Originally published on January 7, 2014
Parts of the United States will experience record-breaking low temperatures this week caused by a polar vortex.
According to the BBC, a winter storm has already hit areas of Canada and north-eastern America hard. It was reported that 16 people died in the US this week due to the winter storm. The wintery weather conditions also caused the cancellation of more than 3,700 flights this weekend.
Schools across several states have been closed and authorities have urged residents to stay indoors for their own safety.
A polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near one or both of Earth's poles in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere. A polar vortex, in which the frigid air is spinning counter-clockwise, can measure up to 2,000 kilometers across.
The spinning mass of cold air is normally trapped in the Arctic by the Jet Stream, but sometimes the vortex can weaken or break into pieces. This allows cold air to spill south, affecting regions such as eastern United States and Europe.
This animation explains what a polar vortex is.
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