Widespread Arctic blast coming this weekend

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Snow & Rain for Eastern US


January's reputation for frigid temperatures will be on full display by this weekend in the nation's midsection as a widespread blast of arctic air begins to take hold of the region. The air mass responsible for the incoming plunging temperatures will originate from above the Arctic Circle near the North Pole, as the animation below illustrates.

Areas from the western and northern Great Lakes into the Upper Midwest, northern and central Plains and northern Rockies are likely to see subzero lows (and, perhaps, highs in a few spots) while wind chills may dip as low as 30 degrees below zero.

This weekend plunge will usher in a pattern change featuring colder-than-average temperatures not just over the Midwest and West, but also into the South and, eventually, the East next week.

Prior to the arrival of this surge of cold air, above-average temperatures will take hold of many states from the Mississippi River Valley to the East Coast on Friday. This will bring milder conditions to the Northeast, where many cities saw their coldest morning so far this season Tuesday.

See photos of wintry weather so far this season:

21 PHOTOS
Snow, winter weather 2015-2016 season across the U.S.
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Widespread Arctic blast coming this weekend
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - DECEMBER 27: A highway worker tries to shield himself while walking to his truck on December 27, 2015 in Lubbock, Texas. Coming on the heels of several strong tornadoes, some northern parts of Texas are experiencing blizzard conditions with wind gusts up to 50 mph and as much as 13 inches of snow forecast. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
NEDERLAND, CO - DECEMBER 15: Steve Hauser plows snow in the Caribou Shopping Center in Nederland, Colorado on December 15, 2015. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
NEDERLAND, CO - DECEMBER 15: A yellow lab waits patiently in his owner's snowy old truck along East 1st Street in Nederland, Colorado on December 15, 2015. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day. The dog looked warm and didn't wait long in the car as his owner returned shortly after an errand in the town. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DEC. 15: Anna Renton, 7, right, relaxes while neighbor Graham Langner, 7, has a snow fight with his nanny, Ashely Kish.The Denver metro area received more snow than expected overnight, closing schools across the city with some areas measuring a foot of snow by the early morning. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - DECEMBER 15: Crut Liles clears snow from his walkways outside his home in Lakewood, December, 15, 2015. Many schools in the area are closed due to the snow storm. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DEC. 15: A CDOT crew runs their plow truck southbound on Colorado Blvd. near E. 13th Ave. in Denver. The Denver metro area received more snow than expected overnight, closing schools across the city with some areas measuring a foot of snow by the early morning. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Al Frelk walks his dog, Shiba, 10, in Lords Park in Elgin, Ill., on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Asked about the snow, Frelk said, 'It's beautiful, but can be tough to drive in. Though Shiba has been waiting 9 months for this.' The first winter storm of the season dropped more than 10 inches of snow at numerous Chicagoland locations. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Snow hit the Denver metro area having an impact on air travel at Denver International Airport. They were clearing out from the snow on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. Raul Hernandez shovels snow in the economy lot. Hernandez and his crew had worked all night to clear snow. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - NOVEMBER 11: Brandon Nelli, a student at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, shovels snow during a Veteran's Day snow storm the moved into the area overnight, November, 11, 2015. Lakewood got almost 3 inches in some areas form the storm. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11: A blanket of white snow covers Fort Logan National Cemetery during a Veteran's Day snow storm the moved into the area overnight, November, 11, 2015. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
MONUMENT, CO. - November 17: Bob Swift clearing his driveway of a deep drift of snow in Monument, CO. November 17, 2015 Monument, CO (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
An above-average amount of snow covers a small cabin near where the first snow survey of winter conducted by the California Department of Water Resources in Phillips, California December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Cameron Shonnard backflips a jump at Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, California, December 5, 2015. An El Nino is forecasted for California, and regular precipitation has been welcomed after years of drought. REUTERS/Max Whittaker TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fresh snow clings to trees near Big Bend, California, December 4, 2015. An El Nino is forecasted for California, and regular precipitation has been welcomed after years of drought. Picture taken December 4. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
The U.S. Capitol dome can be seen behind piles of snow removed from parking areas and walkways around the Capitol grounds in Washington January 26, 2016. The snowbound Washington area was resuming partial business on Tuesday as trains and buses restarted near-normal service, while federal offices remained closed following a massive blizzard that hammered the U.S. East Coast. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Floodwaters cover Green Avenue after a winter storm in Manasquan, New Jersey, January 24, 2016. A morning high tide surge of 2 feet followed snowfall of about 2 feet in the first major storm of the season. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
A couple poses for a photo on a snow pile during a snow storm in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York, January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES - 2016/02/15: Snow is once again falling across Washington, D.C on Monday, 15 February 2016. The bitter cold was replaced by snow, sleet and rain Monday in the mid-Atlantic states and the South, but many residents were able to hunker down at home with federal offices and many businesses closed for Washington's Birthday. (Photo by Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A barn painted with the U.S. flag is seen in the snow covered field in Kanawha, Iowa, United States, January 16, 2016. Iowa will be the first state to hold its primary, with both Democratic and Republican events being held February 1, 2016. Picture taken January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Police officers gather outside the Montgomery County Courthouse, where actor and comedian Bill Cosby will arrive for a preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges, in Norristown, Pennsylvania February 2, 2016. Cosby has been charged with the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former women's basketball team manager at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby's alma mater. REUTERS/Mark Makela REUTERS/Mark Makela
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(MORE: Record December Warmth)

Below we have a look at the forecast for the chilly temperatures set to arrive this weekend, followed by a recap of the early week chill in the East.

Widespread Arctic Invasion Starts This Weekend

Bitterly cold air is building south across parts of northern and western Canada to wrap up the week. That cold air mass will then head into the Lower 48 this weekend as a large southward dip in the jet stream develops in the central states.

(MORE: January-March Temperature Outlook)

As is typical with invasions of arctic air in winter, the air mass will be accompanied by a strong area of surface high pressure plunging south to the east of the Rockies. The pressure gradient between the high and lower pressure in the East will contribute to gusty winds, resulting in low wind chill values as well.

Here's a general timing of when the cold air will arrive by day:

  • Saturday: Highs 15 to 25 degrees below average will engulf most of Montana east of the Continental Divide, the Dakotas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado. Temperatures 10 to 15 degrees below average will be found southward through the Plains into the Texas Panhandle.
  • Sunday: Highs 10 to 20 degrees below average will grip much of the Plains and Midwest, from the Dakotas and eastern Colorado to Illinois and Wisconsin.
  • Monday: Below average temperatures continue throughout much of the Midwest.

The map below shows the forecast high temperatures Saturday through Monday when this wave of arctic air will spread southward through the Midwest and Plains. Keep in mind that this forecast is subject to change, so check back for updates. There also remains uncertainty with how long this mid-January blast of cold air may last.

For cities in the Upper Midwest and northern Plains, including Minneapolis and Fargo, North Dakota, highs may not get out of the single digits. Parts of the Great Lakes and central Plains, including Chicago and Omaha, Nebraska, may only see highs rise into the teens or low 20s.

(FORECAST: Bismarck, North Dakota | Chicago | Minneapolis)

As for low temperatures, single digits and teens below zero are likely in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Lows in the single digits above zero are expected from the central Plains to the southern Great Lakes.



Temperatures will feel even colder when factoring in the winds. The "feels like" temperature, or wind chill, will drop into the 20s or even 30s below zero by Sunday across the Dakotas and Upper Midwest.



Early Week 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.



Observed low temperatures at selected locations in the Northeast on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. For both New York City and Boston, the readings were the lowest since Feb. 24, 2015, when New York hit 4 degrees and Boston bottomed out at 2.

Boston dipped into the single digits and wind chills as cold 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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