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Scientists' breakthrough makes polar flying safer

A DISCOVERY by local scientists is set to make flying over polar regions safer.

A team from the Polar Research Institute of China, based in Shanghai, has defined the formation of a polar ionization phenomena.

This can cause errors and disturbances to radio communications, positioning and connections between the ground and aircraft, spacecraft and low-orbit satellites.

Based on the findings, published in the latest edition of science journal Science, scientists will be able to model and forecast disturbances.

This will improve accuracy of positioning and provide warnings for aircraft to change routes to avoid possible risks, said officials from the Institute.

Solar wind - streams of charged particles released by the sun - can cause physical phenomena in the upper atmosphere in polar areas through interaction with Earth's magnetic fields.

Polar cap ionization patches are among the effects, disturbing navigation and communications.

However, their formation and evolution are poorly understood due to the severe weather conditions in the poles and a lack of data, the Shanghai scientists said.

Leading scientist Zhang Qinghe's team studied more than 200 severe space weather events and directly observed the formation of a polar patch when a strong magnetic storm hit the Earth on September 2011.

"We found that a type of magnetic connection plays the role of a switch in the formation of patches," he said.

"This is a new discovery and will be very important for forecasting," Zhang added.


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