NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard the Aqua satellite captured the polar vortex moving southward from central Canada to the U.S. Midwest. According to scientists, this polar vortex, also known as cold Arctic air mass is responsible for the severe temperatures.
Due to the polar vortex, the U.S. Midwest has been gripped by the lowest temperatures it has seen in years. The polar vortex is responsible for a number of deaths, disruptions to services, and energy outages in the affected areas.
The lowest temperatures are shown in purple and blue and range from -40 degrees Fahrenheit (also -40 degrees Celsius) to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius). As the data series progresses, you can see how the coldest purple areas of the air mass scoop down into the U.S.
AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a three-dimensional look at Earth’s weather and climate. Working in tandem, the two instruments make simultaneous observations down to Earth’s surface.
With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations and many other atmospheric phenomena.