Strong solar storm threatens to hit satnavs

US airlines will divert flights that pass over the poles due to the risks posed by solar radiation

One of the largest solar storms so far this century will hit the Earth today following a huge eruption on the surface of the Sun in the early hours of yesterday morning which flung billions of tons of electrically charged particles towards the planet, scientists said last night.

Experts in the United States warned that the solar flare could cause power blackouts, disrupt GPS satellites and may lead to the diversion of long-haul flights that pass over the polar regions because of intense bursts of electromagnetic radiation at high latitudes.

The solar weather prediction centre of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, said that the solar storm could be “moderate to severe” after it observed a massive explosive ejection of material from the Sun’s outer corona.

“The so-called coronal mass ejection may reach Earth by early Thursday morning. Geomagnetic storms on Earth can impact the operation of electrical grids and temporarily disrupt radio and satellite telecommunications,” a NOAA spokeswoman said.

“The radiation storm associated with this event is already triggering high-frequency radio blackouts at Earth’s poles and in several other regions of the planet. High-frequency radio is used by airplanes flying over the poles, emergency managers, and others,” she said.

Professor Mike Lockwood, a solar-terrestrial scientists at Reading University, said that the potential impact of the storm cannot be accurately assessed until about an hour before it actually reaches the Earth. Much will depend on the direction of its magnetic field and whether it will hit the Earth directly or strike a passing blow, he said.

“They can induce very large currents in electric power grids which can burn out transformers and cause power blackouts. It can take a long time to  restore the grid when this happens,” Professor Lockwood said.

“They can also have a devastating effect on satellites. The GPS satellites are quite robust and I doubt whether they will be lost completely, but they may give false readings for a while,” he said.

The solar cycle of sunspots, which runs on an average period of about 11 years, has been unusually quiet in recent years and has only just emerged from a long solar “minimum” where there have been few if any sunspots, Professor Lockwood said.

“The indications are that we are now reaching a sunspot maximum, but it’s still been very feeble. Upto now the sunspot cycle has been remarkably weak so this may be the peak of this particular cycle,” he said.

Scientists have warned governments that society is more vulnerable to the geomagnetic storms caused by solar flares than during the last solar maxium in the 1990s because of the increased reliance on delicate electrical technology that can be easily disrupted.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Female PE Teacher

£23760 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering