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Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays ---- Experiment by CERN

 
Anonymous Coward
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08/24/2011 03:46 PM
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Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays ---- Experiment by CERN
Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays


Experiment probes connection between climate change and radiation bombarding the atmosphere.



It sounds like a conspiracy theory: 'cosmic rays' from deep space might be creating clouds in Earth's atmosphere and changing the climate. Yet an experiment at CERN, Europe's high-energy physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, is finding tentative evidence for just that.

The findings, published today in Nature1, are preliminary, but they are stoking a long-running argument over the role of radiation from distant stars in altering the climate.

:cloudexperiment:
The CLOUD experiment is studying whether cosmic rays play a role in cloud formation.

For a century, scientists have known that charged particles from space constantly bombard Earth. Known as cosmic rays, the particles are mostly protons blasted out of supernovae. As the protons crash through the planet's atmosphere, they can ionize volatile compounds, causing them to condense into airborne droplets, or aerosols. Clouds might then build up around the droplets.

The number of cosmic rays that reach Earth depends on the Sun. When the Sun is emitting lots of radiation, its magnetic field shields the planet from cosmic rays. During periods of low solar activity, more cosmic rays reach Earth.

Scientists agree on these basic facts, but there is far less agreement on whether cosmic rays can have a large role in cloud formation and climate change. Since the late 1990s, some have suggested that when high solar activity lowers levels of cosmic rays, that in turn reduces cloud cover and warms the planet. Others say that there is no statistical evidence for such an effect.

:geostorm:

Polarizing lens

"People are far too polarized, and in my opinion there are huge, important areas where our understanding is poor at the moment," says Jasper Kirkby, a physicist at CERN. In particular, he says, little controlled research has been done on exactly what effect cosmic rays can have on atmospheric chemistry.

To find out, Kirkby and his team are bringing the atmosphere down to Earth in an experiment called Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets (CLOUD). The team fills a custom-built chamber with ultrapure air and chemicals believed to seed clouds: water vapour, sulpher dioxide, ozone and ammonia. They then bombard the chamber with protons from the same accelerator that feeds the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle smasher. As the synthetic cosmic rays stream in, the group carefully samples the artificial atmosphere to see what effect the rays are having.

Early results seem to indicate that cosmic rays do cause a change. The high-energy protons seemed to enhance the production of nanometre-sized particles from the gaseous atmosphere by more than a factor of ten. But, Kirkby adds, those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds. "At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it's a very important first step," he says.

Scientists on both sides of the debate welcome the findings, although they draw differing conclusions. "Of course there are many things to explore, but I think the cosmic-ray/cloud-seeding hypothesis is converging with reality," says Henrik Svensmark, a physicist at the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen, who claims a link between climate change and cosmic rays.

ReadMore:

[link to www.nature.com]
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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08/24/2011 04:34 PM
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Re: Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays ---- Experiment by CERN
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08/24/2011 06:41 PM
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Anonymous Coward (OP)
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08/25/2011 09:47 AM
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Re: Cloud formation may be linked to cosmic rays ---- Experiment by CERN
UPDATE:

CERN CLOUD research team adds new pieces to puzzle of cloud formation


:cerncloudsexperi:


Jasper Kirkby, a physicist at CERN and colleagues have built an experimental climate chamber to measure the impact of cosmic rays on aerosol creation to mimic the creation of clouds in Earth's atmosphere. So far, as the team describes in their paper published in Nature, there appears to be some evidence of aerosol creation, but not enough to account for cloud formation, and thus thereís no evidence yet to show that cosmic rays have an impact on global temperatures.

Kirkby notes that despite widespread debate about the possible link between cosmic rays (charged particles , mostly protons thought to originate from exploding supernovae) and global temperature variations, very little is actually known about how aerosols are formed, which means, nobody really understands cloud formation. Thus the debate is rather philosophical, rather than scientific. To help bring some clarity to the issue, he and his team set up an experiment at the site of the Large Hadron Collider because it can provide artificial cosmic rays.

The experiment (called Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets - CLOUD) consisted of building a climate chamber; a three meter diameter stainless steel drum pumped full of purified wet air, sulphur dioxide, ozone and ammonia gases, placing it in the path of a stream of charged-pion beams, and then standing back to watch what happens under varying temperatures.

ReadMore (Vid included):
[link to www.physorg.com]





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