Weather officials forecast
10/24/2003 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE,
Neb (AFPN) -- Large groups of sunspots are being tracked
by Air Force Weather Agency space weather technicians here who are forecasting
moderate to extreme solar flares for a few days beginning Oct. 24.
Technicians believe the solar flares could cause geomagnetic storms and
have warned Department of Defense officials and the national intelligence
community to expect significant solar activity.
Heightened solar activity creates peaks in solar emissions that travel
to Earth and interact with its atmosphere.
On Earth, electromagnetic signals can be affected by the interference of
atmospheric disturbances caused by solar emissions. These disturbances
influence HF communications, satellite UHF communications and Global Positioning
System navigation signals. They also interfere with certain radars.
Satellites and other equipment in orbit above the protective levels of
the atmosphere are vulnerable to electrical anomalies and a degradation
of components because of solar radiation, said weather officials. There
can also be increased drag on satellites in low-Earth orbits, and officials
who track satellites and other objects in orbit can lose their targets
because of these changes in the atmosphere.
On the positive side, the geomagnetic storms may cause the aurora borealis
to be pushed toward the equator, allowing people in the continental United
States to have a better viewing of the "northern lights."