To understand how this all works, let's start with the sun. On January 31st a massive coronal hole opened up on the sun, hurling another sledgehammer of charged particles in the direction of Earth. This was due to impact us sometime between February 2nd and February 4th. Not only this, but we recently passed through a new Moon on February 2nd. But why is the Moon of any significance here, one might ask?
As James McCanney explains in an interview he did for Spectrum Magazine in 2003:
The [New] Moon moves in front of Earth, breaks that electrical flow [between the sun and Earth], and then moves out of the way. It gives us tremendous bombardment after that Moon moves out of the way, the first and second day after the New Moon. That's the condition that has been identified as being one of the leading causes of kicking-off major hurricanes and storms. What it does is: The Moon is interacting with the solar electric field. It's that CHANGE which causes the storms, and causes the environment around Earth to change, and thus affects Earth weather.So the picture we're painting is this: The sun blasts a massive front of solar wind in the direction of the Earth. As the New Moon moves out of the way of the sun and Earth, this, by itself, creates a significant increase in charged particles hitting the Earth. With the excess of charged particles from this solar storm hitting us near simultaneously, all of this excess charge ends up in the radiation belts surrounding the Earth. The Earth then finds ways to discharge this imbalance such as these two major storms we've seen. One storm takes the form of a massive blizzard covering about half of the US. The other takes the form of a cyclone storm, Yasi, that pounds the already flooded east coast of Australia. Increased volcanic and earthquake activity was also noted during this time as well.