Dec 312017
 
Information on recent solar flares.
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Information on recent solar flares.
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AP 06-13-91 01:06 PET
Magnetic Storm Disrupts Radio Communications, Causes Power Surges
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Radio communications in Alaska were
disrupted and power surges were reported in Virginia and New Jersey
as a geomagnetic storm that has battered Earth for more than a week
intensified, scientists said.
The storm, caused by a series of solar flares, reached major
levels Wednesday afternoon, said Charliss Carpenter, a solar
technician with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
in Boulder.
Bill Brennan, a spokesman at NOAA said the storms moderated
today, however.
``I talked to the solar forecast center two hours ago,'' Brennan
said shortly before noon. ``It has moderated but we do expect
strong geomagnetic conditions all day long.
``The forecasters say there is a strong possibility of one or
two more solar flares during the next day or two. If that were to
occur there would be geomagnetic activity into the early part of
next week.
``We don't know the intensity because that would depend on the
strength of the solar flares.''
Solar flares occur when sunspots, which are areas of strong
magnetic fields, disintegrate and release enormous amounts of
energy. A cloud of particles that follows the flare creates
geomagnetic storms on Earth.
Such storms cause homing pigeons to lose their way, upset
military command systems, cause compass needles to act erratically
and produce northern and southern lights. Such a storm in 1989
disrupted power in Canada for nine hours.
Solar flares can also pose a hazard to satellites and astronauts
in space. But NASA said the current activity shouldn't endanger
space shuttle Columbia, which began a mission June 5 and is
scheduled to return to Earth on Friday.
Wednesday's disruptions in Alaska, New Jersey and Virginia were
believed cause by a solar flare that erupted late Monday, the fifth
since June 5.
Cohen said the flare was believed responsible for sudden
increases in power-line voltage reported by utilities in New Jersey
and especially in Virginia.
``Their voltage was varying pretty significantly,'' he said.
Utilities were warned about the flares this week so they could
adjust their operations to prevent equipment damage caused by the
power surges.
Another flare, which erupted Tuesday night, could continue the
disruptions, said NOAA forecaster Norm Cohen.
``This is quite exciting and quite exhausting because it rarely
happens,'' David Speich, a space scientist at NOAA, said of the
phenomenon.
Solar flares occur in 11-year cycles. The current cycle began in
1986 and is believed to be near its peak. It has produced some of
the strongest activity since the 1950s.
Brennan said forecasters reported that the area of the sun
causing ``all of this activity for the past 12 days or so is moving
out of line with the Earth and things should be back to whatever
is normal early in the week.''
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