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More arctic cold this week continuing to impact heat costs

Posted by David Epstein  January 26, 2014 08:37 AM

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Another overall cold week is on the way for New England, with multiple shots of arctic air keeping the region frozen solid.

This has been a winter where folks are talking about the temperature. From Bismarck to Bangor, Chicago to Chestnut Hill and everywhere in-between the cold has been in the headline multiple times this season. One of the side effects of the cold is the financial cost this is having on folks. With temperatures so cold for so long, the cost of keeping warm is becoming a financial line item larger than many of us expected. As a function of heating degree days (HDD), we have needed about 14% more energy to keep warm this season as compared to the previous one. Of course that increase doesn’t take into account higher base price of electricity, oil or gas this year, you need to add those numbers in the equation as well to see just how much your budget has been impacted.

Heating degree days are found by taking the average temperature and subtracting it from 65F. For example, in Boston yesterday the average daily temperature was 27. If you subtract that number from 65 you get 38 which are the number of HDD for Saturday.
The reason the number 65 is used, is because it gives a rough idea to energy companies when you likely turn on your heat. The higher the HDD the more oil or natural gas you are using and this helps companies plan reserves etc. If you heat with home heating oil and have automatic delivery, this is how the company knows when to come to your house. In a cold winter like this one, they might be coming just as that tank is close to empty. Since we have another cold period on the way this week, it’s not a bad idea to take a moment and check the oil level.

While it’s been cold in the northeast, it’s been colder in the Midwest. I was looking at the maps from that region of the country this morning and temperatures and wind both brutal. In parts of North Dakota tomorrow the highs will remain near 10 below zero with winds gusting at times over 50 miles per hour. That kind of cold is serious and life-threatening. There are blizzard and wind chill warnings affecting millions of Americans this weekend in a winter to remember.

Locally, after a cold day today, we have a one day thaw for Monday before more arctic air arrives. As the milder air takes hold, there could be a period of snow showers during the day, but I am not predicting anything more than a dusting. I'll be updating the forecast for this week and the weekend on Twitter @growingwisdom

Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be very cold days again, with highs in the teens on Tuesday and near 20F by Wednesday. There is a slow moderation in temperature forecast for the end of the week. The map below shows temperatures at sunrise Tuesday. Heading to Chicago for business? Plan on it being 15 to 20 degrees colder there.
Tuesday jan 28th.png

The weekend starts dry, but a storm moving from Ohio to the coastline brings a chance of precipitation for Super Bowl Sunday. It’s 7 days out and I am not going to speculate about the size of the storm or the amount of any rain or snow we will receive. It’s just too early in the game for specifics and as we have seen several times this winter, forecasts are changing a day or two before an event.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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