Thursday’s nor’easter has now moved up into Canada and on the back side, a strong northwesterly flow is pulling in more Arctic air.
Of note, only Block Island, parts of the New Hampshire seacoast, and southern Maine recorded an official blizzard, so we can’t say it was a blizzard Thursday around Boston. The next few days will resemble the period between Christmas and New Year’s, when it was brutally cold. The other notable aspect of the weather, besides the actual air temperature, is going to be the wind. Throughout the next couple of days you’ll notice the gusty winds at times exceeding 30 mph. These winds are going to keep wind chill levels cold enough for advisories and warnings to have been issued by the National Weather Service.
Wind chill readings are moments in time, and the most severe occur when we have a strong gust of wind. Since gusts could periodically be as high as 25 to 35 miles an hour for most of us over the next couple of days, there will be periods where wind chill readings go well below zero. This doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. It does mean, however, that you need to cover up your skin if you’re going to be out for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time. This is the type of weather where you can get frostbite if you are not dressed properly.
Everyone wants to know if we’re going to set a record with the upcoming cold. The first record that we could set is Saturday for the coldest high temperature. In order for that to happen Boston would need to stay below 7 degrees, which is possible, but it will be close. The record low maximum in Worcester is 6 degrees for Saturday.
A more likely record to be broken is on Sunday morning, when Boston’s actual temperatures will be around 5 below zero. The low temperature record is 2 below zero, set in 1896 in Boston, so that record is very much in jeopardy. Worcester’s record is also likely to fall, as that record is only 5 below zero, set in 1942. Actual temperatures should fall to around 10 below.
Sunday brings another cold day with highs in the teens. Winds will be lighter, however, and the wind direction will shift to the southwest. This will mark the beginning of the end of this extreme cold. This doesn’t mean I don’t see any more cold weather for the rest of the winter, but I suspect that the coldest part of the winter will be behind us. There is the chance of more precipitation Monday and again at the end of next week, but temperatures will not be exceedingly cold.
Most of the longer-range guidance we use is pointing toward a January thaw as we get deeper into the month. How many days this thaw lasts, and how extensive it is, remains to be seen. But there is little doubt the Arctic air is going to take a break. Already the eight-to-14-day outlook shows warmer-than-average temperatures along the east coast, something we haven’t seen in many weeks.