A group of researchers claim to have found evidence that cosmic rays from exploding stars can interact with small aerosols to seed clouds, impacting global climate.
“Finally we have the last piece of the puzzle explaining how particles from space affect climate on Earth,” said Henrik Svensmark of the Technical University of Denmark, the study’s lead author.
Svensmark said his study’s results should be incorporated in global climate models, and the scientist even suggested his results imply carbon dioxide are having less of an impact on global climate than most scientists believe.
“It gives an understanding of how changes caused by Solar activity or by super nova activity can change climate,” Svensmark said in a statement.
But climate scientists are pushing back on the study. Climate scientist Zeke Hausfather argued there’s been an increase in cosmic rays, but no corresponding cooling.
One fundamental problem with the hypothesis that cosmic rays influence modern warming via clouds is that its moving in wrong direction. Since 1960, amount of GCRs reaching the Earth has increased. If GCRs were a major influence on climate, would result in cooling, not warming. pic.twitter.com/Hv7DcZ4Jst
— Zeke Hausfather (@hausfath) December 19, 2017
NASA’s Gavin Schmidt went on a Twitter rant, saying Svensmark isn’t taken seriously in the science community. Schmidt also said solar forcing on the climate peaked in the 1950s.
To repeat, solar forcing peaked in the 1950s and has decreased (slightly) since then. Whatever cosmic ray/solar mechanism is postulated, it can’t contribute to recent climate trends. pic.twitter.com/xSVruGW770
— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) December 19, 2017
Svensmark’s study, which relied on cloud chamber experiments and theoretical arguments, found solar activity plays a much bigger role in controlling the Earth’s climate than previously thought.
Scientists previously dismissed the idea that tiny aerosols could turn into cloud condensation nuclei since there was no known mechanism by which this could occur. But the study found small aerosols interact with cosmic rays and form clouds.
During periods of low solar activity, more cosmic rays pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and seed clouds, causing a cooling effect. The opposite is true for periods of high solar activity when warming tends to occur, the study found.
Solar activity has been tied to climatic variations, including the Medieval Warm Period about 1,000 years ago and the Little Ice Age that ended in the late 19th Century.
“Quantifying the impact of solar activity on climate from observations is found to be 5-7 times larger than from solar irradiance, and agrees with empirical variations in cosmic rays and clouds,” Svensmark told The Australian.
But Svensmark went even further, suggesting the Earth’s climate is less sensitive to carbon dioxide emissions than current climate models assume. He also suggested his study may help explain the 20-year “hiatus” in warming.
“The logical consequence is that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is smaller than what climate models suggest, which is 2-4 deg C for each doubling of CO2, since both CO2 and solar activity has had an impact,” Svensmark said.
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