Conditions have remained fairly steady during February, except for 11-14th when the A index peaked at 13 and the K at 3. This had settled back to normal by the 18th, with the A Index mainly at 5 and the K Index at 2. March, however, will start off with a similar burst of Solar activity. The Solar Flux is now definitely on the up and should once again reach the 90 mark for up to 6 days from around 7th March.
Solar Activity Could Disrupt the 2012 Olympics On February 12th, scientists warned that a peak in solar activity is due to occur in 2012, risking the disruption of television and internet networks during the London Olympic Games. "The Olympics could be bang in the middle of a solar maximum," said Richard Harrison, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, speaking before the launch this week of Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory. It has long been known that surges in solar activity can cause disruption in satellite and terrestrial communications systems, but, until now, it has been almost impossible to predict solar storms in advance. Following the launch of Nasa's solar observatory, scientists now say that they will be able to give warning of magnetic storms and solar flares. By turning off sensitive electronic circuits before a storm, damage to satellite transmitters, and the resulting disruption, could be minimised. The Nasa probe, launched in early February from Cape Canaveral, will spend five years in orbit around the Earth, investigating the causes of extreme activity, such as sun spots, solar winds and violent eruptions from the Sun's atmosphere known as coronal mass ejections. Professor Harrison said "Such events can expose astronauts to deadly particle doses, can disable satellites, cause power grid failures on Earth and disrupt communications,".
Hannah Devlin (The Times) 3 February 2010 via Mike Terry.
GPS Inaccurate During Space Storms. In bad weather, it can be hard to tell where you are. It turns out that your GPS unit may not be entirely sure, either, if the weather in space is bad. It is now known that space weather, specifically electrical disturbances in our planet's ionosphere can throw off the accuracy of GPS units appreciably. Scientists are working to remedy the situation. GPS units calculate their locations by analyzing signals from a dedicated group of satellites, but those signals can be delayed or distorted while passing through the ionosphere, explained Anthea Coster, an atmospheric scientist at MIT. During sunspot activity, the inaccuracy can exceed 32 yards (30 meters). "People think the problem has been solved, but they have been lulled because the 11-year sunspot cycle is currently at its minimum," she told SPACE.com. "That will change in about two years." Excited by sunspots, the ionosphere has been known to produce "fingers" of heavy ionization nearly 150 miles wide extending from Florida across Canada to the North Pole, she said: Space storms, sometimes caused by sunspot activity, are also known to zap cell towers, causing dropped calls. Strong solar flares can disrupt all types of communications on Earth, including GPS, and even disable satellites.
(Full article at: http://www.livescience.com/space/080618-tw-gps-space-weather.html)
All About Solar Flares A solar flare is a thunderous explosion that occurs in the solar corona and chromosphere within the atmosphere of the Sun. The incredible energy level of a solar flare is equivalent to tens of millions of atomic bombs exploding at the same time! Solar flares were first known to be occurring in 1859. Solar flare activity can vary from several per day to only a few a month, depending mostly upon the overall activity of the Sun as a whole. Solar activity generally varies on an 11-year cycle. At the peak of this “solar cycle” there are typically more sunspots on the surface of the Sun, which ultimately leads to more frequently occurring solar flares. Solar flares are typically classified as A, B, C, M or X, depending upon the degree of their peak flux. Most solar flares occur in or around sun spots as the result of intense magnetic fields emerging from the Sun’s surface into the corona. The powerful energy commonly associated with solar flares can take as long as several days to build up, but only minutes to release. During the occurrence of a solar flare, plasma is heated to tens of millions degrees, while electrons, protons and heavier ions are accelerated to near the speed of light. Solar flares produce electromagnetic radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum at all wavelengths from long-wave radio to the shortest wavelength Gamma rays. Solar flares cannot typically be detected by the naked eye from the surface of the earth. (From: http://www.space.com/solar-flares/)
Thanks to Mike Terry and Ken Fletcher for updates.