Monsoons and the Sun


Climate Change: Updating The Chilling Stars

Monsoons and the Sun

Late rains saved most of the 2009 harvest of India, despite a shortfall of 21% in the summer’s rainfall that led to a ban on rice exports, after a 17% loss of production in West Bengal. But 2009 saw the worst deficit in India’s summer monsoon since 1972, while Burma (Myanmar) had its the shortest monsoon season since 1979.

It is chastening to recall that, in April 2009, Reuters reported the Indian Meteorological Department as saying, “IMD’s long range forecast for the 2009 south-west monsoon season (June to September) is that the rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be near normal.” Even an updated forecast in June expected only a small rainfall deficit. Clearly, the unpredictable monsoons remain a problem for meteorology and climate physics.

Is there a link between reduced monsoon rains and the Sun’s recent sluggish behaviour, shown by the scarcity of sunspots? Probably. But to clarify the solar link well enough to make better regional forecasts, for even a few months ahead, remains an urgent task. Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change intro


CLIMATE CHANGE – Introduction

This section of Calder’s Updates is unavoidably a battleground, but within reason it will stick to the physics and dodge the propaganda that surrounds climate research.

Headings in this section

  • News and Comments watching developments
  • The Svensmark Hypothesis outlining the science
  • Falsification Tests digging deeper into the physics
  • Updating The Chilling Stars with evolving stories

In 1997 The Manic Sun by Nigel Calder was the first book to describe a new wonder of Nature – namely Henrik Svensmark’s discovery that the effect of cosmic rays on clouds amplifies the influence of the Sun on the Earth’s climate. Ten years of progress with the physics led to a second book The Chilling Stars in 2007, co-authored with Svensmark.I was also a script consultant to Mortensen Film for the TV programme about Svensmark’s work, “The Cloud Mystery”.

Despite plenty of time to re-consider the story, if it had turned out to be foolish, the evidence looks better and better as the years pass. Yet most climate scientists still ignore or reject Svensmark’s findings from observations of the real world, physics experiments, and theoretical analyses. Scoffing or vehement objections come from supporters of the man-made global warming hypothesis, who realise that the Svensmark hypothesis offers the strongest challenge to the assumptions in their climate models that predict climatic catastrophe.

The customary give-and-take arguments among experts, about which scientific theory fits the facts better, would be fair enough. But since climate physics became a political issue, the involvement of governments, funding agencies, scientific journals and the media in propagating a particular view of climate change has made rational debate difficult. Here’s a comment from Svensmark in an interview by Discover magazine, July 2007.

Question: In 1996, when you reported that changes in the Sun’s activity could explain most or all of the recent rise in Earth’s temperature, the chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel [on Climate Change] called your announcement “extremely naive and irresponsible”. How did you react?

Svensmark: I was just stunned. I remember being shocked by how many thought what I was doing was terrible. I couldn’t understand it because when you are a physicist, you are trained that when you find something that cannot be explained, something that doesn’t fit, that is what you are excited about. If there is a possibility that you might have an explanation, that is something that everybody thinks is what you should pursue. Here was exactly the opposite reaction. It was as though people were saying to me, “This is something that you should not have done.” That was very strange for me, and it has been more or less like that ever since.

To me (Calder) as a reporter of major discoveries that went on to win Nobel prizes in several different fields, the contrast between flimsy conjecture and creative brainpower backed by real evidence is fairly obvious. Being a generalist, rather than a specialist reporter of climate science, also helps to keep me objective, but I’m not inexperienced or ignorant in this field. It can be irritating when “warmist” journalists and campaigners with no relevant training of their own try to question my competence. Hey, I’ve even published a couple of formal scientific papers of my own.

Calder’s writing and editing on climate-related subjects

2007 (updated 2008) book: The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change. Joint author with Henrik Svensmark

2003 book: Magic Universe: The Oxford Guide to Modern Science. Topics Include Biosphere from space, Carbon cycle, Climate change, Cosmic rays, Cryosphere, Earthshine, Earth system, El Niño, Ocean currents, Solar wind, and Volcanic explosions

1999 scientific paper: ‘The Carbon Dioxide Thermometer’, Energy & Environment, 1999, Vol. 10, pp. 1-18, on how CO2 seems to respond to climate change rather than the other way around.

1997 book: The Manic Sun: Weather Theories Confounded about the Sun & climate, including Svensmark’s initial discovery about cosmic rays and clouds

1991 book and related TV series: Spaceship Earth about Earth observation, Including space observations of clouds, storms, temperatures, ice, oceans, bioproductivity, land use, and deforestation.

1990 book: Scientific Europe (editor, for Foundation Scientific Europe). It includes climate articles by Hermann Flohn, Bert Bolin, Paul Crutzen, and Lennart Bengtsson.

1983 book: Timescale: An Atlas of the Fourth Dimension. Among many other topics it traces climate change from the first ice ages 2300 million years ago to the Little Ice Age ending in 1850.

1974 book and related 2-hour TV programme: The Weather Machine. These included the first public reports of the confirmation of the Milankovitch ice-age hypothesis. Participants on TV include Hubert Lamb, Nicholas Shackleton, John Imbrie, Willi Dansgaard, George Kukla, Syukuro Manabe and Bert Bolin.

1974 scientific paper: ‘The Arithmetic of Ice Ages’, Nature, Vol. 252, pp. 216-18, with the first formal confirmation of the Milankovitch Effect. (Done with a pocket calculator, to legitimize what we were saying in The Weather Machine.)

1973 book: Nature in the Round: A Guide to Environmental Science (editor). Includes articles on climate change by L.P. Smith and Grahame Clark.

1968 book: Unless Peace Comes (editor). Includes Gordon MacDonald on weather and climate modification as weapons of war

1965 book: The World in 1984 (editor, for New Scientist). Among about 100 commissioned 20-yr forecasts, contributions on weather & climate came from Graham Sutton, Fred Singer, D.A. Davies & Roger Revelle

Calder has often spoken about climate change in lectures and on TV and radio, including an interview (2007) for The Great Global Warming Swindle, WagTV’s production for Channel 4. He has published articles on the subject since 1961.



The Svensmark hypothesis in a nutshell

Illustration from Svensmark, “The Adventurous Journey of Spaceship Earth” DTU Yearbook 2009

  • Cosmic rays, high-energy particles raining down from exploded stars, knock electrons out of air molecules.
  • The electrons help clusters of sulphuric acid and water molecules to form, which can grow into cloud condensation nuclei – seeds on which water droplets form to make clouds.
  • Low clouds made with liquid water droplets cool the Earth’s surface.
  • Variations in the Sun’s magnetic activity alter the influx of cosmic rays to the Earth.
  • When the Sun is lazy, magnetically speaking, there are more cosmic rays and more low clouds, and the world is cooler.
  • When the Sun is active fewer cosmic rays reach the Earth and, with fewer low clouds, the world warms up.
  • The Sun became unusually active during the 20th Century and as a result “global warming” occurred.
  • Recently (2006-2010) the Sun has been unusually lazy and “global warming” seems to have gone into reverse, as expected by the Svensmark hypothesis.
  • Coolings and warmings of around 2 deg. C have occurred repeatedly over the past 10,000 years, as the Sun’s activity and the cosmic ray influx have varied.
  • Over many millions of year, much larger variations of up to 10 deg. C occur as the Sun and Earth, travelling through the Galaxy, visit regions with more or fewer exploding stars.

For objections to the Svensmark hypothesis and answers to them, see Falsification tests

Nigel Calder