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January 17, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Cold As Ice: Next Outbreak Identified

Given the models over the last few runs, I can’t help but think of Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” from 1977. Unfortunately the lyrics don’t help as they deal with love (or the lack thereof) rather than an approaching cold front with temperatures so much colder than what we have already seen this winter season. Let’s move on.

First, there are lots of questions this morning about this next Arctic air mass and a deep, upper-level storm system approaching from the west. One thing not in question however, is that this air mass is significantly colder than last week’s.  Though cold, the temperatures of northwestern Canada last week remained above zero or just below. Today, temperatures are in the -25 to -40F range. Impressive.

Surface observations from northwestern Canada this morning indicate temperatures as low as -15F in northwestern British Columbia, -31 in northern Alberta and -35 in southwestern Northwest Territories.

Another item that is not in question is that the airmass will move south. From there, the numerous questions begin: How far south? How far east? How cold? When? Snow, ice, freezing rain (where/when/how much)?

What about the precipitation? The classic snow formula for the Gulf Coast includes Arctic air arriving from the north just as a Pacific storm system with abundant moisture arrives from the west. Then, as the precipitation falls through the cold air, snow, sleet or freezing rain results. This time, it looks like the coldest air will arrive after the precipitation departs — with a hard freeze possible for the region Friday and Saturday mornings, but no snow.

And, did somebody say, “Nor’easter”? For the third time in as many weeks a significant nor’easter is beginning to take shape. Thanks to the large upper-level storm system out west and the new batch of cold air pushing south and east, the ingredients are in place for yet another nor’easter by late next weekend.

Speaking of questions: a significant question at this time, is that of confidence. How confident are we in this developing situation of an Arctic air mass pushing south? To further complicate matters, the computer models are again, like last week, split. Some are not indicating any cold air reaching the Gulf Coast while some are taking it right down to the Yucatan peninsula.

ImpactWeather's StormWatch team is indicating the cold, the snow, the freezing rain and the rain of the next Arctic airmass. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch.

For now, we’ve identified the potential of this next winter storm system and while our confidence of the specific details remains low our overall confidence in the approaching cold is increasing. Additional details will follow here on YourWeatherBlog, as well as ImpactWeather’s YouTube channel where the latest StormWatch video was uploaded a few moments ago.

Foreigner's "Cold As Ice" had absolutely nothing to do with the weather. Image: Allmusic.com.

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