IT’S the worst time to be in the United States (US) and Canada. These two countries are having an unusually cold winter. It’s great to see a little snow and enjoy white Christmas, but not this time. Staying outside means you face the risk of having frost bite and hypothermia.

The weather is so cold in some parts of the US that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 1,600 daily records for cold were tied or broken in the last week of December. At the start of 2018, low temperatures are forecast to linger across much of the East Coast, Midwest and South in the coming days.

In Canada, the weather is said to be colder than planet Mars, Antarctica or the base camp of Mt. Everest. Environment Canada issued a forecast of -20 to - 30 degrees Celsius range in many major cities. Northern Ontario is being hardest hit with temperatures expected to feel like -50 C with the wind chill in some places.

Why is this happening? Why is there a very cold winter in these countries when 2017 has record high temperatures? The average global temperature in November 2017 was 1.35 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 55.2 degrees, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This average temperature tied 2016 as the fifth highest for November in the 1880-2017 record.

Just this December, there were wildfires in Southern California. On December 5, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, followed by San Diego County on December 7. My friend living in the area was told to evacuate. Luckily, the fire changed direction and did not reach her house. This shows that in spite of the increasingly warming climate, it can still get very cold in some places.

Here’s the explanation for the freak weather. According to experts, the cold wave in the U.S. and Canada has something to do with the Polar Vortex. Polar vortex is a gigantic circular weather pattern around the North Pole which keeps super cold air locked up in the Arctic. The term vortex refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air close to the poles. Often during winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the polar vortex will become less stable and expand, sending cold Arctic air southward with the jet stream. This is what is happening in the U.S. and Canada now.

We should be thankful here in the Philippines that we have the perfect climate. We do not have this bitterly cold weather. Yes, we have frequent typhoons, but we can prevent casualties with enough preparation. With a very cold weather, there is not much that you can do. Not everyone can afford to have heating facilities at home.

I hope that this cold wave will be over soon. Let’s pray for those who are affected by the extreme cold weather, especially our relatives who are in the U.S. and Canada.