What's a Polar Vortex?

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Author's Note: What's a polar vortex?

I'm not a meteorologist or a climate scientist, but by virtue of having lived in the eastern U.S. for most of my life, I'm pretty familiar with really cold weather. The most extreme cold snap I think that I've ever seen, however, was a sudden ice storm in New York City in January 1994, which turned most of the Upper West Side into the equivalent of a hockey rink and brought traffic to a standstill. Since it was impossible to do anything productive, I spent the afternoon hanging out in a coffeehouse with some friends who normally would have been rushing from one meeting or project to another. So it all worked out OK.

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