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By Jacob Felix

Which is colder? Earth or Mars? Mars is seemingly the obvious answer, but that all changed during the last week of January in 2019, when the polar vortex descended upon the Midwest bringing temperatures well below 0oF and wind chills lower than -60oF, colder than parts of Mars’s surface high temperatures.

For those of you wondering “What is the polar vortex?” I’ve got you covered. The polar vortex is not, as it turns out, a mysterious meteorological phenomenon that strikes out of the blue. They— yes, there are not one but two polar vortices— are always spinning around the poles. The vortices strengthen during the winter and weaken during the summer.

The trouble comes when the jetstream weakens and allows the vortex to move. This has happened most notably in 1977, 1982, 1985, 1989, and 2014. Polar vortices are comprised of cold air from their respective poles, so a vortex that shifts due to a weakened jetstream brings cold air with it.

A polar vortex is so cold, in fact, that temperatures in some affected areas are colder than some areas of Mars (albeit the relatively warmer areas of Mars). With weather so cold, what did students do? None of the students interviewed mentioned that they left their houses at all.

With frostbite threatening any bare skin exposed for as little as five minutes, many were forced to remain inside and endure the frigid temperatures from the warmth of their homes.

“I played Minecraft on my small screen, my brothers played [Super] Smash Bros. [Ultimate] on the big screen…my brothers kept doing annoying things to me,” said junior Yonah Gutstein.

For those who needed to go outside, like those with dogs, braving the cold was their only option. Senior Ezra Schreiber says, “[I] just had someone with a timer inside…they called us back in [after] five minutes.”

This article originally appeared in The Crown Prints newspaper and was posted here with permission. 

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