Entries in GPS (2)


Solar Storm Fizzles: ‘Not a Terribly Strong Event’

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The geomagnetic storm that forecasters predicted could reach “strong” G-3 intensity is currently only a “minor” G-1 event, with minimal effects expected on Earth.

“This is not a terribly strong event,” said physicist and NOAA space weather scientist Joseph Kunches.

“We did estimate where the pitch was going and when it was going over the plate, but we missed the spin on the ball,” said Kunches, using a baseball analogy.

A G-1 or “minor” storm is at the bottom of a scale that goes up to G-5, or “extreme.”

A G-1 storm is capable of producing weak fluctuations in the power gridm but generally has minor impacts on satellites orbiting the Earth. GPS and radio communications can have intermittent problems, and the northern lights might be seen as far south as Michigan and Maine.

The storm — which was born from a massive solar flare that erupted Tuesday — is still passing Earth, and could potentially still reach G-2 or G-3 levels before it fades sometime Friday, Kunches said.

“We really worry about crying wolf,” said Kunches. “In any forecasting activity, you have to seriously consider the false alarm rate and the cry wolf rate so you don’t erode your credibility.”

Forecasters at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center say there is still potential for trouble over the next few days. The sunspot region known as AR 1429 that that unleashed the latest geomagnetic storm is still active, and aimed toward Earth.

“A further eruption could be very problematic,” Kunches said. “We could go through the same drill that we’re going through right now. Probably through the weekend it’s in a prime location and then it becomes less problematic through the next week.”

The impact from geomagnetic storms can be serious. Fall 2003 saw an intense period of solar activity that included two “extreme” G-5 storms. Transformer problems caused blackouts in Europe. Astronauts on the International Space Station were told to take cover. Deep space missions like the Mars Odyssey developed problems and had to be rebooted, while Japan’s $640 million ADEOS-2 was a total loss.

“Airlines took unprecedented actions in their high latitude routes to avoid the high radiation levels and communication blackout areas. Rerouted flights cost airlines $10,000 to $100,000 per flight,” according to a NOAA report.

A 1989 solar storm knocked out power to 6 million people in Canada’s Quebec Province and affected power utilities in a few U.S. states.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


GPS Tracking Requires Warrant, Supreme Court Rules

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A unanimous Supreme Court ruled on Monday that law enforcement needed a warrant when it placed a GPS tracking device on a suspected drug dealer’s car.

“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search,” said Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority of the court.

The case stemmed from the conviction of nightclub owner Antoine Jones on conspiracy to distribute five kilograms of cocaine and 50 or more grams of cocaine base. Law enforcement had used a variety of techniques to link him to the co-conspirators in the case, including information gathered from a global positioning system that was placed on a Jeep primarily used by Jones. Law enforcement did not have a valid warrant to place the device on the car.

“It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case,” Scalia wrote. “[T]he government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information.”

The decision is a loss for the Obama administration, which had argued that the attachment of the device to monitor the movements of Jones’ vehicle on public streets was not a search.

The court affirmed a lower court ruling that reversed Jones’ conviction because of the GPS evidence that was obtained without a warrant.

Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Samuel Alito — joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan — agreed with the conclusion of the court but wrote separately because his legal reasoning differed from the majority.

Alito focused not on the attachment of the device, but the extent of time law enforcement monitored Jones.

“In this case, for four weeks, law enforcement agents tracked every movement that respondent made in the vehicle he was driving. We need not identify with precision the point at which the tracking of this vehicle became a search, for the line was surely crossed before the four-week mark,” Alito wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio