Space.com (July 6, 2009)
"After one of the longest sunspot droughts in modern times, solar activity picked up quickly over the weekend.
"A new group of sunspots developed, and while not dramatic by historic standards, the spots were the most significant in many months.
" 'This is the best sunspot I've seen in two years,' observer Michael Buxton of Ocean Beach, Calif., said on Spaceweather.com.
"Solar activity goes in a roughly 11-year cycle. Sunspots are the visible signs of that activity, and they are the sites from which massive solar storms lift off. The past two years have marked the lowest low in the cycle since 1913, and for a while scientists were wondering if activity would ever pick back up...."
The article gives a brief background on sunsets, the solar flares they're associated with, and the solar sunspot cycle, along with an explanation of why sunspot activity on the sun is of interest to more than some astronomers and physicists.
People working in the International Space Station could be affected by what solar flares kick out: and nearly all of us depend to some extent on information from weather satellites. Strictly ground-based technology is affected, too.
"...All this matters because ... a major solar storm nowadays could cause up to $2 trillion in initial damages by crippling communications on Earth and fueling chaos among residents and even governments in a scenario that would require four to 10 years for recovery. Such a storm struck in 1859, knocking out telegraph communications and causing those lines to erupt in flames. The world then was not so dependent on electronic communication systems, however."
In American English, when "trillion" is used to designate a specific number, one trillion is a million million, or a one followed by 12 zeroes. (Princeton's WordNet) So, that's $2,000,000,000,000. That's a lot of money.
More, about the effects of a severe solar storm, at:
- "Perfect Space Storm Could be Catastrophic on Earth, Study Concludes"
Space.com (January 7, 2009)