Friday, May 29, 2009

Solar: Reed, Dodd call for stronger sunscreen standards

From the Boston Globe:
Two New England senators are pushing for stronger testing and labeling standards for sunscreen.

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Chris Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, have introduced legislation that calls on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require manufacturers to test sunscreen products against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays....MORE
I guess they're looking ahead to solar cycle 24.

NOAA Predicts Solar Cycle 24
A new active period of Earth-threatening solar storms will be the weakest since 1928 and its peak is still four years away, after a slow start last December, predicts an international panel of experts led by NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center. Even so, Earth could get hit by a devastating solar storm at any time, with potential damages from the most severe level of storm exceeding $1 trillion. NASA funds the prediction panel.

Solar storms are eruptions of energy and matter that escape from the sun and may head toward Earth, where even a weak storm can damage satellites and power grids, disrupting communications, the electric power supply and GPS. A single strong blast of solar wind can threaten national security, transportation, financial services and other essential functions.

The panel predicts the upcoming Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013 with a daily sunspot number of 90. If the prediction proves true, Solar Cycle 24 will be the weakest cycle since number 16, which peaked at 78 daily sunspots in 1928, and ninth weakest since the 1750s, when numbered cycles began.

The most common measure of a solar cycle’s intensity is the number of sunspots—Earth-sized blotches on the sun marking areas of heightened magnetic activity. The more sunspots there are, the more likely it is that solar storms will occur, but a major storm can occur at any time.

"As with hurricanes, whether a cycle is active or weak refers to the number of storms, but everyone needs to remember it only takes one powerful storm to cause expensive problems," said NOAA scientist Doug Biesecker, who chairs the panel. "The strongest solar storm on record occurred in 1859 during another below-average cycle similar to the one we are predicting."

The 1859 storm shorted out telegraph wires, causing fires in North America and Europe, sent readings of Earth's magnetic field soaring, and produced northern lights so bright that people read newspapers by their light.

A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences found that if a storm that severe occurred today, it could cause $1-2 trillion in damages the first year and require four to ten years for recovery, compared to $80-125 billion that resulted from Hurricane Katrina....MORE