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December 16th, 2016

Frozen image credit:

It’s December after all so it’s reasonable that it’s cold … but it’s really, really, really cold in much of the U.S. (and Canada).

What’s going on?

It’s called a Polar Vortex — technically nothing new but it’s the term used for this weather event.

At the North and South poles, you regularly have cold air slowly swirling in a circle (vortex) so the cold air stays roughly in place partly because it’s going in a circle…

… but partly also because of a band of wind called a “jet stream” that travels west to east (—->>>) across North America that generally keeps the polar vortex roughly in place.

Image credit: The Washington Post

The Polar Vortex does tend to expand (get bigger) in the winter time and smaller in the summers.

The Polar Vortex shifted a bit temporarily recently, however, which also shifts that jet stream that acts as a barrier to the cold wind … so now the polar air is in the area normally more protected by the jet stream. And that means it’s probably super cold where you are, especially if you’re farther north.

Image credit: The Washington Post

The super cold weather should pass in a few days. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to check on elderly neighbors. And, there’s the saying, “there’s no such thing as better, only the wrong clothes.” So dress warmly.

You can read more at The National Weather Service’s website . Or National Geographic does a good job explaining it in this video .

This Canadian broadcaster also does a good job explaining it.

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