(7:30PM - 1/26/19) No doubt the pattern across much of the Midwest this weekend is one many would characterize of very cold, but this is really just the appetizer and Mother Nature and Old Man Winter are just warming up their pipes in the 1st Act of this weather pattern over our region. The cold pattern going forward, centered on Wednesday and Thursday of next week, could be one that leads to record cold and the coldest temperatures some people have felt their entire life.
The heart of this very impressive and dangerous shot of arctic air will be centered on the northern half of Illinois, but by no means will the southern half of the state be escaping the seriously cold temperatures for that region downstate.
First off, look at the widespread very cold temperatures across the Midwest early this evening and how this is only just the beginning of what is coming our way next week. Temperatures are in red in the below image and there are widespread single digits from northern Illinois on north and northwest up into the northern Midwest. It is even colder across portions of North Dakota and northern Minnesota with temperatures well below normal.
Let's dig into some of the early details and thoughts right now...
Over the past several days, numerical model guidance has remained surprisingly consistent on the evolution of this pattern and centering the heart of the cold over portions of the state. This setup and the numbers model guidance has been spitting out has made meteorologists and forecasters nationwide scratching their head. This is now going on several days now of some model guidance showing ALL TIME record cold temperatures for places like Rockford and Chicago across northern Illinois.
The cause of this extreme cold outbreak next week will be the return of the famed polar vortex to the Midwest. There are many people who have heard this term, mainly from the extreme cold outbreak of 2014...
"The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles. It always exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter. The term "vortex" refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles. Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream. This occurs fairly regularly during wintertime and is often associated with large outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States.
There are several things the polar vortex is NOT. Polar vortexes are not something new. The term “polar vortex” has only recently been popularized, bringing attention to a weather feature that has always been present. It is also not a feature that exists at the Earth’s surface. Weather forecasters examine the polar vortex by looking at conditions tens of thousands of feet up in the atmosphere; however, when we feel extremely cold air from the Arctic regions at Earth’s surface, it is sometimes associated with the polar vortex."
As you can see in the image below with the bright white on the top of the map, this is extremely cold temperatures halfway up in the atmosphere, and a piece of the polar vortex well north of the United States by tomorrow evening. It is forecast to become dislodged and rotate its way southward over the coming days into the Midwest by the middle of this coming week.
By late Tuesday night, the polar vortex as a very strong area of low pressure aloft will be centered nearly overhead portions of Illinois and much of the Midwest, leading to the beginning of this near record cold stretch late Tuesday night.
Now that we get down to ground level/the surface and what this means for actual temperatures we will experience. The loop below is a model animation that runs from Monday evening till Friday morning, showing what could be a 60-72 hour stretch of below normal temperatures for locations across portions of central Illinois and all of northern Illinois. Some model guidance, like the one looped below has shown temperatures getting down to -30 degrees or even colder! This would set records and many locations for the coldest temperature ever recorded! We will continue to fine tune our thoughts on if those temperatures will be realized or not. The thing to take away most from this article post is that we are in store for a several day period of near record and dangerously cold/life threatening temperatures. This cannot be stated and stressed enough.
As of right now, Wednesday morning looks to be the absolute coldest and most brutal time-frame of this stretch with the coldest temperatures and wind chills (Thursday morning isn't that far behind for 2nd place). This is when wind chill values could dip to or below the -50 mark across portions of northern Illinois and -40 into central Illinois. Some model guidance is even colder than that which is just absolutely mind boggling for us to see on a model for this area in the world.
We will continue to keep you updated on this potentially historic and record cold outbreak to move through the Midwest next week.
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