Here’s the Nature podcast interview with Jasper Kirkby, author of the new study that has denialists all atwitter (again) over cosmic rays.

Briefly, the theory is that cosmic rays hit the atmosphere, and when colliding with gas molecules create tiny cloud seeding particles, (“cloud condensation nuclei”) and thus, so the theory goes, could increase cloud cover.

Low clouds, in particular, reflect sunlight, and exert a cooling influence.

Therefore, so the theory goes, when the sun is in an active state, solar magnetic fields are strong, shielding the earth from cosmic rays, not as many clouds form, making it warmer – even warmer than it would be from the more active sun.

In periods such as the Maunder Minimum, a period of very few sunspots from 1645 to 1715, solar activity would have been low, thus, – ->lower magnetic fields –> letting in more cosmic rays —> producing more clouds
—> cooling the planet.

Voila. The Little Ice Age.

Recently, experiments were undertaken by Dr. Kirkby (interviewed above) at the European Atom smasher facility, – CERN – to learn more about the particle interactions that might validate this theory. The publication of his recent paper on the results has been bouncing around in the denialosphere as yet another “final nail in the coffin of man-caused global warming”.

Dr. Kirkby’s take, as you hear in the interview — not so much.

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When the Earthquake/tsunami closed down all of Japan’s nuclear power plants, I reported that wind was one of the only remaining reliable, tsunami proof sources of power.

Now, Dallas Morning News quotes ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the state’s electrical systems:

The Texas electrical grid operator began emergency procedures to prevent total blackout on Tuesday as the heat lead to record electricity demand, and told customers to brace for a repeat in the next few days.

The high temperatures also caused about 20 power plants to stop working, including at least one coal-fired plant and natural gas plants.

..such outages aren’t unusual in the hot summer, and Texas is getting some juice from surrounding states and from Mexico.

According to an ERCOT spokesman, conventional power plants suffer in this kind of heat.

“They can’t really efficiently condense the steam that’s used to make electricity, so that causes unit deratings that they can’t generate as much as they could if the lake were cooler.”

The American Wind Energy Association notes: 

Meanwhile, some 1,800 MW of wind generation were available yesterday, more than double the 800 MW that ERCOT counts on during periods of peak summer demand for its long-term planning purposes. 1,800 MW is enough to power about 360,000 homes under the very high electricity demand seen yesterday.

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Creepy at the EP(a)

August 3, 2009

In june of 2009, a story surfaced about the alleged suppression by the US EPA of information related to climate change.  The source of the information was reported to be one Dr.  Alan Carlin,  who, although a real EPA analyst, was in fact, an economist, not a scientist.

Distortions of the story, from the usual sources, began almost immediately.