Boulder, Colo. - Carriers may need to prepare for a storm that has the capability to affect GPS systems and create blackouts. Using a computer model of solar dynamics, scientists at the Boulder, Colo.-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are predicting the next sunspot cycle to be 30% to 50% stronger than the last one and begin as much as a year late. Predicting the sun's cycles accurately, years in advance, will help societies plan for active bouts of solar storms, which can slow satellite orbits, disrupt communications and bring down power systems.
The new computer model developed by NCAR scientists simulated the strength of the past eight solar cycles with more than 98% accuracy, so the scientists are confident in predicting that the next solar cycle will begin in late 2007 or early 2008, which is about 6 to 12 months later than a cycle would normally start, and it is expected to reach its peak about 2012.
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