Posted by Exile on January 7, 2008
From the NOAA website;
A new 11-year cycle of heightened solar activity, bringing with it increased risks for power grids, critical military, civilian and airline communications, GPS signals and even cell phones and ATM transactions, showed signs it was on its way late yesterday when the cycle’s first sunspot appeared in the sun’s Northern Hemisphere, NOAA scientists said.
“This sunspot is like the first robin of spring,” said solar physicist Douglas Biesecker of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. “In this case, it’s an early omen of solar storms that will gradually increase over the next few years.”
A sunspot is an area of highly organized magnetic activity on the surface of the sun. The new 11-year cycle, called Solar Cycle 24, is expected to build gradually, with the number of sunspots and solar storms reaching a maximum by 2011 or 2012, though devastating storms can occur at any time.
During a solar storm, highly charged material ejected from the sun may head toward Earth, where it can bring down power grids, disrupt critical communications, and threaten astronauts with harmful radiation. Storms can also knock out commercial communications satellites and swamp Global Positioning System signals. Routine activities such as talking on a cell phone or getting money from an ATM machine could suddenly halt over a large part of the globe.
Oooh! That gives us about 3 or 4 years to get our money converted to cash, buy an atlas to find our way around the world with, note down all the addresses of our friends and families that we can no longer ring to, bring the astronauts down again and buy some candles.
I’ll get started tomorrow.
But, maybe, I’m overreacting. Find solace (no pun intended!) in the following:
“Our growing dependence on highly sophisticated, space-based technologies means we are far more vulnerable to space weather today than in the past,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA’s space weather monitoring and forecasts are critical for the nation’s ability to function smoothly during solar disturbances.”
Oh. Well, that’s OK then. The NOAA’s going to make it alright. Let’s hear it for space weather monitoring!
Aren’t you glad that they can predict these things so accurately!