Re: [asa] Fred Singer

From: Christine Smith <>
Date: Mon Jan 07 2008 - 20:24:04 EST

I only recently became familiar with the name through
our local ASA group's discussion of climate change. My
initial impression is that he may be good with the
science itself, but then extrapolates and/or twists
evidence beyond what it should be outside the
scientific arena. A quick wikipedia search (which I
take with a large grain of salt) is not overly
positive about him, as according to it he apparently
still questions "the connection between CFCs and ozone
depletion, between UV-B radiation and
melanoma[2][3][4][5][6] and between second hand smoke
and lung cancer.[7][8][9]". Nevertheless, as Janice
points out, his credentials are impressive (though
good credentials do not always equal good science),
and I know he recently co-authored a paper with Dr.
Christy, who as I recall is a member of the IPCC.

Anyway, for what it's worth, here's an excerpt from
our local ASA blog discussion on him & a paper (not
his) he referenced:

(Posted 9/14/07) "Christine: Here is an excerpt from
Singer's presentation at June 30, 2007 seminar
"Economics and the Environment" at Hillsdale College,
sponsored by the Charles R. and Kathleen K. Hoogland
Center for Teacher Excellence:
"Natural Causes of Warming
A quite different question, but scientifically
interesting, has to do with the natural factors
influencing climate. Natural factors include
continental drift and mountain-building, changes in
the Earth's orbit, volcanic eruptions, and solar
variability. Different factors operate on different
time scales. But on a time scale important for human
experience - a scale of decades, let's say - solar
variability may be the most important.
Solar influence can manifest itself in different ways:
fluctuations of solar irradiance (total energy), which
has been measured in satellites and related to sun
spot cycle; variability of the ultraviolet portion of
the solar spectrum, which in turn affects the amount
of ozone in the stratosphere; and variations in the
solar wind that modulate the intensity of cosmic rays
(which, upon impact into the earth's atmosphere,
produce cloud condensation nuclei, affecting
cloudiness and thus climate).
Scientists have been able to trace the impact of the
sun on past climate using proxy data (since
thermometers are relatively modern). A convenient
proxy for temperature is the ratio of the heavy
isotope of oxygen, Oxygen-18, to the most common form,
A paper published in published in Nature in 2001
describes the Oxygen-18 data (reflecting temperature)
from a stalagmite in a cave in Oman, covering a period
of 3000 years. It also shows corresponding Carbon-14
data, which are directly related to the intensity of
cosmic rays striking the earth's atmosphere. One sees
there a remarkably detailed correlation, almost on a
year-by-year basis. While such research cannot
establish the detailed mechanism of climate change,
the causal connection is quite clear: Since the
stalagmite temperature cannot affect the sun, it is
the sun that affects climate."

(Me; 9/14/07) - "Regarding the excerpt on cosmic rays,
I'm not sure I follow the he arguing
that because oxygen and carbon isotopes in this
stalagmite are correlated, and because the carbon
isotopes are influenced by cosmic rays, that this
provides evidence that cosmic rays have a signficant
impact on the climate? Three related questions: 1)
it's been awhile since I studied caves--are the
isotopes representative of the isotopes contained in
the water, the cave's atmosphere, or both? 2)if the
cave's atmosphere is a factor in this, how does he
account for the differences between the cave's
atmosphere and the surface atmosphere (both in terms
of chemistry and meteorlogy attributes (temperature,
etc))? 3)Surely there are other factors influencing
the levels of oxygen and carbon isotopes, yes? What
are these and how are these accounted for?

From an AGW website, a discussion of their
interpretations regarding the cosmic ray theory:

Finally, from the excerpt:
"While such research cannot establish the detailed
mechanism of climate change, the causal connection is
quite clear: Since the stalagmite temperature cannot
affect the sun, it is the sun that affects climate."

I find it remarkable that although he "cannot
establish the detailed mechanism of climate change"
with the research he cites, he nevertheless makes the
sweeping statement that the "causal connection is
clear". Correlation does not prove causation, and it
would seem anything but clear to me. Also, what AGW
scientist doesn't think that the Sun affects the
climate? I don't find this statement very helpful, and
it certainly does not negate the role that GHGs play
(human influenced or otherwise)."

(Me; 10/3/07) - "I found the paper that Singer
referred to; you can read it here:

The paper clarified several of my questions:
- The C14 data mentioned is tree ring data, and is
being used as a proxy for solar activity and cosmic
- The O18 data is being used as a proxy for rainfall
intensity, not temperature.
- The stalagmite was dated using U-Th

The paper's conclusions are:
"In summary, the d18O record of the stalagmite H5 from
Hoti cave
represents a precisely dated high-resolution time
series of the
intensity of Indian Ocean monsoonal rainfall. The
strong similarity
between the smoothed secular variation curves of the
H5 d18O
isotopic record and the D14C recordĐtogether with
their spectral
analysesĐsuggest that both are responding to the same
forcing. Much of the variation in D14C is attributed
to solar forcing
through variations in solar activity and intensity7."

They then present the following interpretation:
"The variations in solar irradiance necessary to cause
the observed changes in D14C are probably of the order
of a few
tenths of one per cent (ref. 2). Such minor variations
are unlikely to
have directly caused signi®cant differences in
sensible heating of the
Tibetan plateau. It is more likely that solar
variability leads to
changes in atmospheric or oceanic circulation that
amplify this
initial input."

Here's my perspective/critique (again!!):

1) Judging by the provided excerpt, I think Singer
overstates the conclusions of this paper. Singer
stated that "One sees there a remarkably detailed
correlation, almost on a year-by-year basis." However,
in the paper, the authors state that "We emphasize
that the tuning was done while always remaining within
measurement error of each of the 12 Th±U ages along
the pro®le,
so that the net shift of any part of the d18O curve is
only 190 years at
most (Fig. 3)." It would seem to me that a shift of up
to 190 years is not "almost year-by-year". Further,
the unsmoothed and smoothed correlations were listed
as having the values r=0.55 and r=0.6, respectively.
Although this is a good agreement, I would think that
if the correlation were "almost year-by-year" that the
correlation value would be a lot higher.

2)I find it interesting that although Singer states
the influence of cosmic rays on climate is because it
changes cloud dynamics, the paper itself concludes it
is amplification of small variation in solar activity
amplified by other climatic differences (non-cosmic
ray related) which do this. I would think that if
cosmic rays were an important climatological factor to
consider, the authors would at least have evaluated
this as a possibility.

3)On the subject of cosmic is my
understanding that cosmic rays are supposed to
influence climate by producing more cloud condensation
nuclei (CCN), thereby enhancing cloud formation.
However, as far as I can tell, this mechanism is
tenuous at best, and still very controversial.
Moreover, it's my understanding that the atmosphere
already contains an abundance of CCN--thus, it would
seem to me that you would have to show that clouds
formed *preferentially* on CCN generated from cosmic
rays in order to show a signficant climatological
influence. Likewise, if cosmic rays come from not only
the Sun, but also the rest of the galaxy, then
wouldn't you have to be able to separate out the
cosmic ray CCNs coming from solar activity vs. other
cosmological sources, in order to show that solar
activity is the culprit? And also, the AGW link I
posted earlier specifcally says that according to our
measurements, cosmic rays have not shown a declining
trend within the past 50 years, which would be
necessary, presumably, to show that fewer clouds are
being formed and we are receiving more solar
radiation, thereby warming the planet.

4)I also found it interesting that the paper noted
that the solar activity changes would not have
generated "signficant differences in sensible heating"
which I presume would refer to surface temperatures.
In many parts of the world today, we are seeing
noticeable changes in temperature averages; if the
increased solar activity did not cause such changes
then, why should we assume that such changes would be
evident now in response to changes in solar activity?
I suppose one could argue that today's variations in
solar activity are being amplified by other
climatological systems, and that temperature changes
are resulting from those, but I think we'd need to
flesh this hypothesis out some before applying it to
the current warming trends."

In Christ,

--- Janice Matchett <> wrote:

> At 10:30 AM 1/3/2008, j burg wrote:
> >A person with the name "Fred Singer" has just
> published a book
> >espousing an anti-GW position which, if the Amazon
> reviews are any
> >indicator, has received a lot of admirers. Is it a
> credible book?
> >Or is Singer just another contrarian? n a science
> class, are his
> >ideas worth discussing at all as possibly valid? ~
> Burgy
> @ Fred Singer is Professor Emeritus of
> environmental science at the
> University of Virginia. He holds a degree in
> Electrical engineering
> from Ohio State University and a PhD in Physics from
> Princeton
> University. In the 1940s and 50s Singer was involved
> in designing
> instruments used in satellites to measure cosmic
> radiation and ozone.
> Previous government and academic positions:
> * Director of the Center for Atmospheric and
> Space Physics,
> University of Maryland (1953-62)
> * Special advisor to President Eisenhower on
> space developments (1960)
> * First Director of the National Weather
> Satellite Service (1962-64)
> Founding Dean of the School of Environmental and
> Planetary Sciences,
> University of Miami (1964-67)
> * Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water Quality
> and Research, U.S.
> Department of the Interior (1967- 70)
> * Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy,
> U.S. Environmental
> Protection Agency (1970-71)
> * Professor of Environmental Sciences,
> University of Virginia (1971-94)
> * Chief Scientist, U.S. Department of
> Transportation (1987- 89)
> Space and exploration
> In 1994, Singer contributed to a paper on the
> results from the
> Interplanetary Dust Experiment using data from the
> Long Duration
> Exposure Facility satellite.
> Singer also has been a proponent of manned
> exploration to Mars.
> [snip]
> S. Fred Singer. Professional Background S. FRED
> SINGER, Ph.D..
> Retrieved on 2007-11-07.

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Received on Mon, 7 Jan 2008 17:24:04 -0800 (PST)

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