Cosmic Ray Warming Theory Gains Scientific Traction

Cosmic Ray Warming Theory Gains Scientific Traction
September 26, 2011

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly... (read full bio)

Researchers at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, report new evidence supporting the theory that cosmic rays may be amplifying the sun’s impact on global temperatures and climate.

Solar Signal Enhancement

Scientists have long known changes in solar energy output directly affect global temperatures. According to cosmic ray theory, changes in solar energy output have an additional impact on global temperatures by affecting the number of interstellar cosmic rays that strike the earth’s atmosphere. 

Cosmic ray climate theorists postulate that when cosmic rays strike the earth’s atmosphere, the rays cause volatile compounds to ionize and form aerosols. This in turn allows atmospheric water vapor to condense around the aerosols and water droplets and clouds to form. The clouds block solar energy from reaching the earth, which serves to cool the planet. 

Increases in solar energy output shield the earth from cosmic rays. With fewer cosmic rays striking the earth’s atmosphere, global cloud cover decreases. This causes global temperatures to rise by a greater degree than if solar energy output increased but global cloud cover remained the same. Therefore, cosmic ray climate theorists explain, changes in solar energy output have a greater influence on global temperatures than United Nations computers models are programmed to assume.

Opposing cosmic ray climate theory, some scientists—including those overseeing the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—have long argued the theory was speculative and cosmic rays were unlikely to significantly affect aerosol formation and global cloud cover. 

Experiment Proves Aerosol Production

Researchers at CERN set up an experiment—called the CLOUD experiment—designed to replicate how cosmic rays might affect cloud formation. The researchers fired varying concentrations of particles from a proton accelerator into a chamber containing ultra-pure air and selected trace gases. They found that in conditions simulating the earth’s upper atmosphere, cosmic rays can increase the rate of aerosol production by a factor of 10 or more.  

“The results also show that ionization from cosmic rays significantly enhances aerosol formation. Precise measurements such as these are important in achieving a quantitative understanding of cloud formation, and will contribute to a better assessment of the effects of clouds in climate models,” explained a CERN press release.

“We’ve found that cosmic rays significantly enhance the formation of aerosol particles in the mid troposphere and above. These aerosols can eventually grow into the seeds for clouds,” CLOUD experiment spokesperson Jasper Kirkby observed in the CERN press release.

“The CERN experiment provides yet another example of alarmists jumping the gun regarding global warming,” said Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News. “It is foolish and unscientific for alarmists to claim that human-emitted carbon dioxide is the sole or primary cause of our recent moderate warming when we still have so much to learn about global climate and the weight of scientific evidence points to natural climate variability.”

James M. Taylor (jtaylor@heartland.org) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. 

Internet Info:

“CERN’s CLOUD experiment provides unprecedented insight into cloud formation,” CERN, Aug. 25, 2011, http://press.web.cern.ch/press/pressreleases/Releases2011/PR15.11E.html

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly... (read full bio)