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Cold comfort: The sun is cooling; doesn’t mean there will be no global warming

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A new 11-year-cycle of the Sun has begun. Scientists believe the Sun was at its weakest in 2019 in the last 100 years or so — known as the solar minimum — and 2020 marks the beginning of the 25th cycle. But the odd thing is that solar activity, measured by the number of Sun spots at any given time, is pretty low even in 2020.

Sun spots are areas of strong magnetic forces on the surface of the Sun — sometimes as large as planets — that appear as darker spots because they are cooler.

The Sun had no Sun spots for around 71 per cent in 2020 through September 21, 2020, compared to 77 per cent in 2019, according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Environment Centre. In May this year, it was as high as 78 per cent, sparking fears of a Little Ice Age.

Scientists say the Sun may be going through a long period of decreased activity known as the Modern Grand Solar Minimum from 2020 to 2053. The last time such an event occurred was during the Maunder Minimum — from 1645 AD to 1710 AD, which was part of what is now known as the Little Ice Age — when Earth went through a series of elongated cold periods during the medieval centuries.

The alarm went off when a study predicted that the surface temperatures on Earth will go down noticeably during the Modern Grand Solar Minimum due to a 70 per cent reduction in solar magnetic activity.

The research paper, by Valentina Zarkhova of Northumbria University, the UK, was published in Temperature on August 4, 2020. To arrive at her conclusion, Zarkhova studied the complex magnetic activity in the interior of the Sun and how this impacts its total energy output measured as solar irradiance.

Variations in solar irradiance lead to heating of the upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere and influences the transport of solar energy towards the planet’s surface.

Zarkhova studied the magnetic activity through the solar background magnetic field which occurs in the form of two magnetic waves inside the Sun.

When Zarkhova combined these two waves for solar cycles 21-26, she found that the Sun’s magnitude is going down in cycles 24-25 and becoming almost zero in cycle 26. She also found multiple grand solar minima events, including the current event from 2020-2053.

During the Maunder Minimum in the middle ages, the solar irradiance went down by 0.22 per cent or 3 watt per square metre (W/sqm) in 1710 AD when the period ended.

This brought down the temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe, by 1-1.5 degree Celsius and led to frozen rivers, long cold winters and cold summers. This happened because of the complex impacts of decreased solar activity on the abundance of ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere and on climatic cycles such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

The NAO, the balance between a permanent low-pressure system near Greenland and a permanent high-pressure system to its south, was in a negative phase during the Maunder Minimum. This plunged Europe into colder-than usual temperatures. – Down to Earth



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Bid to use private member’s motion to put off LG polls alleged

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has questioned the rationale behind President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that the military will be deployed to curb protest vis-a-vis a Foreign Ministry undertaking to boost foreign trade and investment.

Addressing the Parliament, during the Budget committee stage debate, on 28 Nov., Prof. Peiris said the Foreign Ministry couldn’t expect to succeed in economic diplomacy while the government was resorting to repressive measures.

Prof. Peiris asked who would want to invest in a country where the people were warned of dire consequences if they held protests, and elections were arbitrarily postponed.

Referring to the long overdue Provincial Council polls, Prof. Peiris discussed how postponement of scheduled Local Government polls could further jeopardise Sri Lanka’s standing among the international community.

Prof. Peiris alleged that the government was planning to use private members’ motion submitted by Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatta (SLPP, Colombo District) to put off scheduled Local Government polls further. The ex-Minister claimed that the motion meant to enhance youth representation in governance would be utilised to delay the polls indefinitely. He recalled how the Yahapalana government had postponed the Provincial Council elections indefinitely.

The rebel SLPP Chairman pointed out that the government had chosen MP Dolawatta’s motion, handed over recently, though SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar submitted a private member’s motion on the same lines much earlier.

MP Dolawatta handed over a copy of his motion to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Oct 31. Prof. Peiris said that they wouldn’t find fault with the lawmaker for making proposals which the academic said were timely.

Prof. Peiris warned Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, that Sri Lanka wouldn’t be an appealing destination for investments unless the government adopted tangible measures to curb corruption. Shocking disclosures at parliamentary watchdog committees underscored that corruption was at unprecedented level and needed immediate attention.

Speaking on behalf of the breakaway SLPP faction, Nidahasa Jathika Sabhawa aka Freedom People’s Congress Prof. Peiris said that the recent declaration by the World Bank that it would audit the procurement and distribution of fertiliser here meant that the world had no faith in our system.

Commenting on assurances given by the government that a new Anti-Corruption Bill would be introduced soon, Prof. Peiris said that existing laws were quite sufficient. The issue at hand is absence of political will to battle corruption, the former Minister said, meant flight of professionals and intolerable increase in taxes on business wouldn’t encourage Foreign Ministry’s drive.

At the onset of his speech, lawmaker Peiris asked whether the government was genuine about the recent declaration that the national issue could be resolved by the enactment of a new Constitution by the next Independence Day. Who would take such a promise seriously against the backdrop of all previous attempts undertaken by far more stable governments failing to achieve the desired results? the former law professor asked. The former minister also questioned the feasibility of forming an apparatus on the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Prof. Peiris asked whether those now at the helm really had the wherewithal to meet the South African standards.

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State FM assures there won’t be shortage of milk powder

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State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya told Parliament yesterday (29) that there would be no shortage of milk powder in the coming days due to the Customs holding a consignment of six containers of milk powder, imported into the country, for violating regulations.

Minister Siyambalapitiya said the six containers had 105,375 kilos of full cream milk powder, imported from New Zealand, via Malaysia. It reached the Colombo port on 20 Oct. It was only after the consignment had arrived in the Port that the importers submitted the letters to get the consignment released from the Controller Imports and Exports. Arrangements would be made to release the stock from the harbour on the recommendation of the Secretary to the Ministry of Trade and Food Security.

As such, there is no need for permission from the Controller Import and Export to release the stock, the minister said, adding that there were no limitations imposed on importing milk powder and there would be no cause for panic buying in fear of a shortage of milk powder in the coming days.

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Dolawatta responds to GL

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SLPP MP Premanath C. Dolawatta said his private member’s motion wouldn’t lead to the postponement of local government polls. He said he felt the need to restore the 25% quota for youth, even before he entered Parliament, consequent to the August 2020 general election. The government and the Opposition could quickly reach a consensus on the proposals, and avoid unnecessary complications. MP Dolawatta said so when The Island sought his response to accusations made by Prof. Peiris, who said that time was rapidly running out for Local Government polls. As the nomination process needed to be commenced soon to ensure that 341 Local Government bodies could be constituted by 20 March 2023.

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