A study from the European Center for Nuclear Rearch may render the findings of climate science a whole lot less settled than they’ve been advertised:
CERN’s 8,000 scientists may not be able to find the hypothetical Higgs boson, but they have made an important contribution to climate physics, prompting climate models to be revised.
The first results from the lab’s CLOUD (“Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets”) experiment published in Nature today confirm that cosmic rays spur the formation of clouds through ion-induced nucleation. Current thinking posits that half of the Earth’s clouds are formed through nucleation. The paper is entitled Role of sulphuric acid, ammonia and galactic cosmic rays in atmospheric aerosol nucleation.
This has significant implications for climate science because water vapour and clouds play a large role in determining global temperatures. Tiny changes in overall cloud cover can result in relatively large temperature changes.
A little farther down in the article is the really important observation:
Kirkby is quoted in the accompanying 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. However, we’ve found that the vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction of the observations – even with the enhancement of cosmic rays.”
I’ve posted on this subject in the past and it’s gratifying to see more empirical support emerging. I wonder how much attention it will receive?
I’ve got to say that the term settled science has always nettled me. Science is never settled or, more accurately, it’s settled until it isn’t. Science is just the collection of the things we know. There will always be plenty of things we don’t know just waiting in the wings to throw the things we know into a cocked hat.
Let’s hope that this finding helps to put more light than heat into the discussion of climate change. While a more limited role for anthropogenic climate change might suggest that the more draconian proposals for dealing with climate change are not warranted, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take commonsense steps in managing the part that we play. Why are we subsidizing oil consumption? Inefficient modes of transportation? I’d also like to hope that we might reconsider off-shoring so much of our manufacturing to China. Take a look at a heat map of the northern Pacific along with a map of prevailng winds and currents some time.