Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CERN: CLOUD: Jasper Kirkby's talk in Canada

As far as I remember, this 65-minute talk by Jasper Kirkby that he gave on March 23rd, 2011 at SFU in Vancouver hasn't been embedded on TRF pages yet. Here it is:

Kirkby is the lead scientist in the CERN's CLOUD experiment that was scheduled to release the final papers within a month or so from now but a political intervention could affect the timing as well. He's been focusing on cosmoclimatology for something like a decade.

After you listen to the talk, try to answer the question whether this guy should be stripped of his right to work on the interpretation of what the experiment he leads means for the world climate. I personally find this suggestion shocking.

The talk above is mostly about the cosmic-rays-induced, solar, aerosol-related, and cloud-related effects in the whole climate because that's what Kirkby has been focusing upon for years. His work and expertise in the last 10 years is about climatology.

The lab experiment - CLOUD - occupies about 1/4 of the talk only (Kirkby must respect the expectations of "exclusivity" in the journal where he's submitting) and it is just a part of a much broader picture. This experiment run in a particle physics laboratory is a part of climate research (and Kirkby says so explicitly). So Heuer's ban, if it were taken seriously, would de facto prevent Kirkby (and potentially dozens of his collaborators) from making similar talks, doing the corresponding scientific research, and writing corresponding scientific papers.

Call it in any way you want but to me, such a treatment of scientists is fascism.

Those people who dare to say that Kirkby is incompetent and those effects must be studied by some "real climate" scientists (pun!) should show me a talk by some of these "real climate" scientists about similar effects in the atmosphere that would show that these "real climate" scientists are more competent than the likes of Kirkby.

I am eagerly waiting for such evidence.


The content of the talk is pretty impressive - there are many graphs showing the historical correlations between the climatic, heliophysical, and cosmic-ray observables.

Kirkby points out valid (and later celebrated) papers that were rejected, completely wrong (Lean) assumptions about the variations of the solar spectrum and the spectrum of the cosmic rays in all the IPCC models (the changes in UV and visible are actually anticorrelated with one another, not aligned, as Lean instructs the whole IPCC "consensus" to believe), and many other things.

He dedicates 10+ minutes to the experiment which is quite amazing - simulating the atmosphere with different pressure and so on and analyzing the resulting aerosols in detail by mass spectrometers and other devices. They also simulate "daily cycles" etc.

In the conclusions, he says that there is extensive evidence of the solar-climate variability already in the pre-industrial era and the order-of-magnitude estimate of these cosmic-cloud effects in the current climate evolution is comparable to what we're seeing. But there's a lot of uncertainty about the solar contribution - including the sign (as he mentioned previously: all existing climate models can actually have the completely wrong sign) which is also uncertain. The whole effect of cosmic rays variability is absent in the climate models people are using today.

So he says that it's obviously crucial for climatology to determine the details of these mechanisms much more accurately, to see whether they're smaller or equal or larger than the observed recent climate change and what they're really doing.

Questions and answers

In the question period, a very old man says that a chemical reaction on a transparency by Kirkby doesn't occur.

The same guy asks another question about the dust which is very naive and Kirkby explains that the meteorites are the primary source of aerosols in the upper stratosphere, a basic fact that's been known for 50 years but that was being "deliberately forgotten" by most of the people who try to talk about the climate, but the meteorites are not important in the lower/mid troposphere.

In another exchange, Kirkby says that MeV-scale photons capable of producing electron-positron pairs don't get too low and deeply into the atmosphere, either.

Two more questions: what's the percentage difference in the cloud cover (the gap between the maximum and minimum) that the cosmic rays may induce? And how does it translate to the climate (he meant temperatures)? Of course, Kirkby says that 10% would be "huge"; controversy exists in literature whether the changes are huge (as surely Svensmark says) or zero or anything in between.

He points out that the cosmic effects are likely to seriously affect clouds in some places and attitudes, under some circumstances, only: a task for CLOUD is to find the most relevant parameters where the effect matters and then atmospheric science is to be applied. Kirkby suggests that the atmospheric effects of the changes in forcing (which changes within days after the cosmic rays changes) may be complicated and affected by lags as long as half a century. It's not known.

Someone wants to know the influence of airplanes and contrails on aerosols - like after the air traffic shutdown after 9/11. Kirkby says that the radiative impact of clouds that already exist is probably well understood but what's not understood is the creation stage, the origin of the clouds in the aerosols (both man-made and natural ones).

Another question makes Kirkby revisit a plot showing the variation of the cloud cover - Earth's albedo (Earth shine on the Moon etc.) - in the last 20 years - reflectivity dropped a lot since 1985, exceeding the anthropogenic CO2 forcing by a large factor (up to 5) - but also having a large error bar.

Audio of his speech.

It's been said that it was just like from Atlas Shrugged. The book used to be a fiction. These days, some parts of it could be viewed as a documentary.


  1. I don't think Kirby has been stripped of anything. As I understand it, the results of the experiment are to be published without interpretation in the context of climate science. That's quite reasonable given the political climate (no pun intended), because the experiment is actually a physics experiment, not a climate science experiment. The purpose of the experiment is to understand more about the effect of cosmic rays on the formation of clouds, not the effect of clouds on climate. I'm sure Kirby can comment on that in a separate publication if he wants to.

  2. Dear M.W. Smith, turning the knobs up and down is obviously just a small portion of Kirkby's work in the recent decade, as you can see from the composition of the talk. So reporting some bare numbers is clearly just the beginning.

    You say that this is not a climate science experiment. CLOUD definitely *is* and has always been a climate science experiment and Kirkby says this thing explicitly in this talk, too.

    It's just stunning if you want to deny that this is a climate research. They're emulating the atmosphere and processes in it, when it comes to its composition and pressure at different points. It's done just like in the climate, and purely because of the research of the climate. There's no other justification of studying gas-to-aerosol transitions induced by cosmic rays in a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen. It's also a physics experiment.

    Well, every piece of scientific research of the climate belongs to physics. The atmospheric phenomena are physical phenomena.

    His name is Kirkby, not Kirby.

  3. Just a link for the hopelessly unreasonable people who doubt that the CLOUD experiment is climate research.

    The paper of the Collaboration on IPAC 2010 in Kyoto is called The CLOUD project: climate research with accelerators. It's what it is.

  4. Dear Boss, I imagine a world in the not distant future with an array of Cern accelerators stationed on coastal islands.
    You think the seas will miss the rain after we turn the Sahara into a garden?