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Weather Facts: Arctic Outbreaks

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The latest cold snap has led to a bunch of weather questions from viewers this week. What is a polar vortex? Have we ever been below 0 degrees and has it been a colder than average this winter? Let's check out the answers.

With all the talk of the arctic invasion taking over much of the country the phrase "polar vortex" has been mentioned a bunch. It is a low pressure swirling near the North Pole and Canada and sometimes pushes very cold air into the U.S. normally it stays well north of here and doesn't come into play.

But earlier this week high pressure strengthened over the pacific and migrated toward Alaska. This action forced the polar low to drop southward bringing bitterly cold air with it.

Here in Austin temperatures have only dropped below zero twice but both times happened a long time ago in 1949 and 1951. In fact since 1854, Austin has only dipped below 10 degrees seven times.

Seminole, Texas has the title for coldest temperature for the state. On the morning of February 8, 1933 the low came in at 23 degrees below zero.

So far it has been a colder than average winter. It's only early January and we have already matched our average number of freezes for the winter.

The cold winter has a good chance of rolling on because the outlook calls for near average temperatures for rest of this month and also February. 

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