Sunday, October 03, 2010

New warning system for solar storms

From the WIA broadcast news this morning;



Researchers at the University of Bradford located in the United Kingdom say that a new method of predicting solar storms that could help to avoid widespread power and communications blackouts has been launched. Amateur Radio Newslines Norm Seeley, KI7UP, says that up to now, solar weather prediction has been done manually with experts looking at 2 dimensional satellite images of the sun and assessing the likelihood of future activity.

But a team from the university's Centre for Visual Computing has created the first online automated prediction system using 3D images generated from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory or SOHO satellite.

Already in use by both NASA and the European Space Agency, the Bradford Automated Solar Activity Prediction system also known by the acronym ASAP identifies and classifies sun spots and then feeds this information through a model which can predict the likelihood of solar flares. The system is able to accurately predict a solar flare six hours in advance and the team is working to achieve a similar accuracy for the prediction of major solar eruptions in the near future.

Solar storms involve the release of huge amounts of hot gas and magnetic forces from the surface of the sun into space at around a million miles an hour. The next major solar storms are expected in 2012-13 as part of the sun's 11-year weather cycle. A 2008 US National Academy of Sciences report estimated that modern reliance on electronics and satellite communications means a major storm could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina.

Although major solar eruptions and coronal mass ejections normally take several days to reach the Earth, the largest recorded in 1859 took only eighteen hours. Solar flares which can also cause significant disruption to communications systems take just a few minutes. Because of this, advance warning is of vital importance to enable steps to be taken to avoid the worst effects of such solar activity.

Data recovered from the system is on-line at the European Spaceweather website;

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