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LOOK: Swirling 'Polar Vortex' Over Northern US Seen From Space

A NASA satellite captured the whirling onslaught of frigid air moving across the nation

A whirling onslaught of frigid air, known as a polar vortex, moves menacingly over the northern United States in a new photo from a weather satellite in orbit.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES-East satellite snapped the telling photo today (Jan. 6) at 11:01 a.m. EST (1601 GMT). In the image, the polar vortex is pushing southward over western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, blasting half of the continental United States with chilly Arctic air.

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The polar vortex is a sprawling area of low pressure typically found over both the North and South poles, according to NASA. The northern polar vortex typically circulates from west to east in the Arctic during winter, but a high-pressure system parked over Greenland and Canada has pushed the cold air into the United States. This is causing air temperatures to drop across the northern U.S., and the Arctic air is being felt as far south as Atlanta.

Yesterday, the swirling polar vortex caused a staggering temperature difference of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (77 degrees Celsius) across the country, from North Dakota to Florida. The polar vortex is expected to move northward back over Canada near the end of the week, NASA officials said in a statement.

The GOES-East satellite also captured a frontal system along the U.S. East Coast. Additionally, a blanket of snow can be seen covering Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri, with patches spreading into the Great Plains.

The clouds visible over Texas are part of a low-pressure system currently sitting over western Oklahoma, which is tied to the cold front triggered by the movement of the polar vortex, according to NASA officials.

The northern and southern polar vortexes develop and strengthen in their respective hemispheres' winters, as the sun sets over the poles and temperatures cool. The Arctic polar vortex has already moved southward several times this winter, NASA officials said.

The satellite photo was created as part of NASA's GOES Project, which is located at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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I have studied weather most of my adult life, all job related. I have never heard of a polar vortex. What the hell is that? It sounds made up to me.

January 08 2014 at 7:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Siberian heat wave. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2525993/What-happened-Siberia-Russian-region-famous-cold-experiences-freak-warm-weather-December-time-living-memory.html

January 07 2014 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tricia malone

Enjoying your global warming?

January 07 2014 at 8:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


January 07 2014 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


January 07 2014 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


January 07 2014 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HUFF POST is a scam on the American people. They refuse to allow me to post on their site because I won't sign up for Facebook. They are as corrupt as our government and big business.

January 07 2014 at 4:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

weren't there ice ages in the past?..what stopped them?..did the globe warm?..does that big yellow ball in the sky have anything to do wiith the weather?..

January 07 2014 at 3:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Larry D. Joshway

Didn"t you know that the Earth is closer to the sun in the winter than it is in the summer. That should warm your heart.

January 07 2014 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I feel for the people who are dealing with the cold and no utilities to keep them warm. I deal on a daily basis with the cold. i live primitively and do not have running water, electricity, septic or decent heat. i live off of a boxwood stove, which if you do not keep feeding the monster the heat goes away. heav fleece blankets work wonderfully to keep me warm as I sleep. maybe some day I will find me a grant to hepp me with what I do not have currently.

January 07 2014 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mouse's comment

Yet you have a computer, tablet, or smart phone to post comments online. I would use that monthly 60-80 and get running water!

January 07 2014 at 2:52 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
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