Something to be thankful for! At last: Cosmic rays linked to rapid mid-latitude cloud changes

UPDATE: Lead author Ben Laken responds in comments below.

I’ve reported several times at WUWT on the galactic cosmic ray theory proposed by  Henrik Svensmark which suggests that changes in the sun’s magnetic field modulate the density of Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCRs) which in turn seed cloud formation on Earth, which changes the albedo/reflectivity to affect Earth’s energy balance and hence global climate.

Simplified diagram of the Solar-GCR to Earth clouds relationship. Image: Jo Nova

A new paper published today in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics suggests that the relationship has been established.

Figure 1 below shows a correlation, read it with the top and bottom graph combined vertically.

Fig. 1. (A) Short term GCR change (significance indicated by markers) and (B) anomalous cloud cover changes (significance indicated by solid contours) occurring over the composite period. GCR data sourced from multiple neutron monitors, variations normalised against changes experienced over a Schwabe cycle. Cloud changes are a tropospheric (30–1000 mb) average from the ISCCP D1 IR cloud values.

As the authors write in the abstract:

These results provide perhaps the most compelling evidence presented thus far of a GCR-climate relationship.

Dr. Roy Spencer has mentioned that it doesn’t take much in the way of cloud cover changes to add up to the “global warming signal” that has been observed. He writes in The Great Global Warming Blunder:

The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1% or 2% decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.

Well, it seems that Laken, Kniveton, and Frogley have found just such a small effect. Here’s the abstract and select passages from the paper, along with a link to the full paper:

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 10941-10948, 2010

doi:10.5194/acp-10-10941-2010

Cosmic rays linked to rapid mid-latitude cloud changes

B. A. Laken , D. R. Kniveton, and M. R. Frogley

Abstract. The effect of the Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR) flux on Earth’s climate is highly uncertain. Using a novel sampling approach based around observing periods of significant cloud changes, a statistically robust relationship is identified between short-term GCR flux changes and the most rapid mid-latitude (60°–30° N/S) cloud decreases operating over daily timescales; this signal is verified in surface level air temperature (SLAT) reanalysis data. A General Circulation Model (GCM) experiment is used to test the causal relationship of the observed cloud changes to the detected SLAT anomalies. Results indicate that the anomalous cloud changes were responsible for producing the observed SLAT changes, implying that if there is a causal relationship between significant decreases in the rate of GCR flux (~0.79 GU, where GU denotes a change of 1% of the 11-year solar cycle amplitude in four days) and decreases in cloud cover (~1.9 CU, where CU denotes a change of 1% cloud cover in four days), an increase in SLAT (~0.05 KU, where KU denotes a temperature change of 1 K in four days) can be expected. The influence of GCRs is clearly distinguishable from changes in solar irradiance and the interplanetary magnetic field. However, the results of the GCM experiment are found to be somewhat limited by the ability of the model to successfully reproduce observed cloud cover. These results provide perhaps the most compelling evidence presented thus far of a GCR-climate relationship. From this analysis we conclude that a GCR-climate relationship is governed by both short-term GCR changes and internal atmospheric precursor conditions.

I found this portion interesting related to the figure above:

The composite sample shows a positive correlation between statistically significant cloud changes and variations in the short-term GCR flux (Fig. 1): increases in the GCR flux

occur around day −5 of the composite, and correspond to significant localised mid-latitude increases in cloud change. After this time, the GCR flux undergoes a statistically significant decrease (1.2 GU) centred on the key date of the composite; these changes correspond to widespread statistically significant decreases in cloud change (3.5 CU, 1.9 CU globallyaveraged) over mid-latitude regions.

and this…

The strong and statistically robust connection identified here between the most rapid cloud decreases over mid-latitude regions and short-term changes in the GCR flux is clearly distinguishable from the effects of solar irradiance and IMF variations. The observed anomalous changes show a strong latitudinal symmetry around the equator; alone, this pattern

gives a good indication of an external forcing agent, as

there is no known mode of internal climate variability at the

timescale of analysis, which could account for this distinctive

response. It is also important to note that these anomalous

changes are detected over regions where the quality of

satellite-based cloud retrievals is relatively robust; results of

past studies concerned with high-latitude anomalous cloud

changes have been subject to scrutiny due to a low confidence

in polar cloud retrievals (Laken and Kniveton, 2010;

Todd and Kniveton, 2001) but the same limitations do not

apply here.

Although mid-latitude cloud detections are more robust

than those over high latitudes, Sun and Bradley (2002) identified

a distinctive pattern of high significance between GCRs

and the ISCCP dataset over the Atlantic Ocean that corresponded

to the METEOSAT footprint. This bias does not

appear to influence the results presented in this work: Fig. 6 shows the rates of anomalous IR-detected cloud change occurring over Atlantic, Pacific and land regions of the midlatitudes during the composite period, and a comparable pattern of cloud change is observed over all regions, indicating no significant bias is present.

Conclusions

This work has demonstrated the presence of a small but statistically significant influence of GCRs on Earth’s atmosphere over mid-latitude regions. This effect is present in

both ISCCP satellite data and NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data for at least the last 20 years suggesting that small fluctuations in solar activity may be linked to changes in the Earth’s atmosphere via a relationship between the GCR flux and cloud cover; such a connection may amplify small changes in solar activity. In addition, a GCR – cloud relationship may also act in conjunction with other likely solar – terrestrial relationships concerning variations in solar UV (Haigh, 1996) and total solar irradiance (Meehl et al., 2009). The climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links may have had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic warming, accounting for the presence of solar cycle relationships detectable in palaeoclimatic records (e.g.,Bond et al., 2001; Neff et al., 2001; Mauas et al., 2008).

Further detailed investigation is required to better understand GCR – atmosphere relationships. Specifically, the use of both ground-based and satellite-based cloud/atmospheric monitoring over high-resolution timescales for extended periods of time is required. In addition, information regarding potentially important microphysical properties such as aerosols, cloud droplet size, and atmospheric electricity must also be considered. Through such monitoring efforts, in addition to both computational modelling (such as that of Zhou and Tinsley, 2010) and experimental efforts (such as that of Duplissy et al., 2010) we may hope to better understand the effects described here.

It seems they have found the signal. This is a compelling finding because it now opens a pathway and roadmap on where and how to look. Expect more to come.

The full paper is here: Final Revised Paper (PDF, 2.2 MB)

h/t to The Hockey Schtick

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Stephan

Leif?

Brian H

Lief is still in orbit.

Boudu

So, what they’ve done is propose a theory, think about how it might be realised in the real world then used empirical observations to prove their hypothesis. Groundbreaking.

Scarface

So, it’s the sun after all. Who would have thought that…
Can we now put the CAGW-theory to rest, please? I truly hope so.
Mr. Svensmark, if you read this post, please leave a comment over here!

RR Kampen

Hm, it’s just a model. We don’t trust models.

So, let me get this straight…….
All we have to do in order to stop Global Warming is build an enormous great solar-magnetic shield.
Excellent! How much will this cost the Developing and Western World economies – we are doing it for the children, after all!

Wow, thanks for this! David Archibald also followed up on this Sun-GCRs-cloud-climate theory, although he is a geologist, not a solar physicist. I remember last year, there was a WUWT article showing that GCRs were about 19 percent higher than previous year’s level, as the Sun was generally “sleeping”.

Reference

Anthony
Notice the dodge in the conclusions:
“The climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links may have had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic warming”
REPLY: No dodge, conclusions are printed in full in my post. My point is that they found the signal, nothing else. Take off your blinders. – Anthony

Excellent news if confirmed by other studies too.

Robin

“solar – terrestrial links may have had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic warming”
Have had? Past tense? What’s changed? Of course, now CO2 is the only driver for global climate.

http://climate4you.com/images/CloudCoverAllLevel%20AndWaterColumnSince1983.gif
There are some trends, but not in direct relation with sun cycles. But obviously changes in cloudiness has serious effect on climate.

Ralph

In teresting, but I would be more convinced if they had more than 10 days worth of data. How about a full year, to take into account seasonal variations too.
.

Jerry

What exactly does the news mean? Is there a historical trend that would lead to decreased cloud cover? Covering the instrumental record?
That there is a correlation is very interesting. That it supports one or other of the parties is even more interesting and does not seem to have been articulated.

Rob Vermeulen

Hi,
you forgot to mention the following conlcusion of the paper:
“Based on the relationships observed in this study […] we speculate
that little systematic change in temperature [due to cloud cover changes, see text] at mid-latitudes has occurred over the last 50 years. However, at shorter time-scales this phenomenon may contribute to natural variability, potentially reducing detectability of an anthropogenic signal.”
which is in line with
“The climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links may have
had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic
warming, accounting for the presence of solar cycle relationships detectable in palaeoclimatic records”
So to sum it up, the authors show that clouds are related to short-scale variability of the climate and that on long periods, systematic changes in the cloud cover can explain changes in temperature… far below what has been observed during the 20th century. In my sense, it is another proof that the solar influence is way weaker than the rest in the context of the recently observed warming.
REPLY: Gosh, another person wearing blinders. Conclusions (including what you cite) are printed in full in my post. My point is that they found the signal, nothing else. – Anthony

Interesting. Any news from the Cloud experiment being run at Cern? It could provide some experimental validation of these findings.

wayne

So if this ends up true it was the sun after all.
Now who would have ever guessed such an outlandish reason.

There is a strong correlation between the Arctic temperature and the Earth magnetic field. However the correlation is negative, weaker field higher temperature. If the Svensmark’s effect is at work it is in reverse; weaker magnetic field, more GCR, more clouds above the Arctic, higher temperature. More clouds in the Arctic (for 6 months of the year) acting as a ‘GH’ gas prevent excessive cooling, a well known effect in the middle and northern latitudes during winter months.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CO2-Arc.htm

Michael

That sounds plausible.

sHx

Yay, what a coincidence!
This morning after my usual sweep of Climate blogs, I wondered whether we’re going to hear more about the much anticipated CLOUD experiment at CERN and whether.
This news was not exactly what I was looking for, but it is close. Another win for science.

SteveE

Interesting graphs, I think a longer time period would be needed to show a good relationship though.
The -10 to -7 days on the graph doesn’t seem to show the sharp chage in cloud change that’s observed in the -2 to +2 days part of the graph though. In fact it’s got a lower GCR of -1 to -2 but a positive cloud change (CU).
Please correct me if I’m reading this wrong though as I haven’t read the paper fully.

Upon seeing the usage of NCEP-Reanalysis surface air temperatures, I quit reading.

Bob in Castlemaine

Indeed very interesting – but still the need for a genuflection to the orthodoxy.

The climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links may have had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic warming, accounting for the presence of solar cycle relationships detectable in palaeoclimatic records …..

Espen

Anthony, your quote below “and this…” is wrong: Between “The observed anomalous changes show a strong” and “shows the rates of anomalous IR-detected cloud change occurring”, 18 lines of text are missing.
I first misread the PDF in the same way myself, it’s easy to do since the missing part of the text appears below the figure in the left column on the next page.
And btw, thank you for a very interesting article!
REPLY: Thanks, disjoint fixed – Anthony

Brent Hargreaves

Great news! Once the link between solar activity and climate is well understood we can stop all this nonsense about carbon dioxide.
Our friends in the AGW camp love to hoot, “Ah, you say the precise mechanism is not yet understood! Your belief that one day it will be is thus an article of faith! You denialists are irrational.” Well, Newton may not have understood precisely how gravity worked, but he had a keen eye for cause-and-effect.
Come on, the astrophysicists! Show us how the sun regulates global warming – and cooling – and we’ll move on from this sorry episode of neoapocalypticism. Man made? This was always an outbreak of hubris!

Steeptown

Yes indeed, they still have to secure future funding.

Arun

“The climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links may have had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic warming, accounting for the presence of solar cycle relationships detectable in palaeoclimatic records”
Such a totally unsupported and self-castrating statement was necessary to include in order to get published in the sick, corrupt field of climate science. LOL.

Mac

It’s the Sun wot dunnit!

Gail Combs

Ilove this sentence:
“The climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links may have had a significant impact on climate prior to the onset of anthropogenic warming, accounting for the presence of solar cycle relationships detectable in palaeoclimatic records (e.g.,Bond et al., 2001; Neff et al., 2001; Mauas et al., 2008).”
You have to laugh at the “magic phrase” needed to mollify the CAGW gatekeepers that was necessary to get the paper published. Can’t have the new discovery upset the CAGW applecart. If you look you will find a similar phrase in practically every recent paper published even if it has nothing to do with climate science – disgusting.

Phillip Bratby

So all that CO2 has stopped the climatic forcings resulting from such solar – terrestrial links. That pesky CO2 is more powerful than we thought.

Yarmy

The author has his own website here:
http://benlaken.com/index.html
He’s very young: looks like he’s only just finished his PhD.

Stephen Wilde

I’d like to resolve the question as to whether the change in cosmic ray intensity is a direct driver itself or a mere proxy for solar changes that cause the cloud changes by other means.
The thing is that the cloud quantity changes also seem to be accompanied by latitudinal jet stream shifting which would itself encourage more clouds by stretching the air mass boundaries along greater distances and causing more air mass mixing. I don’t think anyone has suggested that more cosmic rays shift the jet streams.
It would be nice to know which is the more direct cause of the cloudiness changes.

Ralph wanted a greater timescale
From Wikipedia:
In cooperation with other scientists, Veizer compared the reconstructed seawater paleotemperature records for the past 545 million years with the variable galactic cosmic ray flux (CRF) reaching Earth and reconstructed partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 (pCO2).
According to a – cautiously worded – paper in Nature 2000[3] written together with Yves Godderis und Louis M. François, the results can be reconciled if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were not the principal driver of climate variability on geological timescales for at least one-third of the Phanerozoic eon, or if the reconstructed carbon dioxide concentrations are not reliable.
From Viezer and others
Abstract. In recent years the variability of the cosmic ray flux has become one of the main issues interpreting cosmogenic elements and especially their connection with climate. In this review, an interdisciplinary team of scientists brings together our knowledge of the evolution and modulation of the cosmic ray flux fromits origin in theMilkyWay, during its propagation through the heliosphere, up to its interaction with the Earth’s magnetosphere, resulting, finally, in the production of cosmogenic
isotopes in the Earth’ atmosphere. The interpretation of the cosmogenic isotopes and the cosmic ray – cloud connection are also intensively discussed. Finally, we discuss some open questions.
In 2003, together with Nir J. Shaviv, an Israeli astrophycisist, Veizer published a paper in Geological Society of America confirming [2], a reduced (capped) influence of carbon dioxide to Climate Change and attributing a more significant influence to cosmic rays. While the mechanism seems not yet to be fully understood, the empirical data showed a suitable fit.

Golf Charley

Wikipedia has an artcle that is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Svensmark’s theory. A certain William M Connolley “helped” write the article.
As I know nothng about Cosmic Rays, this leads me to believe that Svensmark is probably right.
WMC (We Manufacture Consensus) and his cronies can be useful afterall.

Hi Ryan, whats wrong with NCEP reanalysis data?

John Marshall

Makes far more sense than blaming human use of fossil fuels and the CO2 we produce from that energy producing effort. ( This is 3% of the total annual CO2 production, the 97% being from natural emitters according to the US Dept of Energy).

David, UK

But… but… the CAGW hypothesis explains all the warming of the last century (once the models have been calibrated and adjusted as required). There is simply no need to look any further.
My protest has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you can’t tax clouds. [/sarc]

gg

Wow ! Who`d have thought that great big ball of nuclear powered fire in the sky could cause the earth to warm.

Ryan Maue says:
November 25, 2010 at 1:25 am (Edit)
Upon seeing the usage of NCEP-Reanalysis surface air temperatures, I quit reading.
#####
yup. i guess everybody forgets they are not observations. suddenly when observations that nobody trusts are fed into a Reanalysis model (and they cant be right) the result is suitable to use to test a theory. selective skepticism

SteveE says:
November 25, 2010 at 1:17 am
The -10 to -7 days on the graph doesn’t seem to show the sharp change in cloud change that’s observed in the -2 to +2 days part of the graph though. In fact it’s got a lower GCR of -1 to -2 but a positive cloud change (CU).
And that is precisely the problem with this analysis.

Dave Wendt

This is OT, but I came across a spectacular timelapse video of the Aurora over Norway. It’s well worth a look!

paulsnz

Who Knew, Magnetic fields interact with ionic gases and cosmic radiation to produce forces that shape our planets climate and the solar system, Next someone will suggest Gravity holds the solar system together in some sort of periodic orbiting tug of war!.

Richard S Courtney

vukcevic:
Thank you for your observation in your post above at November 25, 2010 at 1:04 am.
It says;
“There is a strong correlation between the Arctic temperature and the Earth magnetic field. However the correlation is negative, weaker field higher temperature. If the Svensmark’s effect is at work it is in reverse; weaker magnetic field, more GCR, more clouds above the Arctic, higher temperature. More clouds in the Arctic (for 6 months of the year) acting as a ‘GH’ gas prevent excessive cooling, a well known effect in the middle and northern latitudes during winter months.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/CO2-Arc.htm
OK. I get that. You say you observe the opposite of the Svensmark Effect over “middle and northern latitudes”.
But it is not clear to me from the graph in your link what you mean by “middle and northern latitudes”, and that graph is labelled as showing “Arctic” data. So, according to the data you present, it seems to me that your finding applies to the Arctic and possibly both polar regions.
But the paper by Laken et al. considers “the most rapid mid-latitude (60°–30° N/S) cloud decreases operating over daily timescales”; i.e. Lakis et al. have investigated a different region of the Earth than your analysis. And their findings concur with the Svensmark Effect.
At this moment I have no reason to dispute your findings or the findings of Lakis et al.. So, the difference between those findings suggests interesting paths for investigation: but before commenting on that, I point out that if both you and Lakis et al. are right then the effect which Lakis et al. seem to have detected would dominate for global climate.
Very little solar radiation is received in near-polar regions and heat is transported to those regions from warmer climes by ocean currents, so near-polar regions are net emitters of radiation. The effect you describe (and I quote in this post) would reduce the net emission so keep the “middle and northern latitudes” warmer in winter months. But the effect would be small because radiative fluxes are relatively small in those regions.
Much more solar energy is received at 60°–30° N/S than in the polar regions. Therefore, small modulation of radiative fluxes by clouds in the 60°–30° N/S region would have greater effect than large modulation of radiative fluxes by clouds in polar regions.
Hence, if both you and Lakis et al. are right then the net effect would agree with the Svensmark hypothesis.
Which brings us to interesting directions for research.
Firstly, your finding and the finding by Lakis et al. each needs to be confirmed.
Then, both empirical and theoretical explanations for the different findings need to be evinced. (As an aside, there are some possibilities for this. The Svensmark Effect relies on the velocity of comic ray particles providing Einsteinian time dilation to enable them to penetrate the atmosphere to levels where clouds form, and the height of the troposphere – so altitudes of clouds – varies with latitude. The Earth’s electromagnetic field strength and direction differs near the poles from elsewhere so cosmic ray fluxes differ there. Etc.)
After that, the effects of cloud modulation on radiative fluxes at different latitudes needs to be quantified.
Finally, the effect of these different flux modulations in different regions on heat flows (a) around the planet and (b) to and from the planet need to be determined.
All potentially interesting stuff, so I again thank you for your comment.
Richard

Bruce Cunningham

I was struck by Ryan’s comment also. I assume the NCEP-reanalysis temps are not so good? A bad thing to use for correlation of their theory?

The 95% significance level is also a bit weak. What is lacking is a simple mention of how many key days were used. When doing a superposed epoch analysis a standard test is to divide the data set into two halves and show that the effect is present in both. This was not done.

Stephen Wilde

“SteveE says:
November 25, 2010 at 1:17 am
The -10 to -7 days on the graph doesn’t seem to show the sharp change in cloud change that’s observed in the -2 to +2 days part of the graph though. In fact it’s got a lower GCR of -1 to -2 but a positive cloud change (CU).”
Not necessarily a critical issue.
It’s perfectly possible to have a robust correlation on a longer timescale but a weak or non existent correlation on shorter timescales.
That would be typical of a coherent system overall but with lower level elements of chaotic variability or other lower level shorter term forcings overlaying the primary forcing from time to time.
Objections based simply on such lower level features are just churlish. It is the wider picture that matters.

Not to put too much of a dampener on it, but there’s not much more to the two signals than the global warming hogwash – a down and an up – and such a relationship is pretty easy to come by pure chance.
Give me an up – down – up – down!
It would only have taken a week more of data and we could all be jumping for joy. Why hasn’t this been done … of course because they’re spending all the money “proving” global boring and nothing is left for serious science!

vukcevic says:
November 25, 2010 at 1:04 am
There is a strong correlation between the Arctic temperature and the Earth magnetic field.
Coincidence, the correlation breaks down when you go back in time, e.g. to the MWP.

Stephen Wilde says:
November 25, 2010 at 3:17 am
It’s perfectly possible to have a robust correlation on a longer timescale but a weak or non existent correlation on shorter timescales.
The nature of the superposed epoch method is such that it applies to the shorter time scale, i.e. that of the width of the graph. So you are saying that on a time scale of 3 days it works, but on a time scale of 10 days it doesn’t have to. That is special pleading.

Roger Knights

A bonbon for Cancun

Viv Evans

Steven Mosher says (November 25, 2010 at 2:39 am):
Ryan Maue says (November 25, 2010 at 1:25 am (Edit)):
Upon seeing the usage of NCEP-Reanalysis surface air temperatures, I quit reading.
#####
yup. i guess everybody forgets they are not observations. suddenly when observations that nobody trusts are fed into a Reanalysis model (and they cant be right) the result is suitable to use to test a theory. selective skepticism

With all due respect, Sirs Mosher and Maue – it would have been much appreciated if you’d told us peasants without PhDs in climate-related fields why using this NCEP Reanalysis is bad, and perhaps even told us peasants lower down the food chain what this beast actually is, ahem, the acronym stands for.
Otherwise, your contribution feels a bit like the sneering we’re used to when lectured from a great height by certain people on certain blogs who shall be nameless.
Thanks in advance for your forthcoming explanations.