- A blast of arctic cold air is plunging into the U.S.
- It will penetrate into the South by this weekend, and could drop temps below freezing for several days in a row.
- Several daily cold records will be in jeopardy.
- Dangerously cold wind chills are also expected, especially in the Northern Plains and Rockies.
- This generally colder pattern could hang on until the last full week of January or longer.
An arctic cold outbreak will deliver potentially record-setting, frigid air to much of the country, including the Deep South, into next week. Daily records for mid-January could be broken from Washington state to the Gulf Coast.
When It Will Happen: The first plunge of cold air is surging southward in the Plains. A reporting station near Raynesford, Montana, plunged to minus 43 degrees Friday morning. Watson Lake, British Columbia, Canada, plunged to minus 57 degrees.
Wind chills as low as minus 68 degrees were measured Friday morning at Montana’s Whitefish Ski Resort, and a minus 72 degree wind chill was recorded in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
An even stronger cold blast will surge south, from the Northwest through the Southern Plains and Midwest this weekend, before working its way toward the Southeast early next week, and finally the East Coast Wednesday.
(Further beef up your forecast with our detailed, hour-by-hour breakdown for the next 8 days – only available on our Premium Pro experience.)
How Cold It Will Get: During the coldest days of the outbreak…
- Lows in the 20s, perhaps a few teens, will occur along the northern Gulf Coast, from East Texas to North Florida.
- Teens, perhaps a few single digit-lows, are expected in the Deep South.
- Below-zero low temperatures could occur as far south as parts of the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma and northern Arkansas.
- Lows in the minus 20s are possible as far south as Iowa and Nebraska.
- Some lows in Montana will reach minus 40 degrees.
Daily records – coldest for the calendar day – are possible from Washington to Wyoming this weekend, then in parts of the Plains and Deep South, Monday through Wednesday.
Among the notables, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport could plunge to the minus teens for the first time since the January 2019 cold outbreak, and could fail to rise above zero during the day Monday and/or Tuesday. Oklahoma City could plunge below zero for the first time since the historic February 2021 cold outbreak. That said, we don’t expect this outbreak to match the ferocity of either the January 2019 or February 2021 outbreaks.
(FORECAST DETAILS: 10-Day U.S. Highs and Lows)
Wind Chill Danger: Strong winds will also accompany the arctic air. Those winds will combine with the cold to produce dangerous wind chills in the Rockies, Plains and Midwest.
Some wind chills in the Northern Plains could drop into the minus 40s, even minus 50s, at times, which could lead to frostbite on any exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.
How Long It Will Last: In many of these areas, the coldest air will be either through this weekend or during the first half of MLK week. Parts of the South, including Oklahoma City, Dallas and Nashville, could see several days in a row with daytime highs below freezing.
Yet another blast of cold air is now expected into many of these same areas late next week that would last at least through the weekend of Jan. 20-21.
Beyond that, some moderating of the cold air is possible, especially in the northern U.S., during the week of Jan. 22.
Why It’s So Cold: There are several reasons for this powerhouse cold outbreak.
First, blocking high pressure aloft near Greenland and the Canadian Arctic is forcing cold air out of Canada deep into the U.S., a common pattern for outbreaks in winter.
That cold air will be kept refrigerated by ample, widespread snowpack over the U.S. thanks to the recent siege of winter storms.
And this is all happening around what is typically the coldest time of winter.
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Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com and has been covering national and international weather since 1996. His lifelong love of meteorology began with a close encounter with a tornado as a child in Wisconsin. He studied physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then completed his Master’s degree working with dual-polarization radar and lightning data at Colorado State University. Extreme and bizarre weather are his favorite topics. Reach out to him on X (formerly Twitter), Threads, Facebook and Bluesky.
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