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AGW: due to cosmic rays and freons?

Lots of skeptics and the überalarmist Alexander Ač sent me the information about a widely discussed paper

Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules: Culprits for Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Global Climate Change (arXiv, PDF)

WUWT, Google News
written by Qing-Bin Lu, a physicist (mostly biophysicist) at the University in Waterloo, in October 2012. The first detail that seems bizarre to me is the amount of hype surrounding a preprint that's been out for more than half a year. If there were real, active experts who follow what's going on in climatology and if the paper were right and important, they would have known it for half a year and not just now when the paper happened to appear in a journal.

It doesn't seem to be the case so at least one of the assumptions has to be invalid.

At any rate, the author claims that carbon dioxide has been irrelevant for the global mean temperature between 1850 and 1970; in fact, in a statistical analysis, he finds a slightly negative correlation between CO2 and temperature, \(R=-0.05\).

On the contrary, there's a positive claim – a nearly perfect correlation was observed with \(R\geq 0.96\) in 1970-2012 between the global surface temperature and the total amount of freons (more precisely CFCs – "freon" is a brand name owned by DuPont – and even more precisely halogenated gases) in the stratosphere.

So these ozone-hole-related compounds and factors decide about the climate as well, he believes. The Montreal Protocol is being praised; it recovered about 20%-25% of the Antarctic ozone hole while no significant progress has been seen in the mid latitudes. Note that the amount of ozone is reduced by freons but also by the effects of cosmic rays; the latter are modulated by the solar activity, we're reminded.

The author argues that freons could have generated 0.6 °C of warming between 1970 and 2012 and if they're really this important, their expected disappearance in the next 50-70 years could lead to global cooling that would bring the global mean temperature back to the levels people experienced in the 1950s.

There are many graphs in the paper; I won't repost them here. Some of them look pretty convincing. Still, the correlations could be coincidental and this possibility is more likely because many of these correlations have only been verified in the latest 3 decades or so. It's easy to fool oneself. I've seen many rather impressive visual correlations – three or four bumps reproduced rather nicely by a "theory" – and I know that most of them turn out to be fake.

Moreover, this scholar has much more experience with DNA molecules than analyses of the climate. The latter is a rather complicated thing and beginners tend to be naive in many respects. For these reasons and others, I doubt that the global climate is so easily linked to the freons. But I am not quite certain. It's plausible. They're powerful greenhouse gases (thousands of times greater global warming potential than CO2).

Around 0:19, this comedian seemed confused about the difference between "global warming" and "ozone depletion". Maybe he wasn't that confused, after all? ;-)

The apparent observation that no one can really safely show that the paper is wrong and why the paper is wrong highlights the immense degree of uncertainty about the truly dominant climate drivers on the decadal and centennial timescales.

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reader Gene Day said...


From Wikipedia:

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments.”

Lu is a master at presenting a bewildering array of numbers to try and bolster a weak argument. Your skepticism is well-founded.

reader Chad Jessup said...

As with CO2, there is a plausible physical explanation for the cause and effect, but like you, I wonder if this is another curve fitting exercise with no real relevancy.

I question the mainstream Antarctic ozone depletion scenarios, mainly because I have read estimates of the amount of chlorine ejected by Mount Erebus that increases stratospheric chlorine amounts by 5%; but then again, others say volcanic contributions to the ozone depletion issue are extremely small.

Also, some meteorologists will claim that CFC's released in the NH cannot affect the ozone layer in the SH because wind patterns around Antarctica and the NH will not allow CFC's to travel there; but, some claim otherwise.

reader JollyJoker said...

Lu seems to have made this same claim in a 2009 paper. Dunno if there's anything new in this one. The first link does cite the IPCC estimate as CFCs causing 13% of the greenhouse effect, so they're not completely irrelevant.

(Links by Patrick Lockerby in the first comment here

reader Eduardo Ferreyra said...

Pure BS. Freons as F-11 or F-12 are found at 29-30 km altitude in concentrations that are smaller than 0.01 parts per trillion (according to P. Fabian, R. Borders, S.A. Penkett, et al. 1981. "Halocarbons in the Stratosphere." Nature, (Dec. 24), pp. 733-735.

The reason that there was no ozone recovery in midlatitudes is that there NEVER was a reduction of ozone levels from the beginning! Ozone levels only decrease inside the infamous Antarctic Polar Vortex during late winter and mid spring. Sometimes go down in the Arctic Polar Vortex, but during very brief time and in few occassions in a decade indicating that dynamic factors are involved, not chemistry. This hoax has been debunked so many times that I am amazed somebody is still publishing a paper trying to perpetuate the scam!

reader Casper said...

The various indexes show that global average temperature went up as steeply between 1910 and 1940 as it did after 1970. But freon not being invented then, this theory seems to need a magic ozone hole.

reader Gene Day said...

I’m pretty sure that CFC’s do mix thoroughly along with all other gaseous species having an atmospheric lifetime greater than a year or so. Of course the consequences of CFC-induced ozone depletion are often greatly exaggerated.

reader Eli Rabett said...

1. Lu is not a biophysicist, he trained with Ted Madey He is basically an electron scattering guy. He has simply moved some of his research over into bio areas which a lot of ibeam people have

2. The paper is odd because it really has two major (and mistaken) claims which are not well connected. The sure marks of a crank are there too, lots of self cites, a confused presentation, etc.

3. The Lu and Madey earlier showed that CFCs adsorbed on ices can be easily dissociatively ionized by electrons. Lu uses this to claim that this is the source of the Antarctic ozone hole. The first sentence is true, the second wishful thinking on his part

4. The second (and note that this is distinct from 3() is that the CFCs are responsible for observed global warming. Unfortunately for him a) the forcing from CFCs (and HFCs) has been flat since ~1995 and not very large before that esp compared to the change in forcing from CO2.

Oh yes, Brandon sends love

reader Eli Rabett said...

Actually, the ozone levels in the Antarctic (and occasionally the Arctic) fall in the spring, not the winter (read something about the mechanism)

The concentration in 1981 for CFC 12 was ~320 ppt, in the Northern hemisphere rising to a peak of about 540 ppt in the 1990s

reader Eduardo Ferreyra said...

Hi Rabbit, still ranting? We miss you at CS debate! Why did you chicne out? Actually, it is you who need to inform yourself better. You are playing in my field, Rabbit. Our ozone measurements in Antarctic Marambio base give O3 levels for June 16th, 2012 = 289 DU. Then in August 22, 2012 (still in winter, the sun has not yet reached the stratosphere! levels go = 273 DU. Indeed O3 levels DO GO DOWN IN WINTER!

What Molina's dimer theory says (wrongly) , "The reaction (ozone depletion by chlorine) needs the prescence of sunlight. But in August 22nd the sun rays have not yet reached Antarctica's stratosphere! Check the data in our National Weather Service on ozone measurement corresponding to years 2005 -20012 here:

So next time inform yourself who are you trying to rebuke before making your usual bloopers. :-)

reader Eduardo Ferreyra said...

Rabbit: “Concentration values for CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113 and CCl4 listed in Table 1 from 1910.5 up to 2008.5 are based on a 2009 update published in your link:
does not specify altitude.

As I said, there is no CFC found above the 32 km altitude as per P. Fabian, R. Borders, S.A. Penkett, et al. 1981. "Halocarbons in the Stratosphere."
Nature, (Dec. 24), pp. 733-735.

May I remind you that UV-C does not penetrate Earth’s atmosphere below the 40-35 km altitude? CFC molecules need the strong UV-C wavelengths in order to be dissociated. So there is no CFC dissociation in the 20-30 km of ozone layer. Basic science.

reader Eli Rabett said...

UV-C is observed down to 20 km (even a bit below). At 25 km it is about 5-10 times smaller than at 30 km. Note that the O3 absorption is bell shaped, so light can sneak through at the ends, including UV-C (<220 nm).

Zander et al, have shown that the concentration of CFC-12 @ 30 km is about 100 ppt and @ 25 km it is ~200 ppt. Photolysis starts @ ~ 20 km. You were right about the cdiac table not being for altitude. Zander is though and it shows the photolysis kicking.

There is enough UV-C, at 25-30 km by measurement.

reader Casper said...

Oops, freon was invented then but probably not used in large quanties?