In the story I’m developing about the Christmas from Hell, the greatest blizzard in the history of the United States, it might already seem enough of an omen to have a rogue comet looming in the sky over the characters…but lately I’m of the mind to pile it on. My thoughts turn to the Carrington Event, an intense geomagnetic storm in 1859 produced by a very powerful solar flare, so powerful it caused the aurora borealis to appear globally, and sparks flew out of telegraph lines, giving their operators electric shocks; in one recorded case, the induced current from the geomagnetic storm was strong enough to permit communication over the line with the power source turned off! Needless to say a similar event today would be catastrophic for global civilization, causing blackouts for an extended period as large swaths of the electrical grid was destroyed.
What if such a solar superstorm occurred in 2045, the year my story takes place? Perhaps right over Christmas. It’s a cool idea, and as a futuristic setting, and one very aware of the threat of another Carrington Event, it’s well possible the electrical grid has been hardened against such a geomagnetic storm as this, making the primary effect the global aurora casting an otherworldly quality onto terrestrial existence, a surreal and apocalyptic atmosphere, especially with the rogue comet still being visible too. Which is exactly what I want: surreal and apocalyptic.
Climate Change, but not the Way it is in our World
There’s a spate of extreme weather globally during this period, which is associated with the emergence of “La Niña del Diablo”, an unprecedented record-strong super La Niña centered in the western Pacific rather than the traditional eastern Pacific type or even the less traditional central Pacific “Modoki” type, with equatorial cold anomalies even starting to extend into the Indian Ocean later on. Even more freakish is how it directly follows a super El Niño that occurred just the previous winter.
With the advent of the solar superstorm people might try to chalk up the extreme weather to the unusual solar activity, but since La Niña del Diablo was in full force before the aurora even started to appear that idea is dubious; there might be widespread speculation, however, that the truly extreme weather associated with the Great Christmas Blizzard might be related, since that was a marked escalation in the freakishness of the pattern that occurred at around the same time as the solar flare.
A competing theory, of course, is that the extreme weather is the product of the industrial-era spike and then rapid drawdown of greenhouse gases; there’s an entire program to directly suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere for environmental reasons. La Niña del Diablo (as with La Niña in general) causes global temperatures to adjust downward, exactly what one would expect with less greenhouse gases; the extreme weather may be caused by the rapidity of the shift.
Coincidentally, my Dates match up for such a Disaster!
Anyway, how realistic is this scenario? Solar superstorms can happen anytime, but are most common at solar cycle peaks, and per the 11 year cycle, moving forward from real-life observations, a peak should be expected in 2047. So 2045 fits well enough; not the absolute peak, but certainly during a period of high activity. The Carrington Event itself lasted for several days, so we could suppose that this event too lasts for several days, perhaps right over Christmas.
Georgia Roadhouse, happier Abroad?
This will create quite an experience for my character Georgia Roadhouse…as if she needed any more stimulation. With the recent revision to the strength of the storm in my mind’s eye, the Category-5-hurricane-force winds from the great storm would most likely flatten much of the Shenandoah, so given that and her harrowing experience I honestly doubt Georgia would have the heart to keep her vacation home there anymore. So where will she go?
I honestly think she might just go to Japan, given her positive experience there the previous summer, and the fact that she finds the surroundings there so much more compatible with her introverted personality. She might even move to Japan on a permanent basis, keeping her geisha-inspired look on an ongoing basis, wearing kimono as her daily clothing, filling her environment with a traditional Japanese aesthetic, learning the Japanese language, and immersing herself in Japanese culture in general.
Thinking about her new digs over in the Far East, somehow I doubt the girl would have the heart to locate herself in the middle of the wooded mountains again. No, I think she’ll be drawn to the beach and the sea. Which opens up the rather different and exciting possibility that she might not have a conventional house at all, but rather a liveaboard yacht which roams between the coasts and islands of Japan, its design inspired by the traditional yakatabune but more optimized for the high seas a la a Western yacht.
Little Gunston on this boat of theirs, her offspring from the ghostly beloved she encountered during the storm on Christmas (long story, that is…), will grow up knowing both English and Japanese (a Japanese nanny may be involved in his upbringing), and will parade around in little traditional Japanese outfits on the deck of his boat. Very cute.
Naturally Decca will have to visit her a lot in Japan, and Georgia’s yacht will have to have a guest room for auntie. Auntie will joke that they must have really gotten to her niece, but in all seriousness she thinks it all so suits her. And in this universe, as in real life, she’d be far from the first Southerner to be captivated by Japan; in this setting’s alternate history none other than Ewen McEwen himself was profoundly influenced by Japanese architecture, and kudzu is known even more in this timeline than in real life as “the plant that ate the South”.
In that spirit, might Georgia become captivated by that idea, and the Japan-Southron cultural nexus, and be inspired to become a novelist, crafting a work of alternate history, “the Culture that ate the South” or “The Race that Ate the South”, where Japan colonizes what’s now the Southern United States?
I myself have long had, as part of an ancient alternate history concept, an idea centering around ancient Greeks sailing the world and colonizing America, using the lower Mississippi Valley for spider-silk plantations. Hey, in real life those riverbanks are a hotbed of spiders and their prey; it’s a perfect climate for them. Why not posit that the Japanese do the same in Georgia’s novel? Perhaps they do in the medieval period, the age of the samurai and the like.
A cool Ending
This brings me to a fantastic idea for the final scene of the Christmas superstorm story. Georgia will be on her boat in Japan, surrounded by some sort of a city, in a harbor or a bay, that’s all traditionally Japanese in architecture but of impressive skyscraper proportions, an echo of the Passamaquoddy’s city. Sky lanterns drift up amid the twilight. Decca and perhaps everyone else in the family and friend circle are there on the boat. Little Gunston is about a year old at this time, and it will be noted by the characters that he is like the spitting image of the portrait from Harrowtop, which may well prove his descent from Georgia’s ghost beloved Ephraim Gunstone as far as they’re concerned.
La Niña del Diablo is still in full effect, and ramping up in intensity again for another winter. Gunston is born around the beginning of October 2046, so if he’s a year old this implies it’s October 2047 in the final scene.
2047: a Japanese Autumn like no Other
If it is indeed October, that implies it might be peak autumn foliage time, depending on the area of Japan they’re in; though due to the extreme weather suffusing the globe, it might be a fall season that’s descending on southern and coastal Japan exceptionally early.
My concept for this scene involves an unprecedented ocean-effect snowstorm that is ramping up and pummeling the entire Japanese archipelago with snowfall totals that would be enormous even for winter, let alone early autumn. Red leaves are buried in fluffy white stuff feet thick, bringing an abrupt end to the fall season and an unearthly sort of beauty, especially once day recedes and the night sky, when it’s visible in between snow squalls, lights up with vivid shimmering auroras that shine brighter than the full moon: for another solar superstorm has arrived, much larger and more powerful than even the 2045 event.
The unprecedented cold wave, which is smashing record lows in the mainland Orient and even in eastern Siberia, is expected to stay in place for the foreseeable future, along with a blocking high off the Kuril Islands, as a Category 5 typhoon approaches from the south…
As they watch in awe, they’ll remark to each other “it’s starting again”, realizing Japan may be in for its very own extreme blizzard, one that may well be even worse than the Great Christmas Blizzard of 2045 was in North America, or the other great storms of unprecedented ferocity that have swept the globe throughout the La Niña del Diablo years.
Another character says, “This time, we’ll be ready for it”, or words to that effect, as she puts her hand on Georgia’s shoulder and consoles her. Georgia turns her head toward her and then watches her son playing in the snow on the ship, gazing at the aurora borealis before them, witnesses to an era like no other.
It lays it on a bit thick as far as disasters go, but just think of all the subtly gothic aspects that opens up to include in the story, not to mention the spectacular visuals, and the hook for the final scene, not to mention the intimation of doom, a subtle hint that what they’re witnessing is some shift into a new world. It all would let the final scene not appear like it was just tacked-on, which was my worry with my original idea of how to end the story. I like it; I think I’ll roll with it…