Solar flare third largest recorded

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Air Force Weather Agency's space weather operations center officials said the Oct. 27 solar flare was the third largest event in recorded history. Also, they said the solar spot group is the largest recorded in the current solar cycle.

Weather technicians in the center sent more than 300 warnings of possible problems to Department of Defense officials since Oct. 19, roughly 10 times the number sent out in a typical week. The sun moves through an 11-year cycle and hit the maximum two years ago.

“Solar flares can happen at any time in the solar cycle. However, it is unusual to have such significant ones at this stage in the solar cycle,” said Capt. Herb Keyser, chief of the center.

“The storm is not over,” he said. It could last for a week to 10 days with possible flaring, but “nothing as significant as the one (Oct. 27).”

Space-weather technicians warn DOD officials and the national intelligence community of significant solar activity.

Heightened solar activity creates peaks in solar emissions that travel to Earth and interact with its atmosphere.

On Earth, electromagnetic signals can be affected by the interference of atmospheric disturbances caused by solar emissions. These disturbances influence HF communications, satellite UHF communications and Global Positioning System navigation signals. They also interfere with certain radars. (Courtesy of AFWA)