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Cold snap draws comparisons to Mars

POSTED: January 3, 2018 3:59 a.m.
Herb Scribner/

As the weather turns colder, water along the edge of one of the many creeks in the Pungo section of in Virginia Beach, Va., begins to freeze, Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. Cold temperatures are expected through next week. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

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A deadly deep freeze has washed over areas of the United States. Temperatures are so low that they’ve drawn comparisons to the planet Mars.

The year 2017 came to an end with a cold snap gripping most of the United States, breaking century-old records and causing several deaths. The cold temperatures covered areas from south Texas, Montana, New England, Alabama and Georgia, ABC News reported.

Temperatures reached below zero in multiple places.

The cold snap has led to at least eight deaths, including a 27-year-old woman who died from exposure, according to ABC News.

These temperatures are other-worldly, according to The Atlantic.

“The arctic freeze over the United States this week is producing the kind of frigid temperatures typical for the red planet,” The Atlantic reported.

In fact, temperatures in areas of the United States are “actually colder than it is on Mars,” The Atlantic wrote.

According to weather data from the Curiosity rover on Mars, temperatures peaked on the red planet at minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit back on Dec. 20, as The Atlantic reported. The cold season has just begun on Mars.

Michael Mischna, a research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said the comparison is accurate.

But, he said, Mars’ atmosphere is thinner than Earth’s, which means temperatures would feel different on the two planets, even if the data says they’re the same.

“If you were to jump into a pool that was 70 degrees, it would feel a lot colder to your body than standing in air at 70 degrees, and that’s because the water is able to suck the heat out of your body,” Mischna said, suggesting that it wouldn't feel as cold on Mars.

“Minus 100 degrees on Mars might only feel like minus 30,” he added.

The Washington Post reported that it’s close to minus 112 degrees on Mars at night.

People are having fun with the colder temperatures, though. For example, weather observer Adam Gill posted a video of boiling water being released in minus 31-degree weather, which had breathtaking results.

The National Weather Service said the cold weather will end after the first week of 2018.
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