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Environment, Science
Warnings of a “mini ice age” have circulated the media. The news came after researcher Valentina Zharkova, a professor of mathematics at Northumbria University in England, looked further into variations in solar radiations predicting a significant drop of 60% in solar activity between 2030 and 2040. It was first noticed by scientists about 170 years ago that the Sun’s activity varies over a cycle lasting around 10 to 12 years. Cycles do vary, but researches have yet to create a model that fully explains these fluctuations. “The waves fluctuate between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that out predictions showed an accuracy of 97%,” said Zharkova in a statement. During Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030 to 2040, the two waves will become out of sync – causing a significant reduction in solar activity. “When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is a full phase separation, we have conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago,” explains Zharkova. The Maunder minimum was a period in the 1600’s and early 1700’s of the “Little Ice Age” – a period that coincided with Europe and North America experiencing cooler than average temperatures. Professor at the University of British Columbia Dr. John Innes, doesn’t think we should be jumping to any conclusions, “the direct link between the minimum in sunspot activity and the temperature cooling is not quite so definite.” Innes explains in an email statement that there may have been other factors at work during the Maunder minimum, such as increased volcanic activity, which would have generated ash that reduced the amount of energy reaching the Earth’s surface. “They are virtually all based on models, and models are often wrong …  the idea is interesting, and worth looking at more carefully,” says Innes.
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Sustainability
UBC achieved a score in the top 10 universities rated under the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System – a self-reporting system developed by the AASHE. Among universities with over 30,000 students, UBC came in second place. This is the second consecutive Gold rating UBC has received from the ASSHE. “This recognition is further proof of our commitment to leadership in global sustainability through groundbreaking research, education and innovative projects on campus,” said Martha Piper, interim president of UBC in a statement. UBC launched Canada’s first sustainability office in 1997 and has received the maximum “innovation credits” for its initiatives, which include: a 20-year sustainability strategy, behavioural research in support of creating a zero-waste campus, UBC Farm’s Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, and energy system upgrades to reduce UBC’s thermal energy use and GHG emissions. Image: UBC Public Affairs “STARS provides a robust platform to measure our sustainability progress over time, assess gaps and opportunities to improve sustainability performance, and receive external recognition for sustainability efforts across campus,” said Associate Vice-President of Campus and Community Planning in a statement, Michael White. UBC also offers over 600 sustainability related courses and over 40 sustainability-related programs. The university remains on track to reach the green house gas emission reduction targets established in 2010 with the Vancouver Campus Climate Action Plan – planning to reduce emissions 33 per cent by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2050.
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