You have probably missed it because the mainstream media hasn’t been reporting it much, but climate science just got a little less settled.
A key component in the climate, and in climate models, is cloud formation, but according to results just published in Nature, much of what we thought we knew about cloud formation is wrong.
As the official release says:
The CLOUD results show that trace vapours assumed until now to account for aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can explain only a tiny fraction of the observed atmospheric aerosol production. The results also show that ionisation from cosmic rays significantly enhances aerosol formation. Precise measurements such as these are important in achieving a quantitative understanding of cloud formation, and will contribute to a better assessment of the effects of clouds in climate models.
“These new results from CLOUD are important because we’ve made a number of first observations of some very important atmospheric processes,” said the experiment’s spokesperson, Jasper Kirkby. “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 the seeds for clouds. However, we’ve found that the vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction of the observations – even with the enhancement of cosmic rays.”
So that’s two unsettling things. One we were more or less aware of – cosmic rays have an effect on cloud formation. As the amount of cosmic radiation that reaches the earth is modulated by the sun’s activity, this provides a causal connection between observed temperature changes and sunspot activity. Henrik Svensmark gets the credit for proposing this mechanism.
The other I suspect is a surprise to everyone. Apparently we have virtually no idea what is required for lower level cloud formation as the “vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction”.
You would have thought that something like this would have been on the ABC’s Science Show, but alas, presenter Robyn Williams is still catching-up with old news in climate science.
This week he investigates the role of CO2 in plant fertilisation and he starts the interview by saying:
Robyn Williams: Is carbon dioxide really a plant fertiliser? Will it simply increase plant growth as we add more to the atmosphere? Well, no, according to Associate Professor Mark Hovenden, who is a plant ecologist at the University of Tasmania, and done what scientists must do, an experiment.
Dear old Robyn can’t get his own interviews right. If you read the transcript you will find that AssPro Hovenden says CO2 is a plant fertiliser, and yes, it will increase plant growth as we add more to the atmosphere.
It doesn’t work that way in his own experiments because he is growing the plants on nutrient deficient soils and the lack of nutrients limits the rate at which the plants can grow. But it does work that way if the nutrients are there, although there is a diminishing return.
As Williams has long been over-invested in global warming hysteria he tries to obscure the fact that CO2 is a plant fertiliser. He also invents a straw man argument – that the increased plant growth will exactly counteract the anthropogenic component of the increase in CO2.
I haven’t heard anyone of any consequence say that. CO2 sequestration is fairly complex, although as the hydrocarbons we are mining were once organic, over the long term it’s got to be reasonable to expect plants to sequester a lot of the additional CO2.
So, now that the ABC has caught up with CO2 fertilisation, perhaps they could cover the CERN findings, which are more startling, novel, and a lot more significant.