The thermosphere, Earth’s second-highest layer, has achieved its greatest temperature in over 20 years.
Geomagnetic storms this year triggered this temperature rise.
As the sun heats up, scientists worry that temperatures will soar. Earth-orbiting satellites may have issues.
The thermosphere begins at the top of the mesosphere, 53 miles (85 km) above Earth.
NASA says it rises to the exosphere’s base at about 372 miles (600 km). Space is beyond the exosphere.
21 years of NASA thermosphere temperature monitoring
NASA has monitored the thermosphere’s temperature for over 21 years using infrared light from carbon dioxide and nitric oxide molecules.
NASA’s TIMED satellite gathers this data. Scientists calculate the Thermosphere Climate Index (TCI). Terawatts (TW)—1 trillion watts—measure the TCI.
The TCI’s originator, NASA’s TIMED mission researcher Martin Mlynczak of the Langley Research Center in Virginia, claimed the TCI value increased on March 10.
It reached 0.24 TW. This is the highest TCI value since December 28, 2003, Mlynczak added.
According to Live Science, the temperature spike data has been submitted to a scientific publication but has not been peer-reviewed.
Thermosphere temperature increase cause
Three January-February geomagnetic storms may have caused the thermosphere’s current temperature increase.
CMEs and the solar wind damage Earth’s magnetic field, causing these storms. The sun releases CMEs and solar wind.
Geomagnetic storms heat the thermosphere, Mlynczak said.
In the thermosphere, nitric oxide and carbon dioxide emit more infrared due to greater heating.
Post-storm infrared emissions chill the thermosphere. However, consecutive storms don’t lower the temperature.