Jun 16, 2010

Massive space storms forecast as early as 2013

IN SPACE - JULY 22:  In this satellite image p...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The Sun follows an 11-year cycle of high and low periods of solar activity and now it is leaving a notably quiet phase, according to scientists.

During this period, they believe, there would be fiery explosions having the power of 100 hydrogen bombs that could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina, the Daily Mail reported.

Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked out by intense solar activity.

Worried about the possible impact of such storms on our planet, scientists recently met in Washington to discuss how to protect Earth from the ferocious flares, which are expected sometime around 2013.

The ‘space conference’ was attended by scientists, government policy-makers and researchers.

Richard Fisher, head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, said, “The Sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity.”

“At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms.” Richard Fisher added.

NASA is using dozens of satellites, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, to study the threat.

The problem was investigated in depth two years ago by the National Academy of Sciences, in a report which outlined the social and economic impacts of severe space weather events.

But scientists believe much of the damage could be minimised if there was foreknowledge that the storm was approaching.

Putting satellites in “safe mode” and disconnecting transformers could protect them from damaging electrical surges, they said.

Preventative action, however, requires accurate forecasting - a job that has been assigned to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.)

“Space weather forecasting is still in its infancy, but we are making rapid progress,” said Thomas Bogdan, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre in Boulder, Colorado.

Bogdan said the collaboration between NASA and NOAA would be the key to avoid the possible damage.

“NASA’s fleet of heliophysics research spacecraft provides us with up-to-the-minute information about what’s happening on the Sun. They are an important complement to our own GOES and POES satellites, which focus more on the near-Earth environment,” he added.


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