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New Scientist on the AR5 leak

New Scientist covers Alec Rawls' leak of the AR5 draft, and more particularly the resulting focus on the solar influence on climate. The article can be seen here. Now solar is not really my thing, so I'm feeling my way here somewhat, but it seems to me that the New Scientist piece doesn't really address the argument made.

Rawls' case was based around the following statement from Chapter 7.

Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.

OK, so if I understand correctly, the climate changes in line with cosmic rays. Cosmic rays change in line with the sun's output. But the changes in output are insufficient to explain the changes in climate, so the deduction is that these changes must be amplified in some way - in other words that there is a direct and an indirect effect of TSI on climate. One possibility is that the indirect effect is that variations in solar output affect the number of cosmic rays' reaching earth which affects cloud formation. However, the paragraph above implies that it is possible that it could be something else too.

Chapter 7 then goes on to say that the cosmic ray/cloud link is too weak to be responsible. This would seem to me to leave open the possibility that the amplification is caused by "something else".

Rawls, however, notes that Chapter 8 seems to contradict this obvious conclusion, by ignoring the inconvenient correlation between climate and cosmic rays, assuming that most of the changes are anthropogenic.

The New Scientist rebuttal of Rawls quotes extensively the comments of Joanna Haigh, a scientist at Imperial College London:

They're misunderstanding, either deliberately or otherwise, what that sentence is meant to say," says solar expert Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London.

Haigh says that if Rawls had read a bit further, he would have realised that the report goes on to largely dismiss the evidence that cosmic rays have a significant effect. "They conclude there's very little evidence that it has any effect," she says.

Fine. So it's "something else" causing the correlation between climate and cosmic rays then?

Well, New Scientist isn't saying. The "many empirical relationships" discussed in Chapter 7 are never addressed. We only hear more from Prof Haigh on the impossibility of the cosmic ray/cloud effect being responsible.

So we have a mystery. But more importantly we have a contradiction at the heart of the report that needs to be addressed.

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Reader Comments (80)

If I remember rightly, it isn't just cosmic rays from the Sun.

An active Sun with a strong magnetic field actually shields the earth from interstellar cosmic rays ( which means less cloud cover ) a weak sun allows the earth to be bombarded by these rays, which are produced by other galactic "events". Occasionally the Earth ( or rather our spiral of the Milky Way) passes through a giant dust cloud which blocks out a lot of radiation from the Sun and it is during these periods ( every X,000 years ) that we experience Ice Ages.

I'm not convinced by this ( well to be fair, the dust cloud sounds plausible). It has been shown experimentally, but what was achieved in the lab doesn't necessarily scale up to the real world. I think that it just adds to the influences on the Earth's climate, but is not a game-changer.

Dec 16, 2012 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Barrett

You should move outside the posturing and manoeuvring and deliberate traps in the IPCC report and look at the cosmic ray story from the outside then and work inwards. Svensmark's work provided the basics and the mechanics of cosmic ray to low level cloud formation were then further explained in the CLOUD experiment at CERN, remember how they were on strict orders not to link any results to climate change.

Whatever the cause surely the biggest hint that the sun and solar system have more influence than alarmists give credit for is the long term link between temperature and solar activity. This includes an explanation on how travelling through the spiral arms of the Milky Way that coincided with periods of "snowball earth", the cosmic ray theory can account for temperature changes here as well.

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrankSW

I recall a piece in one of the Coxter's epics "Wonders of The Solar System" (Empire of The Sun) where the boy wonder appears to me to be hedging his CO2 bet rather overtly and perhaps slipping one past his handlers...

23:00 minutes in he interviews Argentinian Pablo Mauas about the Paraná river / Iguazu Falls river levels vs solar activity and the two track erm... alarmingly well (Phew! took a bit of re-finding)

As I hope we all know correlation does not equal causality - but it looks pretty good to me - and I've yet to see it addressed or debunked....

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:12 PM | Registered Commentertomo

It seems to me that numbers are important. I don't know what numbers the IPCC is using, but to pull some numbers out of a hat, a claim that 90% of change is anthropogenic and 10% solar, but that only 2% could be understood through known solar influences would, right on wrong, be consistent. Of course, it is also possible that the numbers don't add up like this but I think it needs a lot more work to claim a real 'gotcha'.

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJK

Can we try to focus this thread on the particular arguments put forward by Rawls, the IPCC and Joanna Haigh. I don't want it to become too general.

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:16 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Read on past Rawls' quote and you will find that the IPCC authors consider that the GCR hypothesis has been falsified as a major driver of cloud cover changes, though it may have a minor effect. The rest of Chapter 7 discusses the "many empirical relationships" relating to cloud cover and climate change.

Regarding solar insolation as a driver, the increase during the 20th century was enough to account for no more than 17% of the warming observed (my own calculation based on NASA SORCE data)

Anyone saying "It's the Sun, stupid" would also need to explain why the decline in insolation during the noughties was not accompanied by a decline in temperature.

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

I think that's more or less it. The statistical correlation between solar activity and climate was first observed by Herschel. The total brightness of the sun (TSI) doesn't change much, but the proportion of ultraviolet light does, which is absorbed preferentially by the ozone layer in the stratosphere, and the solar wind does, which affects the incidence of very high energy galactic cosmic rays, which in turn are thought to cause the ionisation of the lowest parts of the atmosphere seeding clouds.

The correlation is well-known and quite strong, and while correlation doesn't imply causation, it's hard to see how the weather on Earth could be causing solar activity, or for there to be some common cause of both anywhere else but on the sun. So the sun affects climate, but nobody knows how.

The IPCC (after prodding) have acknowledged that there is a correlation, given that there's peer-reviewed literature saying so, but they don't want to have to take the possibility seriously, so they use the fact that nobody knows how to reject it as an explanation. The GCR-cloud link is still in the process of being checked by CERN and others, and cannot be said to have been confirmed yet. And they would also like to tie the solar connection inextricably to GCRs, so if the GCR hypothesis goes down it will take the solar connection with it. So of course the IPCC has done it's usual business of mentioning the problems (so nobody can say they ignored them) but then blithely dismissing them and drawing the expected conclusions irrespective and with massive confidence, because those are the only bits that will get quoted for the policymakers. And it also means that if you quote the honest bits and leave out the concluding sections where they dismiss the evidence without any justifications, you can be accused of cherrypicking.

I think that it's a losing game taking any parts of the IPCC reports seriously, because that only drags you into having to explain why you took that bit seriously and not all the others bits where they dismissed it, and in the end you had might as well have just provided the actual evidence and left the IPCC out of the picture altogether.

But in the current circumstances, it's a bit of a 'blinder, well played' by Rawls, because it means the IPCC have lost control of the PR spin surrounding the grand publication they usually use. They're on the defensive, they've lost the initiative, and they're not in control of the story. What's worse for them, they can't even respond to stories formally because the report is still under embargo according to their rules, so they have both hands tied behind their backs. This time, sceptics can pick apart the reports at their leasure, and by the time it's published will have their responses lined up and ready. The IPCC can rewrite the report to blunt some of that, but it's still going to be a disaster for their carefully crafted media circus if we've already seen the script.

About the only thing I think they can and will do is say this is what they get for inviting sceptics into the review process, which will justify excluding them completely next time round.
If there is one - I hear there's talk of this being the last.

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

I agree with Nullius in Verba in that much revolves around and around spin games... and that the semi transparent nature of the IPCC report process is about to go opaque.

I headed O/T a bit there but the observations I linked to are compelling.... It may well be related to the South Atlantic Anomaly enhancing the effect - but it's really the most compelling correlation between observations of rainfall and solar flux. I'd really like to know what happened post 2003. A link to the quoted section of video. and a later, non subscription paper (pdf) on the same subject

The NS debunking article wonders off into saying "the models don't predict" - the title of the paper speaks for itself:

"Solar Forcing of the Stream Flow of a Continental Scale South American River"

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM | Registered Commentertomo

In my view, "The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism ..." is the important bit. So the sun is implicated but, like CO2, it needs some amplification.

The GRC bit is just added as a red herring, a diversionary tactic, to detract from the main point. Most blog replies I have seen so far have fallen for it. They all point to holes in Svensmark's work. The IPCC says "such as" not "which has to be".

They will still have until March to get a rebuttal penned that can be included wihout asking the original expert reviewers. Plenty of time for a change!

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

"..Chapter 7 then goes on to say that the cosmic ray/cloud link is too weak to be responsible..."

I thought that very little was known about cloud formation, and even less about Svensmark's work - which is perilously close to heresy and thus shunned by all right-minded scientists who want to ensure that their grant money stays intact.

So I'm not sure where the evidence is to say that it's too weak....

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

For me, in the paragraph and sentence as quoted by Bishop Hill, I read the word "implying" as "strongly suggesting".

Ambiguous? Perhaps.

New Scientist appears to go the other direction, writing:
"Therefore, you might think that some other mechanism was amplifying the sun's effects – such as the aforementioned cosmic rays."

I disagree with New Scientist. That is one reason why I stopped subscribing some years ago.
Another reason I stopped subscribing was that it was delivered to my door too long after I saw it on the shelves. Having already got their money, they appeared to take the customer for granted.

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:40 PM | Nullius in Verba

Nullius has a good analysis of the situation but he does not make Rawls' point. And that point deserves to be restated until it becomes a meme. The IPCC embraces dogmatically the position that TSI is all that matters when considering the sun's contribution to warming. That dogmatism is why they will not take account of "empirical matters" or correlations that indicate something else at work between sun and earth. Rawls is absolutely justified in charging that the IPCC has shut down empirical research on the sun's influence apart from ongoing and boring monitoring of TSI.

The claims from the IPCC that the parallel investigations of Svensmark and Kirkby have been "falsified" are absolute rubbish. Those investigations have been undertaken with genuine scientific safeguards in place and will take decades to produce confirmed hypotheses. The IPCC cannot bear the Svensmarks and the Kirkbys of the world because the IPCC demands actionable conclusions now.

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Would the Bishop care to listen to the fellow who wrote the section of purloined draft the excitable Rawls is waving ?

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

If this is anything to go by, GCR as a driver of cloud cover is still a hypothesis under investigation.

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man


You write:

'The IPCC embraces dogmatically the position that TSI is all that matters when considering the sun's contribution to warming.'

Surely the whole point being highlighted is that the AR5 draft does not embrace that position? I agree that the question of GCRs and other mechanisms of solar influence on climate still needs much more investigation. But have you read Clader and Svensmark's book The Chilling Stars? Maybe their writing style is just a defensive reaction to criticism, but it rubbed me up the wrong way, giving the impression that Svensmark's theory is THE KEY to understanding climate and that the debate is over. Compared to that, the IPCC position that there seems to be a connection but we don't really understand it yet comes over as much more open minded. I have to say that I've seen some blog commentators embrace Svensmark in a fairly dogmatic way, too. Kirkby comes across as much more open and reasonable.

Dec 16, 2012 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJK

Solar output is presented in terms of total energy. Now blue light (400 nm) has a higher energy density than red light (600nm), about 300 to 200 kJ/mole. However, changing the levels of solar blue and red light, but keeping the overall power output constant, CAN affect the Earth in a myriad of ways.
UV light heats different places than does red light, and uv varies a lot during the solar cycle.
not all photons are the same.

Dec 16, 2012 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocmartyn

I would not nominate Rawls to be the sceptical representative to debate the flaws in the IPCC process.

I agree with the criticism that he is parsing words and his fixation on GCR seems to me to be minor to the larger problems with the IPCC process. There are many better issues to debate in the released draft report than the one sentence Rawls hyperventilates over (for example what don't the climate models match reality over the past 14 years?).

Even if he is right, it is doubtful Rawls could explain the science properly. Furthermore he fits the public picture of an extreme right-wing ideologue (this link via Dotearth...

There is nothing heroic about what Rawls has done. Let Rawls defend himself. We would be better off reading for ourselves the draft report and making our own opinions.

Dec 16, 2012 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered Commenternvw

Russell - are you implying that the author of the draft is so incapable of communicating in writing that you have to listen to his ums and errs before you can understand him?

Dec 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Alec Rawls has written a response to Steven Sherwood (who makes a similar claim as Haigh):

Alec Rawls responds to Steven Sherwood

I will not try to summarize his response since I am on the move now, but he explains why he thinks Sherwood/Haigh are missing the point.

Dec 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Reading backwards to the overview from the the quoted text, the report states that it is not worth trying to resolve these matters:

"Given the number of possible aerosol-cloud interactions, and the difficulty of isolating them individually, we see little value in attempting to assess each effect in isolation, especially since modelling studies suggest that the effects may interact and compensate."

Or, as the philosophers Beavis and Butthead once concluded:
"Errrrr...This is hard. Let's do something else."

Dec 16, 2012 at 11:53 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I think the Bishop is right here. The statement in AR5 refers to an 'amplifying mechanism'. It may be the proposed GCR-cloud link, or some other as yet unidentified process. Suggesting that the GCR-cloud link is not robust does not alter the fact that there seems to be a process which amplifies the TSI effect. There is good empirical evidence for this. Shaviv (2008), Using the oceans as a calorimeter to quantify the solar radiative forcing, J. Geophys. Res. states in the abstract "We find that the total radiative forcing associated with solar cycles variations is about 5 to 7 times larger than just those associated with the TSI variations, thus implying the necessary existence of an amplification mechanism, although without pointing to which one."

I'd be interested to see if Shaviv's work has been cited in the leaked report.

There is a growing body of empirical evidence that GCR's may have a significant impact on Earth's climate on time scales that range from hundreds of millions of years, through to years and months. The wavelength and phase agreement between periods of cold conditions during the Phanerozoic and high cosmic ray fluxes is striking and looks meaningful. How the cosmic rays modulate climate isn't understood though the cloud link is one that is being pursued by Svensmark, Kirkby and others. Clearly there is a long way to go but at least the hypotheses is subject to experiment and potential falsification. From my reading of the literature it seems that simulating high cosmic ray doses does lead to an increase in the number of aerosol particles. The key issue is do these particles coalesce and grow to form cloud condensation nuclei. I think the CLOUD experiment did produce some evidence of growth in aerosol particle size though not to the size of CCN's.

Dec 16, 2012 at 11:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

There are two things about Haigh's response that bother me.

First is that reading beyond the part Alec Rawls highlighted as Haigh suggests shows that the position is one of uncertainty about what GCRs can and can't do rather than it being comfortably shown that GCRs have no effect. GCRs are dismissed in the synthesis as a matter of consensus more than having evidence of their irrelevance. That synthesis talks of a lack of trend. It is an overly simplistic analogy but you can boil a kettle with an energy input that lacks a trend. The empirical relationships are left unexplored.

The second thing is that Haigh's response only considers TSI and does not address changes in magnetic field strength or the strength of solar winds, which in 2009 NASA were saying were at low levels and causing record high GCR measurements. And even the New Scientist article bothers to point out that while TSI changes a little the output of the sun can vary more in each part of the emission spectrum.

Dec 17, 2012 at 12:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Just a few comments on snippets of previous comments in this thread:

> "If I remember rightly, it isn't just cosmic rays from the Sun."

Cosmic rays don't come from the Sun. They come more or less equally from all directions. The solar wind (particles with energies up to about 10^4 eV) blocks cosmic rays with energies below about 10^9 eV from reaching Earth, but this varies depending on current Sun activity.

The Sun is active in several different ways, which don't necessarily correlate with each other. The light emissions (the TSI) change only very slightly, but the solar wind varies a lot correlated with the level of sunspots.

> "Anyone saying "It's the Sun, stupid" would also need to explain why the decline in
> insolation during the noughties was not accompanied by a decline in temperature."

For exactly the same reason that the decline in insolation after June 21st doesn't make July and August colder than June.

Dec 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce Hoult

I am astonished that the bloggers here are being sidetracked with GCR. That's NOT THE POINT. Rawls explains that SOME amplification method is acknowledged. It doesn't matter what it is, only that the models ignore any of the observed amplification, leaving CO2 as the only demon.

Russell, I listened to Sherwin deny that we understood what he wrote is section 7. Sorry, simply denying it and misunderstanding the point above is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. If the preeminent scientists in this field are as myopic as this, why would we pay attention to their utterings?

Dec 17, 2012 at 12:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterNiff

Gareth writes:

'GCRs are dismissed in the synthesis as a matter of consensus more than having evidence of their irrelevance. That synthesis talks of a lack of trend. It is an overly simplistic analogy but you can boil a kettle with an energy input that lacks a trend. The empirical relationships are left unexplored.'

Leaving aside for a moment discussion of lack of trend in cosmic rays, I am interested in what makes the synthesis 'a matter of consensus more than having evidence'. The lines under consideration are these:

'Although there is some evidence that ionization from cosmic rays may enhance aerosol nucleation in the free troposphere, there is medium evidence and high agreement that the cosmic ray-ionization mechanism is too weak to influence global concentrations of CCN or their change over the last century or during a solar cycle in any climatically significant way.'

[I take 'medium evidence and high agreement' to mean that there is medium evidence but high agreement that what evidence there is points in one direction?]

This is put forward by the IPCC as a synthesis of the previous two sections 'Correlations Between Cosmic Rays and Properties of Aerosols and Clouds' and 'Physical Mechanisms Linking Cosmic Rays to Cloudiness'.

The first of these sections cites:

Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999; Laken et al., 2011; Marsh and Svensmark, 2000; Pallé Bagó and Butler, 2000; Agee et al., 2012; Kernthaler et al., 1999; Udelhofen and Cess, 2001; Usoskin and Kovaltsov, 2008; Farrar, 2000; Laken et al., 2012; Pallé, 2005;Harrison and Stephenson, 2006; Harrison, 2008; Svensmark et al., 2009; ̌alogović et al., 2010; Kristjánsson et al., 2008; Laken and Čalogović, 2011; Laken et al., 2010; Rohs et al., 2010; Laken et al., 2009.

The second cites:

Carslaw et al., 2002; Usoskin and Kovaltsov, 2008;Bazilevskaya et al., 2008;Enghoff and Svensmark, 2008; Kazil et al., 2008;Kirkby et al., 2011; Arnold, 2006; Mirme et al., 2010; Hisikko et al, 2011; Kulmala et al., 2010;Kazil et al., 2012; Pierce and Adams, 2009a; Snow-Kropla et al., 2011;Bondo et al., 2010; Snow-Kropla et al., 2011;Usoskin and Kovaltsov, 2008;Bazilevskaya et al., 2008;Enghoff and Svensmark, 2008; Kazil et al., 2008;Tinsley, 2000;Nicoll and Harrison, 2010;Khain et al., 2004;Harrison and Ambaum, 2008;Harrison and Ambaum, 2010.

So what is it that makes the synthesis statement objectionable, a statement of consensus rather than evidence? Presumably it is not a matter of the wrong selection of papers. It may be that some important papers have been left out or some of the papers that were included were poor. But that doesn't seem to be Gareth's objection. Gareth also does not seem to be objecting to the way in which the papers have been summarised. It is not that he disagrees with the IPCC assessment of the papers discussed - at least he does not raise that here.

Rather it seems to be a form of statement that he is objecting to. I have to admit that it is in this sort of place that I often lose understanding of the arguments being made by skeptics. Do people here think that attempts to summarize the strength and weight of evidence in a sentence in the way that the IPCC does is illegitimate, since this is an imposition of 'consensus' on the 'evidence'?

Scientists struggle with contradictory evidence all the time. They live in a world of uncertainty (more so than, for example, engineers). It seems to me that the IPCC statement, while it may be wrong, is an example of the way that scientists try to sythesise evidence to reach a tentative best understanding. You can dismiss that as 'mere consensus' if you like but I fear that if you do you will soon be on a slippery slope to post-modern relativism. Science is more than consensus, but it is also a consensus that exists in people's heads. Science is knowledge, understood by human beings. To do that we need to transform evidence into understanding. That, in a small way, is what that sentence seems to me to be trying to do. Maybe it is doing it badly. But evidence does not speak for itself. To gain understanding we need more than just a statement of all the evidence in its contradictory incomplete state. We need statements like the synthesis. Or am I wrong? If this isn't it, what would a sythesis statement that was based on evidence rather than consensus look like?

Dec 17, 2012 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJK

The trick, of course, is in the amplifier. What can amplify the effect without runaway? Leif's old conundrum.

Life is short, the art is long.

Dec 17, 2012 at 1:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

The big picture:

There is a correlation between sunspot activity and global temperature, it has been understood for several hundred years but nobody understood the mechanism.
Svensmark hypothesised that it could be GCRs through the creation of low (cooling) clouds. He has written a book and several papers about his theory and it is still being investigated by CERN and will be for some years to come.
The IPCC report pages 43 and 44 first states that Solar Irradiance can not explain all of the Sun's observed effects and then goes on to try to rule out GCRs quoting CERN reports.
Rawls in his response to Sherwood nails the IPCC's excuse perfectly:

Methinks Sherwood should read the added sentence again. It says that the evidence implies the existence of “an amplifying mechanism.” Presenting an argument against a particular possible mechanism does not in any way counter the report’s new admission that some such mechanism must be at work. (Guess he didn’t author that sentence eh? Since he doesn’t even know what it says.)

The sunspot correlation has not gone away but the IPCC appears only to be interested in batting away the GCR theory but not expressing any interest in what is actually happening if GCRs are not the explanation.

Dec 17, 2012 at 2:16 AM | Registered CommenterDung

I think that several posters here have it right: The main issue with this part of the IPCC report is that except for the one tell-tale sentence--which I agree with Rawls would have been imperiled if left in the dark--it fails to acknowledge that some mechanism must be responsible for the high correlation of TSI with global temperature, whether or not that mechanism is GCR, and therefore include it in the forcing equations and models, rather than implicitly burying it in the anthropomorphic forcings. What some readers may not understand is that IPCC is insistent that for any factor other than GHG, you must posit a credible mechanism, o yea, the holy mechanism. This need for a mechanism is what seems to drive the AGW crowd's discrediting of any non-GHG theory. (Why they don't insist on a verified mechanism for GHG is an inconsistency some of us have noted, despite their insistence that infrared heating just "is" that mechanism. Of course that theory also hasn't been verified experimentally--I mean, in the atmosphere--and cannot. But of course, never mind.)

Dec 17, 2012 at 2:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterDABbio

"The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link."

This statement mystifies me. The influence of TSI on global temperature, at least as far as the 11 year cycle is concerned, seems to be less rather more than might have been expected.

My feeling is that the IPCC community realises that the current stasis in global temperature is due to natural causes balancing anthropogenic warming and that much of the rapid increase from 1976 to 2005 was also due to natural causes not anthropogenic GHGs. This implies a major overestimate of future temperature increases by past IPCC reports. They are trying, by hook or by nail, to find an alternative hypothesis which keeps the anthropogenic threat alive.

Dec 17, 2012 at 3:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRon

Dung writes:

'There is a correlation between sunspot activity and global temperature, it has been understood for several hundred years but nobody understood the mechanism.'

Obviously people have a variety of views on a variety of subjects. I would guess I have more confidence than the average poster on this site in the reliability of the global temperature record and our capacity to extract a statistical trend from it. But I don't think that there was a very reliable global temperature record even one century ago, let alone several centuries.

Dec 17, 2012 at 3:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterJK

DABbio complains about the demand for a mechanism, and seems to be in favor of making models based on correlations where no mechanism is known. But a common criticism around here is of unvalidated and over fit models. Sometimes making use of correlations can be a good idea, and can result in real insights. But it is right to be more skeptical of models based on proposals that have no known mechanism, precisely because over fitting is easier and validation is harder in these cases.

Dec 17, 2012 at 3:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJK


Perhaps the phrase "global temperature" was a mistake however the following quote from a Windows site explains what I mean:

It would appear that sunspots not only have a connection to geomagnetic activity at Earth, but they play a role in climate change as well. In the last thousands of years, there have been many periods where there were not many sunspots found on the Sun. The most famous is a period from about 1645 to 1715, called the Maunder Minimum. This period corresponds to the middle of a series of exceptionally cold winters throughout Europe known as the Little Ice Age. Scientists still debate whether decreased solar activity helped cause the Little Ice Age, or if the cold snap happen to occur around the same time as the Maunder Minimum. In contrast, a period called the Medieval Maximum, which lasted from 1100 to 1250, apparently had higher levels of sunspots and associated solar activity. This time coincides (at least partially) with a period of warmer climates on Earth called the Medieval Warm Period. Sunspot counts have been higher than usual since around 1900, which has led some scientists to call the time we are in now the Modern Maximum.

This article was by:

Jennifer Bergman

Jennifer has been working with the Windows team since May 1997. She works on the Teacher Resources section, the Ask-A-Scientist section, and many other misc. pages! She's also been doing a lot of outreach for the project at conventions across North America. She holds 2 degrees in Atmospheric Space Science Engineering from the University of Michigan. She also has Secondary teaching certification in Earth Science and Math.

Dec 17, 2012 at 3:53 AM | Registered CommenterDung
Dec 17, 2012 at 4:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket


The Independent has totally ignored what Rawls has said just like the others but of course conspiracy is out of the question.

Dec 17, 2012 at 4:51 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, by the speed and coordination of the "talking heads" being rolled out in rebuttal, even if I had no view on CAGW, it would indicate to me that Rawl's was onto something.

This will have legs. The consequences may take time to be felt, but for a damage limitation exercise to employed so quickly is promising news.

Dec 17, 2012 at 6:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

While its amusing to watch Rawls & Laframboise trying to raise a dust cloud by galloping around Sherwood's text , Gish still does this sort of thing better.

[BH adds: Russell - time and again I am astonished by the inanity of your contributions. If you think we are wrong, explain why.]

Dec 17, 2012 at 6:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

>"This would seem to me to leave open the possibility that the amplification is caused by "something else""

Sort of.

Rawls is saying that it is not a trend that is required but a sustained level of activity either higher or lower than an average normal. GCR is just one activity that exhibits a change in level in concert with solar, the levels of the latter varying between grand max and grand min but GCR it is not a singular "control knob" that everyone seems to demand even if it might be a valid hypothesis (more on GCR below).

David Stockwell independently explains what Alec Rawls is communicating in his paper 'On the Dynamics of Global Temperature'. From page 3:-

“Natural and modeled systems contain a mix of fast and slow equilibrating components. They have a crucial difference. If fast, then continued forcing at the same average level does not cause any additional warming; forcing is directly related to response. If slow, constant high levels can cause ongoing warming until equilibrium is reached. In the slow case, the forcing cannot be directly related to the response….”

There is more than one recent paper that does not accommodate the "slow" component, one most notably being Foster, Rahmstorf and Cazenave 2012. The slow components (ENSO, TSI) are treated by them as "exogenous" factors and "removed".

David's paper advances an accumulation theory of solar energy that answers requirements up-thread e.g.:-

>"Anyone saying "It's the Sun, stupid" would also need to explain why the decline in insolation during the noughties was not accompanied by a decline in temperature"

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:31 PM | Entropic man

In terms of the theory, energy was accumulated in the ocean (a "slow" component) after the grand max levels occurring since 1940s (Usoskin 2012) but that effect was all but exhausted by the early 2000s hence the decline in SST and OHC (UKMO EN3 not the Josh Willis "adjusted" NOAA set) since then. The accumulated energy can be dissipated from the ocean gradually or in one dollop by El Niño but El Niño does not necessarily "consume" (Tisdale's term) all the solar energy accumulated prior to it so it's possible for futher weak El Niños but a strong event similar to 2010 is unlikely. Now that the sun is in recession the accumulation is unwinding from the ocean (HadSST2 trend is down since 2001 and the atmosphere will follow eventually (UAH poly trend down since 2008). Given that TSI is probably at a cycle peak right now, any cooling as a result of the solar recession probably wont be detected in the atmosphere until around 2014.

In short, the IPCC WG cannot dismiss a solar effect on a GCR/trend/TSI-alone pretext.

Re AR5/GCR specifically and say Marsh & Svensmark 2004. I've investigated the AR5 Synthesis (cites Agee 2012 on trend) here:-

The difference between Marsh & Svensmark 2004 and Agee 2012 is explained (different datasets) and there's more to Agee 2012 than the WG would have us believe e.g.:-

“It is noted again that the ISCCP lower-troposphere cloud data may not be sufficiently
reliable to detect GCR–cloud correlations”

Dismissal of a GCR effect is premature in that case. Also see this paper that didn't make the WG cut:-

1 A.D.Erlykin(1,2), G.Gyalai(3), K.Kudela(3), T.Sloan(4), A.W.Wolfendale(2)

Shows the correlation by 5th order polynomial.

Dec 17, 2012 at 6:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard C (NZ)

Dec 16, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Entropic man

"If this is anything to go by, GCR as a driver of cloud cover is still a hypothesis under investigation."

The same could be said of AGW couldn't it?

Dec 17, 2012 at 7:17 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


>"This will have legs"

Yes. Alec Rawls leak was to highlight the solar issue in particular and to educate the outsider populace on the specifics of it. Those specifics are not readily understood completely as evidenced by subsequent discussion, even by CAGW sceptics.

Given the progress of understanding witnessed around the blogs (excepting Sherwood et al) it was the best tactic to employ, and hey, why not leak the rest too?

Dec 17, 2012 at 7:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard C (NZ)

>"HadSST2 trend is down since 2001"

Should be HadSST2 SH trend. My apologies.

Dec 17, 2012 at 7:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard C (NZ)

"Dec 17, 2012 at 12:55 AM | JK"

"Science is knowledge, understood by human beings. To do that we need to transform evidence into understanding. That, in a small way, is what that sentence seems to me to be trying to do. Maybe it is doing it badly. But evidence does not speak for itself. To gain understanding we need more than just a statement of all the evidence in its contradictory incomplete state. We need statements like the synthesis. Or am I wrong? If this isn't it, what would a sythesis statement that was based on evidence rather than consensus look like?"

JK haven't you missed the point? In the late 20th century the temperatures rose around 0.4C and scientists discovered that this occurred during a sharp rise in human emissions of CO2, so inferred that this rise in temperature was caused by the CO2, as a result of the Arrhenius 1896/1906 papers. That being the case they went on to try and prove it was the CO2 that was causing the temperature increase. They have to date failed to do so, I accept that science is full of uncertainties (being an engineer I abhor uncertainty, which is a good thing, because everytime I get into a plane I know that the engineers who designed it don't think it's "very likely" to reach its destination, they believe that it is certain to several hundreds of 9s that it will reach its destination), but, scientists overcome their uncertainties by making forecasts based on their understandings. If these forecasts come to pass the scientistific uncertainty is reduced. In the case of the late 20th century CO2/temperature correlation the forecasts haven't come to pass, so the climate science community produced the, hitherto unknown, idea that if enough scientists say something is true, then it must be true.

Rawls' point seems to me to be that there is a vast amount of empirical evidence, going back millenia, that solar activity causes temperature change. This too is based on correlations, but the correlations are consistent (unlike the CO2/temperature correlations which are far from consistent, hence 15 year warming hiatus with an 8% increase in atmospheric CO2), and he is asking why the IPCC is ignoring these strong correlations and choosing to focus only on those papers that push the consensus.

Read the rebuttals by Haigh and Sherwood, they simply state that there is no relationship with TSI something Rawls agrees with them on, but not what he said.

Dec 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Dec 17, 2012 at 1:06 AM | kim

"The trick, of course, is in the amplifier. What can amplify the effect without runaway? Leif's old conundrum."

An amplifier with negative feedback.

Dec 17, 2012 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

The IPCC is in chaos because their "concept" of the physics of planetary atmospheres is seriously flawed. For example, they cannot possibly use their "School of Thought" to explain Venus surface temperatures, where the surface receives less than 10% of the insolation reaching Earth's surface.

The small amount of solar energy absorbed by the Venus surface would very easily exit the surface the next night by conduction (diffusion) and radiation. Then, when this small amount of energy is back in the atmosphere there is plenty of carbon dioxide to radiate it away. There is absolutely no possible way by which such energy would be trapped in the surface and somehow add hundreds of degrees. The problem is, if you follow the "First School of Thought" (the IPCC bluff) then you are at a complete loss to explain Venus temperatures, because, if you think like the IPCC it is because you have been subjected to Ignorant Promulgation of Chaotic Consensus." You need a paradigm shift to the "Second School of Thinking" in my paper.

Please respond to this comment on another thread..

Doug Cotton

Dec 17, 2012 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Cotton

Some time ago I decided to look at the effect of the drift of the magnetic poles on global temperatures and found a remarkable correlation and my paper was published. One of the area I looked at for a cause was that because of the drift, the GCRs were deflected to different parts of the globe and somehow were responsible for the change in temperatures. I searched the literature but couldn't find any explanation nor could I find a link between the possible relevant changes in space weather and terrestrial weather. If anyone would like to give me feedback on my paper I would appreciate it.

Dec 17, 2012 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian Kerton

Dec 16, 2012 at 9:40 PM | Nullius in Verba

>"...they would also like to tie the solar connection inextricably to GCRs, so if the GCR hypothesis goes down it will take the solar connection with it"

Astute observation. A solar incursion of any description on the ACC/AGW patch is anathema to aCO2 control knob advocates.

I also wonder about "solar expert" Joanna Haigh's stance: a) does she genuinely misunderstand Alec Rawls' argument in which case she can be forgiven for apparent obfuscation? b) does she not understand the oceanic heat sink (see New Scientist quote below)? or c) Does she understand Rawls perfectly well and is complicit with attempts elsewhere to summarily dismiss GCR and/or any other notions of an enhanced solar effect?

I'm inclined to think, going by the following excerpt, that it is a combination of a) and b) but not necessarily c):-

What the sun does

Haigh points out that the sun actually began dimming slightly in the mid-1980s, if we take an average over its 11-year cycle, so fewer GCRs should have been deflected from Earth and more Earth-cooling clouds should have formed. "If there were some way cosmic rays could be causing global climate change, it should have started getting colder after 1985." The last three decades have seen continuing warming, with the last decade the warmest on record

This is the same argument that Dana Nuccitelli at Skeptical Science uses to rebut Rawls ( but I think that despite their respective statements both Joanna and Dana are closer to the solar/ocean/atmosphere state-of-play than they realize. Neglecting the posited GCR amplification, an enhanced TSI cooling effect of any type (e.g. accumulation) is not instantaneous starting 1985. There will have been thermal lag while the still-high TSI energy accumulated in the oceanic heat sink (think Stockwell accumulation theory from up-thread). Strangely, Rob Painting at SkS understands this perfectly well and there is a "What the Science Says" SkS post on the thermal inertia - solar lag phenomenon.

But the cooling HAS been kicking in now that the accumulated energy from solar grand max has been dissipated, first most obvious in SH SST linear trend since 2001 (see link up-thread), then UKMO OHC (EN3), and lastly UAH and other atm series polynomial trends since circa 2008 and linear earlier. With less solar energy reaching the surface there'll be more pronounced cooling to at least 2020 (and GHG "forcing" is merely recycled solar energy). Dimming/brightening/albedo is also cooling-consistent with an inflexion around the turn of the century. Wild et al 2012 reports on it using BSRN as do others. Cloud forcing was absent in the 90s but returned in the 00s offsetting any accumulation from then on, the magnitudes of the solar/cloud combo in W/m2 being far in excess of CO2 in either direction.

BTW, a bit confusing. We have an Olympic medalist rower by name of Juliette Haigh.

Dec 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard C (NZ)

'So we have a mystery. But more importantly we have a contradiction at the heart of the report that needs to be addressed.'

There’s no mystery if the writer’s words are understood as a description/discussion of somebody else’s hypothesis/explanation.

In that light, the bolded sentence reads quite differently: ‘The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link.’

Key words include ‘reported’, ‘account for’ and ‘hypothesized’. The writer is describing a hypothesis, highlighting some problems, and then rejecting it.

If that is the case, in claiming an ‘admission’, Alec Rawls – and many other commentators – have simply misread the above sentence.

Dec 17, 2012 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Some commenters are missing the point here. Climate and temperature have changed over geologic and historic times in many ways that are not related to CO2. The issue is that a correlation between solar indices and temperature has been observed. Theory has to explain this properly,or be rejected - hence the reference to the scientific method so well expounded by Richard Feynman to which Alec Rawls draws our attention.

Dec 17, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Dec 17, 2012 at 10:23 AM | Brendan H

Other key words are "such as". Alec and other commentators certainly didn't misread those two Brendon.

The admission is to a knowledge gap not necessarily pertaining to the hypothesized GCR-cloud link.

Dec 17, 2012 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard C (NZ)

It is so easy to describe 99 reasons why a hypothesis should work, while being ignorant of the one factor that kills it. Happens all the time to my original ideas. I get the feeling the reverse situation applies here. 99 factors have been tested and found to be small to nil, but the one that matters awaits discovery. Never mind, inquiring minds will find it if it is there.
Parable. A large truck rolled and trapped the driver beneath. While calls were being made to find a large lifting crane, a farmer passing by took out his shovel, dug some soil from under the trapped driver and gently eased him out. Lateral thinking at its best.

Dec 17, 2012 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

The still-in-use sleight of hand by which the banal 'climate change' or 'global warming' are used in public pronouncements and mass media contributions by those clearly promoting 'catastrophic anthropogenic climate change', is reflected in a lower key way by those who insist that since the solar constant is indeed nearly constant, then solar variation cannot be an important contributor to climate variation.

The key mechanism posited by such as Svensmark and Shaviv does not require the solar constant to change much - their interest lies in distruptions to the magnetic fields around the earth, and these can take place without requiring any appreciable variation in insolation. One partially successful indicator of such disruption caused by solar activity is the sunspot count. Broadly speaking, low sunspot counts can be associated with weaker fields.

The second step of their mechanism is that weakened magnetic fields will allow more high energy cosmic rays to penetrate deep into our atmosphere.

The third step is that some of these high energy particles can increase the rate of formation of cloud condensation nuclei (ccn). This is the aspect being investigated at CERN, and early results are very supportive in that they showed enhanced formation of compounds (sulphates as I recall) that do contribute to such nuclei.

The fourth step is the supposition that an increased abundance of ccn will lead to an increased in cloud formation. This is the weakest step according to my half-remembered knowledge of cloud physics. As I recall it, there is no shortage of ccn at least in the lower troposphere - in which case they are not a constraint on cloud formation there. I'd like to get back to this and find out more - I suspect it is not all quite so simple.

The fifth step is the supposition that this increased in cloud cover will increase albedo, and therefore lead to reduced insolation at the surface and an overall cooling.

I have listened to presentations and question and answer sessions by both Svensmark and Shaviv, and I must say they impressed me greatly as sincere, dedicated, genuine scientists investigating a very interesting hypothesis, and with a great deal of evidence to back it up. I have never had the slightest sense of that in reading the papers and listening to recordings by promoters of dramatic threats from rising CO2. They often seem so disturbed by the visions of catastrophe in their heads or in their computer models programmed to illustrate them, that one wants less to hear more from them than to suggest they have a cup of tea and calm down a bit while the issue is examined more carefully by others.

May I commend Shaviv's blog to readers here, and these posts in particular about climate change: The last of these three posts, included this ’ And now for the really last point. Don’t believe a word I write. If you are a genuine scientist, or wish to think like one, you should base your beliefs on facts you see and scrutinize for yourself. On the same token, do not blindly believe the climate alarmists. In particular, be ready to ask deep questions. Does the evidence you are shown prove the points that are being made? Is the evidence reliable? Sometimes you'll be amazed from the answers you find.’

I don’t know of a blog by Svensmark, but a quick search just now produced these posts attributed to him and which look helpful for further background on my notes above:

Finally, I would also commend the popular science book ‘The Chilling Stars’, co-written by Svensmark and Calder, for a very accessible introduction and history of this theory.

Dec 17, 2012 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

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