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Tech by VICE

New Tool Can Predict Solar Storms a Day in Advance Instead of an Hour

“The new technique takes a closer look at where mass ejections originate from on the sun.”

by Jordan Valinsky
Jun 9 2015, 4:06pm

When solar storms erupt, they're felt worldwide. Their flares wreak havoc on GPS technology, aircraft systems and interrupting telecommunications being beamed from affected satellites.

They're also tricky to predict because satellites currently only forecast them when they're close to Earth, with just under an hour's notice. Now researchers from NASA and Imperial College London have developed a new tool that could predict them as early as 24 hours in advance.

Predictions currently rely on measuring the initial eruption from the sun, but didn't take into account what happened between its initial explosion and its arrival near Earth. The video above shows the sun experiencing an "unusual large alarm" storm that impacted us last January.

"The new technique takes a closer look at where mass ejections originate from on the sun and makes use of a range of observatories to track and model the evolution of the cloud," the team said in a statement.

"As we become more entwined with technology, disruption from large space weather events affects our daily lives more and more," said Dr. Neel Savani, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "Breaking through that 24 hour barrier to prediction is crucial for dealing efficiently with any potential problems before they arise."

The full study, published today in Space Weather, shows results with "great promise" at improving their chances of predicting solar storms in the future.