Experts warn of solar storm damage to mobile and GP

The SANS Institute is warning of possible fallout from a solar storm which could potentially disrupt GPS systems and satellite broadband services.

The SANS institute identified the potential problem after it spotted a “spectacular” solar explosion on  Sunday. It said it expected the fallout from this to reach us today, and claimed that this could be seen through diminished satellite and radio signals as well as the possibility of the Northern Lights being visible in the UK.

John Ullrich said on the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Center blog: “These events are not all that unusual, and in most cases there is little ground-based damage if any.”

However, he warned that if there was a problem, long distance radio transmissions and satellite communications are usually affected first.

“Given our reliance on systems like GPS, an outage may have indirect ground based affects. Sensitive electronics may be affected and outdoor radiation levels may be higher then normal,” he wrote.

Dr Chris Davis, a Solar-Terrestrial Physicist at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, seemed less worried.  He told TechEye: “Solar storms are like buses. We haven’t had one for a year because of the sun’s solar cycle and now five have come along at once,

“They can potentially cause huge amounts of damage if the perfect storm came about.”

He said the risks get higher as we depend on technology such as GPS systems and mobile phones more and more each time a solar cycle comes about. However, he said these would only be affected if the storm hit satellite communications up in space.

“A solar storm can affect a satellite or space craft in a number of ways. At best it may just cause a toilet on a craft to flush,” he added.

There’s a chance though that we may need to get the candles out: “When a solar storm arrives on Earth it causes currents to flow through power grids. One example of how this affected us was that a town in Quebec in 1989 lost power for nine hours as a result.”