Arctic blast brings life-threatening wind chills, subzero highs

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Blame It On El Nino?

By WEATHER.com

The last in a short series of bitterly cold blasts of arctic air has plunged into the Midwest this weekend, bringing life-threatening wind chills and the lowest air temperatures of the season. The cold air will lose some of its bite as it arrives in the East and South early in the week ahead.

Parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin may see subzero highs for the second day in a row on Sunday. But even this cold blast will not be extreme enough to break more than a few daily low-temperature records, since this is the coldest time of the year climatologically speaking and many past cold waves have been even more severe.

Current Temperatures

Current temperatures and sky conditions across the Midwest.

The wind will make this cold much more dangerous. Unlike some bitterly cold mornings, when temperatures plunge under a clear, calm sky above a deep snowpack, this batch of subzero temperatures has arrived on a vicious northwest wind.

Current Wind Chills

Current wind chill temperatures across the Midwest show what it feels like given the combination of current temperatures and sustained winds.

This has resulted in wind chills -- the temperature it feels like when wind blows across your exposed skin – reaching 30 to 50 degrees below zero Sunday morning over the Dakotas, Minnesota, northern Iowa and western Wisconsin. At these levels, frostbite can occur to exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes. According to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks, North Dakota, "the brutal cold will be a major hazard this entire weekend with life-threatening wind chills."

See the severe winter weather around the world:

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Arctic blast brings life-threatening wind chills, subzero highs
Citizens take 'selfies' on the seafront at the Corniche, or waterfront promenade, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Temperatures in Beirut took a dip reaching 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) at night. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Spectators attend the ladies 12,5 kilometer mass start competition at the Biathlon World Cup during heavy snow fall on January 16, 2016 in Ruhpolding, southern Germany. Czech Gabriela Soukalova won the competition, German Franziska Hildebrand placed second and German Laura Dahlmeier placed third. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Two ice breakers move along the frozen Moskva River with the Kremlin in the background during snowfall in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Moscow was hit by a heavy snowfall Tuesday, which led to the cancellation of dozens of flights at the city airports as temperatures dipped to -10 C (14 F) in Moscow. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A man speaks on mobile phone as he stands in the park as snow falls in the Belarus capital Minsk, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Winter weather with snow continues to prevail in Belarus. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A tourist boat with restaurant aboard, especially designed for winter rivers, cruises the frozen Moskva River in Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. Temperatures dipped to -18 C (-0,4 F) in Moscow and -20 C (-4 F) in surrounding regions. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Snow covers the landscape near Braunschweig, central Germany, on January 18, 2016. / AFP / dpa / Julian Stratenschulte / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read JULIAN STRATENSCHULTE/AFP/Getty Images)
CAPTION ADDS THE DATE - Pedestrians walk along the banks of the Neris river as temperatures dipped to -22 degrees Celsius (-7.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in Vilnius, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
TOPSHOT - A man walks at the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park after heavy snowfall in Moscow on January 13, 2016. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV / AFP / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
HAKKARI, TURKEY - JANUARY 1: A man clears snow off his parked car in Hakkari, Turkey on January 1, 2016. Snow has covered parts of Hakkari overnight, causing major road closures as wild weather continues across the city. (Photo by Gokhan Gucukluoglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HAKKARI, TURKEY - JANUARY 1: A man pulls his vehicle during the snowfall in Hakkari, Turkey on January 1, 2016. Snow has covered parts of Hakkari overnight, causing major road closures as wild weather continues across the city. (Photo by Gokhan Gucukluoglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Kurdish boy protects himself against the cold as heavy snow fall hits the city of Sirnak, southeastern Turkey, on January 1, 2016. Tensions are running high throughout Turkey's restive southeast as security forces impose curfews in several towns including Cizre in a bid to root out Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels from urban centres. / AFP / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
VAN, TURKEY - JANUARY 13: A man carries straws for sheeps People with a donkey carry straws for sheeps after snowfall during the winter season at Caldiran town in Van, eastern province of Turkey, on January 13, 2016. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man walks in the park as snow falls in the Belarus capital Minsk, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Winter weather with snow continues to prevail in Belarus. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
TOPSHOT - A woman takes a walk at river Spree on a cold winter day in Berlin on January 6, 2016. / AFP / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
ERZURUM, TURKEY - JANUARY 14: People walk down on a snow-covered street in Turkey's eastern province Erzurum, on January 14, 2016. (Photo by Yunus Okur/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WHITBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Snow covered sheep stand on moorland after snowfall over night on January 14, 2016 in Whitby, England. Overnight snowfall in North Yorkshire and areas of Cleveland caused disruption in some areas this morning as temperatures continue to drop. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
VAN, TURKEY - JANUARY 13: A man carries straws for sheeps People with a donkey carry straws for sheeps after snowfall during the winter season at Caldiran town in Van, eastern province of Turkey, on January 13, 2016. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JANUARY 12: Snowstorm in Moscow brings traffic to a standstill on January 12, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. A strong atmospheric front swept through Moscow bringing a large amount of snow to the city. (Photo by Kristina Kormilitsyna/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)
ALTAY, CHINA - JANUARY 12: (CHINA OUT) Icicles hang down from the eaves of a row of houses, which formed when snow melted in the daytime and freezed overnight on January 12, 2016 in Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Affected by El Nino Phenomenon, Altay Prefecture seems to be a warm winter this year compared with previous winters. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A woman sweeps away the snow on her car on January 12, 2016, in Minsk, as snow cyclone Daniella hits Belarus. / AFP / MAXIM MALINOVSKY (Photo credit should read MAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman turns off her umbrella during a walk in a snow-covered park on January 12, 2016, in Minsk, as the Daniella snow cyclone hits Belarus, according to local media. / AFP / SERGEI GAPON (Photo credit should read SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)
JILIN, CHINA - JANUARY 10: (CHINA OUT) Tourists come to look at the rime scenery on an island along the Songhua River on January 10, 2016 in Jilin City, Jilin Province of China. The first rime in 2016 attracted visitors in Jilin. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Pupils of Navy cadet classes walk in snow in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. Low temperatures caused two-days of snowfall in St. Petersburg. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Teenagers play on the snow covered frozen lake on the outskirts of Novogrudok, 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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Saturday morning, the wind chill dipped as low as minus 50 degrees in Rugby, North Dakota. A wind chill reading of minus -52 degrees was recorded in Silver Bay, Minnesota, Sunday morning.

The actual air temperature fell as low as minus 33 degrees in Embarrass, Minnesota, Sunday morning.

Below is an overview of this final wave of cold air that will progress south and east across parts of the country early this week, followed by the forecast temperature maps. After this cold blast, some areas will see a January thaw.

READ MORE: January Thaw Forecast

  • Sunday: Much of the Midwest will see daytime highs 15 to 30 degrees below average. Subzero highs are expected in parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Daytime highs may be below zero into parts of Nebraska and southern Iowa, where official 24-hour highs will probably be above zero but occur in the wee hours of the morning.
  • Monday: A swath from the Dakotas to the western Great Lakes will see subzero morning low temperatures. Wind chills Monday morning will be in the minus 30s in the Upper Midwest, with teens and 20s below zero as far south as parts of Illinois, Indiana, and northern Missouri. Highs will be 10 to 25 degrees below average from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic states. Parts of the Upper Midwest will likely stay in the single digits. Teens for highs will be common from the Great Lakes to the Ohio Valley and interior Northeast.
  • Tuesday: Temperatures moderate slightly from the Upper Midwest to the Great Lakes. Temperatures will remain some 5 to 15 degrees lower than average in much of the East.

FORECAST: Bismarck, North Dakota | Chicago | Minneapolis | Cincinnati

Forecast Highs

Forecast Lows into Early Week

Morning low temperatures.

Perspective: How Does the Cold Rate Historically?

While we're unlikely to see many record lows, in a few places temperatures may reach levels not seen in about two years.

For instance, Minneapolis-St. Paul may flirt with the minus-16 mark Sunday. The Twin Cities have not officially recorded a reading that low since Jan. 28, 2014.

High temperatures may not rise above zero in Des Moines, Iowa, and Madison, Wisconsin, Sunday. That's only happened three times this century in Des Moines and four times this century in Madison, last occurring in each capital city on Jan. 6, 2014.

Last Week's Cold Recap (Jan. 10-12)

Subzero temperatures were recorded Sunday morning as far south as northern Kansas and northern Missouri. Fosston, Minnesota, was the coldest location in the Lower 48, with a low of 35 degrees below zero. Many locations in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest experienced wind chills in the 20s and 30s below zero.

Prior to the arrival of this surge of cold air, above-average temperatures took hold of the Northeast Sunday. Several daily record highs were set on Sunday including:

Wilmington, Delaware (66 degrees); Philadelphia (65 degrees); Poughkeepsie, New York (65 degrees); Hartford, Connecticut (59 degrees); Providence, Rhode Island (59 degrees); Boston, Massachusetts (58 degrees); Worcester, Massachusetts (56 degrees); Albany, New York (55 degrees); Burlington, Vermont (53 degrees); Portland, Maine (52 degrees)

Monday morning, the coldest spot in the Lower 48 was near Cotton, Minnesota, where the low dipped to 36 degrees below zero. Several other locations in northwest Wisconsin and northeast Minnesota saw lows in the 20s below zero. Farther south, both the Chicago and Milwaukee metro areas woke up to subzero temperatures. Wind chills in the Windy City were in the teens below zero while Milwaukee saw a wind chill as low as minus 21 degrees. Single digits lows were recorded as far south as northern Kentucky, with teens into the mid-South.

High temperatures dropped more than 20 degrees from Sunday to Monday for much of the Northeast.

On Monday afternoon, temperatures were only in the 30s from Boston to Philadelphia with 20s in the interior Northeast. Highs in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes were even colder with temperatures struggling to reach the single digits and teens. Conditions were chilly in the South as well where highs in the 40s were found from Raleigh to Atlanta and westward into New Orleans and Dallas.

Tuesday morning, wind chills were in the 20s and 30s below zero in parts of the eastern Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Wednesday morning, lows in the single digits were reported as far south as northern Kentucky. Low temperatures in Chicago and Milwaukee dipped into the single digits above and below zero for the fourth consecutive morning Wednesday, with wind chills in the teens below zero.

Early January Cold Recap (January 4-5)

On Tuesday, temperatures ranged from to 10 to 15 degrees or more below average from Georgia to portions of New York and New England. While not record breaking, for locations like Atlanta, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia, it was the coldest day since Feb. 24-25, 2015. At New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., it was the coldest day since March 6, 2015.

Temperatures plunged as low as 27 degrees below zero Tuesday morning in Clayton Lake, Maine, and 22 degrees below zero at Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. Subzero lows were also noted across much of New Hampshire and Vermont as well as the Catskills of New York and the nearby Poconos in northeast Pennsylvania. Several locations in southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania also fell below zero.

Boston dipped into the single digits and wind chills as low as zero extended as far south as Washington, D.C., Tuesday morning.

Despite that, there were no reports of record lows at any of the major long-term weather observation sites in the Northeast Tuesday.

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