London: As the Sun is waking up from a "deep
slumber", it could soon trigger massive space storms as early
as 2013 which may knock out power and communication systems on
Earth, scientists have warned.
The Sun follows an 11-year cycle of high and low periods
of solar activity and now it is leaving a notably quiet phase,
according to scientists.
During this period, they believe, there would be fiery
explosions having the power of 100 hydrogen bombs that could
cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane
Katrina, the Daily Mail reported.
Smart power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial
services and emergency radio communications can all be knocked
out by intense solar activity.
Worried about the possible impact of such storms on our
planet, scientists recently met in Washington to discuss how
to protect Earth from the ferocious flares, which are expected
sometime around 2013.
The `space conference` was attended by scientists,
government policy-makers and researchers.
Richard Fisher, head of NASA`s Heliophysics Division,
said: "The Sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the
next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar
"At the same time, our technological society has
developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms."
NASA is using dozens of satellites -- including the Solar
Dynamics Observatory -- to study the threat.
The problem was investigated in depth two years ago by
the National Academy of Sciences, in a report which outlined
the social and economic impacts of severe space weather
But scientists believe much of the damage could be
minimised if there was foreknowledge that the storm was
Putting satellites in "safe mode" and disconnecting
transformers could protect them from damaging electrical
surges, they said.
Preventative action, however, requires accurate
forecasting -- a job that has been assigned to The National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.)
"Space weather forecasting is still in its infancy, but
we are making rapid progress," said Thomas Bogdan, director of
NOAA`s Space Weather Prediction Centre in Boulder, Colorado.
Bogdan said the collaboration between NASA and NOAA would
be the key to avoid the possible damage.
"NASA`s fleet of heliophysics research spacecraft
provides us with up-to-the-minute information about what`s
happening on the Sun. They are an important complement to our
own GOES and POES satellites, which focus more on the
near-Earth environment," he added.