Sunday, December 27, 2009

If you got a hammer

Steve Bloom brings word of the latest Einstein, better than Chilingar, more powerful than Gerlich and Tscheuschner, able to leap high hockey sticks in a single bound, with the newest version of global warming is caused by cosmic rays.

There are two parts to this story, the first is an interesting idea that low energy electrons can dissociate CFCs in ice matricies. This idea has, as such things go, a relatively long provenance, going back to the 1980s and enjoying a revival in the recently deceased Ted Madey's lab at Rutgers at the end of the last century (well, 10-12 years or so). The idea has been aggressively pursued by one of Madey's students Qing Bin Lu at Waterloo, whence comes the latest, to be published in Physics Reports as a "review". To be honest (and Eli is ever so), the first part of the paper is a good summary of the past laboratory work, but the second half on climate science, descends into hammer territory, as in when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, something that folk who work in on a single system are subject to. The editor for the paper, Sigrid Peyerimhoff, a really good theoretical chemist, had done very early calculations on the mechanism championed by Lu. FWIW Eli also knows some chemists and atmospheric scientists at Waterloo and thinks highly of them.

The idea, which has been kicking around for about as long a time is that CFCs are not dissociated by UV sunlight, mostly in the stratosphere in the tropics, where the light is most intense, but at the poles, in the polar stratospheric clouds, by low energy electrons formed in cosmic ray cascades. This was published by Lu in Physical Review Letters early in the decade and got not one, but two comments, and a more recent PRL publication, the latter being out from under the paywall.

Lu says that there is a strong anticorrelation between cosmic ray flux and ozone at the poles where Polar Stratospheric Clouds form (or in other words, more cosmic rays, less ozone). He puts forth, what with charity could be called a simplistic model, called the cosmic ray driven electron reaction model, which is nothing more than a correlation of the ozone change against the cosmic ray flux, with its 11 year cycle. There is nothing more than a simple least square fit and even that is minimal, and the lines are thick, the scatter of measurements wide. There is no kinetic model beyond the naive fit, and there is no discussion beyond, lookatthat quantifying the fit.


The CRE "model" is just

[O3]i = [O3] o {1-k Ii Ii-1 EESCi ]
where [O3]i is the ozone column depth in year i, [O3] o would be the column depth without CFCs, Ii is the cosmic ray flux in year i, and EESCi is the equivalent effective stratospheric chlorine over Antarctica. k is a fitting constant.

As was pointed out in one of the PRL comments, the correlation only looks reasonable for the latest cycle, and the scatter is so large that without the running average it would disappear there. The bunnies can get another view of this by looking at the 1990 to 2008 ozone variability vs variability in the cosmic ray flux.




Before going on, Lu does provide a prediction
The intensity of cosmic rays is still peaking in 2009, so we should expect to observe one of the deepest ozone holes over the spring Antarctica in 2009~2010.
and as it turned out we didn't. There are two measures of an ozone hole, the area, and the minimum ozone column density. 2009 was a middling hole for recent conditions, the hole was smaller than in any year since 1996 except 2002 and 2004, the ozone column was middling for the same period.

This should not be surprising, Lu himself shows that there is a much better correlation between temperature and ozone, as the photochemical model implies than his CRE model, but not to be daunted, Lu next claims that the temperature is controlled by the cosmic rays.

Much hand waving ensues, during which claims are made that because cosmic rays control the ozone at the poles, and ozone depletion at the poles contributes to ozone depletion at mid latitudes, ozone depletion controls global temperature. Something like that.

Tamino is going to feast on this one.

8 comments:

Martin said...

Tamino is already suffering from constipation.

guthrie said...

I wouldn't have thought that it would be worth feasting upon.
More to the point, is it worth combating his wibble about climate change with pointed question such as "what measurements overturn the general consensus of the relative contributions of CO2 and CFC's to the warming?" given that he seems to think that its all CFC's fault, when I was under the distinct impression that basic physics made this impossible.

EliRabett said...

Ah yes, but this is so bad that it is super statistical exlax

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression from the press release accompanying Lu's paper that he also went on to assert in the paper that global temperatures have been declining over the last decade. Does Lu actually advance that canard in the paper? If so, it would seem to considerably undermine his credibility, as it would appear to reveal a "Galileo confronting the ignorati" complex, wherein a lone rebel scientist arrives to use a shaky fringe theory to assert the overthrow decades of painstaking work by hundreds of scientists at dozens of institutions.
lcarey_bunny

Ray Ladbury said...

Eli says of Lu: "Much hand waving ensues, during which claims are made that because cosmic rays control the ozone at the poles, and ozone depletion at the poles contributes to ozone depletion at mid latitudes, ozone depletion controls global temperature. "

And then... I will rule the world. Bwaahaahaa

says Ray Ladury

Johannes Rexx said...

The article references is actually an 87-page, densely technical TOME that has been peer reviewed. The review in Physics Reports barely skims the important points. The writer makes light of the material but does not provide address the technical claims directly, nor provide any analysis of the data to suggest a better results. Try emailing the scientist who wrote this paper, as I did, and actually read it for comprehension, then post technical counterpoints. The dismissive tone of the article does not help the matter.

If you don't believe that the Earth has cooled, do your own analysis. Visit WolframAlpha.com and type in "Seattle temperature" or any location you want. Look at ALL of the temperature data and see for yourself what is really going on.

EliRabett said...

A new contender for the bag of hammers has appeared. Eli has read this paper, and four or five others from Lu, and believe Eli or not, this paper fails some basic bullshit tests. The Rabett will be posting more on this today, but think of the following, what are the implications for the location and timing of warming of this paper? What basic tests of the idea are missing? Why is the argument so lacking in quantification?

It also bears repeating that the temperature, or the temperature trend at any one location does not say much about the temperature trend globally. Even then you might notice that the trend in Seattle has been positive over the last ten years, but then you would have to worry about such confounding things as urban heat island effects, moving/changes at the recording station and more.

amoeba said...

Eli,
'Eli has read this paper, and four or five others from Lu, and believe Eli or not, this paper fails some basic bullshit tests. The Rabett will be posting more on this today'

Have you penned your thoughts about this? Will you share them with the mice, please? If you have, where did you post them? In the burrow somewhere isn't what I was hoping for.

As your long ears will have told you, the bogusphere are trumpeting this ahem 'study' from the rooftops without any thought that it's probably bovine waste material. But when do the likes of TWATTS and McFraudit care about BS?