Supernovae Affecting Global Climate and Ocean Biodiversity and Productivity

REMEMBER Henrick Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen and cosmic ray theory [1]: the idea from these Danish physicists and climate scientists that global climate may be mediated by changes in the flux of galactic cosmic rays because cosmic ray are conducive to cloud formation?

Henrik Svensmark has just published a new paper: now available for download in full from the front page of the Royal Astronomical Society’s website [2] and the subject of a detailed post by Anthony Watt [3].

The new paper focuses on local supernova rates (rates of explosions of large stars) and suggests that high rates of explosion could coincide with colder conditions on planet earth. The paper draws a correlation between long-term changes in sea-level and supernova rates and marine biodiversity and productivity over the last 510 million years.

Dr Svensmark goes as far as to hypothesis that the biodiversity and primary productivity of the oceans depends on the supernova rate; somewhat counter intuitively that glacial conditions will result in increased primary productivity.

“A simple working hypothesis, suggested by carbon-isotope data for the past 4 Gyr (Svensmark 2006a), is that primary productivity increases in glacial conditions, perhaps because of better nutrient supplies, caused by a more vigorous mixing in the oceans during cold conditions. This hypothesis would predict the following.

A drawdown of CO2 from the environment in glacial conditions. Since organic productivity consumes CO2, there should be an impact on the levels of atmospheric and oceanic CO2. High productivity draws down CO2, until ultimately the productivity rise is halted not only by exhaustion of nutrients, but also by the scarcity of CO2, which should prevent a total loss of environmental CO2. Conversely, low productivity should result in an accumulation of underemployed CO2.

Due to the increased organic productivity, an increase in the heavy stable isotope of carbon, 13C, is expected in the oceans during glacial conditions.

I’m fascinated.  But not convinced.

H/T Neville.


[1] Cosmic Rays, Clouds and Climate (Part 1)

[2] Henrick Svensmark 2012. Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Links here:

[3] Svensmark’s Cosmic Jackpot: Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth at Watts Up With That?


27 Responses to Supernovae Affecting Global Climate and Ocean Biodiversity and Productivity

  1. Luke April 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

    And so what’s the proxy suggested for super-novae ?

  2. jennifer April 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

    “Avoiding any preconception of the precise structure of the Galaxy or of the Solar system’s motion through it, the present work will reconstruct the star formation in the solar neighbourhood during the last 500 Myr from open star clusters, with a view to inferring the local SN [supernova] rate as a proxy for GCR [galactic cosmic rays].

    “It is generally believed that nearly all star formation has occurred in open clusters, where stars made from the same gas cloud remain for a certain time bound together by gravitation. Within each cluster the stars therefore have the same chemical composition and age… The justification for using the number of open clusters as a proxy for large massive stars is the evidence that the massive SN progenitor stars are mainly formed in the central region of rich stellar clusters.

    “Secondly, of the open clusters made and embedded in giant molecular clouds, only a small fraction survive the first few million years and become visible open clusters. This small fraction of surviving open clusters are likely to have been the initially most rich clusters.

    “The formation rates of open clusters are therefore used as a proxy for the formation of SNe.

    “The WEBDA Open Cluster Database (2009) contains about 1300 open star clusters with ages between 106 and 1010 yr and at distances between 0.04 and 13 kpc. Only a subset of these are suitable for the historical analysis of local SN rates. The clusters that emerge from the embedded phase gradually decay by the loss of stars, due to internal close encounters or to external encounters with massive clouds or other clusters. As a result the number of detectable clusters in a generation declines over time, until after ≈500 Myr most have evaporated.”

  3. spangled drongo April 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    From the sceptics POV:

    The chilling stars, the Goldilocks effect, or as Fred Dagg would say, “we don’t know how lucky we are”.

    Or as the Lukian diehards would have it:

    The science is settled and the GCMs have spoken. “We-all gon’ DAH!”

  4. spangled drongo April 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    But thankfully it is just in time to counter the madness of World Socialism being promoted at the coming Rio Conference:

    If we could just get climategate 3 to slot in as well…..

  5. cohenite April 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    The more we know the less we know. The Svensmark paper says this:

    “Conversely, low productivity should result in an accumulation of underemployed CO2.”

    In another thread luke offered a Karoly paper which allegedly noted less bilogical activity; this at a time when CO2 is increasing; so perhaps what is causing the warmer conditions is causing the flow-on of less production and therefore more CO2: Cynaobacteria is declining according to other studies.

    Svensmark also says:

Due to the increased organic productivity, an increase in the heavy stable isotope of carbon, 13C, is expected in the oceans during glacial conditions.”

    Measurements of the C13/C12 ratio over geological time are problematic according to this paper:

    But recent measurments show a decline in the C13/C12 ratio:

    Which would suggest no return to glacial conditions anytime soon.

  6. jennifer April 25, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Just filing this here:

    Dear Jen,

    Without discussing the cosmic rays, let me, as a geochemist, point out that the major feature of the light stable isotopes (including the 13C and 12C carbon isotopes) is that they enter substances in different ways (because of different bond strengths in different substances), and that this feature is strongly dependent on temperature (because of the atoms’ different vibration energies).

    This means that if you analyze the 13C/12C isotope ratio in marine carbonates precipitated at different sea water temperatures, the carbonates will show a larger deviation (higher 13C) when precipitated at lower temperatures. This is because solid carbonates precipitated at lower temperatures will be enriched in 13C vs. the 13C/12C of sea water, which is dominated by its major dissolved aqueous species bicarbonate [HCO3]- at about pH=8:

    [Ca]2+ (aq) + [HCO3]- (aq) + [OH]- = CaCO3 (s) + H2O

    Such a temperature-dependent enrichment in 13C is a pure result of atomic physics, and has nothing to do with differences in marine organic production. The temperature dependence of the light stable isotopes is the most likely reason why we see that marine carbonates during glacial times show higher 13C/12C ratios (expressed as delta values in per mil; standard-normalized deviations from the standard multiplied by 1000; where the standard is PDB – Pee Dee Belemnite — the accepted international standard).

    On the contrary, photosynthesis is strongly enriching the organic products in 12C vs. 13C, making their 13C/12C isotope ratio lower and not higher, apparently contrary to what Svensmark may be suggesting?



  7. gavin April 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    Seems this particular yarn about the cosmos and us hasn’t got a run with msm, so what’s up?

    Sorry guys but wuwt is not your best source

  8. spangled drongo April 26, 2012 at 7:24 am #

    Yeah, looks like the science is settled, after all.

    Phew! What a relief.

  9. spangled drongo April 26, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Here’s a bit of the usual accurate, believable, settled science gav would understand. But it needs WUWT to tell us about it:

  10. spangled drongo April 26, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    The NSIDC sea ice graph is two days old but shows Arctic back to normal. Global sea ice is positive. Not surprising by the feel of things:

  11. Neville April 26, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    Don’t forget this
    is on the ABC tonight.

    Probably will be a total con and fraud with special late editing. If it was a genuine debate using all the Holocene history and data Minchin and sceptics would win hands down.

  12. Neville April 26, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    Jo Nova and David Evan’s take on tonights program and the lack of real data offered to ordinary Aussies by the MSM here.

  13. spangled drongo April 26, 2012 at 11:17 am #

    I just love Lewandowsky’s “97%” of climate scientists supporting AGW when the real story is that only 75 of 79 out of the 2,500 who reviewed the IPCC actually took part in the survey and agreed with the two gereric questions asked.

    When “climate scientists” like Lewandowsky make their points this way, how could any sane person not be sceptical of all they say and do?

    “However, close examination of the source of the claimed 97% consensus reveals that it comes from a non-peer reviewed article describing an online poll in which a total of only 79 climate scientists chose to participate. Of the 79 self-selected climate scientists, 75 agreed with the notion of AGW. Thus, we find climate scientists once again using dubious statistical techniques to deceive the public that there is a 97% scientific consensus on man-made global warming; fortunately they clearly aren’t buying it.”

  14. Neville April 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    Nick Minchin seems happy with the result of tonights ABC program and fairness shown by the ABC.
    If he’s right it will certainly be a first for the ABC in reference to AGW. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

    I’m dubious about the stacking of the panel on the later Q&A show (9.30 to 10.30) after the screening of the video an hour earlier.
    I hope Bolt is wrong , but I doubt it. But where is GAIA Timmy, surely he’s the best person to explain the govt’s position? Isn’t he the top man elected to explain the science to Aussies?

  15. Neville April 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Unbelievable ignorance displayed by an obese fool in this video discussing tonight’s show about AGW on the ABC.
    Seems like data and evidence mean little to this nong.

  16. cohenite April 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Neville, what a pair of wankers! Kitchen science with Jo Nova and David Evans, who between them have more science qualifications than fatty has had hot chips; what a joke!

    Which of the pair was luke?

  17. gavin April 26, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Well all good folk, I’m really looking forward to a big night on ABC Tv tonight

  18. Neville April 26, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Amazing how Martin Ferguson now says the Latrobe valley could be the next Pilbara or Hunter valley or NW shelf, all on the basis of cheaply converting brown coal to black coal. We have 9% of the planet’s brown coal reseves in the Latrobe valley. So why do we need useless super expensive solar and wind power?

    All this is for export of course because export is great for the economy and great for the recipients. They get huge tonnages of cheap coal but we have to use useless renewables here in OZ.

  19. cohenite April 26, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    The abc doc on climate change is, as I expected, UNMITIGATED CRAP!

    Solar DOES NOT WORK.

    This country is stuffed.

    Venting completed.

  20. gavin April 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    See, cohenite can’t take it on the nose.

    What did I say about UHI and WUWT in many posts on this place?

  21. Neville April 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Well I’ve just sat through 2 hours of fraudulent silly nonsense on the ABC. Simple maths tells us that the entire 2 hours was just a gigantic con.

    We are telling the world that we’re so concerned about OZ increases in co2 emissions that we’re prepared to reduce said emissions by 5% by 2020 and yet in tandem we’re trying to increase coal exports as much as possible year on year. DUH!!!!!!

    Of course China and India are completing new CF power stations at the rate of one per week. What is it that these silly people don’t understand about simple logic and reason? Combined the non OECD countries are emitting a billion tonnes more tonnes of co2 every year and that rate will only increase every few years.

  22. gavin April 26, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    Nev; I think we saw Clive saying that he was borrowing Chinese money to get those ten thousand jobs going in QLD. Perhaps Martin can do likewise for Victoria

  23. Ross April 26, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Neville,I did likewise because Hereward fromTruth News Aust told me that the ABC were going to let him ask a delving question.It did not happen.Waste of time.

    There is another influence on climate that I think has gone under the radar.Our magnetic north has been moving rapidly over the last 10 yrs.The poles do swap and during this change and our magnetic field which reflects some of the energy from the Sun, becomes very weak.So this could also explain some of the heating which our planet was experiencing during the late 1990’s.

    Perhaps Jennifer can enlighten us on the % of energy our magnetic field does stop and how much this magnetic field has been weakened.

  24. cohenite April 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    gav, the only thing on the nose is the abc and its supporters.

    The Q&A audience was totally stacked with the likes of England and Wright of BZE, spruiking solar. If they wanted a real discussion about the criminal claims about solar [Spain ffs!] then why didn’t they have professor Barry Brook on?

  25. Neville April 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    Well Gav Labor’s left a gigantic mess here in Vic so we’ll need every new investment we can find to help pull us out of the poo.

  26. gavin April 26, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    The potential of Vic brown coal reserves won’t be achieved by making it all black then sending it overseas. Exploit the methane if you can and bottle it cause that gas is so easy to burn at home and everywhere else.

    Solar research should look to bio-active routines since that’s where the other stuff came from.

    nite all

  27. Doug Proctor April 27, 2012 at 1:45 am #

    I have finished a careful reading of Dr. Svensmark’s new paper. The GCR part is both innovative and interesting, and has interesting correlations, his wish to pull everything into a GCR fishbowl is, I suggest, a trifle over the top.

    A review worthy of his contribution would take far more time and graphs than I could do here. However, there are several points regarding the impact on global temperatures and biological evolution that I could make. First, you can easily see that there is no quantitative correlation to temperatures or bio-diversity and GCR. Second, drops in biodiversity take millions of years, whereas drops in GCR do not. Third – and this is from my professional work in western Canada – the highest point of biodiversity, the Permian, was also a time when both carbonates and clastics were being deposited (prior to that the dominance was carbonates), and subsequent to the Permian, the dominance was clastics. There is a strong depositional difference in the style and quantity of weathering, and probably heat and rainfall as well. Not only that, but during the Permian there were strong oceanic processes that deposited phosphates. Phosphorous, we all know, excites plancton growth, the basis of all life. So it is possible that the Permian was well suited for life because the ocean chemistry was better.

    The idea that GCR caused mini-glaciations that, in turn, caused small to large sea-level changes is, however, a very interesting explanation for something all geologist recognize as a standing problem: how to explain consistent, small to large oscillations in sea-level. The cyclic nature of sediments is well known but not understood causally. Small as well as large unconformities or discomformities – low angle breaks with weathering that are hard to detect – exist in all ages and groups of rocks. Carbonates – reefs, reefal platforms, show these as well, though they are hard to detect. Why large, large areas of inland oceans should have a few meter drop, enough to expose the reefal shallows, would be explainable with his polar ice developments.

    Svensmark’s work points to areas of research, specifically to look for evidence of mini-ice ages in the times when erosional events occurred. He overreaches himself, I suggest, with his biodiversity claims. In fact, what it looks to me like is that there is a buffering going on with biodiversity regardless of the climate, that spikes and drops are both compensated for as time continues. Which makes easy sense.

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