Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 225-231

First online:

Cosmic ray flux impact on clouds? An analysis of radiosonde, cloud cover, and surface temperature records from the United States

  • R. C. Balling Jr.Affiliated withOffice of Climatology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, U.S.A.
  • , R. S. CervenyAffiliated withOffice of Climatology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, U.S.A.

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¶Many scientists have suggested that variations in cosmic ray flux may impact cloudiness at regional, hemispheric, or global scales. However, considerable debate surrounds (a) whether high or low clouds are most strongly impacted by cosmic rays, (b) the degree of seasonality in cloud responses to cosmic rays, and (c) the determination of physical processes involved in cosmic ray/cloud interactions. Some scientists find strong correlation coefficients between cloud measurements and cosmic ray flux, while others find no relationship whatsoever; virtually all scientists working on this issue are hampered by the relatively short time period with accurate cloud and cosmic ray flux records. In an attempt to extend the period of record, we assembled surface and radiosonde data for the United States over the period 1957–1996 along with sunspot records which are known to be strongly, but inversely, related to cosmic ray flux. We also assembled cloud cover data and cosmic ray measurements over a reduced time period. We found that periods with low sunspot number (times with high cosmic ray flux) are associated with significantly higher dew point depressions, a higher diurnal temperature range, and less cloud cover. Our results do not support suggestions of increased cloud cover during periods of high cosmic ray flux.