Recent solar flare may disrupt your GPS

Recent solar flare may disrupt your
We 're the peak of the 11- year solar
cycle , so double -check your GPS, and
watch where you' re going.
On Thursday, the sun unleashed a
massive solar flare ( see video of the
flare and how its effects have been
moving toward Earth) . Solar flares can
disrupt radio communications,
including devices that use Global
Positioning System technology , such
as cell phones, airplanes and car
navigation systems.
So if you're relying on your GPS for
driving directions, to find your location
on your phone' s mapping tool or for
any other purpose, have a backup
navigation system handy, such as a
printed map .
Even more important , pay close
attention to where you are and where
you're going. Don 't rely solely on your
GPS to give you directions.
In 2006 , research from Cornell
University proved that solar flares can
cause GPS devices to lose signal. This
can cause these devices to temporarily
misrepresent your location or
otherwise malfunction.
" If you're driving to the beach using
your car 's navigation system, you'll be
OK . If you' re on a commercial airplane
in zero visibility weather , maybe not , "
said Paul Kintner Jr . , head of Cornell 's
GPS Laboratory . In fact , the Cornell
researchers warned in 2006 that 2011
would probably see lots of GPS
disruption .
In addition , solar flares can disrupt
power systems.
This week, National Geographic
reported : " Under the right conditions,
solar storms can create extra electrical
currents in Earth 's magnetosphere - -
the region around the planet
controlled by our magnetic field. The
electrical power grid is particularly
vulnerable to these extra currents,
which can infiltrate high-voltage
transmission lines , causing
transformers to overheat and possibly
burn out ."
Across the nation , electric utilities and
grid operators are preparing to
respond to such problems.
John Bogdan, director of the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric
Administration 's Space Weather
Prediction Center, told The Associated
Press that a number of such blasts is
expected over the next three to five
years - - and the biggest flares are yet
to come. On a scale of one to five , he
likened this week' s flare to "probably
a two or three ."
This week' s flare ( called a " coronal
mass ejection") registered M9 .3 on the
" Richter scale of flares ," about the
highest level in the " medium "
category . Larger flares that fall into the
" X" category can cause global radio
blackouts, but large M-class flares also
can cause radio disruptions.
This is one of a series of recent bouts
of severe space weather, as the solar
cycle approaches solar maximum in
2013 . Other major flares came in
February and June, and more may
follow. A good place to follow solar
activity is SpaceWeather .com .
In the meantime, keep those maps
The opinions expressed in this post
are solely those of Amy Gahran. (cnn)
Recent solar flare may disrupt your

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