Why Is It So *&%# Cold? Come Warm Up In The Answer Vortex

The polar vortex has brought air so incredibly cold it may set low-temperature records. Will it ever be warm again?
Frigid temperatures arrived in the Upper Midwest with a polar vortex. In Chicago on Wednesday, Marius Radoi walked along a freezing Lake Michigan. Source: Joshua Lott

Updated at 5:43 p.m. ET

How cold is it in the Upper Midwest today? It's so cold that if you toss boiling hot water in the air, it may immediately evaporate. (Be careful out there and always check which way the wind is blowing, folks. People tend to scald themselves doing this.)

A polar vortex, as NOAA explains here, is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the Earth's poles. The "vortex" is the counterclockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air close to the poles. On occasion throughout winter, the vortex will expand, and send cold air southward with the jet stream.

While we're cooped up inside, we called Greg Carbin, who is in charge of NOAA's Weather Prediction Center Forecast Operations Branch, to answer our questions

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