Solar Flares and Global Temperature Change

The Naked Scientists spoke to Chelsea Wald and Bob Hirshon
12 November 2006

Interview with 

Chelsea Wald and Bob Hirshon


Jan - We found periods of about 2.5 million years and another period of about 1 million years, these are the same frequencies which describe variations in the orbit and tilt of the earth which made us think that there may be a connection.

Chelsea - Van Dam says that these variations in the earth's orbit and tilt may have created periods of global cooling which in turn would have caused some mammals to perish whilst other flourished.

Bob - Scientists have discovered that powerful solar flares could cause some GPS receivers to fail, including the type used by planes to navigate Cornell engineer Paul Kinler says it is lucky they found the problem now when the sun is at the lowest point of its activity in it's 11 year cycle.

Paul - GPS is primarily entering our technical infrastructure at a period of solar minimum. the next maximum will be around 2011 and is predicted to be more powerful than the previous maximum. The reason for publishing these results is so that people know that although they have become used to GPS being unaffected by solar weather in several years it will be affected.

Bob - Kinler explains that the radio waves that accompany strong solar flares happen to be at the same frequency as GPS work on. Kinler says that now aviation authorities know about this they are developing backup plans to deal with the problem. It is possible that passengers will have to deal with space as well as normal weather delays. What worries Kinler is that other organisations may not have the backups to fall back on.

Paul - GPS is wedded into our power grid in ways that many people are not aware of. For example the US power grid is synchonised using GPS signals along with many parts of the internet, some secure financial transactions use GPS receivers to make sure that the transaction is valid.

Bob - He says that GPS is just one example of how new technologies should be acceped with caution in case unexpected difficulties arise.


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