Millions face a weekend of the most extreme winter weather in America.

The great snowstorm caused extreme temperatures in the northwestern United States.

David Ryder / Getty Images

From icy winds close to minus 60 degrees in the Upper Midwest to an ice storm that can reach the Gulf Coast, it is rare that winter weather is so extreme.

The cause is that a polar vortex forms a very active jet stream.

That means cold, snow and ice for hundreds of millions of Americans.

On Saturday, more than two-thirds of the nation was under some kind of winter weather alert. ranging from freezing wind warnings for the northern plains to winter storm warnings for the Pacific Northwest. There were also winter weather advisories in South Texas and ice storm advisories in the mid-Atlantic, reported CBS News.

A few weeks ago, the polar vortex, which is normally located near the North Pole, broke into pieces, a natural occurrence that occurs every two winters. Smaller vortices spread across the northern hemisphere, bringing pockets of arctic air to Siberia, Europe, and North America.

For Sunday and Monday, the icy air currently over the northern plains will sink into central Texas, Bringing freezing winds below zero.

The image below traces the origin of cold air from the Arctic Ocean, down through Canada and south across the US plains.

The temperatures will be dangerous. On Sunday morning in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, wind chills will bottom out in the -40 to -60 degree Fahrenheit range.

The lows will fall below zero from Saturday through Tuesday morning in Kansas City, possibly dropping to -15 on Monday or Tuesday morning. Taking the wind into account, temperatures will range from 20-30 below freezing on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning.

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Even Dallas, Texas, will experience temperatures well below freezing on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Actual temperatures will be 50 degrees below normal Monday morning in much of Texas and Oklahoma.

Despite being extreme, the weather is not as extreme as it could be. Over the past few decades, due to man-made climate change, colder extremes are becoming less extreme. As an example, In Minneapolis, the coldest day of each year is now 12 degrees warmer than it used to be.


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