‘Monster’ solar flares that knock out power grids and satellite navigation systems may soon become predictable. Scott McIntosh, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and lead author of a study just published in Nature Communications said that his group has linked the timing of the flares with the position of the magnetized bands in the Sun’s atmosphere.
Comparable to the jet stream that encircles the Earth, these bands carry opposite magnetic polarities that tend to warp and buckle upwards. When they’re far apart from each other, sun spot activity is at its highest. As they get closer together – and to the Sun’s equator – their opposing energies create heightened instability.