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In September 1996, a panel of experts on solar cycle prediction techniques met in Boulder, Colorado, to survey forecasts of solar and geomagnetic activity and to arrive at a consensus on how the solar cycle will develop. After two weeks of deliberation, the panel of 12 scientists (from Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States) agreed that a large amplitude solar cycle with a smoothed sunspot maximum of approximately 160 is probable near the turn of the century. The amplitude of the predicted cycle is comparable to that of the previous two solar cycles (see Figure 1).

Our ability to predict solar and geomagnetic activity is crucial to many technologies, including the operation of low-Earth orbiting satellites, electric power transmission grids, geophysical exploration, and highfrequency radio communications and radars. Because the scale height of Earth's upper atmosphere (and thus the drag on satellites in low Earth orbit) depends on the levels of short-wavelength solar radiation and geomagnetic activity, we need to know the profile and magnitude of the next solar and geomagnetic cycle in order to plan for reboosting the Hubble Space Telescope and assembling the International Space Station.