Tuesday, March 07, 2006

And Now, The Carphone Report

Because we all need something new to worry about, researchers todaylet us know that an 11 year epoch of increasingly severe solar storms that could " fry power grids, disrupt cell-phone calls, knock satellites back to Earth, endanger astronauts in space, and force commercial airliners to change their routes to protect their radio communications and to avoid deadly solar radiation could begin as soon as this fall"

As for its effect on air travel:

Air travelers could be affected, too. Since the end of the Cold War, to avoid headwinds, airlines have increasingly flown subpolar routes to get between the United States and other Northern Hemisphere continents quickly and cheaply. But during solar storms, they must avoid the poles and fly more southerly routes.

They do so partly in order to avoid having their radio communications disrupted over dangerous polar terrain and partly to avoid exposing passengers -- especially pregnant women -- to the increased radiation, said solar-storm expert Joseph Kunches, chief of the forecast and analysis branch of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo.
Ah, so that's part of the reason for the polar route, is it? I didn't know. I wonder if that's why when I flew to the UK a bit ago, we didn't go polar on the way there, but did on the way back. Of course, if there's headwinds in one direction, why would you do it on the way back? Or is it that circular flow thing that means you get it both ways, uh, both ways?

At any rate - just wanted to ring some alarmist bells and give you something to worry about today as well.

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