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The Deep Freeze: United States and the shifting ‘Polar vortex’

January 2014

Why did it get so cold in North America?

The Deep Freeze: United States and the shifting Polar vortex

In early January 2014 North America experienced heavy snow storms and freezing weather. On 7 January all 50 US states had temperatures below freezing. Many states are used to sub-zero temperatures in the winter but usually some states will stay above freezing (typically those which border the Gulf of Mexico such as Florida, Texas or Louisiana).

The extreme snow storms and plummeting temperatures were largely blamed on a shift in the pattern of a phenomenon known as the polar vortex, sending colder air further south than usual.


In addition to contributing to knowledge about climatic phenomenon more generally this case study may be useful for the following areas:

AQA: Unit 3 Contemporary Global Issues – Weather/climate and associated hazards

OCR: F763 Global Issues – Option 3: Climatic hazards

Edexcel: Unit 2 Geographical Investigations – Extreme weather

WJEC: G1 Changing Physical Environments – Theme 1: Investigating climate change

In the Members' Area:

  • What is a polar vortex?
  • How did the movement of the polar vortex affect the US?
  • How do the temperatures compare?
  • References

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