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What is a polar vortex?

The polar vortex, or polar pig, as it has been dubbed by some media commentators, is:

  • A large dense area of cold air formed in a polar winter
  • Normally found rotating hurricane-like around the North or South Pole
  • A low pressure area with winds that can exceed 100mph
  • Around -80 degrees Celsius
  • Strong enough to sustain its own low pressure, sealing in cold air like a fridge
  • Tens of thousands of feet above the atmosphere
  • Able to cause extremely cold conditions if its vortex is disturbed or deteriorates
  • Rarely found in inhabited areas, but has moved south like an Arctic cyclone
  • Possibly further south than normal due to a build up of warmer areas in Greenland or Alaska.

'Chiberia' residents battle frigid cold temperatures

Chicago residents braved the outdoors today as a blast of Arctic air grips the mid-section of the US.

A man is silhouetted against the arctic sea smoke rising off Lake Michigan in Chicago. Credit: Reuters

America is expecting its coldest temperatures in two decades, with meteorologists warning that temperatures were dangerously cold and life-threatening in some places.

A woman covers her head with a jacket as she walks though downtown Chicago. Credit: Reuters

Temperatures of -18 were recorded in Chicago - nicknamed "Chiberia" - St. Louis and Indianapolis, with the chill set to bear down on eastern and southern states as the day wears on.

A woman covers up in multiple layers for a walk in downtown Chicago. Credit: Reuters

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Near record low temperatures in Chicago

Temperatures on the East Coast of the US have plummeted, with Chicago hitting lows of -15 this morning. The previous record for the Windy City was -14 in 1988.

NBC affiliate NBC Chicago tweeted a picture of Lake Michigan that appeared to show steam covering the Great Lake.

Chicago resident Jim Lakely posted a city-view picture that appeared to show the city's frozen river:

The anticipated 'polar vortex' is set to blast much of the country, with NBC reporting that "every state except Hawaii" is expected to face freezing temperatures today.

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Map shows freezing temperatures across America

The coldest place in the US after temperatures plummeted in the "polar vortex" is north Minnesota which currently stands at -34 degrees Celsius, according to a map published by NBC News.

Temperatures on the map are in Fahrenheit

Temperatures in the US have plummeted in the "polar vortex". Credit: NBC News

Oymyakon: The coldest inhabited place to live on Earth

As parts of the US are being hit by a polar vortex, which is expected to bring temperatures are low as -50C, residents of a small village in Russia deal with the freezing cold all year round.

The village of Oymyakon in the republic of Yakutia is the coldest place to live on Earth with the average temperature in the regions around -20C.

Blocks of ice are loaded on to a truck outside the village of Oymyakon. Credit: Reuters

In 1933, a temperature of -67.8C was registered in the village - the lowest temperature ever recorded in the northern hemisphere.

It was also is the lowest temperature ever recorded for any permanently inhabited location on Earth.

Despite the harsh climate, approximately 5000 people live in the village, which has schools, a post office, bank, and even an airport runway (albeit open only in the summer).

A young girl poses for a picture in the village of Oymyakon, Credit: Reuters

Icy reception: NFL fans brave the cold in Wisconsin

Green Bay Packers fans make light of the situation before the game

Fans of the NFL's Green Bay Packers braved the lowest temperatures in two decades to watch their team play against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Packers fans were urged to wear multiple layers and hot drinks were handed out during the game.

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Cruise liner Queen Mary 2 delayed in New York because of heavy snow

Heavy snow has hit the East coast of the USA Credit: Cunard

Queen Mary 2 spent part of the weekend delayed in New York because of two feet of snow that fell in the United States.

The Statue of Liberty can be seen from this icy window Credit: Cunard

She is now on her way say Cunard.

Two feet of snow has fallen in recent days Credit: Cunard

The liner is now racing home to Southampton for her tenth birthday celebrations on Friday where there be a big fireworks display.

Snow falls on the deck on the Queen Mary 2 Credit: Cunard
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