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The Chilling Stars: A New Theory of Climate Change Paperback – March 19, 2003
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About the Author
Henrik Svensmark leads a group examining the Sun's effects on the climate, at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen. He has published 50 scientific papers on theoretical and experimental physics, including six landmark papers on climate physics. Nigel Calder has spent a lifetime spotting and explaining the big discoveries in all branches of science. He served his apprenticeship as a science writer on the original staff of the magazine New Scientist and was the magazine's Editor from 1962-66. Since then he has worked as an independent author and TV scriptwriter. He won the UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Popularization of Science for his work for the BBC in a long succession of 'science specials', with accompanying books. His most recent book is Magic Universe (OUP, 2003), a comprehensive guide to modern science, which was shortlisted for the Aventis Prize for Science Books.
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Svensmark's view on global warming, which takes into account that the dying stars and collisions in our universe seed our low lying clouds that create ice ages and colder weather. Involved is the strength of the magnetic pull of the earth too. Man has not been on the earth but for a split second of time and so what has caused ice ages when man did not inhabit the earth? Svensmark's research considers core samples of ocean bottoms and shell deposits which were carried by glaciers and found great distances from their habitat. Using that information and his "Chilling Stars" theory, he can correlate data on freezes and warmer weather.
I read this strictly as a lay person and enjoyed the book and find that one must look for themselves and not take just one storyline to draw a conclusion. Interestingly, I bought a used copy and the owner'a name was in it and he is a doctor of infectious diseases and he signed the book as Comso Climatologist.
The first one is global warming due to increase in CO2 concentration resulting from industrialization. This theory is well presented in The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth. For an apocalyptic version read An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It.
The second theory of climate change is that the main drivers are: 1) decadal oscillations in ocean temperatures, and 2) solar irradiation. This theory is well presented by Joseph D'Aleo's paper "US Temperature and Climate Factors since 1895."
Svensmark developed a third theory. Climate change is due to galactic cosmic rays emitted from distant exploding stars that trigger the formation of low clouds. Cosmic rays generate muons (elementary particles) that trigger the seeding of clouds by forming cloud condensation nuclei, on which water droplets form. Those low clouds have an umbrella cooling effect over our climate. The Sun has a fluctuating magnetic shield that partly protects against such rays. When the Sun is active and its magnetic shield is strong, the flow of cosmic rays is reduced, the low cloud cover diminishes and temperatures rise.
Svensmark duplicated this natural process in a lab experiment called Sky. The CERN in Geneva is engaged in replicating this experiment on a large scale. Fifty top scientists from different disciplines from 17 countries are involved. Thus, outside the politicized IPCC the scientific community takes Svensmark theory seriously.
The influx of cosmic rays depend on:
1) The state of the Sun. When it is active it has more dark sunspots;
2) Where we are in the Galaxy. During our galactic orbiting, we get closer to areas with large concentration of exploding stars with more cosmic rays. Then, our climate goes into a "icehouse" mode. As we move away from such zones, we enter into a "hothouse" mode. During the past 500 million years, we have experienced four switches from hothouse to icehouse mode. The actual cycle of the Earth's climate from hothouse to icehouse periods as captured by geological records fit perfectly with the cosmic rays cycle. Nir Shaviv, a scientist from Israel, estimated that the cosmic-ray flux from our galactic journey are ten times larger than the variations due to solar activity; and
3) The Sun's vertical motion as it rises and plunges like a dolphin above or below through the flat horizontal disc of the Galaxy where the cosmic rays are most intense locally. This movement is four times more frequent than the ones mentioned above from icehouse to hothouse.
It is the cosmic rays of intermediate energy that affect the variation in low cloud formation and resulting climate change. A graph on page 77 shows a close match between variation in cosmic rays and variation in low level clouds. Low clouds account for 60% of the cloud cooling effect. Overall, clouds cut the warming effect of the incoming sunshine by 8%. If clouds did not exist the planet would be 10 degrees Celsius warmer.
This theory has a lot of explanatory power. On page 25, Svensmark shares a remarkable graph that discloses the history of our climate for the past 12,000 years. For each period, the graph shows the state of the Sun, the resulting strength of cosmic rays, and the resulting climate (following the exact causal link as described at end of third paragraph). Svensmark theory appears robust as it is supported by the convergent findings from many different sciences including physics, paleontology, geology, biology and astronomy.
This theory can explain a lot of things that CO2 can't. For instance, temperature trends in Antarctica are opposite vs the rest of the World. This is because Antarctica with its ice cover is the brightest spot on Earth. It reflects more solar heat than anywhere else. There, low clouds do retain relatively more solar heat than the Antarctica's surface. And, the clouds emanate some of this heat downward. This is contrary to all other Earth's surfaces. Antarctica sea-ice increased by 8% between 1978 and 2005 contrary to CO2 global warming expectation. The Antarctica anomaly is well predicted by Svensmark theory. Also, the Earth warmed from 1900 to 1945. Then, it cooled in the 60s and 70s only to warm up again in the 80s and later. CO2 concentration can't explain this up and down pattern at all. Svensmark theory can, as each cycle was matched by a corresponding change in intensity of the Sun and cosmic rays. As mentioned earlier, this theory explains the four shifts from hothouse to icehouse over the past 500 million years. Meanwhile, CO2 concentration can only vaguely explain two of them.
Shaviv from his analysis of long term records, figured that in the past a doubling in CO2 concentration would result in only a 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature. This is far lower than the IPCC estimate range of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius.
Shaviv did extensive long term studies and found out that the long period of 1 to 2 billion years before the present during which no glaciations are none to have occurred, coincides with a paucity in the past star formation rate and resulting cosmic rays.
Predicting global temperature is challenging. Using Svensmark theory, it would entail predicting the Sun magnetic shield intensity which is not reliable yet. Svensmark adds that predicting global temperatures using any framework (including CO2 global warming) is highly unreliable so far.
Svensmark advocates scientists get away from dogmatic narrow scientific specializations and embrace multi-discipline research framework. He states that we defined scientific borders (let's say between biology and chemistry) without regards to how nature works. He advocates the birth of a new science called cosmoclimatology defined as "a new field of research investigates extraterrestrial events that affect the terrestrial climate, on all time scales from fractions of a second to billions of years..." This would be a multi-disciplinary science including chemistry, astronomy, geology and other life sciences.
Nigel Calder's efforts to explain very difficult concepts are impressive. The chapter on Cosmic Rays is alone worth the price of the book. Calder should be writing textbooks. That being said, this book is not for casual reading. It requires thoughtful reading and sometimes re-reading to get it.
One disappointment, and the reason I rated it 4 stars, is that the authors seem to be guiding the reader to a particular conclusion. Anyone willing to make the effort necessary to understand it should be trusted to reach their own conclusion.
In addition to cosmic rays and their effect on Earth temperatures, there is a great deal of information on ice drilling and the wealth of ancient climate data stored in layers of ice in Greenland and the Antarctic. Much of that information contradicts what is often heard in the media and political speeches. Again, why hasn't this been in the mainstream news? My otherwise favorite radio network, NPR, speaks of "concensus" among "scientists" and labels anyone who doesn't buy climate change concensus as a flat-earther. Genuine scientists don't reach concensus on much of anything except maybe gravity, and this book is one more bit of evidence that there is no concensus among real scientists on global warming.
While I am not qualified to judge the validity of Svesmark's theory, the arguments are compelling. Svensmark will eventually be either proven or disproven by his peers and the weather!
If you like scientifically stimulating, thought provoking reading, and are willing to put some effort into understanding it, you should read The Chilling Stars. It is a fresh alternative to the junk science in the media. On the other hand, if your scientific information comes from supermarket tabloids and Geraldo, you wouldn't like this book.
The first edition was printed in 2007, and a second edition in Spring of 2008. With the recent 1 degree average temperature drop over 12 months, many potential readers are still shivering from the coldest winter on record, and may not need to read this book to be convinced that the alarmist "concensus" is flawed.
Update, Oct 2013 five more years with no temperature increase, and a big increase in polar ice caps. It appears that these guys know what they are writing about.