Jan 28, 2019

Axios PM

Situational awareness: President Trump announced new sanctions against Venezuela today, targeting the wealth of Nicolás Maduro. Go deeper.


  • House Speaker Pelosi has invited President Trump to give the State of the Union on Feb. 5. Details.
  • The Justice Department announced criminal charges for Huawei and one of its top executives this afternoon. Details.
1 big thing: "40 degrees below normal"

Tow truck personnel work to remove an overturned semi in the median of Interstate 90 southeast of Rochester, Minn. Photo: Joe Ahlquist/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP

The coldest air in decades is infiltrating the Upper Midwest, and at least 88 million people will see temperatures dip below 0°F by the end of this week, Axios Science editor Andrew Freedman reports.

  • Wind chills in some spots will plummet into dangerous territory of minus 50°F to minus 65°F at the peak of the outbreak on Wednesday morning.
  • “That’s not just unusual. That’s 40 degrees below normal,” Weather Prediction Center meteorologist Brian Hurley told AP.

Driving the news: The stratospheric polar vortex — which is a whirl of low pressure at upper levels of the atmosphere over the pole — was knocked askew in early January, increasing the odds of cold outbreaks in the U.S. and Europe.

  • When the polar vortex is strong, it tends to keep the coldest air bottled up in the far north.
  • However, when it weakens or wobbles, it can send frigid air spilling south, as if Mother Nature left the freezer door open.

By the numbers: In Minneapolis, this will be the coldest weather since at least 1996. In Chicago, no one under the age of 25 has experienced such cold weather, as the last such outbreak was Jan. 18–20 1994.

The big picture: The globe as a whole, however, is still much warmer than normal, and scientists say the cold snap in parts of the U.S. in no way invalidates the overwhelming scientific evidence showing the planet is warming over the longer term due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

  • In fact, studies published in the past several years show that polar vortex disruptions may be more likely as the Earth warms and sea ice in the Arctic melts, and open water persists longer into the fall, says Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at AER, a Verisk company.

Go deeper: Andrew explains more of what's going on.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A Waxwing, a rare bird that can turn up in significant numbers every few years and is thought to be a sign of a harsh winter to come, feeds on berries in London.

2. What you missed
  1. The government shutdown has already eroded the positive impact of tax reform and spending increases signed by Trump in 2017, according to the White House's projections, Axios' Dion Rabouin reports.
  2. The Treasury Department will have to borrow $1 trillion to pay for the government's growing budget deficit, a consequence of juiced government spending and smaller revenues as a result of the late 2017 tax cuts, Bloomberg reports.
  3. Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund hedged on Tesla this month, taking out other positions to protect itself from fluctuations in the electric automaker's stock, the Financial Times reports.
  4. Michael Bloomberg and President Trump have weighed in on Howard Schultz's presidential ambitions. Bloomberg said no one will win as an independent; Trump said he "doesn't have the guts" to run.
  5. Go deeper: I joined Axios' Dan Primack on the Pro Rata podcast to talk Schultz and 2020. Listen here.
3. 1 nostalgic thing
Photos: Stella Artois/Getty Images

"Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges are bringing a couple of famed characters back to life for a charity in a new Super Bowl commercial," AP reports.

  • "The 45-second ad launches Monday and will be televised during Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3."
  • "There will be a lot of men drinking during the Super Bowl, so why not buy some beer that'll do some good for the planet and the world," Bridges told AP.
  • "The 'Pour It Forward' campaign is an initiative between the beer brand and Water.org, co-founded by actor Matt Damon. Both will donate between one to 12 months of clean water to someone in an underdeveloped country based on the amount of Stella Artois packs bought."

Watch the ad.