Plimer on Cosmic Rays and Climate

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Anti-creationist Ian Plimer might be right about cosmic rays and climate. In his book, Heaven and Earth geologist Ian Plimer claims that climate change is caused by natural processes, such as amount of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere, which in turn is influenced by changes in the sun. In an interview on an ABC programme Counterpoint, 27 April 2009 Plimer stated: “There's a very tight correlation between solar activity and climate. That correlation is in cycles. ... What we need is causation, and the causation has recently been found, and we've really known about this for a long time because there are cloud chambers where radioactive particles or cosmic rays go through and you create clouds. We've done that experimentally, we've observed it, we've measured it, and when cosmic radiation hits the atmosphere we form clouds. Low level clouds form by many methods but this is one of them and it bounces light and heat back into space. We've only got to change the cloudiness by about one percent and you can account for all of the measured climate change over the last 100 years”. Cosmic rays and radioactive particles form clouds by forming aerosols – minute particles that attract water molecules.

Plimer’s theory disagrees with current climate models that claim vapours, including man-made emissions, in the atmosphere were the main cause of aerosol formation. However, new research published in Nature vol. 476, p429, 25 August 2011 and ABC News in Science 29 August 2011 shows that cosmic rays have more effect than climate models predict. An international team of scientists has now carried out simulated cosmic ray effects on the atmosphere using the particle accelerator at CERN and found trace vapours in the atmosphere only account for a tiny proportion of atmospheric aerosol production and ionisation from cosmic rays is more important. Jasper Kirkby, who led the research, explained: “We've found that cosmic rays significantly enhance the formation of aerosol particles in the mid troposphere and above. These aerosols can eventually grow into seeds for clouds”. Although vapours such as ammonia, sulphuric acid, water vapour are part of the process in the lower atmosphere, Kirby commented: “It was a big surprise to find that aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere isn't due to sulphuric acid, water and ammonia alone”. The initial CERN results do not explain all aerosol formation and the research team suggest there are other factors involved. They are also planning more research on the extent to which cosmic rays affect cloud cover; and how solar activity may affect climate change.

Counterpoint, News in Science

Editorial Comment This research really does provide more evidence that many factors changing earth’s climate are beyond human control. We cannot change cosmic rays or the sun. Furthermore, most of the alarming predictions are based on computer models, but as in this case, when put to the test, the man-made global warming models fail. With more real evidence coming in, it is time for climate scientists, politicians and environmentalists to have a little humility and admit there are forces we are never going to be able to change. We should study them, understand them and find ways to live with them, but not pretend we can control them. Then we can get on with the things we can change, such as cleaning up our ammonia and sulphuric acid emissions. This may not change the climate, but it is good for the environment in other ways, and in keeping with the God given task of being wise stewards of the things the Creator gave us control over.

For those who think the name Ian Plimer is familiar: he is a Geology professor in South Australia now, and a vigorous opponent of Creation Research, and of all Bible based teaching, but we will give him credit on this issue. (Ref. atmosphere, weather, meteorology)

Evidence News 7 September 2011