Interview by Kirt Griffin for Examiner.com: South African astrophysicist Dr. Hilton Ratcliffe on the Sun and how it drives our Climate
A few years ago I was introduced to Hilton Ratcliffe by a mutual friend. He had published a book, “The Virtue of Heresy: Confessions of a Dissident Astronomer”. The book held me fascinated as it debunked many of the dogma that infiltrated the scientific lexicon. He disassembled each so-called theory, actually unproven hypotheses, in a calm scientific manner. He now has a new book and I can’t wait to read it. The video attached was taken in Durban South Africa and the responses by the local dog population to the animals in the African bush were a nuisance. It didn’t stop him from making his point in a very professional manner. The segment was broadcasted on African TV. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FZZxzB9-Qg
I hope you enjoy it. Dr. Ratcliffe has agreed to an interview and I have received the final responses today so without further ado, lets begin.
Kirt G: Were those dogs barking in the background or some wild African beast?
Hilton: That was a dog, but it was barking at a wild creature (vervet monkey). We had to stop and re-take several times because of wild animal sounds coming from the bush.
Kirt G: Could you tell us a little about yourself and maybe comment on your new book?
Hilton: Although I do research on the Sun, my work does not relate directly to terrestrial weather. I’m simply trying to establish a physical description of celestial phenomena and systems as far as physics can reach into space, and that’s not very far. My interest in the AGW debacle stems from a realization that it is the product of the same sociological and psychological factors as Big Bang Theory, with the caveat that AGW is easier to falsify scientifically. My hope therefore was that in helping to bring global dogma like AGW down, I would eventually, by analogy, provide some basis upon which to bring about freedom of astrophysics and astronomy from the grip of standard-model-mania.
My second book is entitled “The Static Universe – Exploding the Myth of Cosmic Expansion” and was written at the express suggestion of my patron, eminent British observational astronomer Sir Patrick Moore . The word “static” has a non-standard meaning in astrophysical usage, and refers specifically to non-expansion on the universal scale. The book is in the main a summary of observational evidence which is anomalous in terms of the expansion (LCDM) model, but includes also a chapter on the mathematical origin of the notion of systematic expansion and non-Euclidean curvature. The work assumes some familiarity with physical science and astronomy, but avoids rigorous mathematics altogether. It is available from Amazon.com
Kirt G: You mentioned in the interview that the effect of the Sun on our planet’s climate is well established. The IPCC, Al Gore and others are adamant that it can’t be the Sun simply because the solar irradiance, also known as the solar constant, does not vary more than .1% over the 11 year solar cycle. Aren’t they missing some key points regarding this solar parameter?
Hilton: They are. Solar irradiance, measured as photon flux, has indeed remained 99.9% constant since we had the technology to measure it accurately. But the flow of light between Sun and Earth is only part of the picture. There are electricity, magnetism, Solar Wind, low energy cosmic rays, and gravitation flowing variably between the two bodies (actually, between all baryonic bodies as far as I can tell). These all have an influence on ambient conditions on Earth, and also, more importantly, on how the Earth utilizes the photon flux. All of this is expressed locally at the surface of the Earth as weather, and generally, as climate.
Kirt G: There has been much discussion about magnetic intensity on the Sun, and relative to the sunspots which are normally highly magnetic. Throw in the changing polarity every solar cycle and the relationship to the Earth’s magnetic polarity and you have a fairly complex system. How do you see this as it relates to our climate?
Hilton: Yes, magnetism is a big player, but I’m not sure exactly how or how much. We have a technique (the Zeeman Effect) to measure magnetic field strength remotely, but it doesn’t really map the magnetic connection very usefully. The flipping of magnetic polarity on both Sun and Earth doesn’t appear to be very influential. Bear in mind that the Sun has several magnetic poles simultaneously, so it’s quite different in that respect from Earth. I would say that magnetism channels electricity, and we can see the effects of that. Beyond that, as far as I know, we are into conjecture.
Kirt G: The late Drs. Fairbridge and Landscheidt as well as Richard Mackey, who is a member of our “It’s the Sun” solar discussion forum, have made much of the planetary influence on the variations between solar cycles. Mackey refers to the solar orbit as epitrochoid shaped. According to one of his latest papers we are heading into a small loop, characterized by a cooling period. How do you see this as it relates to our climate?
Hilton: Thanks to Richard Mackey, I am familiar with Fairbridge’s work, and have long known about Landscheidt. As far as measurable results are concerned, the most important, strongest interaction in baryonic macro systems is gravitation. Unfortunately, classical mechanics views gravitation as a 2-body interaction, with the fuzz coming from “perturbations”. Non-trivial 3rd party influences are not properly taken into account, resulting in omissions incorrectly described as anomalies. In this respect, the formalism of General Relativity (tensors – collections of vectors with a unified output – in a scalar field) is far superior to the Newtonian system. However, GRT can get the right answer for the wrong reasons, for example the precession of Mercury’s perihelion. I mention this because finding the effect of gravitational fluctuations on any system is going to some degree depend, under current scientific constraints, upon how we actually measure gravitation. We are further confounded by the fact that epitrochoid orbits are intrinsically random. As far as climate is concerned (I use the word “climate” with reservation) we are, in my opinion, not so much influenced by gravitational wobbles as by the angle of the rotational axis, which is what gives us our seasons. The orbital path of Earth is understood to be a mean constant ellipse over geologic time. As long as the axis inclination remains fairly fixed, our “climate” (represented by smoothed global temperatures) won’t vary much as a result of relatively small gravitational wobbles. I’m just not comfortable taking a purely statistical approach to climate change, although I do believe Dr Mackey gives us a compelling and novel approach to unravelling the mechanics of the Solar System. Unfortunately, Dr Landscheidt was, despite his wonderful grasp of physics, also an astrologer, and that needs to be borne in mind when evaluating his ideas on planetary influences. Having said that, caution is needed: We would be well advised not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Like Tom Van Flandern and the “face” on Mars (about which we argued many long hours), sometimes we just need to accept that many brilliant scientists have mental glitches, and we are better advised to step back and look at the bigger picture. Dr Landscheidt’s prediction of the Landscheidt Minimum circa 2030 is given credibility by his accurate prediction of sunspot minima commencing 1990. The problem is, we don’t know what sunspots are in any detail, or their connection to energy production within the Sun. There is some evidence that sunspots are caused externally, by incoming cosmic rays falling on the Sun, much as cosmic rays appear to influence the formation of temperature and precipitation bowls on Earth.
Kirt G: One of the great debates in solar investigation is whether the Galactic Cosmic Rays or the Solar wind is having the majority of the effect on the Earth’s climate. Piers Corbyn says it is the solar wind. What do you think?
Hilton: Quite honestly, I don’t know. There are also (low energy) solar cosmic rays in the mix. A detector in the vicinity of Earth will measure all the stuff flying through it, regardless of source. We can of course deduce a lot from angle of attack but much of our classification is model-dependent. There is an overlap between the two as far as components are concerned. The Solar Wind is charged particles (electrons and protons), accelerated outwards by electro-magnetic fields in the corona. Cosmic rays are also just streams of particles, which despite the various names are mostly just protons, alpha particles, and electrons resulting from ionization. Photoionisation and spallation in interstellar space change the form and type of the particles passing through, and charged particles are accelerated to higher energies by plasma. It’s very difficult to determine what’s happening at source by examining only the destination end of a process.
Kirt G: Given the relative inactivity of the Sun in the small loops, not to mention traveling at ½ speed, of the epitrochoid orbit and the high activity in the large radius loops, some see this as evidence the Sun is not a homogeneous ball of hydrogen. Do you have a position?
Hilton: Definitely. How could it possibly be a ball of hydrogen? How would a diffuse cloud of gas, dust, and rocks settle gravitationally so that the very lightest element on the periodic table settles exclusively to form the nucleus? The planetary bodies we have examined fairly thoroughly so far give us the basis upon which to make an educated guess about how it works. A physical body that settles to hydrostatic equilibrium sorts itself by mass, with the heaviest elements tending to the centre of the sphere. The highest density is at the middle. Galaxies are a good example. If the heavy elements accumulate sufficiently, they can in some cases hold a gaseous atmosphere around their periphery, and this is obviously the case with the Sun. Although it presents as a light fluid (plasma) it is reasonable to suppose that beneath the photosphere (H + He mostly) we would find heavier elements arranged by increasingly turbid viscosity towards the centre. This idea is strongly supported by Oliver Manuel’s nuclide analysis of material found traveling around in the Solar System, which suggests that the system acts as a mass fractionator, and that in turn also gives a good explanation for the protons and electrons in the Solar Wind – they would result from the fissioning of neutrons in the fractionation process. We should not overlook the fact that in addition to anything else going on there, there is ionisation of atmospheric H and He, as well as electromagnetic plasma activity and nuclear fusion at the footpoints of coronal arches. It’s a broad mix of effects. Whatever it was that seeded the gravitational accretion of 98% of the Solar System’s mass into a single, central orb – I favour a fragment of neutron star from the progenitor supernova – it is no doubt still there, being slung around in a thick liquid by the complex m1 – m2 interactions of all the orbiting bodies. The shifting barycentre of the Sun would indeed cause the kind of behaviour we observe.
Kirt G: Another point on the epitrochoid orbit is that one small loop and one section of a large radius loop encompass approximately 60 years which many see as the period of a warming and cooling cycle on Earth. Piers Corbyn has found a cycle of the same length in the activity of the Sun “beat” against the lunar cycle as he presented at the 2009 Heartland Climate Conference. Others in our forum have also cited the 60 year period defined in this way. Paul Vaughn, commented that I should be careful in discounting the effect of the Moon on our climate. Any thoughts on which it is and the relative merits of each position? Certainly the Moon doesn’t affect the orbit of the Sun!
Hilton: As I understand gravitation, the Moon does affect the orbit of the Sun but only trivially so. The interaction between the Moon and the Earth is profound and so synergistic that I should be very surprised if it does not have a significant effect on the weather. However, I have not personally investigated either phenomenon quantitatively, so I cannot really comment on relative merits. What I can say is that these causal influences are not mutually exclusive. We have a cocktail of influences and we should not ignore any of them. Of course, there is also electricity, the Orphan Annie of celestial physics. I am a physicist with a one-plus-one-equals-two approach to physical science and try not to get too far ahead of the factual base. If I may, I’d like to recommend the book “Evolution of the Solar System” by Hannes Alfven and Gustaf Arrhenius (University Press of the Pacific, 2005).
Kirt G: I spent some time one evening talking to John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, at the first Heartland climate conference. The discussion was relative to the lorry (bus) driver in the UK who led a high court to find there were 9 errors in the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” that was being shown to English schoolchildren. If Al Gore is being “naughty” do you feel he should be prosecuted as Lord Monckton suggested in the interview with Mark Gillar recently on Global Cooling Radio?
Hilton: Without trying too hard, I found 35 fundamental “errors” in An Inconvenient Truth. The word “errors” is in quotation marks because it is inconceivable to me that these falsehoods could all have been inadvertent. Some or possibly all were put there to deceive the viewer. There appears to have been money gained by Mann, Gore and Pachauri as a consequence of this deception, so it’s fraud. If proven in a court of law, they should be heavily punished and their ill-gotten assets confiscated and put to the benefit of mankind. (One should not exclude Strong and Hansen on this. Hansen was the technical guy on AIT – KCG).
I would like to thank Dr. Ratcliffe for taking the time to answer my questions. I really hope that these explanations can convince some out there who have been taken in by all the hype that there are reasoned people out there with the knowledge to know the truth and are not intimidated. It has been through my associations with people like Hilton Ratcliffe that I have been able to learn about the Sun, how it works and its effect on our climate. I am sure that Hilton would be willing to answer reasonable questions posted in the comments section. I haven’t cleared that with him, but I suspect he won’t mind.