Solar storms threaten Olympics blackout

the Earth and the Sun - ready to ruck in 2012
The Earth and the Sun - ready to ruck in 2012

Scientists from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have advised that increased solar storm activity could cause communications blackouts during the London 2012 Olympics.

The scientists have detected recent increased sunspot activity. This means a new 11-year cycle might have begun. If so, the solar activity might peak right around the time of the Olympics in London in two years.

Professor Richard Harrison, Head of Space Physics at the laboratory, said: "The sun's activity has a strong influence on the Earth. Space weather can affect the whole population. The recipe is right, it's the beginning of a new cycle.

"The Olympics could be bang in the middle of the next solar maximum which could affect the transmissions of satellites."

"A coronal mass ejection can carry a billion tonnes of solar material into space at over a million kilometres per hour. Such events can expose astronauts to deadly particle doses, can disable satellites, cause grid failures on Earth and disrupt communications."

NASA on the case

Next week NASA is launching a satellite to monitor solar activity and take images of the sun. 21 years ago solar storms caused blackouts in North America.

This time, however, forewarned could mean forearmed, according to Professor Richard Holdaway: "If we have advance warning, we'll be able to mitigate the damage. What you don't want is things switching off for a week with no idea of what's caused the problem."

It's impossible to accurately predict the peak or intensity of a solar storm. But, knowing our luck, it will happen when Team GB is about to win gold.

Via The Independent