Outages predicted as a result of solar activity

US government officials are predicting that the country's communications systems and power grid may suffer from outages in the coming months, as a result of mounting solar activity and an onslaught of solar storms.

US government officials are predicting that the country's communications systems and power grid may suffer from outages in the coming months, as a result of mounting solar activity and an onslaught of solar storms.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned recently that the sun is about to enter its "Solar Maximum" phase -- a period during the sun's 11-year cycle when it becomes most active.

James Baker, NOAA administrator, said the government can now predict the impact of solar storms for the first time.

"These storms may be a real Y2K problem," Baker said.

Scientists are predicting a flurry of phenomena -- space storms, radiation showers, and aurora borealis -- that may affect the nation's public systems.

The storms could also impact Global Positioning System and other technology infrastructures, according to the agency. In 1989, the providence of Quebec suffered a blackout when a geomagnetic storm overloaded power lines.

Images of solar storms are posted at http://www.sec.noaa.gov/info/Media/SolarChange.gif.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is located in Washington and is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NOAA Web site is at http://www.noaa.gov/.

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