School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Physics Professor Brian Tinsley to Present a Colloquium at the State University of New York at Buffalo on March 2, 2006.

"The Role of the Global Electric Circuit in External and Internal Forcing of Clouds and Climate"

Dr. Tinsley will discuss his theory for effects of atmospheric electricity on cloud cover which is consistent with the analysis of Greenland ice cores at SUNY-Buffalo which shows climate cycles correlated with solar activity.

Dr. Tinsley’s research over the past 18 years has been a search for the physical mechanism by which changes in the sun affect clouds, weather, and climate.

He has developed a theory that the solar wind, which is the extremely hot outer atmosphere of the sun blowing past the Earth at supersonic speeds, affects electrical currents that flow in the atmosphere, which in turn affect the properties of clouds.The electrical charge that is deposited on clouds affects the rate of formation of ice, if the clouds are cold enough, and also the average size of droplets, that in turn affect cloud cover and rates of precipitation. Over the years Dr. Tinsley has developed theoretical models and gathered observational evidence for this theory, and within the last few months a ‘smoking gun’ has been found that is strong confirmation of it.

This has shown up in an analysis of atmospheric electricity data from the Vostok station high on the ice cap in Antarctica. It has been shown that the downward atmospheric current density at Vostok responds to day-to-day changes in the solar wind, and that the surface pressure at Vostok responds to these changes, consistent with Dr. Tinsley’s theory on effects on cloud cover. Even more significantly, the Vostok observations show even larger pressure responses to the larger day-to-day changes in atmospheric current density, which are due to the internal electrical generators (tropical thunderstorms) in the global atmospheric electric circuit.

Dr. Tinsley’s mechanism provides a sufficient explanation for climate changes such as the ‘Little Ice Age’; the cold period in Northern Europe in the late 17th Century, when sunspots were absent for several decades. The mechanism also accounts for about half the global warming in the 20th century, which correlates with the increase in sunspot numbers during that period.

Dr. Brian Tinsley has been actively involved in observational and theoretical research on upper atmosphere processes (Aeronomy) for more than 40 years, and has served on many national and international organizations in this field including Program Director for Aeronomy at the National Science Foundation from 1986-88.

  • Updated: December 19, 2007