Cosmic Rays Modulate Cloud Cover

A new paper by Henrik Svensmark in Nature Communications.

The hypothesis in a nutshell

• Cosmic rays, high-energy particles raining down from exploded stars, knock electrons out of air molecules. This produces ions, that is, positive and negative molecules in the atmosphere.

• The ions help aerosols – clusters of mainly sulphuric acid and water molecules – to form and become stable against evaporation. This process is called nucleation. The small aerosols need to grow nearly a million times in mass in order to have an effect on clouds.

• The second role of ions is that they accelerate the growth of the small aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei – seeds on which liquid water droplets form to make clouds. The more ions the more aerosols become cloud condensation nuclei. It is this second property of ions which is the new result published in Nature Communications.

• 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 implications of the study suggests that the mechanism can have affected:

• The climate changes observed during the 20th century

• The coolings and warmings of around 2°C that have occurred repeatedly over the past 10,000 years, as the Sun’s activity and the cosmic ray influx have varied.

• The much larger variations of up to 10°C occurring as the Sun and Earth travel through the Galaxy visiting regions with varying numbers of exploding stars.

More details at WUWT.


Author: Russ Steele

Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

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