Polar Vortex's Breathtaking Chill Freezes Millions

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Commuters make a sub-zero trek to offices in the Loop on January 6, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Temperatures in the city dipped to -16 degree Fahrenheit this morning on the heals of a polar vortex. (Scott Olson/Getty)

As many as 200 million Americans are coping with extreme weather this week brought on by what meteorologists are calling a polar vortex.

The freezing weather is stretching across two dozen states from the Midwest to the Southeast and Northeast, and is producing record-low, subzero temperatures, causing thousands of flights to be delayed or cancelled.

Joining The Takeaway to explain the science behind the polar vortex is Jennifer Francis, research professor at Rutgers University's Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. Business owner Richard Thomas of the R. Thomas Deluxe Grill in Atlanta, GA explains how his business is coping in the frigid weather.


Jennifer Francis and Richard Thomas

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [14]

Jim Rapp

Excellent Article! The Dipping of the Jet Stream all the way to the Panhandle of Fla. and it's associated EXtreme Weather Events are occuring with greater frequency. Fracking, Flaring, Venting and Leaking Pipelines are a large contributor to Global Climate Change! Factor frequent and increasing Aqifer Contamination from the process and it becomes clear to this American that President Obama is to blame and should engage his supporting citizens. I would welcome an opppurtunity to DEBATE HIM on this issue! Any Time- Anywhere! Jim Rapp Call me Mr. President!

Jan. 07 2014 04:01 PM
Julie from near San Francisco

We live in a coastal community about 15 miles south of San Francisco along the Pacific coast. Usually the fall and winter are a mix of rainy, foggy and sunny days. This fall we've had nearly all clear days, without rain or fog, and very, very cold in November and December, and poor air quality (smog). It's really unusual....I can't remember when we've had so many clear weeks in a row. We've lived here 30 years.

Jan. 07 2014 03:43 PM
ashley from anchorage ak

Dear people of the lower 48s,
We want our arctic air back. We need more snow up here in Alaska.

Jan. 07 2014 03:40 PM
Tricia Bishop from Salt Lake City, Utah

I live in Salt Lake City Utah, but my immediate family is in Wisconsin...the frozen tundra. My mother and sister are both school teachers there, off the past 2 days due to the bitter cold. My mother told me she has recess duty tomorrow and the kids go outside up to -10. She laughed at me....here in Utah we have indoor recess, and no waiting outside for the morning bell to ring if it is 19 degrees or less. You got be tough in the Midwest:-)

Jan. 07 2014 03:14 PM
Cyndi from Jax FL

I grew up in the Twin Cities (MN) and left for college in 1989. What I don't get is the quickness to close down schools and businesses. I remember the crazy cold in January 1982 because we ventured out in it. I remember them guessing at the temps because the local stations had no way of measuring temps that cold. They guessed the temps were -60 to -80 with wind chills of -80 to -100. I mean, it's winter and some years are worse than others.
I also spent every winter afternoon walking home more than a mile in temps anywhere between -20 to zero. No one freaked out. No one thought we'd die. The teachers told us to bundle up and we all got lectures every year on how to avoid frostbite.
What are these kids going to do when they have to go to work in this cold or get fired? Are their mommies going to call up their boss and whine about how cold it is? Someone needs to cut the apron strings on this generation! Most of us managed to survive with a lot less capable coats and mittens so suck it up!

As far as climate change? I bought into the whole "the next ice age" push they gave us in the mid-80s because our winters were so cold for most of a decade. I won't be fooled again!

Jan. 07 2014 02:44 PM
Bill from Thief River Falls Minnesota

Living in NW Minnesota about 60 mile south of the Canadian border. This polar vortex weather is nothing new. Ok, the name polar vortex is new! We work and living in this freezing weather every winter. Yawn!

Jan. 07 2014 02:39 PM
Jan from Warba, MN

It's -9 air temperature in my part of northern Minnesota, but with a breeze, we're cautioned that it feels like -27. On the other hand, it's sunny and gorgeous with snow and pine, and I just finished a 3 mile run. International Falls (MN) has their Freeze Yer Gizzard Race in less than two weeks, so there can be no excuses at this point.

Jan. 07 2014 02:39 PM

As temp of oceans rise the weather changes more radically. Really, it's not about, it's to hot, or too cold; it's about ever widening fluctuations, and stronger storms due to temp./degrees of difference within hours over miles.

If you just like to live your life, come what may ~ you won't care.

Humans are super at adaptation so we as a species will adapt, but what will the world look like? That's the dilemma those of us who care wrestle. We are the ones who sort our recyclables diligently, and watch our thermostats no matter the weather in order to conserve natural resources. We are the conservatives who care about the earth, and the other humans who live upon it. We care about adding to the percentage of carbon in the atmosphere.

My advise to "doubters" would be to look at the extreme changes coming in the next 10 and 20 years. Instead of breaking records from the 18, and 1900s we'll be swinging in more contemporary times. It will be to late to save the ice sheets of the North Atlantic.

Also, I think "Climate Change" might be more preferable description than, "Global Warming" since, warming is happening, but that isn't all that's happening. "Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise even faster in upcoming years."

If you don't think human byproducts of living are adding to atmosphere change, just look at the city of Beijing in China, but perhaps you didn't live in, or have never read about the, "Iron City" of Pittsburgh, PA when often you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, and the rivers were full of filth. In the 1950s the EPA started to demand clean air, and clean rivers.

We are bound to repeat our mistakes if we don't know our history.

Jan. 07 2014 02:11 PM
Lily Winter from Northern Minnesota

At times like this, I'm especially grateful for electricity. Hot sandwich? No problem... just plug her in. Hot drink? Space heater? No problem. Not all cultures can say that!

Jan. 07 2014 01:05 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I am always stunned that people hate Science so much, that they actually go against scientific consensus on global warming and call crazy weather a hoax and a fairy tale.
I am a skeptic about most things, but not global warming.

@ Listener: "Listener" tried to call people who believe in Global Warming Goldilocks, it doesn't work. Goldilocks loved moderate temperature for her porridge. Loved it, and blamed nobody! In fact she never blamed anyone for the heat or icy conditions of her porridge. She moved on.
Try a different fairy tale. Eventually, you will get to one that fits global warming, but there more likely is a fairy tale about your distrust in scientists and what they are telling us. There are a quite a few fairy tales about you!
Can you name it?

Jan. 07 2014 12:59 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

My girlfriend is flying back from L.A. (70's)to New York (10) today. She will blame me for the Polar Vortex she receives.I know it.
Even blowing soap bubbles and watching them turn to ice might not be appreciated.

Jan. 07 2014 12:47 PM
Johnny P from Austin TX

The nerve that some people have trying to dumb down atmospheric science to "getting hotter" or "getting colder" is truly a tragic comedy to me.

Let's hear more science and less politics!

Jan. 07 2014 12:37 PM
Victor Ruiz from san Antonio

People tend to blame this freezing weather on Global warming and technological advances and Industrialization...but has anyone else noticed that whenever we break a record it was for a temperature recorded before these technologies ever existed?

Jan. 07 2014 12:37 PM

The Goldilocks theory.

Too hot = climate change
Too cold = climate change
Just right = climate change

Now give us your money so we can change the weather and when the weather does change then that's climate change too so give us more money.

Jan. 07 2014 09:14 AM

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