Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BBC bias, and we're not going to die

Quite apart from the fact that it appears to falsify a major component of recent climate alarmism, this is yet another example of the BBC's climate bias. It was spotted a few days ago by Jennifer Marohasy.

The past year has been characterised by a period of low levels of ice in the Arctic, which was widely reported, and simultaneously of high levels of ice in the Antarctic, which wasn't reported much at all.

This piece on the BBC website, last updated on Friday 18th April and written by my old friend Richard Black, is titled: More doubt on cosmic climate link. Here's how it begins:

Research has thrown further doubt on the notion that cosmic rays are a major influence on the Earth's climate.

The idea that modern global warming is due to changes in cloudiness caused by solar influences on cosmic rays is popular with "climate sceptics".

But scientists found changes in cosmic ray flux do not affect cloud formation - the second such report in a month.
Like his last piece on this subject, it was published initially without any response from Svensmark. Unlike that earlier piece, it still contains no comment from Svensmark, something I'll follow up and report back on later.

But for the moment, I want to draw your attention to a few paragraphs in a supplementary section at the bottom of the report. This, different, research is presented in such a tendentious way by Black that I'm going to excerpt just the money quote, but it refers to an observed effect of "energetic particles hitting the top of the atmosphere in polar regions". Black does not say whether these particles come from, or are affected by, solar radiation. But this is what they seem to do:
In periods of relatively intense particle activity, some areas of the Earth's surface in both the Arctic and Antarctic are warmer while others become colder, showing differences of up to 2C or 3C compared to the long-term averages.

In periods of unusually low particle activity, the patterns are reversed.

The mechanism appears to be redistributing heat across the polar regions; there is no evidence for any overall warming or cooling, Dr Seppala added, nor that the scale of the effect has changed over time.
In other words, Arctic cooling accompanied by Antarctic warming, or the reverse as was observed this last year, has nothing to do with global warming or cooling, but is a localised effect.

Svensmark's idea is that when the sun is quiet, as it has been recently, energetic particles that are otherwise screened from the earth by solar radiation instead hit the earth with greater intensity. That is entirely consistent with the new research Black reports. Svensmark then links this to patterns in cloud formation, which is what Black dismisses.

But given the enormous coverage that Arctic ice levels had this winter, you'd think a better title for the piece would have been Low Arctic Ice Does Not Mean World is Warming.

UPDATE: I have emailed Richard Black and offered him the opportunity to comment. Under the circumstances, he can hardly object to a comment, if he supplies one, being added to an already published piece.

UPDATE 2: Svensmark's colleague and co-author Nigel Calder writes:
Dear Peter

If Richard Black had asked me about the new report from Kristjansson of Oslo, I'd have made the same comment as Dr Svensmark's about Sloan of Lancaster in the report on the same theme in early April. Just changing the name: "Jon Egill Kristjansson has simply failed to understand how cosmic rays work on clouds."

But it's not my job to give tutorials to people who are intent on attacking Dr Svensmark. Nor have I time to spare in trying to keep the BBC honest. That's a job for the BBC Trust, which has already cautioned broadcasters about their handling of climate change.

You can quote that if you like.

"If Richard Black had asked me..." Extraordinary.

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