It wasn't widely reported at the time, but a major sun flare that took place last December 6 did quite a number on our planet's GPS systems.
"Our increasingly technologically dependent society is becoming increasingly vulnerable to space weather," David L. Johnson, director of the National Weather Service, said at a briefing earlier today.
The briefing came at a Space Weather Enterprise Forum convened by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to discuss the effects of solar activity.
As what happened, an unexpected solar radio burst on 12/6 affected virtually every GPS receiver on the lighted half of Earth. Some receivers had a reduction in accuracy while others completely lost the ability to determine position, Johnson told the Forum attendees
And it wasn't just a one-time anomoly. Scientists expect that solar activity will increase over the next four years, with peak activity four years from now.
"If that increasing level of activity produces more such radio bursts the GPS system could be seriously affected, researchers quoted by AP Science writer Randolph Schmid said today. researchers said.
Paul M. Kintner Jr., a professor of electrical engineering at Cornell University, who monitored the December eventm saud that "the effects were more profound than we expected and more widespread than we expected," added Kintner.
Dale E. Gary, chairman of the physics department of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, aksi bited the burst produced 10 times more radio noise than any burst previously recorded. The difference between that burst and normal solar radio emissions "was like the difference between the noise level of a normal conversation and the noise level in the front row of a rock concert," he said.