Massive explosions of energy happening thousands of light-years from Earth may have left traces in our planet’s biology and geology, according to new research by University of Colorado Boulder geoscientist Robert Brakenridge.
The study, published this month in the International Journal of Astrobiology, probes the impacts of supernovas, some of the most violent events in the known universe. In the span of just a few months, a single one of these eruptions can release as much energy as the sun will during its entire lifetime. They’re also bright — really bright.
“We see supernovas in other galaxies all the time,” said Brakenridge, a senior research associate at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at CU Boulder. “Through a telescope, a galaxy is a little misty spot. Then, all of a sudden, a star appears and may be as bright as the rest of the galaxy.”
A very nearby supernova could be capable of wiping human civilization off the face of the Earth. But even from farther away, these explosions may still take a toll, Brakenridge said, bathing our planet in dangerous radiation and damaging its protective ozone layer.
To study those possible impacts, Brakenridge searched through the planet’s tree ring records for the fingerprints of these distant, cosmic explosions. His findings suggest that relatively close supernovas could theoretically have triggered at least four disruptions to Earth’s climate over the last 40,000 years.
The results are far from conclusive, but they offer tantalizing hints that, when it comes to the stability of life on Earth, what happens in space doesn’t always stay in space.
“These are extreme events, and their potential effects seem to match tree ring records,” Brakenridge said.
The first modern theoretical estimates of ECS were reported in 1979 in the so-called “Charney Report” (Charney, et al., 1979). They reported, on page 2, a theoretical ECS of 1.5°C to 4.5°C per doubling of the CO2 atmospheric concentration. This estimate included an estimate of water vapor feedbacks, the effect of ice and their assumed uncertainties. Absent any water vapor feedback their computed value was 1°C per doubling of CO2. They also supply a likely value of 2.4°C on page 9, although on page 2 they offer a value “near 3.0.” The page 9 value is not far off from the empirical estimate of 2°C made by Guy Callendar in 1938, but significantly higher than the 1.2°C to 1.95°C (17% to 83% range, best estimate 1.5°C) given by Nic Lewis and Judith Curry (Lewis & Curry, 2018).
The IPCC, in their AR5 report (Bindoff & Stott, 2013), estimate ECS as lying between 1.5°C and 4.5°C and provide no best estimate. This range is precisely the same as the Charney Report made 34 years earlier. While the empirical, observation-based, estimates have narrowed significantly, the theoretical range has not changed, despite thousands of government-funded scientists spending billions of dollars trying to do so. The data is very much the same today and churning it faster with more powerful computers and billions of dollars doesn’t seem to matter. It works the same way with manure.
Digging deeply into the AR5 internals, as Monckton, et al. did in MSLB15, a paper entitled, “Why Models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model” (Monckton, Soon, Legates, & Briggs, 2015), we see that the elements of the AR5 theoretical calculations suggest that the range is narrowing in a downward direction. Given the political environment at the IPCC, one can easily suspect that the politicians do not want to admit the theoretical risks of CO2-caused climate change are lessening. As more empirical estimates of the CO2 effect appear and more theoretical work is done, one wonders how long the politicians can support the clearly inflated range of 1.5°C to 4.5°C?
Estimates of ECS have been declining for a long time, as shown in 2017 by Nicola Scafetta and colleagues. Figure 1 is from their paper:
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