NASA and NOAA: This is what the polar vortex looks like from space

Cloud streets over the Great Lakes in this Jan. 27, 2019 image.
NOAA, NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory

Frosty temperatures pressed much of the country this week, thanks to Arctic temperatures ushered in by the polar vortex.

The deep freeze claimed at least 21 lives, suspended operations at General Motors plants, delayed some Amazon deliveries and grounded more than 1,500 flights.

It was a remarkable week of weather on the ground, and it looks that way from space too: Images captured by NASA and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are equal parts humbling and awe-inspiring.

The satellite image embedded above, from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory, shows rows of clouds over the Great Lakes. The image was taken on Sunday, Jan. 27.

"When extremely cold air moves over the unfrozen, relatively warmer lake water, columns of heated air begin to rise off the lake surface. As the rising, warmer air hits the cold air above it, the moisture condenses into cumulus clouds, then cools and sinks on either side," the NOAA explains about the image in a written statement. "This rising and sinking motion creates parallel cylinders of rotating air that line up in the direction of the prevailing wind...."

"You can almost feel that cold in this natural-color image, acquired on January 27, 2019," NASA's website says about the image below. "Cloud streets and lake-effect snow stretch across the scene, as frigid Arctic winds blew over the Great Lakes."

Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

A gif NOAA tweeted Thursday shows snow, clouds and ice clouds moving across the Great Lakes.

Lots of cool features in this morning's view from #GOESEast: Watch the clouds bringing lake effect snow change from liquid water (yellow) to ice (pink) as bitter cold air moved east across Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

And another from Wednesday shows the snow as the sun comes up.

#GOESEast spotted snow on the ground as the sun rose on what will be a bitterly cold day across much of the U.S. A cold Arctic air mass is surging south into the upper Midwest before spreading across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country.

The cold temperatures are visible in this visual model from NASA's Earth Observatory. The image represents temperature by color at 4 a.m. EST on Jan. 29 at 6.5 feet above the ground, according to a statement from the NASA Earth Observatory.

Arctic weather is plunging into North America. The culprit is a familiar one: the polar vortex.

The model from NASA, below, shows the polar vortex moving from Canada across the Midwest of the United States from Jan. 20 through Jan. 29. In the image, purple represents the coldest temperatures. NASA uses a combination of two instruments to generate a "three-dimensional map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, greenhouse gas concentrations and many other atmospheric phenomena," NASA says in a statement about the model.

#PolarVortex as seen by @NASA's Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS). The Arctic air mass moved southward from central Canada into the U.S. Midwest:

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