intensifying. “Spaceweather.com” has led an effort in the launching of helium balloons to the stratosphere to measure radiation, and they find the same trend increasing intensity of cosmic rays over California [For more on this study click here]:
 
Cosmic rays have been steadily increasing in recent months during historically weak solar cycle 24 


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2) Solar Activity Has A Direct Impact On Earth’s Cloud Cover, Scientists Confirm
Technical University of Denmark, 24 August 2016

A team of scientists from the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Space) and the Racah Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has linked large solar eruptions to changes in Earth’s cloud cover in a study based on over 25 years of satellite observations.

The solar eruptions are known to shield Earth’s atmosphere from cosmic rays. However the new study, published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, shows that the global cloud cover is simultaneously reduced, supporting the idea that cosmic rays are important for cloud formation. The eruptions cause a reduction in cloud fraction of about 2 percent corresponding to roughly a billion tonnes of liquid water disappearing from the atmosphere.

Since clouds are known to affect global temperatures on longer timescales, the present investigation represents an important step in the understanding of clouds and climate variability.

“Earth is under constant bombardment by particles from space called galactic cosmic rays. Violent eruptions at the Sun’s surface can blow these cosmic rays away from Earth for about a week. Our study has shown that when the cosmic rays are reduced in this way there is a corresponding reduction in Earth’s cloud cover. Since clouds are an important factor in controlling the temperature on Earth our results may have implications for climate change,” explains lead author on the study Jacob Svensmark of DTU.

Very energetic particles

These particles generate electrically charged molecules — ions — in Earth’s atmosphere. Ions have been shown in the laboratory to enhance the formation of aerosols, which can serve as seeds for the formation of the cloud drops that make up a cloud. Whether this actually happens in the atmosphere, or only in the laboratory is a topic that has been investigated and debated for years.

When the large solar eruptions blow away the galactic cosmic rays before they reach Earth they cause a reduction in atmospheric ions of up to about 20 to -30 percent over the course of a week. So if ions affect cloud formation it should be possible to observe a decrease in cloud cover during events when the Sun blows away cosmic rays, and this is precisely what is done in this study.

The so-called ‘Forbush decreases’ of the cosmic rays have previously been linked to week-long changes in Earth’s cloud cover but the effect has been debated at length in the scientific literature. The new study concludes that “there is a real impact of Forbush decreases on cloud microphysics” and that the results support the suggestion that “ions play a significant role in the life-cycle of clouds.”

Arriving at that conclusion was, however, a hard endeavor; Very few strong Forbush decreases occur and their effect on cloud formation is expected to be close to the limit of detection using global atmospheric observations measured by satellites and land based stations. Therefore it was of the greatest importance to select the strongest events for study since they had to have the most easily detected effect. Determining this strength required combining data from about 130 stations in combination with atmospheric modeling.

This new method resulted in a list of 26 events in the period of 1987-2007 ranked according to ionization. This ranked list was important for the detection of a signal, and may also shed some light on why previous studies have arrived at varied conclusions, since they have relied on events that were not necessarily ranked high on the list.

Possible long term effect

The effect from Forbush decreases on clouds is too brief to have any impact on long-term temperature changes.

However since clouds are affected by short term changes in galactic cosmic radiation, they may well also be affected by the slower change in Solar activity that happens on scales from tens to hundreds of years, and thus play a role in the radiation budget that determines the global temperature.

The Suns contribution to past and future climate change may thus be larger than merely the direct changes in radiation, concludes the scientists behind the new study.

Reference: J. Svensmark, M. B. Enghoff, N. J. Shaviv, H. Svensmark. The response of clouds and aerosols to cosmic ray decreasesJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/2016JA022689

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3) Construction Starts on Huge Chinese Cosmic-Ray Observatory
Physics World, 9 August 2016

Construction has begun on one of the world's largest and most sensitive cosmic-ray facilities. Located about 4410 m above sea level in the Haizi Mountain in Sichuan Province in southwest China, the 1.2 billion yuan ($180m) Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) will attempt to understand the origins of high-energy cosmic rays. LHAASO is set to open in 2020.
 
Layout of the LHAASO Project. (Courtesy: IHEP/LHAASO Collaboration)
Layout of the LHAASO Project. (Courtesy: IHEP/LHAASO Collaboration)


Cosmic rays are particles that originate in outer space and are accelerated to energies higher than those that can be achieved in even the largest man-made particle accelerators. Composed mainly of high-energy protons and atomic nuclei, cosmic rays create an air shower of particles such as photons and muons when they hit the atmosphere. Where cosmic rays come from, however, has remained a mystery since they were first spotted some 100 years ago.

Cosmic showers

LHAASO aims to detect cosmic rays over a wide range of energies from 1011–1018 eV using a Cherenkov water detector, covering a total area of 80 000 m2, together with 12 wide-field Cherenkov telescopes. These two types of instrument, which are above ground, will spot the Cherenkov radiation emitted when a charged particle travels through a medium faster than light can travel through that medium. LHAASO will also consist of a 1.3 km2 array of 6000 scintillation detectors that will study electrons and photons in the air showers, while an overlapping 1.3 km2 underground array of 1200 underground Cherenkov water tanks will detect muons.

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4) Robert Matthews: Climate Science Debates Find Their Place In The Sun
The National, 28 August 2016

Man’s nearest star is less active after scientists noticed a plunge in the number of sunspots. As a result, some say, global temperature levels will not rise as much as predicted, while others insist this will do little to slow climate change.
 
Image result for spotless sun 2016
Taken by Noeleen Lowndes on July 2, 2016 @ Gold Coast QLD Australia

ABU DHABI // August may be its usual sweltering self in the UAE, but it’s not business as usual with the source of that heat.

Something strange is happening to the Sun, and scientists are getting hot under the collar about it.

According to some, the Sun’s activity is dropping to levels last seen during a mini ice age that gripped the northern hemisphere 350 years ago. Others accept that the effect is real, but say global warming will still rule our future.

But some academics seem to regard the whole issue as too dangerous for public consumption and have sought to suppress it. Welcome to the less-than-dispassionate quest for truth that is climate science.

There is no dispute that the Sun has become quiescent. The Sun’s activity has long been known to vary on a cycle of about 11 years.

These peaks and troughs are revealed by sunspots, blotches on the surface caused by its magnetic field interfering with the flow of heat from the interior.

The latest solar cycle began in 2008, with sunspot numbers reaching a peak in 2014. But it was a decidedly feeble peak – barely half the previous level, and the lowest recorded since 1906.

Ever since, the Sun has been sliding towards a minimum, which it should reach around 2020. On current form, the cycle may prove to be the weakest since records began in the 17th century.

The arguments among researchers centre on whether this is significant. Just because sunspot numbers have plunged doesn’t mean the Sun itself is going off the boil.

Records from past sunspot cycles show that the Sun’s output changes by barely 0.1 per cent between peaks and troughs.

That, in turn, suggests that even if their numbers hit a record low, the temperature of the Earth would change by much less than the 1°C to 3°C temperature rise being predicted for the 21st century by computer models of global warming. Thus, even if the Sun is becoming less active, the effect is likely to be a downward tweak to an otherwise relentless climb in temperature propelled by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

But not everyone is convinced. They point to intriguing evidence of an unexpected link between sunspots and climate known as the Maunder Minimum. Records show this began in the mid-17th century with a collapse in sunspot numbers and a drop in temperatures over Europe.

The Maunder Minimum coincided with the coldest part of the so-called Little Ice Age, which gripped the region from 1300 to the mid-19th century.

But was it a coincidence? Yes, if you agree with scientists who say sunspots have minimal effect on global temperatures. Perhaps not if you side with those who challenge the arguments against such a link. [...]

Current computer models suggest that if the Sun really is heading for a new Maunder Minimum, there will be a cooling effect, but it won’t be big enough to halt global warming. As for a new mini ice age, that seems highly unlikely.

On the face of it, this is good news all round. While there’s no need to panic about a big freeze any time soon, the Sun may at least be giving us more time to deal with global warming.

Yet that’s not how some scientists see it. They seem to regard this new twist to the climate change debate as a threat, opening the door to “denialists” who dismiss global warming as scaremongering.

The experiences of one solar physicist suggest these academic guardians of the faith are keen to stop the idea of a less active Sun getting any traction.

Prof Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University in the UK has for years been working on the central puzzle behind the controversy: why does the usual 11-year solar cycle occasionally collapse?

By analysing data from recent cycles, she and her colleagues found evidence that the Sun has two sources of magnetic fields – and that when these get out of sync, the result is a collapse in sunspot numbers.

They’ve also made a prediction: that the Sun really is heading towards a Maunder Minimum-style event that could last until the 2050s.

Publishing in a scientific journal, the researchers saw their work as simply part of the quest to understand the Sun.

But when the team publicised their work through the UK Royal Astronomical Society, some academics decided to step in. Prof Zharkova this month told the Global Warming Policy Forum that the society came under pressure to withdraw a press release describing the findings.

The society refused. But attempts at such censorship should worry anyone who thinks the real goal of science is to uncover the truth, rather than follow a party line.

Evidence is the most powerful guide we have in the science of climate change. But if that evidence is censored or twisted, the science becomes mere sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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5) Matt Ridley: Ice Scares Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be
The Times, 29 August 2016

Doom-mongering scientists telling us that the melting Arctic is a disaster conveniently overlook vast chunks of history
 
Image result for Peter Wadhams crying wolf

The sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is approaching its annual nadir. By early September each year about two thirds of the ice cap has melted, then the sea begins to freeze again. This year looks unlikely to set a record for melting, with more than four million square kilometres of ice remaining, less than the average in the 1980s and 1990s, but more than in the record low years of 2007 and 2012. (The amount of sea ice around Antarctica has been increasing in recent years, contrary to predictions.)

This will disappoint some. An expedition led by David Hempleman-Adams to circumnavigate the North Pole through the Northeast and Northwest passages, intending to demonstrate “that the Arctic sea ice coverage shrinks back so far now in the summer months that sea that was permanently locked up now can allow passage through”, was recently held up for weeks north of Siberia by, um, ice. They have only just reached halfway.

Meanwhile, the habit of some scientists of predicting when the ice will disappear completely keeps getting them into trouble. A Nasa climate scientist, Jay Zwally, told the Associated Press in 2007: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012.” Two years later Al Gore quoted another scientist that “there is a 75 per cent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice-free within five to seven years” — that is, by now.

This year Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University has a new book out called Farewell to Ice, which gives a “greater than even chance” that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free next month. Not likely.

He added: “Next year or the year after that, I think it will be free of ice in summer . . . You will be able to cross over the North Pole by ship.” The temptation to predict a total melt of the Arctic ice cap, and thereby get a headline, has been counterproductive, according to other scientists. Crying wolf does not help the cause of global warming; it only gives amusement to sceptics.

Would it matter if it did all melt one year? Here’s the point everybody seems to be missing: the Arctic Ocean’s ice has indeed disappeared during summer in the past, routinely. The evidence comes from various sources, such as beach ridges in northern Greenland, never unfrozen today, which show evidence of wave action in the past. One Danish team concluded in 2012 that 8,500 years ago the ice extent was “less than half of the record low 2007 level”. A Swedish team, in a paper published in 2014, went further: between 10,000 years ago and 6,000 years ago, the Arctic experienced a “regime dominated by seasonal ice, ie, ice-free summers”.

This was a period known as the “early Holocene insolation maximum” (EHIM). [...]

To put it in context, the EHIM was the period during which agriculture was invented in about seven different parts of the globe at once. Copper smelting began; cattle and sheep were domesticated; wine and cheese were developed; the first towns appeared. The seas being warmer, the climate was generally wet so the Sahara had rivers and forests, hippos and people.

That the Arctic sea ice disappeared each August or September in those days does not seem to have done harm (remember that melting sea ice, as opposed to land ice, does not affect sea level), and nor did it lead to a tipping point towards ever-more rapid warming. Indeed, the reverse was the case: evidence from stalagmites in tropical caves, sea-floor sediments and ice cores on the Greenland ice cap shows that temperatures gradually but erratically cooled over the next few thousand years as the obliquity of the axis and the precession of the equinoxes changed. Sunlight is now weaker in July than January again (on global average).

Barring one especially cold snap 8,200 years ago, the coldest spell of the past ten millennia was the very recent “little ice age” of AD1300-1850, when glaciers advanced, tree lines descended and the Greenland Norse died out.

It seems that the quantity of Arctic sea ice varies more than we used to think. We don’t really know how much ice there was in the 1920s and 1930s — satellites only started measuring it in 1979, a relatively cold time in the Arctic — but there is anecdotal evidence of considerable ice retreat in those decades, when temperatures were high in the Arctic. [...]

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.


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