A solar event, roughly 93 million miles from Earth will have long lasting effects on us in Southern Africa, the Western Cape and in particular the Cape Point Peninsula, if we don’t take precautions over the coming months.
The Sun has spewed out billions of tons of radioactive material from its surface in an astrological event called a ‘solar flare': think of it as the Sun burping. These events occur regularly, and don’t always effect the Earth, however this one was aimed right at us.
So what does it mean to us? Well, the radiation that is pumped out by the Sun all the time is intensified many times over. This has the most telling impact on anything that we have out in space, such as communications satellites. They are built to withstand flares, however, the radiation can play havoc with their operation. Next to be badly effected are radio and television transmissions (you may have noticed a drop in the quality of your TV picture). The Northern and Southern Lights (Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis respectively) will be seen a greater distance from the poles; the lights are caused by the charged particles being deflected by the Earths magnetic fields, channelling them with more intensity to the poles, where they are excited into giving off light (much the same as a neon light).
Although the Earth’s magnetic field does a sterling job of keeping much of the dangerous radiation at bay, some gets through, which is why we get burnt in the sun; and get skin cancer from long term overexposure (it is equivalent to getting into a low power microwave). Of course any increase in the amount of radiation hitting the Earth will see a greater amount reaching us on the surface. If you know about the flare then you will notice that the sun has seemed a lot hotter and stronger over the last few days. Luckily for us the ozone layer that is so thin over parts of the world (such as Australia) is very healthy over South Africa and the Western Cape, however, the sun is still very strong and dangerous all year round, especially in the Cape Point Mediterranean type climate. It is imperative for your health that you are cautious in the sun all year around, but especially so when something like this is occurring.
And we can expect more of the same in the coming months, (though thankfully we are now entering the end of summer). The Sun has been at it’s quitest for almost a century, and it seems that it is now waking from it’s slumber. Solar activity runs in a very predictable set of cycles of highs and lows- with a peak every 11 years or so.
So, as the Australian campaign goes-slip, slap, slop (slip in a t-shirt, slap on a hat and slop on the sun-cream). This is especially the case for young children, who should maybe be kept out of the sun as much as possible, especially in the middle of the day.
Of course, nothing works in isolation. This event will exacerbate the current weather patterns being caused by the La Nina weather phenomena, and continued solar activity could also have an accelerating effect on global warming- only time will tell. One thing is for certain, there is nothing we can do about it other than take precautions because to be forewarned is to be forearmed.