Polar Vortex to Help Trigger Coldest Arctic Outbreak in at Least Two Decades This Week in Parts of the Midwest

The Weather Channel

Extreme arctic cold will plunge into the Midwest this week, creating dangerously cold wind chills and likely dropping temperatures in some cities to their lowest levels in more than two decades.

The central and eastern United States have been in the grips of a much colder weather pattern in the second half of January, and conditions this week will be the worst yet.

One instigator for this outbreak of cold air is a displacement of a portion of the polar vortex to a position over the Great Lakes, according to a wunderground.com blog entry from Jeff Masters and Bob Henson.

Current Wind Chills

By Wednesday and Thursday, morning lows may reach the minus 20s in the Twin Cities, with minus teens and minus 20s in Des Moines, Iowa, Chicago and Milwaukee.

Subzero-cold lows may extend through much of the Ohio Valley and into the interior Northeast by late-week. Thursday will be the coldest day along the Northeast Interstate 95 corridor with lows in the single digits from Washington D.C. to Boston.

Forecast Morning Lows

Here are the last dates the following cities were as cold:

  • Chicago last plunged to minus 20 degrees on Jan. 18, 1994.
  • Des Moines, Iowa, last observed temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees on Feb. 4, 1996.
  • Milwaukee last reached minus 15 degrees on Jan. 5, 1999. The last time it was in the 20s below zero was early-February 1996.
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul last plunged to minus 25 degrees on Dec. 26, 1996.
  • Detroit last was minus 15 degrees on Jan. 16, 2009.

As you can see, the outbreak this week may be the coldest in more than 20 years in parts of the Midwest and will threaten a number of daily record lows in some areas.

A few of the potential daily record lows this week include (record-to-beat is shown):

Wednesday: Chicago (minus 15 degrees); Cleveland (minus 4 degrees); Des Moines, Iowa (minus 17 degrees); Detroit (minus 4 degrees)

Thursday: Chicago (minus 12 degrees); Cleveland (minus 4 degrees); Detroit (minus 7 degrees); Pittsburgh (minus 3 degrees)

There could also be a few cities that come close to all-time record lows for any day of the year on Thursday morning. This includes Chicago which may be within a few degrees of its all-time record of minus 27 degrees set Jan. 20, 1985. Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, Iowa, could also dip to near their all-time record lows of minus 29 degrees and minus 34 degrees, respectively.

(MORE: Arctic Outbreak Likely Won’t Break Many All-Time Temperature Records)

By midweek, daytime highs will likely not rise above zero in a large portion of the Midwest and may not rise out of the single digits in the Ohio Valley. On Wednesday, Chicago could threaten its all-time coldest high temperature of minus 11 degrees.

Forecast Highs

This bitter cold will be accompanied by strong winds at times Tuesday through Thursday, leading to life-threatening wind chills in the Midwest that could lead to frostbite on exposed skin in a matter of minutes. A large swath of the Midwest will have wind chills in the 30s, 40s and 50s below zero by Wednesday. A few spots in Minnesota and eastern North Dakota may see wind chills in the 60s below zero.

This may rival some of the coldest wind chills on record in Minnesota, using a wind chill scale adjusted in 2001, and may approach values seen rarely in Chicagoland, according to Dr. Brian Brettschneider, climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Read the rest here: https://weather.com/forecast/national/news/2019-01-28-polar-vortex-midwest-arctic-air-coldest-two-decades

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