An incredible new look at the polar vortex

Mike Krumboltz

Hey East Coasters — remember last month when your nose hairs transformed into ultrasharp needles and your skin turned a Smurflike blue? So many memories...

NASA has rendered the much-hyped polar vortex, source of havoc and those nose-freezing temperatures on the U.S. East Coast, in incredible visual terms.

Scientist Eric Fetzer explains the visuals using data from NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument in an accompanying video. AIRS, Fetzer explains, is an "instrument that flies on a NASA satellite in Earth's orbit and collects data about Earth's atmosphere."

The temperatures in the video are at about 3,000 feet above the surface of the planet, according to Fetzer's explanation. As the cold air moved south, "it broke records throughout the eastern United States as much as 40 degrees (F) below normal and cold air extended as far as the normally warm Gulf of Mexico and northern Florida."

Slate points out that "despite what seemed like a month of brutal Arctic punishment, January 2014 ended up almost exactly average, temperature-wise, for the continental United States."

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