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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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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission

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By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.

 

Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR

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Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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