Experts: Sun’s increasing solar flares could cause major problems

If the climate crisis on Earth doesn’t fill you with anxiety, then maybe the fluctuations in space weather will.

Like the Earth, the sun experiences different phases during its 11-year cycle. Officials from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say the sun is entering its “solar maximum” phase where activity, like solar flares, increases.

Solar flares can affect life on Earth because each flare releases a burst of electromagnetic energy that can disrupt electronics like satellites, GPS navigation systems, solar panels, radio frequencies and cell phones.

“These can cause, for instance, high-frequency communication blackouts, radio blackouts that can affect our emergency responders as well as our airline communications,” NOAA’s Elsayed Talaat told the Associated Press. “Often associated with these flares are energetic particle bursts that that can affect — that can damage satellites by damaging these subsystems, electronic substances and satellites and even the solar panels.”

The radiation from flares can also pose dangers to any astronauts stationed in space. NOAA is currently working on measures for how to deal with fluctuations in space weather under the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan.

“Not just research and not just monitor, but how we’re going to prepare the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, other agencies,” Talaat said. “For instance, FEMA recently came out with an operations concept for response to space weather events. We have instituted space weather as part of the international, national emergency and state and local emergency management exercises. So across the board, we’re preparing for how we would respond to these large events.”

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