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Solar Storms Could Have 'Potentially Devastating Effects': NOAA Official

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AP File

GENEVA -- A senior official at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says solar storms pose a growing threat to criticial infrastructure such as satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment.

NOAA Assistant Secretary Kathryn Sullivan says the intensity of solar storms is expected to peak in 2013 and countries should prepare for "potentially devastating effects."

Solar storms release particles that can temporarily disable or permanently destroy fragile computer circuits.

Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who in 1984 became the first woman to walk in space, told a U.N. weather conference in Geneva on Tuesday that "it is not a question of if, but really a matter of when a major solar event could hit our planet."

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