There’s a lot of talk about an upcoming January thaw and while I do expect the cold relax at times over the next 10 days, I want to temper the enthusiasm some of you might have for mild air.
Tuesday the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) came out with their 6-10 day outlook showing much of the country with better than even chance of above normal temperatures from the 19th of the month through the 22nd. The subsequent 8-14 day outlook also has a better than even chance of above average readings across much of the nation.
I do believe the extent of the cold is going to be peppered with times of average or even above average temperatures. However, I don’t think any mild air we see will be long-lasting enough to move this month out of the colder than average category.
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Check out the image below. This is the actual forecast that came out from the CPC. Look closely as the area of above average temperature over the northeast. While we are forecast to be above normal, it’s not as great of a chance as the Midwest. Focus on the area lighter in color and the shape that is in a U. This is a sign the models see enough cold air entering the northeast to lower the chance of above normal temperatures during this period. The subsequent map has a similar pattern over the Great Lakes where the northern part of that area is forecast to have near normal temperatures. This area extends into northern Maine.
These subtle differences are important, because the computer models are able to give us ideas on where the boundary of the seasonably cold and arctic cold might be located. By closely looking at the long range forecasts I can focus on where the forecast might have issues.
The map below is based on the GFS model. The image was created by WeatherBell Analytics using GFS forecast data. Notice the pool of arctic air I circled. I think pieces of this will come into New England, even during the supposed thaw period. This will keep the ice thick on the lakes and ponds and also not allow a prolonged period of thaw to the area. Each time we warm up above freezing, a few days later a shot of arctic air will send us back below again.
I still expect the pattern to become more active with storms the last week of the month and especially in February. This doesn’t mean big snow for New England, because the exact track is so important. Also, if the cold air continues to dominate, it will suppress the storminess far to the south and we will continue to miss the snow. In 2003 January was also very cold and dry. That month was followed by another cold period, but there was significant snow. I only bring this up as a point of reference. I still believe when all is said and done this winter will be remembered for cold, not snow.