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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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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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