Temperature Anomaly corresponding to January 2014 Polar Vortex Activity

About the image
During the month of January 2014, the continental United States experienced several bouts of extremely cold air that moved southward from the north polar region. The frigid temperatures made news headlines as they caused conditions dangerous to health and safety. The polar vortex, a circulation of strong upper-level winds that normally surround the northern pole in a counterclockwise direction, tend to keep frigid air locked in the Arctic. This pattern became distorted, due in part to a persistent high pressure system over the eastern Pacific Ocean that forced the jet stream southward over the continental United States allowing the cold polar air to spill southward.

This visualization, made with data acquired January 1st through 29th from AIRS, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder on NASA's Aqua satellite, shows the difference from the average air temperature near Earth's surface. Areas from yellow to red are warmer than average and areas from green to purple are colder than average. Note that Alaska was experiencing warmer than normal temperatures while the cold air mass moved south over the contiguous United States.

About AIRS, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder on NASA's Aqua Satellite
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit, AMSU, sense emitted infrared and microwave radiation from the Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at Earth's weather and climate. Working in tandem, the two instruments make simultaneous observations all the way down to the Earth's surface, even in the presence of heavy clouds. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, 3-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations, and many other atmospheric phenomena. The AIRS and AMSU fly onboard NASA's Aqua spacecraft and are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, under contract to NASA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.


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