"With the appearance of Sunspot 981 - a high-lattitude, reversed polarity sunspot - on Friday, January 4, experts at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that Cycle 24 is here now. 'This sunspot is like the first robin of spring,' said solar physicist Douglas Biesecker of the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), part of NOAA. 'In this case, it's an early omen of solar storms that will gradually increase over the next few years.' ......" "......NASA's (David) Hathaway, along with colleague Robert Wilson at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last month, said that Solar Cycle 24 'looks like it's going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago.' They believe the next solar maximum should peak around 2010 with a sunspot number of 160, plus or minus 25. 'This would make it one of the strongest solar cycles of the past 50 years - which is to say one of the strongest in recorded history.' ....." ".....violent solar eruptions occur more often on the Sun during an active period. According to NASA, solar flares and vast explosions, known as coronal mass ejections, shoot energetic photons and highly-charged matter toward Earth, jolting the planet's ionosphere and geomagnetic field. This has the potential to effect power grids, critical military and airline communication, satellites and Global Positioning System (GPS) signals....." ".....Many forecasters believe Solar Cycle 24 will be big and intense. 'Solar cycles usually take a few years to build to a frenzy and Cycle 24 will be no exception. We still have some quiet times ahead,' said Hathaway." _________ Source: QST Magazine, March 2008, p. 59, "Happenings"