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Sallie Baliunas – Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics December 19, 2007

Posted by globalwarmingscare in Scientist who oppose Global Warming Theories.

Global warming and solar variability

Sallie Baliunas is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences Division and formerly Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Institute. She serves as Senior Scientist at the George C. Marshall Institute in Washington, DC, and chairs the Institute’s Science Advisory Board. She is also Visiting Professor at Brigham Young University, Adjunct Professor at Tennessee State University and past contributing editor to the World Climate Report. Previously Robert Wesson Endowment Fund Fellow (1993 – 1994) at the Hoover Institution.

In 1992, Baliunas was third author on a Nature paper[3] that used observed variations in sun-like stars as an analogue of possible past variations in the Sun. The paper says that

“the sun is in an unusually steady phase compared to similar stars, which means that reconstructing the past historical brightness record may be more risky than has been generally thought”.

More recently she has moved into the global warming area as a skeptic. The work of Willie Soon and Baliunas, suggesting that solar variability is more strongly correlated with variations in air temperature than any other factor, even carbon dioxide levels, has been widely publicized by lobby groups including the Marshall Institute[4] and Tech Central Station[5], and mentioned in the popular press[6]. However, her viewpoint – that solar variation accounts for most of the recent climate change – is not widely accepted among climate scientists.

Baliunas is a strong disbeliever in a connection between CO2 rise and climate change, saying in a 2001 essay with Willie Soon:

But is it possible that the particular temperature increase observed in the last 100 years is the result of carbon dioxide produced by human activities? The scientific evidence clearly indicates that this is not the case… measurements of atmospheric temperatures made by instruments lofted in satellites and balloons show that no warming has occurred in the atmosphere in the last 50 years. This is just the period in which humanmade carbon dioxide has been pouring into the atmosphere and according to the climate studies, the resultant atmospheric warming should be clearly evident.[7]

The claim that atmospheric data showed no warming trend was incorrect, as the published satellite and balloon data at that time showed a warming trend (see satellite temperature record). In later statements Baliunas acknowledged the measured warming in the satellite and balloon records, though she disputed that the observed warming reflected human influence.[8]

Baliunas contends that findings of human influence on climate change are motivated by financial considerations: “If scientists and researchers were coming out releasing reports that global warming has little to do with man, and most to do with just how the planet works, there wouldn’t be as much money to study it.”[9] Baliunas’ own research is funded in part by NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the American Petroleum Institute.[10]

Controversy over the 2003 Climate Research paper

In 2003, Baliunas and Astrophysicist Willie Soon published a review paper on historical climatology which concluded that “the 20th century is probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium.” With Soon, Baliunas investigated the correlation between solar variation and temperatures of the earth’s atmosphere. When there are more sunspots, the total solar output increases, and when there are fewer sunspots, it decreases. Soon and Baliunas attribute the Medieval warm period to such an increase in solar output, and believe that decreases in solar output led to the Little Ice Age, a period of cooling from which the earth has been recovering since 1890.[11]

Shortly thereafter, 13 of the authors of papers cited by Baliunas and Soon refuted her interpretation of their work.[12] There were three main objections: Soon and Baliunas used data reflective of changes in moisture, rather than temperature; they failed to distinguish between regional and hemispheric temperature anomalies; and they reconstructed past temperatures from proxy evidence not capable of resolving decadal trends. More recently, Osborn and Briffa repeated the Baliunas and Soon study but restricted themselves to records that were validated as temperature proxies, and came to a different result.[13]

Half of the editorial board of Climate Research, the journal that published the paper, resigned in protest against what they felt was a failure of the peer review process on the part of the journal.[14][15] Otto Kinne, managing director of the journal’s parent company, stated that “CR [Climate Research] should have been more careful and insisted on solid evidence and cautious formulations before publication” and that “CR should have requested appropriate revisions of the manuscript prior to publication.”[16]

[edit] Ozone depletion

Baliunas earlier adopted a skeptical position regarding the hypothesis that CFCs were damaging to the ozone layer. The originators of the hypothesis, Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and Frank Sherwood Rowland, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995. Her arguments on this issue were presented at Congressional hearings held in 1995 (but before the Nobel prize announcement).

Although Baliunas never publicly retracted her criticism of the ozone depletion hypothesis, an article by Baliunas and Soon written for the Heartland Institute in 2000 promoted the idea that ozone depletion rather than CO2 emissions could explain atmospheric warming.[17]



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