Sunday, March 18, 2012

Solar Forecasts Keep GPS On Track

 

solar_flare

If you’ve ever wondered what the weather was like in space, well now you can find out. Earlier this month, a new space weather forecasting system called FLARECAST was launched from the UK. FLARECAST is designed to help monitor solar flares and other space weather disturbances and warn users of potential problems for satellite signals ahead of time.

Last year alone, solar flares knocked out GPS signals and degraded accuracy several times. And, as the New Science article points out, such blackouts can be potential life threatening as more and more vital technologies rely on GPS.

“If you’re driving your car and your satnav isn’t working for 10 minutes, no big deal,” Bill Murtagh of NOAA told policymakers at the Dupont Summit in Washington DC in December. “But if you’re landing a plane with quarter-mile visibility and a crosswind in Juneau, Alaska, and you’re relying on GPS that’s gone for a couple of minutes, you’ve got a big problem.”

FLARECAST was launched on January 15 of this year and is designed to give forecasts every minute and predict when the solar flares will erupt and cause satellite interference instead of simply notifying the Earth when eruptions have already occurred.

For more information, check out the New Scientist article.

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