Weather advisories were in place as large parts of the U.S. Midwest
braced for what could turn out to be a record-breaking case of the polar vortex.
The National Weather Service warned of “brutally” cold temperatures while arctic air was descending upon the Midwestern states. Millions across the United States were affected by subzero temperatures and extreme windchill. The NWS especially warned individuals travelling or walking outside of visibility close to zero and temperatures down to -40° F that can cause frostbite to exposed skin in under 10 minutes as well as hypothermia.
Some states were inching up to record temperature lows, according to the Weather Channel.
Cotton, Minn., for example recorded a temperature of -56° F on Wednesday, only 4 degrees from the state’s all-time-low of -60° F recorded on Feb. 2, 1996, at Tower. Illinois potentially surpassed it's all-time-low when the temperature in the Mount Carroll cooperative fell to -38 °F, two degrees lower than the current record of -36 °F. This reading is still up for review by the National Weather Service.
The polar vortex is expected to dip further south this year than usual, possibly affecting states like Kentucky or Kansas. A polar vortex, or arctic blast, is a low-pressure area of swirling cold air normally located around the North pole, which can travel south in winter. Scientist have connected the cold snap to global warming as well. According to news site Science X, accelerated warming of the poles has diminished the differences in temperature between them and the rest of Earth, weakening the polar jet stream and therefore making its meander more unpredictable. It is therefore more likely to dip further south allowing arctic air to travel further south also.