Sallie Baliunas: Wikis


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Sallie Baliunas

Sallie Baliunas is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the Solar, Stellar, and Planetary Sciences Division and formerly Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Observatory. She serves as Senior Scientist at the George C. Marshall Institute in Washington, DC, and chairs the Institute's Science Advisory Board. She is also Visiting Professor at Brigham Young University, Adjunct Professor at Tennessee State University and past contributing editor to the World Climate Report. Previously Robert Wesson Endowment Fund Fellow (1993–1994) at the Hoover Institution. She was a co-host of Tech Central Station.[1]


Degrees and awards

Baliunas received her M.A. (1975) and Ph.D. (1980) degrees in Astrophysics from Harvard University. Her scientific awards include the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in Astronomy from the American Astronomical Society, awarded in 1988. She also received the Derek Bok Public Service Prize from Harvard University. In 1991 Discover magazine profiled her as one of America's outstanding women scientists.

She has also received a political award, the Petr Beckmann Award for Scientific Freedom from Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, a body associated with the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine in recognition of her work criticising the theory of global warming.


Baliunas's main focus is on astrophysical research.[2] She studies visible and ultraviolet spectroscopy of stars; structure, variations, and activity in cool stars; evolution of stellar angular momentum; solar variability and global change; adaptive optics; exoplanets of Sun-like stars.

Global warming and solar variability

In 1992, Baliunas was third author on a Nature paper[3] that used observed variations in sun-like stars as an analogue of possible past variations in the Sun. The paper says that

"the sun is in an unusually steady phase compared to similar stars, which means that reconstructing the past historical brightness record may be more risky than has been generally thought".

More recently she has moved into the global warming area as a skeptic. The work of Willie Soon and Baliunas, suggesting that solar variability is more strongly correlated with variations in air temperature than any other factor, even carbon dioxide levels, has been widely publicized by lobby groups including the Marshall Institute[4] and Tech Central Station,[5] and mentioned in the popular press.[6].

Baliunas is a strong skeptic in regard to there being a connection between CO2 rise and climate change, saying in a 2001 essay with Willie Soon:

But is it possible that the particular temperature increase observed in the last 100 years is the result of carbon dioxide produced by human activities? The scientific evidence clearly indicates that this is not the case... measurements of atmospheric temperatures made by instruments lofted in satellites and balloons show that no warming has occurred in the atmosphere in the last 50 years. This is just the period in which humanmade carbon dioxide has been pouring into the atmosphere and according to the climate studies, the resultant atmospheric warming should be clearly evident.[7]

The claim that atmospheric data showed no warming trend was incorrect, as the published satellite and balloon data at that time showed a warming trend (see satellite temperature record). In later statements Baliunas acknowledged the measured warming in the satellite and balloon records, though she disputed that the observed warming reflected human influence.[8]

Baliunas contends that findings of human influence on climate change are motivated by financial considerations: "If scientists and researchers were coming out releasing reports that global warming has little to do with man, and most to do with just how the planet works, there wouldn't be as much money to study it."[9] Baliunas' own 2003 study with Soon et al. was funded by NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the American Petroleum Institute.[10]


Controversy over the 2003 Climate Research paper

In 2003, Baliunas and astrophysicist Willie Soon published a review paper on historical climatology in Climate Research, which concluded that "the 20th century is probably not the warmest nor a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium." With Soon, Baliunas investigated the correlation between solar variation and temperatures of the Earth's atmosphere. When there are more sunspots, the total solar output increases, and when there are fewer sunspots, it decreases. Soon and Baliunas attribute the Medieval warm period to such an increase in solar output, and believe that decreases in solar output led to the Little Ice Age, a period of cooling from which the earth has been recovering since 1890.[11]

The circumstances of the paper's publication were controversial, prompting concerns about the publishers' peer review process. An editorial revolt followed and the publisher subsequently admitted that the conclusions of the paper could not be supported by the evidence and that the journal should have requested appropriate revisions prior to publication.[12]

Ozone depletion

Baliunas earlier adopted a skeptical position regarding the hypothesis that CFCs were damaging to the ozone layer. The originators of the hypothesis, Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and Frank Sherwood Rowland, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995. Her arguments on this issue were presented at Congressional hearings held in 1995 (but before the Nobel prize announcement).

Although Baliunas never publicly retracted her criticism of the ozone depletion hypothesis, an article by Baliunas and Soon written for the Heartland Institute in 2000 promoted the idea that ozone depletion rather than CO2 emissions could explain atmospheric warming.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Tech Central Station's Jim Glassman and Sallie Baliunas Cover the UN Climate Conference". Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  2. ^ Baliunas, Sallie L.; Henry, Gregory W.; Donahue, Robert A.; Fekel, Francis C.; Soon, Willie H. (1997), "Properties of Sun-like Stars with Planets: ρ Cancri, τ Bootis, and υ Andromedae", The Astrophysical Journal 474 (2): L119–L122, doi:10.1086/310442,, retrieved 2007-04-17 
  3. ^ Lockwood, G. W.; Skiff, Brian A.; Baliunas, Sallie L.; Radick, Richard R. (1992), "Long-term solar brightness changes estimated from a survey of sun-like stars", Nature 360 (6405): 653–655, doi:10.1038/360653a0,, retrieved 2007-04-17 
  4. ^ "Sallie Baliunas - Biography page". George C. Marshall Institute. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  5. ^ Baliunas, Sallie (August 16, 2004). "The Sun, Cosmic Rays and Our Environment". TCS Daily. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  6. ^ Baliunas, Sallie; Willie Soon (April 17, 2001). "Recent Warming is Not Historically Unique". Capitalism Magazine. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  7. ^ Baliunas, Sallie; Willie Soon (June 5, 2001). "Washington Roundtable on Science and Public Policy: Climate History and the Sun" (PDF). George C. Marshall Institute. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  8. ^ Science Rejects Kyoto by Sallie Baliunas - Capitalism Magazine
  9. ^ ABC News: The Global Warming Myth?
  10. ^ Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  11. ^ Powell, Alvin (April 24, 2003). "Sun's warming is global: CfA lecture links solar activity and climate change". Harvard University Gazette. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  12. ^ Kinne, Otto (2003), "Climate Research: an article unleashed worldwide storms" (PDF), Climate Research 24: 197–198, doi:10.3354/cr024197,, retrieved 2007-04-17 
  13. ^ Baliunas, Sallie; Willie Soon (June 1, 2000). "The Trouble with Ozone". Heartland Institute. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 

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