Solar explosions could impact Earth
August 9th, 2011
11:36 AM ET

Solar explosions could impact Earth

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is keeping an eye on a set of solar storms and explosions that could disrupt satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment here on Earth in the next few days.

While activity had reportedly returned to somewhat normal levels when solar winds calmed Monday morning, another explosion Tuesday was three times larger than the February 15 flare, which, until now, was the most significant flare of this solar cycle.

Solar flare may disrupt your GPS

The real forecast worth taking a look at, however, is the one for 2013, when solar activity levels are expected to peak with the next "solar maximum" within the 11-year activity cycle. Electric and magnetic interference from solar storms blasting electrically charged particles into the Earth’s magnetic field can cause major interferences on earth. Already this year, there have been reports of lost high-frequency radio communication with aircraft near the Arctic, along flight paths where pilots depend on such communication for flight safety and guidance.

Pilots and commercial aircraft are not the only ones at risk, either. NOAA cautions that many systems humans use every day are vulnerable to changes in space weather, including GPS applications in mobile phones and in cars, power grids and military satellites.

“We now know how powerful space weather can be and how events that begin on the surface of the Sun can end up wreaking havoc here on Earth,” said Tom Bogdan, SWPC director in Boulder, Colorado. “This is why NOAA has a Space Weather Prediction Center — to forecast when space weather is coming our way, so we can avoid or mitigate damages.”

People in 1859 didn’t have that advantage though, when a solar eruption essentially charged the air on Earth with electricity, taking out telegraph offices across the globe. Some telegraph operators received electric shocks and papers within offices caught fire. The interference even caused telegraph equipment to continue distributing signals once the equipment had been turned off. According to a 2008 report by the National Research Council, an eruption of comparable magnitude today could cause $1 trillion to $2 trillion in damage worldwide.

NOAA officials are working closely with Britain on developing an updated facility to improve forecasting abilities and our understanding of how weather, in space or on Earth, can affect technology systems.

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  9. minisheree32

    omg i feel spacial because i knew about this before reading the article or hearing it on any type of news or anything.( i am only 14) and i learned it in school! imagine that!

    August 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  10. nemo

    Post script....
    There is nothing...not a darn whisper of a hint in our constitution of these united states that says we need or want a sun! The planet sun..and its inhabitants royed roy (echo). Since jesus walked on the moon..the sun has just been one problem after the next!

    August 10, 2011 at 3:36 am |
    • Wzrd1

      Jesus didn't walk on the moon. Neil did. Jesus delegated it to me and I delegated it to Neil...
      Hope I don't catch hell for that one.

      August 11, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  11. nemo

    The sun has been terrorizing the u.s.a for centuries..and we as Americans need to come together to destroy this evil threat! The people of the sun have been doing this hanky panky to long and its time we declare war and invade. I am so sick of the sun anyway...always shinning all day and not to mention all the preservatives and asbestos it releases into our airspace! What use is the sun anyway? I mean at least you can look at the moon for pete's sake! Ever try and look at the sun? Burn a hole in your septic nerve that goes to the brain! Can't go outside anymore cuz the sun will give you melanoma! I just don't know why we sent all those people into space for hundreds of years and we never did a dang thing about the sun! Now its going to crash into earth and make my gps on my car not he!!...I can't live without my gps. This is such a no brainer..if the sun invades the u.s. Airspace I say we blow it out of the sky and be done with it...the sun has always been a is the time to fix it! I say send in the marines and just get rid of the sun and all the people living on it...just the way things are gonna have to be..VOTE NEMO 2012

    August 10, 2011 at 3:07 am |
    • Wzrd1

      We ALL support you!
      Now, go lead the way for the team that lands on the sun and plants that thermonuclear bomb to destroy it.

      August 11, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  12. sunspot

    it's so very plan to see everyone go outside and stare at the sun for 10 to 20 min. and you will see the solar flares. lol

    August 10, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • Wzrd1

      It's so plan to see?
      English as a second language isn't working out for you, huh?
      Very well, hide your mind from FACTS. OBEY GPS when it fails, cliffs abound, hopefully you'll find one.

      August 11, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  13. Eric

    This article doesn't even tap into the damage that would be caused to our nuclear power plants – the threat is far worse than a few inconveniences.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • Wzrd1

      Yeah, because FUEL would CEASE to exist IMMEDIATELY.
      There ARE such things as diesel generators. They're in ALL PLANTS. FUEL is there too. MORE fuel is planned by 9 different means.

      August 11, 2011 at 1:17 am |
  14. Cherries

    All right everyone, lets PANIC!!!!

    August 9, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      THIS one, I'm not really concerned about. Especially since I'm not in orbit.
      By 2013, I'll begin to perspire a bit about losing some satellites.

      August 10, 2011 at 10:07 am |
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    August 9, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  16. Cynical New Yorker

    On a more serious note, I wonder what the occupants of the International Space Station will be doing to protect themselves...

    August 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Will? More like did and will again. The thing FIRST sent out a massive x-ray pulse.
      That said, I've not a whisper on what NASA plans are for protecting the ISS crew. Perhaps someone should contact NASA so they can issue a press release?

      August 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  17. R.S

    And 50 more...

    August 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
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