Solar flare caused 1967 Cold War scare

solarA powerful solar storm 1967 may well have triggered a crisis between the US and the USSR if not for the USAF space weather monitoring programme, according to a new Cold War study.

The study conducted by a team of scientists led by Delores Knipp, space weather researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder, and published in Space Weather journal, revealed that a powerful solar storm that occurred in May 1967 was so powerful that it jammed US military communications.

The storm took place during the height of the Cold War, so the US military leadership could well have suspected that the interference was caused by Soviet forces and so plot a devastating nuclear action in retaliation.

A space weather monitoring programme established by the US Air Force several years ago however discovered that the jamming was not a result of a Soviet plot, but was in fact caused by the solar storm interference.

“It was important militarily to know whether or not radar and radio technologies were being actively jammed or if it was nature doing the jamming. In this case, it was an unprecedented radio burst from the sun,” Knipp said, according to Smithsonian magazine.

This incident prompted the US Department of Defense to increase funding to space weather research to understand how solar activity impacted communications and positioning systems like GPS.

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