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If it is sunny, why can it be so cold?


Very cold winter days, especially, occur because a very dry and cold air mass (high pressure system) has moved into the area. The very cold air results from it's origin near the Arctic Circle or even the North Pole, but it remains cold because of radiational cooling. If there is little water in the atmosphere to absorb energy radiating from the Earth's surface, that energy is lost to space and the upper parts of the atmosphere and does not warm the air near the ground, keeping the air very cold.

David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory

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