Map Shows How Freaky This Winter Really Is

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Weather-wise, this has been a rather strange and memorable winter. A North American polar vortex and frigid Mars-like temperatures will do that. As this new NASA Earth Observatory map beautifully illustrates, it has been an anomalous winter, indeed.

The map above shows land surface temperature anomalies in North America for Jan. 1 to 7, 2014. Data was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite.

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The map depicts temperatures for this period compared to the 2001–2010 average for the same week. Areas with warmer than average temperatures are shown in red, near-normal temperatures are white, and areas that were cooler than the base period are shown in blue.

A second map shows temperature anomalies in Europe during the same period (grey represents areas where clouds blocked the satellite from collecting usable data.):

NASA

During roughly this same period, Australia suffered an intense heatwave that brought record-breaking temperatures, while in South America, Argentinians faced a two-week heatwave that boosted temperatures more than 15°C (27°F) above average in some areas, causing widespread power and water shortages.

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"It's tempting to link individual weather events like this to broader discussions of climate change, and there certainly are some interesting theories out there, but the science really isn't mature enough at this point to make any meaningful connections," said atmospheric scientist Paul Newman in an EO release. "One-off events like this are neither evidence for or against climate change."

For sure, the cold spell in the United States only represented about 2 percent of the Earth's total climate. But still -- it's been a rather strange and severe winter (in the north) and summer (in the south).