Solar storms could zap Earth

San Francisco Chronicle

03/07/06

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, scientists announced Monday. When the solar cycle reaches its peak in 2012, it will hurl at Earth mammoth solar storms with intense radiation and clouds of high-speed subatomic particles millions of miles across, the scientists said. A storm of that magnitude could short-circuit a world increasingly dependent on giant utilities and satellite communications networks. Such a storm in 1989 caused power grids to collapse, causing a five-hour blackout in Quebec...

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