Scientists have discovered that the Aurora Borealis can interfere with satnav systems.

One of the wonders of the natural world, the Northern Lights have been proven by a team at the University of Bath to affect the signals from global positioning satellites.

The researchers found that the intense electrical activity created by the light show in the atmosphere decreases the accuracy of GPS systems.

Drivers can be told they are on a road they are not actually on or their receivers can completely lose track of their position.

The research has now been published in the American Geophysical Union's International Journal of Space Weather, and is the first to reveal the problem.

The team used three closely positioned satnav systems in Norway to measure the signal strength from satellites before, during and after an aurora borealis event.

They found the signal faded dramatically during the activity and the devices struggled to get a lock on the satellites.

Professor Cathryn Mitchell, who led the research, said satnav errors were likely to become more frequent over the next 4 years due to increasing aurora activity.

"Anywhere that the aurora is visible, it will cause disruption", she said. "Although most people in the UK can't see the aurora when it is happening, because of cloud or ambient light, it can still affect the GPS signal. We have just passed a minimum in activity but we are due to hit a maximum in 2012, which is when we would expect to see most disruption."

Sat nav system manufacturers say that they are aware of the problem but insist that drivers are not in danger.