The Polar Vortex Grips North America

©NASA

Polar Vortex Sweeps Into America

Blistering cold air from the Arctic plunged southward this winter, breaking U.S. temperature records.

A persistent pattern of winds spins high above the Arctic in winter. The winds, known as the polar vortex, typically blow in a fairly tight circular formation. But in late December 2013 and early January 2014, the winds loosened and frigid Arctic air spilled farther south than usual, deep into the continental United States. On Jan. 6, 2014, alone, approximately 50 daily record low temperatures were set, from Colorado to Alabama to New York, according to the National Weather Service.

In some places temperatures were 40 degrees Fahrenheit colder than average. Now, an animation created from NASA satellite data shows just how the Arctic air brought a deep chill to the U.S this winter. Watch the video for a guided tour of the event.

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