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2012-11-14  |  John Bennett

By John Bennett

Last week we stepped in it. Rather big. We ran an appreciation promotion after a long-time supporter who operates an outdoor equipment store donated a very expensive made-in-Canada jacket. We were thrilled that we’d be able to give it away to a supporter – a way of saying thank you.

Sierra Club Canada is a not an animal rights organization; we take no position on hunting and trapping. We are a conservation organization and, for strategic reasons, we must work with a broad range of organizations. Sometimes we even work with hunters -- including Canada’s Aboriginal peoples -- in order to achieve our goal of protecting the environment.

We sent out the promotion email and immediately received a storm of protest (apparently I'm good at arousing people, but not always in a good way). The jacket contained goose feathers and a fur collar, we were angrily told. I should have put more thought into this...

2012-11-14  |  Paul Beckwith

By Paul Beckwith (with input from Matthew Ladd)

A few days ago in Ottawa, the temperature reached 21oC. The old record was 18oC and the average high for this time of year is 5oC. This is not a local Ottawa effect or a one-shot anomaly. Weather records that have stood the test of time for over 100 years are dropping like flies everywhere. What is causing this?

Canada’s main meteorological office generates its weather forecasts by running complex analogical weather prediction models (commonly referred to as the “analog method”). In the analog method the existing state of the atmosphere in a particular region is determined, and then compared against a massive database of atmospheric states for the same time and region in previous years. The closest matches of the atmospheric states are identified, and the forecast is basically obtained by examining how those prior systems evolved over time.

...

2012-10-29  |  Paul Beckwith

Melting Arctic sea ice aims Frankenstorm Sandy directly at the Big Apple

By Paul Beckwith

Frankenstorm Sandy is a scary beast. A hybridization between a tropical hurricane and a mid-latitude cyclone, her behavior is not natural at all. Moving northward off the east coast, Sandy is turning left toward land instead of right toward the sea. Sandy’s being blocked from moving north by a high pressure area of enormous magnitude, and being sucked west by a low pressure region of very exceptional (and highly unusual) strength. Thus the designation “Frankenstorm”.

Because the Earth rotates on its axis, circulating air deflects toward the left in the Southern Hemisphere and to the right in the Northern Hemisphere. This deflection is called the...

2012-10-11  |  Gordon Edwards

 

Gordon Edwards is President of the
Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
.

 

Increasingly, nuclear power appears be a future technology whose time is past.

This was already evident as far back as 1978 – the last year that a CANDU nuclear plant was ordered in North America.  In that year the Ontario Royal Commission on Electric Power Planning – in its Report on Nuclear Power in Ontario entitled “A Race Against Time” – summed up two years of hearings by saying: “Far from offering...

2012-09-28  |  Paul Beckwith

By Paul Beckwith

Push something and it moves a little. Push it a little more and it moves a little more. This is called a “linearity” response. But sometimes a little push can lead to something totally unexpected! This is called “nonlinearity” and, contrary to what one might think, nonlinearities are inherent in most systems - like our atmosphere, for example. In fact, abrupt and unexpected change happens at some point in most systems - we even have a saying for such unexpected outcomes: a tipping point.

Until recently, our atmosphere and oceans behaved like linear systems: incremental dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere caused incremental changes, like rising temperatures and predictable rates of ice melt. But things are now changing unexpectedly fast – nonlinearity is kicking in! We only have to look at the rapidly vanishing arctic icecap for astonishing evidence.

A few years ago, I felt compelled to...

 
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