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Cold weather disrupts train services in US

US train operator Amtrak is reporting disruptions to its north-east services due to the extremely low temperatures.

Services have been suspended between Philadelphia and Baltimore, although it was not clear if this was weather-related.

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Thousands of flights cancelled across US

Around 3,364 flights were cancelled and 3,155 delayed due to plummeting temperatures in the US, FlightAware.com reported.

US airline carrier JetBlue Airways grounded flights for 17 hours. Credit: Reuters

Major US airline JetBlue Airways today grounded flights for 17 hours at four of the busiest airports in the country.

More than half of the flights in or out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were cancelled after temperatures in the Windy City plunged to -15.

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.

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
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