Magazine article The Futurist

Toward Better Space-Weather Forecasts: Scientists Hope to Help Avert Devastating Impacts of Solar Outbursts

Magazine article The Futurist

Toward Better Space-Weather Forecasts: Scientists Hope to Help Avert Devastating Impacts of Solar Outbursts

Article excerpt

Charged particles and magnetic fields streaming from the Sun at a rate of a million miles an hour can do an awful lot of damage to unprepared systems on Earth. They can make the data coming from global positioning satellite systems (GPS) unreliable, thus putting a wide variety of operations at risk: oil drillers and miners, airline operators, and any driver trying to get to an unfamiliar location while avoiding traffic or dangerous construction tie-ups.

Like the weather on Earth, space weather can be modeled and, to a large extent, forecast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is now developing models to improve its predictions of spaceweather activity and its impacts. Combining the power of two previous models, the new WSA-Enlil model simulates conditions from the base of the Sun's corona and the impacts of solar events as they evolve into storm systems out in space.

The NOAA researchers are specifically looking for ways to minimize the effects of big plasma ejections that may temporarily interrupt vital electrical power grids and radio and satellite communications systems, such as GPS. …

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