Thursday, September 25, 2008

Solar wind theory may get its day in court

Advocates of the idea that solar influences on climate outweigh human influences may finally get their chance to test their theory.

New measurements from the NASA/ESA spacecraft Ulysses show that the sun's current period of low activity goes beyond an extended dearth of sunspots. As AFP reports in a September 24 article:
The intensity of the sun's million-mile-per-hour solar wind has dropped to its lowest levels since accurate records began half a century ago, scientists say.

Measurements of the cosmic blasts of radiation, ejected from the sun's upper atmosphere, were made with the Ulysses spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The solar wind "inflates a protective bubble, or heliosphere, around the solar system," which protects the inner planets against the radiation from other stars, said Dave McComas, Ulysses' solar wind principal investigator and senior executive director at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

"With the solar wind at an all-time low, there is an excellent chance the heliosphere will diminish in size and strength," said Ed Smith, NASA's Ulysses project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"If that occurs, more galactic cosmic rays will make it into the inner part of our solar system," added Smith.

As we have noted before, some scientists (such as Svensmark) draw a link between variations in solar wind and variations in cloud formation on our planet. Svensmark argues that increased cosmic radiation acts as a catalyst for cloud formation in earth's atmosphere -- in turn leading to a general cooling of the world's climate if the pattern persists.

If the current lapse in the solar wind continues, Svensmark may soon get all of the data he needs to support or refute his theory.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are polar bears going cannibal?

CNN, in the midst of a boilerplate September 23 article about the allegedly impending disappearance of Arctic ice, brings us an alarming development in the saga of the officially-threatened-but-not-actually-declining-yet polar bear:
"The Arctic sea ice melt is a disaster for the polar bears," according to Kassie Siegel, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. "They are dependent on the Arctic sea ice for all of their essential behaviors, and as the ice melts and global warming transforms the Arctic, polar bears are starving, drowning, even resorting to cannibalism because they don't have access to their usual food sources."

Scientists have noticed increasing reports of starving Arctic polar bears attacking and feeding on one another in recent years.
Cannibalism! Yikes! Given the extent of the summer melt in the past two seasons, researchers must have a lot of anecdotal evidence of this. Let's read on to learn the gory details:
In one documented 2004 incident in northern Alaska, a male bear broke into a female's den and killed her.
2004? Four years ago? Did the male bear eat the female after killing her? What was the frequency of such behavior in the polar bear population before any significant melting occurred?

Does article author Marsha Walton realize that this one sentence (which, by the way, is the only example given) undermines her alarmist conclusion? Apparently not. Even though the main purpose of the article is to report on the just-ended ice-melt season, her article is entitled:
Polar bears resort to cannibalism as Arctic ice shrinks
Present tense: "resort". If there's evidence of it happening this season, Walton doesn't see fit to present it.

Perhaps because the true story gives no cause for alarm?

Perhaps because researchers have long known about cannibalism among the polar bears.

[P.S. Hello to everyone visiting here from the CNN article page!]

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sunspot milestone

August has the notable distinction of having passed without a single post by me to this blog (where did the time go?). Even more notable, however, is the fact that Mr. Sun was quiet the entire month as well, as Michael Asher reports:
The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.

The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth.

According to data from the NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center, the last time such an event occurred was June of 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749.
The alarmists will almost certainly yawn at the news, if they notice it at all. Sunspots, many argue, have no effect on the radiation output of the Sun.

This is correct, but misleading. The solar magnetic activity represented by sunspots affects our climate indirectly by influencing cloud formation on our planet, which in turn does affect our climate.