Not THAT JC ( The other one )

NBC Chicago ran a toasty space-weather story yesterday headlined, “First ‘severe geomagnetic storm watch’ issued in nearly 20 years. Here’s what it could mean.” The sub-headline added, “The storm could cause enhanced viewing opportunities for the Northern Lights in the U.S., but could also have impacts on radio communications, GPS satellites and more.”

There is widespread confusion over exactly what we’re looking at, but everyone agrees it’s highly unusual. Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which tracks ‘space weather’, announced that “at least” five significant solar flares — what one platform described as a “flare train” — are all heading toward Earth. ETA tonight.

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NOAA has forecast a “G4” level of storm intensity (out of five), and “R3-R5” radio blackouts, a range that including the highest level of potential communication interference. So it’s not “the big one.” You can’t get a turbo tan. But it still could be pretty dramatic, with cell and internet outages possible, and projected visible auroras as far south as North Carolina.

So check the sky tonight! Earth weather permitting, you might get a once-in-a-lifetime view without having to don a parka.

As we’ve discussed before here at C&C, the Sun has now reached its 11-year solar maximum. And, as today’s record solar activity suggests, this year’s solar maximum is turning out to be a peak among solar maximums. So it will likely be another scorcher of a summer, and even though it’s really the Sun (aided by undersea volcanoes) heating up the world, you and your gas-guzzling SUV will probably get the blame.

I’m just a lawyer, not a sun scientist, but because today’s space weather is caused by a super-gigantic sunspot group and by daisy-chained solar flares, tonight’s storm might best resemble 1921’s “Great New York Storm,” which spontaneously set fires in many places and fried several undersea telegraph cables. Given how 2024 is going so far, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.