The U.S. has battled through numerous polar vortexes, or atmospheric 'whirlpools' of extreme cold, over the past few years, and scientists are still trying to decide whether such extreme weather events are becoming more common due to climate change. What's not in doubt, though, is that extreme cold can have serious affects on your health. And now it's not just polar explorers and people in habitually cold countries who are experiencing the risks of seriously cold weather.
It's actually difficult to get a proper definition of "extreme cold," because it depends on the average temperature where you are. New York's government, for instance, defines it as "Temperatures at or below freezing for an extended period of time." In places like Chicago, where the mercury hit minus 28 — minus 55 wind chill — in early January 2019, that's not quite going to cut it. Exposure to those kinds of temperatures for any more than the briefest of periods is seriously dangerous to your health, over-taxing everything from your heart to your metabolism and brain function, which is why it's important not to underestimate the danger of an extreme cold snap. Here are the health effects of serious drops in temperature.