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  • Writer's pictureMeteorologist Beth Carpenter

Arctic Cold Blast Settling In!

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

An Arctic outbreak is on its way to much of the country, and could bring record-breaking temperatures to multiple states. This seems right on par with Punxsutawney Phil’s “6 more weeks of winter” prediction earlier this week! This isn’t just your ordinary shot of cold winter weather, though, it’s a culmination of several factors that make this outbreak more severe than others. To break down what’s happening, we’ll investigate the atmosphere from upper levels to the surface.

First, we’ll take a look at the polar vortex. The polar vortex itself isn’t anything unusual- it’s always been present. It’s the lobe of very cold air, high in the atmosphere, that typically resides at the north pole. When the polar vortex is strong, it remains bottled up at the pole and keeps cold air focused there. However, when it weakens, the polar vortex stretches toward the equator and brings that arctic air with it. The placement of this arctic air depends on where this “lobe” sets up. Over the next few days and into next week, the core of the polar vortex will stretch across Canada and into the northern United States, bringing well below normal temperatures to the region.

At the middle levels of the atmosphere, a large and deepening trough will set up across the same area. A trough is a buckling in the jet stream that pulls cooler temperatures toward the equator. Troughs and low pressure systems in this level of the atmosphere also provide energy and lift to surface systems, and can help with the development of snowfall.

Lastly, high pressure will be in place at the surface. This keeps reinforces the cold air that’s in place, and also clears out skies to allow overnight temperatures to drop even further.

The factors mentioned above will create actual temperatures that fall into the negative teens and negative 20s in the north-central U.S., and in the negative single digits to single digits above zero here in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley Region. Wind chills will plummet into the -20s to near -50 degrees across much of the northern United States for multiple days, prompting the National Weather Service to hoist Wind Chill Warnings and Advisories this afternoon.

In 2019, cold weather caused the most deaths of any natural disaster. It’s important to prepare for the extreme cold before it arrives! Here are some cold weather impacts and preparedness suggestions to keep you, your pets, and your house safe:

For more information on the cold weather, make sure you’re following us across social media @tdswx and subscribe to our YouTube channel for live stream discussions and Q&As!

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