Brian A. Tinsley, Ph.D.
Ph.D., Canterbury University, 1963
Observational and theoretical work in airglow, aurora, ionospheric and atmospheric structure, effects of solar variability on atmospheric electricity, weather, and climate.
Dr. Tinsley has been actively involved in observational and theoretical research on upper atmosphere processes (Aeronomy) for more than 45 years, and has served on many national and international organizations in this field. In 1986-88, while serving as Program Director for Aeronomy at the National Science Foundation, he had the opportunity to discuss long-standing problems in atmospheric science with program directors in areas of meteorology. This led him to begin research on the centuries old question of the effects of changes in the sun on day-to-day weather, year-to year climate changes, and global warming on the century time scale. During the past 20 years he has published more than twenty papers on his developing theory of a mechanism for such effects. The theory involves the solar wind, as an alternative to the traditional view that changes in solar brightness were responsible. The solar wind is a highly conducting, extremely hot gas that blows from the sun outward over the earth. It impedes the flow of high energy cosmic ray particles coming in from the galaxy, and energizes high energy electrons in the earth's radiation belts that precipitate into the atmosphere; both of these effects change the column conductivity between the ionosphere and the earth's surface. The solar wind also changes the potential difference between the ionosphere and the earth in the polar cap regions. All three effects alter the ionosphere-earth current density (Jz) that is part of the global atmospheric electric circuit, and which flows down from the ionosphere to the surface and through clouds.
In the gradients of conductivity at boundaries of clouds and aerosol layers the current flow generates a changing potential gradient and a layer of space charge (unipolar charge) in accordance with Poisson's equation. This charge is transferred from air ions to aerosol particles and to droplets, and allows much higher equilibrium charges to persist on aerosol particles or droplets than would be the case without Jz.
There are good correlations, on the day-to-day time scale, between the three solar wind - modulated inputs to Jz mentioned above and small changes in atmospheric temperature and dynamics. Dr. Tinsley has hypothesized that the atmospheric responses are due to changes in the electrical interactions between charged aerosol particles and droplets.
One process applicable to clouds with their tops above the freezing level is the electrical enhancement of the rate of scavenging of ice-forming nuclei (IFN), that increases the rate of contact ice nucleation. This has consequences for cloud thickness and reflectivity to sunlight, and for precipitation rates and latent heat transfer, both of which are capable of affecting atmospheric temperature and dynamics. This mechanism also explains many reports of high rates of ice formation in certain types of clouds that has been a long-standing puzzle for cloud physicists.
Another process that is applicable to warm clouds appears to be caused by changes in the concentration of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) due to electrical effects on the production and rate of scavenging of ultrafine aerosol particles and the CCN that they may eventually form. Changes in CCN concentration affect drizzle production and cloud lifetime and cloud cover (the indirect aerosol effect).
In addition, electrical scavenging effects may explain the discrepancy between rates of aerosol scavenging by falling rain that have been observed in comparison with those calculated without adequately accounting for electrical effects.
About half of the global warming over the past century can be accounted for by changes in the sun and the solar wind, and there are well documented correlations of climate during past millennia with cosmic ray flux changes. These can be understood in terms of electrical interactions between cloud droplets and aerosol particles responding to solar wind-induced changes in atmospheric ionization and in the latitude distribution of Jz, as discussed above.
In a recent collaboration with Dr. Gary Burns of the Australian Antarctic Division we have confirmed with high statistical significance small changes in Antarctic surface pressure with small solar wind-induced changes in Jz, which are consistent with our hypothesized effects on Jz on cloud cover. In the Arctic the Jz changes are of opposite sign, as are the correlated pressure changes. Further, there are pressure changes that correlate with Jz changes due to changes in the current output of low-latitude thunderstorm generators, that have the same sign in the Arctic as in the Antarctic, as expected from theory. The implication is that global changes in Jz produce global changes in suitable types of clouds, and in some cases changes in precipitation.
- Do Effects of Global Atmospheric Electricity on Clouds Cause Climate Change?, B. A. Tinsley, EOS, 78, 341-349, 1997.
- Effects of Image Charges on the Scavenging of Aerosol Particles by Cloud Droplets, and on Droplet Charging and Possible Ice Nucleation Processes, B. A. Tinsley, R. P. Rohrbaugh, M. Hei, and K. V. Beard, J. Atmos. Sci., 57, 2118-2134, 2000.
- Influence of Solar Wind on the Global Electric Circuit, and Inferred effects on Cloud Microphysics, Temperature, and Dynamics in the Troposphere, B. A. Tinsley, Space Science Reviews 94 (1-2), 231-258, 2000.
- Electroscavenging in Clouds with Broad Droplet Size Distributions and Weak Electrification, B. A. Tinsley, R. P. Rohrbaugh, and M. Hei, Atmospheric Research 59-60, 115-135, 2001.
- Atmospheric Ionization and Clouds as Links Between Solar Activity and Climate, B.A. Tinsley and Fangqun Yu, in press in forthcoming AGU monograph : Solar Variability and Its Effects on the Earth's Atmospheric and Climate System.
- Atmospheric Transparency Changes Associated with Solar Wind-Induced Atmospheric Electricity Variations, V. C. Roldugin and B. A. Tinsley, J. Atmos. Solar Terr. Phys., 66, 1143-1149, 2004.
- Daily Changes in Global Cloud Cover and Earth Transits of the Heliospheric Current Sheet, D. R. Kniveton and B. A. Tinsley, J. Geophys. Res., 109, D11201, 2004.
- Scavenging of Condensation Nuclei in Clouds: Dependence of Sign of Electroscavenging Effect on Droplet and CCN Sizes, B. A. Tinsley, 14th Int. Conf. on Clouds and Precipitation, Bologna, Italy, 18-23 July, 2004.
- On the Variability of the Stratospheric Column Resistance in the Global Electric Circuit, B. A. Tinsley, Atmospheric Research, 76, 78-94, 2005.
- Changes in Scavenging of Particles by Droplets due to Weak Electrification in
Clouds. B. A. Tinsley, L. Zhou and A. Plemmons, Atmospheric Research,
78, 266-295, 2006.
- Antarctic Polar Plateau Vertical Electric Field Variations Across Heliocentric Current Sheet Crossings, G. B. Burns, B. A. Tinsley, A. R. Klekocuik, O. A. Troshichev, A. V. Frank-Kamenetsky, M. l. Duldig, E. A. Bering and J. M. Clem, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 68, 639-654, 2006.
- Initial results of a Global Circuit Model with Variable Stratospheric and Tropospheric Aerosols, B. A. Tinsley and L. Zhou, J. Geophys. Res., 111, D16205, 1-23, 2006.
- Interplanetary Magnetic Field and Atmospheric Electric Circuit Influences on Ground Level Pressure at Vostok,G. B. Burns, B. A. Tinsley, A. V. Frank-Kamenetsky and E. A. Bering, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D04103, 2007.
- The Production of Space Charge in Clouds, L. Zhou and B. A. Tinsley, J. Geophys Res.,112, D11203, doi10.1029/2006JD007998, 2007.
- The Role of the Global Electric Circuit in Solar and Internal Forcing of Clouds
and Climate, B. A. Tinsley, G. B. Burns and L. Zhou, Advances in Space Research, 40, 1126-1139, doi:10.1016/j.asr.2007.01.071, 2007.
- The Global Atmospheric Electric Circuit and its Effects on Cloud Microphysics, Reports on Progress in Physics, 71, 066801 (31pp.), doi:10.1088/1034-4885/71/6/066801, 2008
- Atmospheric Circuit Influences on Ground Level Pressure in the Antarctic and Arctic, G. B. Burns, B. A. Tinsley, W. J. R. French, O. A. Troshichev and A. V. Frank-Kamenesky, J. Geophys. Res.,113, D15112, 2008.
- Variations in Global Cloud Cover and the Fair Weather Electric Field, D. R. Kniveton, B. A. Tinsley, G. B. Burns, E. A. Bering, and O. A. Troshichev, J. Atmos. Solar Terr. Phys., 70, 1633-1642, 2008.
- Scavenging in Weakly Electrified Saturated and Subsaturated Clouds, Treating Aerosol Particles and Droplets as Conducting Spheres, L. Zhou, B. A. Tinsley and A. Plemmons, J. Geophys. Res., 114, D18201,doi 10.1029/2008JD11527, 2009.
- The Terrestrial Cosmic Ray Flux: Its Importance for Climate, M. Ram. M. R.Stolz and B. A. Tinsley, Eos, Trans. Am. Geophys. Un., 90, (44), 397-398, 2009.
- Other Climate Change Inputs, B. A. Tinsley, Physics Today, 62, (11), 12, 2009.
- Global Circuit Model with Clouds, L. Zhou and B. A. Tinsley, J. Atmos. Sci., 67, 1143-1155, 2010
- Electric Charge Modulation of Aerosol Scavenging in Clouds: Rate Coefficients with Monte-Carlo Simulations of Diffusion, B. A. Tinsley, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D23211, 2010.
- The Links Between Atmospheric Vorticity, Radiation Belt Electrons, and the Solar Wind, Irina Mironova, B. A. Tinsley and Limin Zhou, Adv. Space Res, 50, 783-790, doi:10.1016/j.asr.2011.03.043, 2011.
- Time Dependent Charging of Layer Clouds in the Global Electric Circuit, L. Zhou and B. A. Tinsley, Adv. Space Res, 50, 828-842,doi:10.1016/j.asr.2011.12.18, 2012.
- The Role of Volcanic Aerosols and Relativistic Electrons in Modulating Winter Storm Vorticity, B. A. Tinsley, L. Zhou and W. Liu, Adv. Space Res, 50, 819-827, doi:10.1016/j.asr.2011.12.019, 2012.
- Global Electric Circuit Modulation of Winter Cyclone Vorticity in Northern High Latitudes, L. Hebert III, B. A. Tinsley and L. Zhou, Adv. Space Res., 50, 806-818, doi:10.1016/j.asr.2012.03.02, 2012.
- Global Atmospheric Circuit Variability Derived from Vostok Electric Field Measurements Adjusted for Local Meteorological and Solar Wind Influences, G. B. Burns, B. A. Tinsley, A. V. Frank-Kamenetsky, O. A. Troshichev, W. J. R. French and A. R. Klekociuk, J. Atmos. Sci.,69(6), 2061-2082, 2012.
- A Working Hypothesis for Connections Between Electrically-induced Changes in Cloud Microphysics and Storm Vorticity, with Possible Effects on Circulation, B. A. Tinsley, Adv. Space Res, 50, 791-805, doi:10.1016/j.asr.2012,04,008
- Charge Modulation of Scavenging in Clouds; Extension of Monte-Carlo Simulations and Initial Parameterization, submitted to J. Geophys. Res., Dec. 2012.
- Updated: January 11, 2013