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Solar Storm Could Knock Out Communications, GPS Today

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Satellite image of solar flares that erupted Tuesday.  
(AP Photo/NASA)
Satellite image of solar flares that erupted Tuesday.  

An impressive space weather event is hitting the earth today after a series of solar flares earlier in the week.

The sun erupted with a flood of energetic protons Tuesday evening and the effects of that continue to affect our planet, according to Dr. Terry Onsager, a space weather physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center.

According to Onsager, the impact of space weather impacts the  infrastructure that in turn affects us. For example, airlines are now re-routing their flights away from the polar routes.

"When one of these storms is in progress, that degrades their ability to use high frequency radio communication," Osager says. The emissions can also disrupt global positioning systems.

"The impacts to GPS are in the high accuracy applications -- construction industry, agriculture," he says. Such solar weather events help scientists continue to learn more about the connection between the sun and the earth, Osager adds.

"There are these very basic physics questions we don't know the answers to," he says, but all the while, "our infrastructure is evolving to be more vulnerable. High-accuracy applications of GPS. The electric power grid getting much more interconnected and heavily loaded. "

Effects of the storm are expected to affect the earth over the next day or so.


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