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NASA's AIRS Captures Polar Vortex Moving in Over US

31 January 2019

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The U.S. Midwest has been gripped by the lowest temperatures it has seen in years. An unusually cold Arctic air mass, called a polar vortex, is responsible for the severe temperatures, which in many areas have plunged well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).

NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard the Aqua satellite captured the polar vortex as it moved southward from central Canada into the U.S. Midwest from 20 January through 29 January. The illustration shows temperatures at an altitude of about 10,000 to 15,000 feet (600 millibars atmospheric pressure) above the ground. The lowest temperatures are shown in purple and blue and range from -40 degrees Fahrenheit (also -40 degrees Celsius) to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius). As the data series progresses, you can see how the coldest purple areas of the air mass scoop down into the U.S.

Source: NASA

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech AIRS Project - NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument captures a polar vortex moving from Central Canada into the U.S. Midwest.

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