U.S. Winter 2014: Extreme of 'Ice and Fire'

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The U.S. winter of 2014 seems like the setting for Game of Thrones — the popular HBO series based on the "A Song of Ice and Fire" books where half of the realm freezes, while the other half parches.

The northern portion of the United States lies under snow and suffers frigid temperatures. Currently, snow covers 63.6 percent of the United States to an average depth of 6.1 inches, according to the National Weather Service’s National Snow Analysis. Sub-freezing temperatures accompany this white blanket.

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Earlier in 2014, a weather phenomenon, known as a polar vortex, chilled North America to record low temperatures. The extreme cold may have cost the U.S. economy approximately $5 billion from transportation delays, increased heating bills and lost productivity, reported CNBC.

Meanwhile, the southwestern United States parched in an ongoing drought. The entire U.S. West Coast continues to lack precipitation. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 8.77 percent of California classified as under "exceptional drought" conditions, as of late January. Also in January, the drought spread and engulfed nearly all of New Mexico and the Gulf Coast of Texas. The outlook for February remains dry for the Great Plains, Southwest and West Coast.

Photos: Winter Storm Hercules

The multi-year drought threatens agriculture in the fertile valleys of the West Coast. Forests in the Rocky Mountains also remain parched, which could mean more intense and frequent fires as 2014 progresses.

Photo: Central Park in NYC after a February 2014 winter storm.

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