Moscow: Magnetic Storms Blamed Smoking Electric Meters and Other of Phenomena : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Saturday, September 16, 2000 Moscow: Magnetic Storms Play Mind Tricks

By Larisa Naumenko

Staff Writer

If you abruptly feel dizzy or smoke suddenly starts to pour out of the electric meter in your apartment, you may have to search no further for the cause than out the window: an invisible magnetic storm.

Astronomers have registered every day this week at least one magnetic storm, the natural phenomena caused by a solar flare. The sun is going through a peak of an 11-year cycle and the highest number of flares, an abrupt release of magnetic energy, is occurring this fall, they said Friday.

A solar flare is followed by a so-called solar prominence, which reaches the Earth as high-voltage magnetic storms in a couple of days. Such magnetic storms result in northern lights, scrambled navigation equipment and bad short-wave radio connections, said Igor Nikulin, senior researcher at the solar physics department of the Astronomy Institute at Moscow State University. The more common effects people see are health problems like dizziness and oddly functioning electric devices.

Most healthy people face no risks from the storms, said Gennady Sayenko, director for medical services at the American Medical Center in Moscow. Those with high blood pressure may experience headaches and even cerebral thrombosis, or coagulation of the blood.

A bit scarier effect of the storms may be when it starts playing tricks with electricity. Valentina Koltsova, a teacher of English, recently was dozing off when she jarred awake at the sight of her electric meter flashing and smoking.

She said Friday that she had frantically called the emergency hot line.

"Don't worry. Everybody's counters are flashing today," the operator cheerfully told her, explaining the incident was caused by a magnetic storm.

"Haven't you heard of them on the radio?" she asked. "Just go to bed, it is going to be fine."

-- Carl Jenkins (, September 16, 2000

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