Preliminary results for the CERN CLOUD cosmic ray experiment

From Nature blog: Sunny days for CLOUD experiment

An experiment designed to investigate the link between solar activity and the climate has its first results in the bag. At the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco today, Joachim Curtius presented data from the first runs of the CLOUD (‘cosmics leaving outdoor droplets’) experiment at CERN – the European particle physics lab outside of Geneva.

The experiment has a long and bumpy history. The idea is to test the theory that cosmic rays spur the formation of particles in the air that nucleate clouds, in turn making skies cloudier and the planet cooler. Researchers have noted a dearth of sunspots (which is linked to more cosmic rays) during the ‘little ice age’ of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and a peak in sunspots (linked to a drop in cosmic rays) during the late 1980s, when global cloudiness dropped by about 3% (see Nature‘s feature on the project). No one knows how big this effect might be, and the idea that it might account for a big chunk of the warming over the last century is highly controversial.

CLOUD uses a particle beam from CERN as a stand-in for cosmic rays, and fires them through an ultra-clean steel chamber filled with select atmospheric gases, to see if and how particles that could nucleate clouds are formed. Project head Jasper Kirkby proposed the experiment back in 1998. But it had a hard time getting off the ground – perhaps in part because Kirkby received bad press for emphasizing the importance of cosmic rays to climate change (see this story from the National Post). CLOUD finally got going in 2006, and they started work with the full kit in November 2009 (here’s a CERN video update about that).

The results haven’t yet been published, so Curtius declined to discuss the details. But the important thing is that the project is working – they have seen sulphuric acid and water combine to make particles when blasted by the CERN beam, for example, in a way that matches predictions of the most recent models. The data should help the team to quantify how much of an impact the Sun is having on climate within 2-3 years, Curtius says – though there are a lot more pieces of the puzzle to fill in.

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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.

This graph certainly lends credence to the theory:

Here’s a longer record of cosmic rays:

Galactic cosmic rays (GCR) from 1951 to 2006. ...

Image via Wikipedia

See also this WUWT story:

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

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TomRude

When Suzuki quoted Svensmark in “CBC The Nature of Things”… it means the wind is about to turn…

What? An actual physical testing of a hypothesis? What the heck is science coming to? /sarc

Very interesting! Although probably not the only influence on clouds, it shows that most climate models underestimate solar changes by only taking into account the influence of direct solar radiation…
Any idea what caused the 1998 sharp drop in low cloud cover (influence of the 1998 El Niño?)?

Ivan

“they have seen sulphuric acid and water combine to make particles when blasted by the CERN beam, for example, in a way that matches predictions of the most recent models. ”
This is so unpredictable result.

Caleb

It’s the sun, stu——, I mean, my fellow scientists.
When I think back to the blasting I used to get, back around 2007, when I so much as suggested the sun had any influence on warming and/or cooling periods on earth, it amazes me. I wonder if those folk will ever get around to eating crow, or their hats, or whether they will simply fade away quietly, and hope no one remembers how amazingly rude they once were.

This is most exciting from several aspects. Greatly so since it is the application of experimental science in an attempt to calibrate the numerical and other types of models. We have empirical measurements of many factors but as yet lack the understanding of how they interact with each other. I guess us science junkies will just have to sit on our hands and hold for results. Three years is not all that long just think about Voyageur.

Jeremy

Just like science should be, slow and cautious in the face of political anxiety. Very unlike those claiming to have written the last word on precisely what is warming the planet.

I would like to see Svensmark and Kirby jointly recieve a Nobel Prize one day in the not too distant future.

David S

Ok I see a strong correlation between cosmic rays and cloud cover. But what about temperature? The year 1998 had high cloud cover, but that was a warm year. Cloud cover has diminished since then and so has the earth’s temperature. That seems to imply that clouds have a net warming effect.
It’s certainly true that clouds can block sunlight and that produces cooling. But it’s also true that clouds can act like radiation shields, absorbing radiant energy leaving earth and reradiating part of it back to earth. That produces warming. So which effect dominates?

Jeremy

David S says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:32 am
…So which effect dominates?

That depends greatly (as I understand it) on the type and altitude of clouds that exist. It’s safe to say, however, that climate models that do not properly simulate clouds cannot be trusted as anything other than a software exercise.

Stephen Wilde

I don’t think the fact of the effects is an issue. As with more CO2 the issue is quantification of the effect in relation to other factors.
For the time being I prefer the alternative explanation of latitudinally shifting jets and their associated cloud bands allowing more or less energy into the oceans depending on the level of solar activity working via the polar vortex, the size intensity and position of the polar high pressure cells and the surface spread of the polar air masses (subject to oceanic modulation though).

James

I honestly think the cloud / temperature / sun link is obvious and direct.
Lets look at Night vs Daytime weather.
Often the cloud cover is reduced at night and temperatures fall away rapidly and, that cover increases during the day.
You only have to wake up early on a clear sunny morning and by 10 am clouds are forming, and the temperatures increase throughout the day.
At night the clouds cover reduces and the temperatures fall back.
But since when has observation and empirical evidence have to do with climate science.

J

@tallbloke
Nobel Prize? What have they done to deserve that ignominy?!!
😉

Bill Marsh

This falls under the category — tease!!!
I’ve been watching for CLOUD results since I read ‘The Chilling Stars’. Now I have to wait 2-3 more years??

Bill Marsh

@ Caleb says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:15 am
It’s the sun, stu——, I mean, my fellow scientists.
When I think back to the blasting I used to get, back around 2007, when I so much as suggested the sun had any influence on warming and/or cooling periods on earth, it amazes me. I wonder if those folk will ever get around to eating crow, or their hats, or whether they will simply fade away quietly, and hope no one remembers how amazingly rude they once were.
=================
What they will most likely do is act like they believed this to be the case all along and hope no one remembers the past. It seems to work well for many politicians.

Robinson

The year 1998 had high cloud cover, but that was a warm year.

I’m guessing there are two or three levels of abstraction here (possibly more): solar changes causing cloud condensation nuclei concentration changes, causing cloud changes, which cause ocean heat content changes, which cause atmospheric temperature changes. There would be various lags and feedbacks associated with each, so it probably isn’t a simple case of finding the phase correlation between any two of the variables and thinking you’ve got to the fact of the matter.

ArthurM

The 50-year record of cosmic rays certainly has a remarkably close correlation with the 11-year sunspot cycle (inverted, of course), in terms of period, though amplitude correlation isn’t very exact (using Wolf sunspot numbers). One interesting feature is the extended trough in the cosmic ray graph in the early 2000’s – perhaps this relates to the double peak in the sunspot numbers which was separated by about 2 years (when the first peak was North dominant and the second peak South dominant).

James says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:41 am

I honestly think the cloud / temperature / sun link is obvious and direct.
Often the cloud cover is reduced at night and temperatures fall away rapidly and, that cover increases during the day.

This is not what’s being studied. The atmosphere can become extremely supersaturated with water vapor if there are no condensation nuclei to start cloud formation. The posited effect is on low maritime clouds, not clouds over land as you describe.
Essentially (from memory, I’ve likely missed a step or two – read “The Chilling Stars”) is consmic rays hit upper atmosphere, produce shower of muons, muons ionize H2SO4 gas in lower atmosphere (source is DMS released from ocean by decaying algae being converted to SO2 by sunlight and reacting with H2O and O2) H2SO4 clumps together and H2O joins it to make cloud condensation nuclei.
Hmm, I may have indeed screwed that up badly. Tough – it’s time for lunch. I’m sure dozens of readers will correct the mistakes!

latitude

David S says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:32 am
So which effect dominates?
================================================
David, NASA says cooling.
“Understanding cloud effects requires a detailed knowledge of how clouds absorb and reflect incoming shortwave solar energy, as well as how they absorb and re-emit outgoing longwave energy. For example, low, thick clouds primarily reflect incoming solar energy back to space causing cooling. Thin, high clouds, however, primarily trap outgoing longwave energy and produce warming. To date, satellite studies have found that clouds have an overall net cooling effect on the Earth.”
http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/factsheets/CERES.html

Paul

2 to 3 years ? It may be the sign that the results undermine the AGW theory.
If they had been pro AGW, all the media in the world would have written about them by now.

Richard Bell

Please don’t forget Jasper kirkby’s original presentation here at the Cern site :
http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/1181073/
A must watch !!!

Theo Goodwin

remembers how amazingly rude they once were.
Dennis Nikols, P. Geol. says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:16 am
“This is most exciting from several aspects. Greatly so since it is the application of experimental science in an attempt to calibrate the numerical and other types of models. We have empirical measurements of many factors but as yet lack the understanding of how they interact with each other.”
Pardon me for being a purist, but I would like to see the word “hypothesis” in here somewhere. If this new work produces nothing more than data points to be “fitted” to climate models then I see no advance at all. I take it that the scientists have some hypotheses about interactions among cosmic rays and various constituents of he atmosphere and they are running experiments to test these hypotheses.

Stephen Rasey

Forgive a slightly off topic question, but what studies have been done to look at stratospheric changes in H2O, CO2 concentrations resulting in the elimination of Concord and SR-71 flights in 2003 and 1999 respectively. Has the albeto of the high stratosphere declined with less exhaust from supersonic planes?
There has been much comment about purposely injecting SO2 into the Stratosphere for a cooling effect. But what about the side effect of what happened when we reduced the number of supersonic flights in the stratosphere over the past 15 years?

TheChuckr

“Caleb says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:15 am
It’s the sun, stu——, I mean, my fellow scientists.
When I think back to the blasting I used to get, back around 2007, when I so much as suggested the sun had any influence on warming and/or cooling periods on earth, it amazes me. I wonder if those folk will ever get around to eating crow, or their hats, or whether they will simply fade away quietly, and hope no one remembers how amazingly rude they once were.”
Nah, they’ll claim that it is exactly what is predicted by global warming “science” and the models.

David S says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:32 am

“[…] so which effect dominates?”
It seems obvious to this untrained, uncredentialed observer that this is an incorrect approach when considering the function of clouds in the overall system. A better question is the determination of their role, overall, and how their properties interact with the other activities and conditions.
Bias admission – my skepticism peaks when someone advocates one item within an interdependent and complex system (particularly ones for which the advocate readily admits an ignorance of totality about) as being “key”, or “most important” – when due to the fact that it’s a holistic system, such a statement could equally, and as erroneously made, imho, about a variety of the components therein.
This approach is the biggest discrediting factor, for me, in the vehement claims of the import of CO2, particularly to the point of blatant disregard for other factors. And it does not require peeling too many layers from that particular onion to reveal the quite non-scientific motivators and agendas behind it.

Sun Spot

Slowly leaking out the CLOUD results over two or three years gives the warmistas a chance to extricate themselves from their extremist warming dogma of the past in hopes of saving face.

movielib

tallbloke says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:31 am
I would like to see Svensmark and Kirby jointly recieve a Nobel Prize one day in the not too distant future.
——————————————————————————————-
Nir Shaviv and Jan Veizer deserve to be in on it too.

Duster

Theo Goodwin says:
December 16, 2010 at 9:20 am
“…Pardon me for being a purist, but I would like to see the word “hypothesis” in here somewhere. …”
The very use of the word “experiment” implies an hypothesis. The cosmic ray-cloud cover linkage is one of the few experimentally testable hypotheses that have been advanced regarding the mechanisms of climate in the last decade. It’s the only one that actually reduces the number of “forcings” [goshaweful word that] necessary to model global climate effect, thus actually meeting one of the demands of Occam’s Razor. CO2 actually increases the model complexity because of itself it can only have a minuscule direct effect of air temperatures. Consequently, “complications” have be to added before the model remotely parallels empirical data records, a violation of Occam’s Razor. So rest up, there really is a hypothesis in the works.

Dave F

David S says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:32 am
…So which effect dominates?
Jeremy says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:39 am
That depends greatly (as I understand it) on the type and altitude of clouds that exist. It’s safe to say, however, that climate models that do not properly simulate clouds cannot be trusted as anything other than a software exercise.
Sure, but clouds perform convection also. Thunderheads are low and high lying clouds, convecting heat to space. And they release energy during phase change. So it is actually more complicated than just type and altitude.
As to which effect dominates, well this is anecdotal at best, but consider Figure 2 in this study:
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/09/28/1003292107.full.pdf+html
Evaporation takes off like a rocket while precipitation declines, which to me suggests a lack of cloud cover. Shortly after the 98 El Nino, precipitation takes off while evaporation slows. This, to me, would suggest that there was an increase in cloud cover, as it’s hard to imagine more precipitation with less clouds. That is all conjecture, sure, and it is based on the assumption that study is correct, but hey, it was peer reviewed, right? 😉

Dave F

Sorry, forgot in my previous post that all of those extra clouds post-1998 seem to suggest that clouds appear to compensate for extra warmth.

Sun Spot

P.S. if CLOUD would have negated the cosmoclimatology hypothesis we would have heard it in 2 to 3 seconds !!

nc

Along with what Stephen Rasey posted I remember reading how temperatures dropped in the U.S. when all aircraft where grounded during 9/11. Has there been any follow ups to this?

When the final results are published there’ll be the ‘but CAGW is true’ inserted somewhere. Am I cynical. Yes.

Jeremy

Sun Spot says:
December 16, 2010 at 9:51 am
Slowly leaking out the CLOUD results over two or three years gives the warmistas a chance to extricate themselves from their extremist warming dogma of the past in hopes of saving face.

It also makes the fight to get their paper(s) published a little easier if those who waved absurd flags are given time to back down from absurd positions before they become reviewers.

David, UK

Jeremy says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:39 am
David S says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:32 am
…So which effect dominates?
That depends greatly (as I understand it) on the type and altitude of clouds that exist. It’s safe to say, however, that climate models that do not properly simulate clouds cannot be trusted as anything other than a software exercise.

Also depends greatly on the time of day, i.e. cloudy days are cooler than sunny days, cloudy nights are warmer than clear nights. I don’t know whether we have records to show how much of the average 0.7C warming over the last 150 years has been at night, and how much has been during the day.

Bill Yarber

David S
’98 started with high cloud cover but dropped rapidly to a very low level. Was ’98 warmth the cause of cloud coverage decrease, or was the decrease in clowd coverage the cause of the unusual warmth? Dr Spenser seems to believe the latter; reduced cloud coverage was a component of the exceptional warmth of ’98, along with the impact of the exceptionally strong El Nino and the high sun spot activity in ’97 & ’98. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure the AGW proponents don’t know either! And they should!
Bill

George E. Smith

“”””” David S says:
December 16, 2010 at 8:32 am
Ok I see a strong correlation between cosmic rays and cloud cover. But what about temperature? The year 1998 had high cloud cover, but that was a warm year. Cloud cover has diminished since then and so has the earth’s temperature. That seems to imply that clouds have a net warming effect.
It’s certainly true that clouds can block sunlight and that produces cooling. But it’s also true that clouds can act like radiation shields, absorbing radiant energy leaving earth and reradiating part of it back to earth. That produces warming. So which effect dominates? “””””
Why does this always seem harder to deal wih than a root canal.
CLOUDS are CAUSED by conditions that started on the GROUND !!! Lots of surface warmth accompanied by WATER to provide HUMIDITY.
WARM HUMID air rises to some altitude, depending on the Temperature lapse rate until eventually the DEW POINT is reached, and cloud droplets can start to form.
If the iniial surface temperatures are HIGHER, or the HUMIDITY is LOWER, the DEW POINT ALTITUDE will be HIGHER.
So HIGH CLOUDS, are associated with earlier WARMER surfaces, the warmer the surface, the HIGHER the clouds will form.
The warm balmy surface conditions are the CAUSE of the HIGH CLOUDS; they are NOT the RESULT of those HIGH CLOUDS.
And no matter how high and how whispy those clouds are, you can bet your last dollar, that come sundown, it is going to get COOLER; in particular it will NOT WARM UP after sundown, because of high clouds.
The Climatists argue that those high whispy clouds don’t block much sunlight. THAT’S TRUE ! Thin clo9ud layers are grey on top; NOT WHITE, so they have a lower ALBEDO contributiuon than thicker denser .
CLOUDS DON’T REFLECT SUNLIGHT !! THEY SCATTER IT, THROUGH SIMPLE GEOMETRICAL OPTICS OF SPHERICAL LENSES.
A water droplet focusses near parallel light from the sun; which then spreads out over a wide range of angles, in all directions; hwere lie other water droplets to do the same thing all over again.
So that’s why thinner cloud layers do less total scattering, so the tops are darker, and the absorption is also lower, due to the lower density at higher altitudes.
Hey ! Clouds to Earth; by the same token, high low density clouds absorb LESS ground level LWIR thermal radiation.
There’s this thing called “The Inverse Square law”, that requires that the illumination of a cloud, by the ground shall fall off as the inverse square of the cloud height; so the higher the cloud is, the less surface LWIR it can capture.
And finally; from a climate point of view, the cloud effect relates to a PERSISTENT CHANGE in amount of cloud cover that lasts for climate significant time scales. It’s not about last night’s weather.
It’s actually pretty simple: Temperature changes PRECEDE CO2 changes; not FOLLOW them.
And WARM SURFACE conditions PRECEDE HIGH CLOUD conditions; not FOLLOW them.

Cold Lynx

Dave F;
Clouds can be caused by man as well.
“The Asian Forest Fires of 1997-1998”
“From October through November 1997, fires in Indonesia and the resulting haze made front-page news around the world as the haze spread as far the Philippines to the north, Sri Lanka to the west, and northern Australia to the south. As the Southeast Asian “tiger” economies collapsed, fires burned thousands of squares miles of rainforest, plantations, conversion forest, and scrubland in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, Bali, Lombock, and Sarawak, Malaysia.”
http://rainforests.mongabay.com/08indo_fires.htm

Stephen Rasey

@nc
This paper (Travis, 2004) says that cloud cover diminished during the 9/11 grounding of airlines (subsonic, troposphere) and that they confirm an average and spatially significant increase in the Diurnal Temp Range (DTR) where contrails were absent. Less conclusive was that the daily Max temperatures were higher without the contrails and minimums were less affected by contrail absence.
\\ Along with previous studies comparing surface climate data at stations beneath major flight paths with those farther away, the regionalization of the DTR anomalies during the September 2001 ‘‘control’’ period implies that contrails have been helping to decrease DTR in areas where they are most abundant, at least during the early fall season. //
http://pdfcast.org/pdf/climate-change-during-9-11
Variations in U.S. Diurnal Temperature Range for the 11–14 September 2001 Aircraft Groundings: Evidence of Jet Contrail In fluence on Climate
D. J. TRAVIS Dept.Geography and Geology, Univ. of Wisconsin
A. M. CARLETON Dept Geography and Environment Institute, Penn State Univ.
R.G. LAURITSEN Dept Geography, Northern Illinois Univ.
American Meteorological Society, 1 March 2004, pg 1123-1134.

Darell C. Phillips

@J: December 16, 2010 at 8:53 am
“@tallbloke
Nobel Prize? What have they done to deserve that ignominy?!!
;)”
———————-
Tallbloke wasn’t mentioning the “Peace Prize” such as that which was given to Al Gore but was referring to the real one. 😉

HLx

Svensmarks theory is that the galactic cosmic ray effect only have a influence over the sea. The reason he gives for this is that over land areas there is already a saturation of particulate condensation nuclei.
So, the effect is over the sea and generally unpopulated areas. And it goes on to speculate that the effect of high altitude clouds heats and low altitude clouds cools the planet, which may be a reasonable assumption.
What GCR do have, in comparison to particle rays from the sun, is a much higher energy. If the magnetic field of the sun is strong most of these particles get bent away, as the magnetic field of the sun works as a shield (In much the same way the magnetic field of earth bends incoming particles towards the poles). A weaker field lets in more GCR.
Finally, the hypthesis is dependant on the fact that GCR penetrate deeper through our atmosphere before interacting, than suns particles.. This leads GCR to form LOW cloud cover, which cools the planet. A weak field lets in more of these particles, leads to more low cloud cover, and an over-all cooling effect. A stronger magnetic field, on the other hand, leads to less low cloud cover. One can even go so far as to speculate about this leads to higher water content in the higher atmosphere, and condensations of high altitude clouds…
I am hopeful about the experiments and hope that it really dont have to take 3 years get preliminary results. What would be even better was intermediate results over the years. 🙂

Don B

The graphs on page 3 of Jasper Kirkby’s paper show the similar fluctuations between GCR and climate:
http://aps.arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0804/0804.1938v1.pdf

Theo Goodwin

Duster says:
December 16, 2010 at 9:54 am
Theo Goodwin says:
December 16, 2010 at 9:20 am
“The very use of the word “experiment” implies an hypothesis.”
I do not think you have conversed with Warmists. The Warmista have enjoyed some success only because they have corrupted the language of science and studiously avoided any discussion of hypothesis, prediction, and falsification. Instead, they tried to substitute “fit to model” as their version of prediction, which is clever of them because that makes all their “predictions” unfalsifiable. The reason that Warmista will not talk about hypotheses is that everything they have produced has been slam-dunk falsified. Yet they continue to “profess” their science. It is a disgrace.

Olen

It looks like there is a lot to be learned before anyone can predict climate disaster and nail it down to one cause such as CO2.
Perhaps there should be a review by the next congress of how grants are awarded.

D. King

Sun Spot says:
December 16, 2010 at 9:59 am
P.S. if CLOUD would have negated the cosmoclimatology hypothesis we would have heard it in 2 to 3 seconds !!
Yes, it would have come at us so fast, we would have heard about it in the past 🙂

Jeff L

Speaking of which, isn’t it about time for a David Archibald update on sunspots / solar activity for WUWT? We seem to be pretty range bound over the last several months instead of an expect upward trend leading towards the maximum.
http://www.solen.info/solar/
Solar commenters – thoughts?

Paul says: December 16, 2010 at 9:15 am

2 to 3 years ? It may be the sign that the results undermine the AGW theory. If they had been pro AGW, all the media in the world would have written about them by now.

Sun Spot says: December 16, 2010 at 9:51 am

Slowly leaking out the CLOUD results over two or three years gives the warmistas a chance to extricate themselves from their extremist warming dogma of the past in hopes of saving face.

Yep.

Atomic Hairdryer

The results haven’t yet been published, so Curtius declined to discuss the details.
Depending on where it’s going to be published, that’s unlikely to stop the Team from getting the heads up in advance. See the story over on CA regarding the attempts to get McKitrick and Nierenberg 2010 published in IJOC. Keep eyes peeled for a shift in stance by the Team.
Can’t wait to see the results though given the controversy there’s been around the GCR theory(s).

jorgekafkazar

David S says: “…It’s certainly true that clouds can block sunlight and that produces cooling. But it’s also true that clouds can act like radiation shields, absorbing radiant energy leaving earth and reradiating part of it back to earth. That produces warming. So which effect dominates?”
Energy from the sun that is reflected away by clouds never returns. Energy from the earth that is held back by clouds can be radiated away on the next clear night. Which effect dominates? I think it’s pretty clear.

John W.

“But it had a hard time getting off the ground – perhaps in part because Kirkby received bad press for emphasizing the importance of cosmic rays to climate change…”
I learned very quickly that blocking test and experimentation was a strong indicator of misuse of models and/or simulations. Contrariwise, people who are developing and applying models and simulations correctly, myself included, can never have enough test and experimental data to V&V them.