Cosmic rays sank the Titanic

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Full steam ahead for the real story of 20th Century warming

Although It seems a strange thing to celebrate, the Titanic Festival in Belfast, where the ship was built, will very soon mark the 100th anniversary of the liner’s foundering on 15 April 1912 after hitting a south-wandering iceberg, with the loss of a multitude of passengers and crew.

Comparing the £100-million Titanic complex newly built in Belfast with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the travel writer Simon Calder has commented, “There is a great shipbuilding heritage, it is a divided city, but the Guggenheim is great on the outside but rubbish on the inside – unlike the Titanic building.”

What’s more, James Cameron’s movie “Titanic” has been remastered in 3D for the centenary.

Time then for me to dig out some slides that I’ve used off and on in lectures since 1999 as an illustration of Henrik Svensmark’s cosmic rays in action, controlling our climate. But first, just to show that I’m not being kooky, here’s a graph from a 2000 paper by E. N. Lawrence of the UK Meteorological Office. “The Titanic disaster – a meteorologist’s perspective” related iceberg abundance at low latitudes to a scarcity of sunspots.

by E.N. Lawrence

And Steven Goddard recalls a much older article, from the Chicago Tribune in 1923, that also linked icebergs with sunspots

The notion that the Sun is dimmer when there are few sunspots goes right back to William Herschel at the beginning of the 19th Century. The trouble is that the variations in solar brightness, as measured by satellites, are too small to explain the strong influence of the Sun on climate as recorded over thousands of years, and continuing into the 21st Century. That’s where Svensmark’s discovery of 16 years ago comes in, with the amplifier. Cosmic rays coming from the Galaxy are more intense when there are fewer sunspots and they increase the global cloud cover, so cooling the world.

Some preliminary comments before showing my own slides about cosmic rays and the fate of Titanic. Of course the disaster also involved several elements of shameful seamanship, but the fact remains that large icebergs abounded much further south than usual in the spring of 1912. Secondly, I prepared the slides so long ago that I can’t recall the data sources. If challenged, I expect I could dig them out, and I do remember that the picture is from the Illustrated London News.

There was no direct recording of cosmic ray variations in those days. Indeed. Victor Hess was busy discovering them at that very time. So we have to make do with the geomagnetic activity index (called aa in the second slide) as an inverse indicator of cosmic ray influx, and with the counts of beryllium-10 and carbon-14, which are made by cosmic rays. Otherwise the slides should speak for themselves.

by Nigel Calder

by Nigel Calder

The theme music of Cameron’s film “Titanic” is entitled “Full Steam Ahead”. Although the ship came to an abrupt halt, the same has not happened to Svensmark’s theory. As plenty of other posts on this blog will show you, its bow wave keeps sweeping aside the attempts to falsify it. And fresh energy builds up more and more speed as all the pieces of the hypothesis fall into place, from quantum chemistry to the shape of the Milky Way Galaxy.

It’s a truly titanic idea, threatening disaster for the multitude who ignore the natural drivers of climate change, and shame for the misguided folk on the bridge who peer at computer screens instead of looking out of the window.


Simon Calder quoted:

E.N. Lawrence, Weather (Roy. Met. Soc.), Vol. 55, March 2000.

See also this from NOAA


8 Responses to Cosmic rays sank the Titanic

  1. Baldrick says:

    A Mr. J. Lane of Clarence Park in South Australia linked low sunspot activity to increased icebergs and the Titanic tragedy on 19 April, 1912 – 4 days after the sinking.
    See here.

  2. […] Nigel Calder’s Updates Share this:PrintEmailMoreStumbleUponTwitterFacebookDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Climate Change. Bookmark the permalink. ← Pacific Institute hires firm for ‘independent’ investigation, new boss […]

  3. You might want to search “Futility of the Wreck of the Titan”, a popular 19th century fictional novel on the largest passenger ship in the world that sank after hitting a North Atlantic iceberg. Since the fictional “Titan” was deemed “unsinkable” it had few lifeboats and most drowned. Sometime reality ‘imitates art’ when it is convienient to those who also like to repeat history, for their benefit.

  4. dahuang says:

    An alternative explanation of the location and frequency of the icebergs that year (1912) and the Titanic sinking involves the position of Earth, Moon and Sun. Whether this theory is better than the sunspot theory is to be investigated.


    Wood, F. J. (1995), A combined lunisolar tidal-current forcing function, enhanced calving of coastal icebergs, and the sinking of the Titanic, in Holocene Cycles: Climate, Sea Levels, and Sedimentation, edited by C. W. Finkl Jr., pp. 327– 341, Coastal Educ. Res. Found., West Palm Beach, Fla.
    Ramos da Silva, R., and R. Avissar (2005), The impacts of the Luni-Solar oscillation on the Arctic oscillation, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L22703, doi:10.1029/2005GL023418.

  5. Bengt A says:

    Hi Nigel!

    I would really appriciate a comment on this new paper by Henrik Svensmark. It seems to be kind of revolutionary beating CERN and CLOUD to the link between aerosols and clouds. And you are even mentioned in the paper!

    Click to access 1202.5156.pdf

  6. Carmel Stalteri says:

    I’m surprised nobody spotted the typo in paragraph seven. “, but the fact remains that large icebergs abounded much further south than usual in the spring of 2012.” It should say 1912.

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