Accelerator results on cloud nucleation (2)


Climate Change News and Comments

Did you get the message?

I’m not sure that the significance of my 15 May post, about the accelerator experiment in Aarhus, has been fully grasped. Following my 13 May post, the blogosphere seems to be still in a “waiting for CLOUD” mode. Yes, it will indeed be fascinating to see the first results from CERN’s CLOUD experiment in two or three months’ time, but meanwhile we have the results from Denmark. Perhaps I was negligent in not giving a little history.

The first laboratory test of the Svensmark hypothesis was the SKY experiment in Copenhagen, the outcome of which was published by the Royal Society of London in 2007. The positive results were of course politically incorrect, because Henrik Svensmark’s discovery of the effect of cosmic rays on clouds gave the Sun a much larger role in climate change than supporters of the man-made global warming hypothesis would like to admit.

The warmists were offered a delaying tactic by physicists who said, “Ah, but the SKY people used only natural cosmic rays and radioactive sources. Don’t believe them unless the CLOUD experiment in Geneva, simulating the cosmic rays with a fully controllable beam of accelerated particles, gets similar results.”

Conveniently for the warmists, CLOUD was very slow to get going. Meanwhile the Danes continued with their own experiments, including the one using an accelerator at Aarhus, as reported in Geophysical Research Letters a few days ago. The most important points are:

  • The effect of cosmic rays in helping to seed cloud formation is verified with a particle accelerator, just as critics of SKY were demanding four years ago.
  • A simple radioactive gamma-ray source gave just the same results in the Aarhus set-up so the earlier insistence, that only an accelerator experiment would do, was unwarranted.

Nevertheless, let’s say good luck to the CLOUD team. Their big chamber should be able to trace the growth of aerosol seeds much farther than in the small chamber used at Aarhus. And they have a large programme of future work, simulating atmospheric conditions at different altitudes.

See the Aarhus University press release that came out yesterday evening:

For references and other links, see my previous post:

For a video interview with Jasper Kirkby of CLOUD see:

Added 18 May: Ah, now the word is spreading. See

Anthony Watts:

David Whitehouse:

The second item quotes me directly, and at the end of the second paragraph I should really have said ionizing “gamma rays” instead of “particles” — I amended it on this blog a few hours after posting it.

Added 20 May: Friendly words from The Scientific Alliance

Amazon rainforest


Predictions Revisited and Climate Change: News and Comments

Will the Amazon rainforest survive?

A flurry of stories about the rainforests confirms that the proper concern about tropical deforestation has been thoroughly confused by improper attempts to invoke man-made global warming. Before turning to thunderstorms felling trees,  let’s start with the big picture of expectations, past and present, for the Amazon rainforest. For more than 30 years, large-scale assessments have been based on satellite imagery, despite the problem that much of the forest is covered with clouds at any one time. Brazil’s own Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, INPE, has played a leading part.

In a forecast that proved wrong even more rapidly than The Population Bomb (see the previous post) an ecologist Philip Fearnside declared in 1982 that the Amazon forest was vanishing at an accelerating rate, with more than 40% to be gone by 1988. I told the tale in my 1991 book about remote sensing, Spaceship Earth, after visiting INPE in São Paulo.

During the 1980s Brazil found itself at war on two fronts. At home, the government tried to moderate the rate of clearances in the Amazonian forest, and police a frontier region as gun-happy as the old Wild West of the USA. Internationally, they had to deal with a rising chorus of criticism about the rate at which the forest was disappearing. In 1982, on the basis of INPE’s figures, predictions by an American scientist P.M. Fearnside amounted to a forecast that 44 per cent of the Amazonian forest would be lost by 1988.

The Brazilians greeted such estimates with frank disbelief. There then followed a contest between calculation and remote sensing to try to establish the true facts. …

In 1989, the World Bank published estimates indicating that 12 per cent of Legal Amazonia was already deforested by 1988. This was based on calculations from the state of affairs in 1980. By this time the Brazilians were growing very angry. Although the figure was far less than the Fearnside estimate, the fact that it came from the World Bank secured it a place in international environmental folklore. The Brazilians appealed again to the umpires in space: the unblinking instruments of the remote-sensing satellites.

At INPE, Roberto Pereira da Cunha decided to make a ‘wall-to-wall’ assessrnent of the deforestation in Legal Amazonia. As he remarked, ‘No one wants to do the dirty work of gathering the data. It is a very trivial task for scientists.’ Trivial, but not unlaborious. Pereira’s team assembled 234 Landsat scenes and selected for close interpretation 101 images that showed evidence of deforestation. From colour composites of three wavelength bands the scientists outlined the deforested patches, and used a grid to measure their areas. Images for different years established rates of deforestation.

The most important conclusion was that there was no acceleration: deforestation was proceeding at a more or less steady rate. As for the total recent deforestation up till the end of 1988, INPE’S answer was 5 per cent of the area of Legal Amazonia. Meanwhile, Fearnside had changed his forecast. His new figures indicated 7 per cent deforestation of Legal Amazonia by 1989 – a far cry from his 44 per cent figure of just 7 years earlier, and almost in line with INPE’s figure. In 1990 Jim Tucker and Chris Justice of NASA broadly confirmed the Brazilian result by a similar large-scale use of Landsat imagery, but with a different technique, using only a single infra-red channel.

So what do the umpires in space say now, two decades later?

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