Polar Vortex: U.S. Colder in Lower 48 States Than in Alaska

This winter has been one for the record books as temperatures in the lower 48 states have been lower than they have been even in Alaska, with the Frontier State being close to the warmest it's been in 70 years.

First of all, though, most are using the term "polar vortex" incorrectly. As Andrew Freedman defines it, "the true polar vortex exists at the upper levels of the atmosphere."

"The polar vortex exists at the upper levels of the atmosphere, at and above the typical cruising altitude of commercial jetliners, and is an area of frigid air and relatively low air pressure surrounded by a strong west-to-east jet stream that circles the Arctic during the winter."

Whatever is causing the low temps, it hasn't hit Alaska. On January 27, temperatures in Nome, Alaska, reached 51°F, the warmest on record for January. It was also the warmest on record for the period between October 17 and April 9, according to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.

"Temperatures of up to 40° above normal occurred across the interior and West Coast of Alaska on Sunday. Bolio Lake Range Complex in Fort Greely, Alaska, located about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, hit 60°. This is only 2° short of the all-time state January heat record of 62° set at Petersburg in 1981," Masters wrote.

California and the west coast have also seen unusually mild conditions due to the strange weather patterns. Sacramento hit 79°F on Jan. 25, the highest recorded temperature for January.

However, in the lower and eastern states, temperatures have plummeted to record lows.

Fox News recently reported that temperatures on January 7 hit "8 degrees in Atlanta and 6 degrees below zero at a remote weather station in the north Georgia mountains – the coldest temperatures in the state for years."

Temperatures also hit 25-year record lows in West Virginia, while Virginia saw lows beneath records that had stood since the late 1950s. The National Weather Service said the temps rang in at three degrees before sunrise at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshal International Airport, with a wind chill of minus 16.

Record lows were also seen in New York, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and many other states.


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