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©2006 by Richard Nolle

WOW!DEC 25, 2006 - NASA - Big Solar Cycle gives us all plenty of advance notice about what promises to be "one of the most intense (solar) cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago," according to solar physicist David Hathaway of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. What's an intense solar cycle, and why should we care? The solar cycle in this case is measured by sunspot numbers: the more sunspots, the greater the intensity of the cycle. Intensity in this sense refers to the intensity of solar radiation: the more sunspots, the more energy the Sun puts out. Four of the five biggest cycles on record have come in the past fifty years - gee whiz, global warming - and we're headed for another very intense peak around 2010 or 2011, if current levels of geomagnetic activity are any indication. And they do appear to be a good indication, according to Hathaway: "The amount of geomagnetic activity now tells us what the solar cycle is going to be like six to eight years in the future." The thing is, geomagnetic activity is ramping up now. And that means a whopper Solar Maximum is just a few years down the road. There'll be no mistaking it: massive solar flares, auroras all over the place, electromagnetic disturbances that knock cell phone service and other electrical/electronic infrastructure for a loop . . . even a benign star like old Sol cannot be taken for granted!

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