Nir Shaviv

The theory of this Israeli astrophysicist has gained traction as the great white hope of climate skeptics. Below are some sources of background reading.

Shaviv champions the solar-wind modulated cosmic ray flux (CRF) hypothesis, which was suggested by Ney, discussed by Dickenson, and furthered by Svensmark (see CO2 Science). Evidence consistes of correlations between CRF variations and cloud cover, correlations between non-solar CRF variations and temperature over geological timescales, as well as experimental results showing that the formation of small condensation nuclei could be bottlenecked by the number density of atmospheric ions.

Basically, high CRF ionizes particles that seed more clouds, causing cooling. Low CRF produces brighter cloud free condition, resulting in warming.

Recently, he reports in GRL that three independent data sets show that the oceans absorb and emit an order of magnitude more heat than could be expected from just the variations in the total solar irradiance, implying the existence of an amplification mechanism. Shaviv, says this predicts the correct radiation imbalance observed in the cloud cover variations that are needed to produce the magnitude of the net heat flux into the oceans associated with the 11-year solar cycle.

The Reference Frame had an article about Shaviv recently too, noting significant pushback by RealClimate, proof the CRF theory is a viable alternative to the GHG warming as the main explanation for recent warmth.

By the way, despite all the huge pro-greenhouse bias in the journals and elsewhere, the Shaviv-Veizer paper has 91 citations right now, while the almost immediate alarmist reply by 11 authors, including RealClimate’s Rahmstorf, Archer, and Schmidt, only has 24 citations.

A very instructive exchange ensued in May 2006 at the RealClimate post “Thankyou for Emitting” where Shaviv challenged masterfully (starting at post 37), until the team eventually threw in the towel around post 125.

On the subject of Rahmstorf, Shaviv’s own blog site ScienceBits refers to RealClimate as WishfulClimate.org in a post More slurs from RealClimate. He pins them as bleeding hearts and intellectual lightweights as well.

Realclimate.org continues with its same line of attack. Wishfulclimate.org writers try again and again to concoct what appears to be deep critiques against skeptic arguments, but end up doing a very shallow job. All in the name of saving the world. How gallant of them.

Since there is no evidence which proves that 20th century warming is human in origin, the only logically possible way to convict humanity is to prove that there is no alternative explanation to the warming (e.g., see here). My motivation (as is the motivation of my serious colleagues) is simply to do the science as good as I can.

But Nir is not an extremist discounting all effects of greenhouse gasses.

In fact, my best estimate for climate sensitivity implies that anthropogenic radiative forcing explain about 1/3 of the 20th century warming, in particular over the past few decades.

Some of the flavor of the debate between them can be seen from the following two comments at Shaviv’s blog:

Rasmus: You are wrong about the motivation about our critisism, Shaviv; we are primarily interested in doing good sicence. We want to unravel the facts behind climate variability. In science, one challenge other views if one finds them strange or not credible. This is what we habve done. You make claims based on your own subjective belief og based on far-fetched speculations. The fact is that the claim that the recent global warming is due to GCR is not supported be any real evidence; there is no credible trend in the solar activity or GCR in the last ~50 years.

Shaviv: Perhaps you’re right. But if so, then it means you should have the integrity to add at the end of your post (and not buried in the discussion below), an addendum saying that this particular critique turned out to be wrong, as Kranz et al. is not applicable to the Milky Way. I for my part would add a similar addendum to my response, specifying that my comments about motives was wrong.

Second, over all, there was a large increase in the solar activity over the 20th century, even if you discard the Yakutsk data (used in the Ahluwalia plot), and this increase explains a large fraction of the 20th century temperature increase if the CRF/climate link is real. As for the temperature increase over the 1990′s, see my response above. Some of the warming is due to the fact that although there was a decrease in the indirect solar forcing over the last cycle, it is still notably above the current forcing/temperature equilibrium (and therefore causes warming), and of course, some of the warming is anthropogenic.

The scientific issues are not settled.

  • Alex Harvey

    David, thanks for the reference to this very interesting RC discussion. We need a page somewhere, ‘A Skeptics Guide to Finding Truth at RealClimate.org’. A sort of skeptical index; a list of discussions they’ve reluctantly allowed that throw doubt onto the consensus position they promote. It could make very interesting reading.

  • Alex Harvey

    David, thanks for the reference to this very interesting RC discussion. We need a page somewhere, ‘A Skeptics Guide to Finding Truth at RealClimate.org’. A sort of skeptical index; a list of discussions they’ve reluctantly allowed that throw doubt onto the consensus position they promote. It could make very interesting reading.

  • Anonymous

    It certaintly would be a good cross-sectional view, to index those places where people have gone head-to-head with the RC team. I can think of mine with Rahmstorf where he threw in the towel after being twitted on uncertainty at the temination of non-linear trend lines. But there have been a lot of good ones, DemetrisK, FerencM, Kaufmann.

  • http://landshape.org/enm David Stockwell

    It certaintly would be a good cross-sectional view, to index those places where people have gone head-to-head with the RC team. I can think of mine with Rahmstorf where he threw in the towel after being twitted on uncertainty at the temination of non-linear trend lines. But there have been a lot of good ones, DemetrisK, FerencM, Kaufmann.

  • kuhnkat

    How many references to rebreathing your own expiration to prove CO2 is bad are actually on that thread???

    I can’t believe they allow such sorry cogitation!!!

    I agree. Thank you for the reference.

    I note it took most of the thread before they admitted he was talking about high energy CR’s and accepted none of their references addressed that correlation.

  • kuhnkat

    How many references to rebreathing your own expiration to prove CO2 is bad are actually on that thread???

    I can’t believe they allow such sorry cogitation!!!

    I agree. Thank you for the reference.

    I note it took most of the thread before they admitted he was talking about high energy CR’s and accepted none of their references addressed that correlation.

  • DG

    RPS has had several confrontations with RC.
    http://climatesci.org/index.php?s=realclimate&submit=Search

    RC has a rich history of personal attacks and false accusations, not to mention, how shall we say, less than “accurate” rantings? Rather than admit error, they become belligerent or simply allow the threads to die on the vine. All the while the zombies are high-fiving and butt slapping each other unaware their fearless leaders have been humiliated.

    On par with what was done to Nir Shaviv but not limited to, RC also did to Roy Spencer in their post entitled ‘How to cook a graph in three easy lessons’
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/how-to-cook-a-graph-in-three-easy-lessons/

  • DG

    RPS has had several confrontations with RC.
    http://climatesci.org/index.php?s=realclimate&submit=Search

    RC has a rich history of personal attacks and false accusations, not to mention, how shall we say, less than “accurate” rantings? Rather than admit error, they become belligerent or simply allow the threads to die on the vine. All the while the zombies are high-fiving and butt slapping each other unaware their fearless leaders have been humiliated.

    On par with what was done to Nir Shaviv but not limited to, RC also did to Roy Spencer in their post entitled ‘How to cook a graph in three easy lessons’
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/how-to-cook-a-graph-in-three-easy-lessons/

  • Anonymous

    My impression of the exchanges was a kind of forced respectfulness, which came across a little patronizing. The bottom line seemed to be – come back in twenty years time when you have as much research as we have on CO2. It was pretty clear they couldn’t match his arguments.

  • http://landshape.org/enm admin

    My impression of the exchanges was a kind of forced respectfulness, which came across a little patronizing. The bottom line seemed to be – come back in twenty years time when you have as much research as we have on CO2. It was pretty clear they couldn’t match his arguments.

  • JamesG

    When I saw this at realclimate I was pleasantly surprised, in that it’s reasonably fair..

    Ref.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/faq-on-climate-models-part-ii/#more-619

    “There are also other hypothesised impacts of solar activity on climate, most notably the impact of galactic cosmic rays (which are modulated by the solar magnetic activity on solar cycle timescales) on atmospheric ionisation, which in turn has been linked to aerosol formation, and in turn linked to cloud amounts. Most of these links are based on untested theories and somewhat dubious correlations, however, as was recognised many years ago (Dickinson, 1975), this is a plausible idea. Implementing it in climate models is however a challenge. It requires models to have a full model of aerosol creation, growth, accretion and cloud nucleation. There are many other processes that affect aerosols and GCR-related ionisation is only a small part of that. Additionally there is a huge amount of uncertainty in aerosol-cloud effects (the ‘aerosol indirect effect’). Preliminary work seems to indicate that the GCR-aerosol-cloud link is very small (i.e. the other effects dominate), but this is still in the early stages of research. Should this prove to be significant, climate models will likely incorporate this directly (using embedded aerosol codes), or will parameterise the effects based on calculated cloud variations from more detailed models. What models can’t do (except perhaps as a sensitivity study) is take purported global scale correlations and just ‘stick them in’ – cloud processes and effects are so tightly wound up in the model dynamics and radiation and have so much spatial and temporal structure that this couldn’t be done in a way that made physical sense. For instance, part of the observed correlation could be due to the other solar effects, and so how could they be separated out? (and that’s even assuming that the correlations actually hold up over time, which doesn’t seem to be the case). “

  • JamesG

    When I saw this at realclimate I was pleasantly surprised, in that it’s reasonably fair..

    Ref.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/faq-on-climate-models-part-ii/#more-619

    “There are also other hypothesised impacts of solar activity on climate, most notably the impact of galactic cosmic rays (which are modulated by the solar magnetic activity on solar cycle timescales) on atmospheric ionisation, which in turn has been linked to aerosol formation, and in turn linked to cloud amounts. Most of these links are based on untested theories and somewhat dubious correlations, however, as was recognised many years ago (Dickinson, 1975), this is a plausible idea. Implementing it in climate models is however a challenge. It requires models to have a full model of aerosol creation, growth, accretion and cloud nucleation. There are many other processes that affect aerosols and GCR-related ionisation is only a small part of that. Additionally there is a huge amount of uncertainty in aerosol-cloud effects (the ‘aerosol indirect effect’). Preliminary work seems to indicate that the GCR-aerosol-cloud link is very small (i.e. the other effects dominate), but this is still in the early stages of research. Should this prove to be significant, climate models will likely incorporate this directly (using embedded aerosol codes), or will parameterise the effects based on calculated cloud variations from more detailed models. What models can’t do (except perhaps as a sensitivity study) is take purported global scale correlations and just ‘stick them in’ – cloud processes and effects are so tightly wound up in the model dynamics and radiation and have so much spatial and temporal structure that this couldn’t be done in a way that made physical sense. For instance, part of the observed correlation could be due to the other solar effects, and so how could they be separated out? (and that’s even assuming that the correlations actually hold up over time, which doesn’t seem to be the case). “

  • Bernie

    Nice quotation from RC: It says to me, “we will continue to look for our keys under the street light, because it is too dark elsewhere!!”

  • Bernie

    Nice quotation from RC: It says to me, “we will continue to look for our keys under the street light, because it is too dark elsewhere!!”

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  • Frederick Colbourne

    Actually, both Nir Shaviv and Svensmark are on record as supporting the effect of GHG up to a sensitivity of slightly more than one degree Celsius. Based on this sensitivity and the logarithmic response to CO2 concentration, an increase from 300 to 400 ppm CO2 from 1950 to 2000 would give an increase in global temperature between 1950 and 2000 of about 0.45 degrees Celsius.

    As I understand it, this fits the observed global warming figure by NASA’s Earth Observatory of 0.5 degree Celsius since 1950.. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page2.php

    So both Shaviv and Svensmark agree that CO2 has had the effect described by NASA.

    The assertion that observations during the latter part of the 20th century falsify Shaviv and Svensmark is not supported. In effect, neither author denies the climate warming effect of CO2 that has occurred during the 20th century.

    Where the argument lies is not with the observations between 1950 and 2000, the modern industrial era, but with the hypothesis that positive feedback from water vapor in the atmosphere amplifies the effect of CO2 and will therefore result in much higher sensitivity to global warming..

    As we know the parameterization of cloud effects is the weakest part of climate modeling. Thus, cloud effects in current models are not well-supported.

    Why not therefore take these scientists seriously and explore ways to improve the modeling of clouds and their effects?

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