Planned "Fix" A Threat To GPS, Scientists Say

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The tax dollars that fund the U.S. Air Force and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) are not for nothing ... the brains there are hard at work finding ways to deflect threats most of us didn't even know existed. The trouble is, according to some New Zealand researchers, their fix might cause problems of its own, disrupting GPS signals and aircraft radios worldwide for up to a week. DARPA says it could protect Earth-orbiting satellites from nasty charged particles by clearing them out with very-low-frequency radio waves. But according to researcher Craig Rodger, "Earth's upper atmosphere would be dramatically affected by such a system, causing unusually intense [radio] blackouts around most of the world." The bad particles can intensify during solar storms, or in the event of high-altitude nuclear explosions, causing extensive damage. DARPA's remediation method would use very-low-frequency radio waves to flush the particles from the radiation belts and dump them into the upper atmosphere over several days. But, Rodger says, "Airplane pilots and ships would lose radio contact and some Pacific Island nations could be isolated for as long as six to seven days, depending on the system's design and how it was operated." GPS would likely also suffer large-scale disruptions, as signals between ground users and satellites were scrambled by the ionosphere, he added. The full report by Rodger and his group was published in the August issue of the international journal Annales Geophysicae and can be read online.