Print 18 comment(s) - last by plowak.. on Feb 12 at 10:19 PM

Solar flares may throw positioning off by 10 meters in the UK incoming years

Over the next couple of years, the sun will reach its period of maximum activity and solar flares will be at their highest point in years. The last time there was a high period of solar activity, there were few people that relied on things like GPS in their daily lives. Today GPS is a very common technology that millions rely on each day for getting around all over the world. The military also relies on GPS for combat operations.

The coming period of high solar activity and solar flares has some scientists worried that GPS signals will be interfered with in a way that could cause minor issues for some users. The researchers point out that the military uses a much more complex GPS system than consumers have access to and military use of GPS should not be affected.

BBC News reports that what is likely to happen when solar activity reaches its peak is that the low-power GPS signals the navigation device in a car relies on for positioning information won't be able to pick the GPS signal from orbiting satellites due to radiation from solar flares. Ultimately, GPS receivers in consumer devices may be blinded for tens of minutes a few times a year when the sun is at maximum activity.

Throwing another issue into the mix for GPS receivers is that the ionosphere changes in composition depending on the amount of solar radiation hitting it and can lengthen the time it takes GPS signals to make it to the ground adding more of a chance of errors for GPS devices. 

Professor Cathryn Mitchell from the University of Bath said, "We can look at the measurements from the last solar maximum. If we project those forward, it varies quite a lot across the Earth; looking at the UK it will be about 10-meter errors in the positioning."

Scientists at Cornell University warned about the potential for adverse effects on GPS systems caused by solar flares in 2006. They warned that the effects could have big problems for emergency services that rely on GPS.

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Solar = heat
By chmilz on 2/10/2010 10:49:56 AM , Rating: 4
Don't forget to remind the climate catastrophists that there could be a temporary temperature bump too, lest Pachauri cites ancient neanderthal religious texts as peer-reviewed scientific fact and claims the sun is our mortal enemy and demands we load up a rocket with the richest billion people on Earth and fly them into the sun in a desperate attempt to save the poor peoples.

RE: Solar = heat
By SigmundEXactos on 2/10/2010 11:42:13 AM , Rating: 3
Dude, that tin-foil hat is restricting the blood to your head. The solar cycle is a 11 year cycle. Climate change (whether you believe it happens or not, or if it's caused by human or not) really is something that happens over centuries, not a single decade.

RE: Solar = heat
By chmilz on 2/10/2010 12:01:45 PM , Rating: 2
Pardon me, I generally assume DT readers are intelligent, and </sarcasm> isn't required on all sarcastic posts about wacky economist-gone-climatologists who are currently the laughing stock of all media worldwide.

RE: Solar = heat
By plowak on 2/12/2010 10:19:07 PM , Rating: 2
"The solar cycle is a 11 year cycle."

Nyet, it's a 22 year cycle, 11 years is a half cycle.

RE: Solar = heat
By kattanna on 2/10/2010 3:17:03 PM , Rating: 2
we load up a rocket with the most radical billion people on Earth and fly them into the sun in a desperate attempt to save the rest of us

there, made a slight change.

RE: Solar = heat
By zozzlhandler on 2/10/2010 6:08:10 PM , Rating: 2
That might actually work, if you could make it happen.

By iFX on 2/10/2010 10:52:23 AM , Rating: 5
High solar activity also causes the climate on this planet to change now and again.

RE: Coincidentally...
By Nfarce on 2/10/2010 2:01:42 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah but the moonbats can't tax the sun with climate change legislation, so solar activity doesn't count.

GPS Signal Error!?
By ThisSpaceForRent on 2/10/2010 2:16:05 PM , Rating: 2
Good thing we got rid of LORAN to save what? $190 million over five years?

RE: GPS Signal Error!?
By nafhan on 2/10/2010 3:15:13 PM , Rating: 2
You never need the backup until you get rid of it.
Seriously, though. Our military's reliance on GPS has always made me a little nervous.

RE: GPS Signal Error!?
By JediJeb on 2/10/2010 5:01:19 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like an opportunity in the making. Maybe my expert map reading skills will once again be in demand. I knew learning how to fold a map and use a compas would come in handy some day :)

NOAA Response
By pityme on 2/10/2010 11:32:45 AM , Rating: 2
Find this Sun corporation and tell them to stop interfering with our sats. We can tax them out of existence.

RE: NOAA Response
By pityme on 2/10/2010 11:36:40 AM , Rating: 2
PS. We have the data to prove this conspiracy. (or we will have it this afternoon).

By Screwballl on 2/10/2010 9:18:57 PM , Rating: 2
That is why I use dual-mode on my GPS, it uses the standard GPS signals as well as signals from ground based stations (WAAS/EGNOS, WAAS = North America, EGNOS = Europe).

100 meters: Accuracy of the original GPS system, which was subject to accuracy degradation under the government-imposed Selective Availability (SA) program.

15 meters: Typical GPS position accuracy without SA.

3-5 meters: Typical differential GPS (DGPS) position accuracy.

< 3 meters: Typical WAAS position accuracy.

In typical GPS mode, I can be on a parallel small side road about 20-30 feet off the main road and the unit displays me on the main road... whereas in WAAS mode, it actually shows me on the side road and determines my route based on that information, which means much better accuracy.

This is also a piece of information they leave out of these stories... more scare tactics .

Another reason why people are better off with Garmin brand units...

By etekberg on 2/11/2010 9:19:07 AM , Rating: 2
Uhhh.. your WAAS receiver doesn't use any signals from the ground. It gets those from space too!

By das mod on 2/10/2010 12:48:16 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, We're boned...

Credible or incredulous.
By drycrust3 on 2/10/2010 1:22:47 PM , Rating: 2
the ionosphere changes in composition depending on the amount of solar radiation hitting it and can lengthen the time it takes GPS signals to make it to the ground adding more of a chance of errors

Are you sure that the radio signal is actually slowed down? This sounds like the ionosphere's conductivity is reduced / rate of attenuation is increased, which lowers signal strength on the ground, which reduces the signal to noise ratio in the receiver. A low level signal is more susceptible to being corrupted by noise.
I guess it could also be possible the signal bends, which won't necessarily reduce the signal to noise ratio, but will mean the position the receiver calculates is more erroneous than normal.

just what we need
By tastyratz on 2/10/2010 11:20:32 AM , Rating: 1
The GPS system is prettymuch expected to fail in the next few years without some major investment in seriously neglected equipment... Just what we need - solar flares to kick people when they are down.

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