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Arctic air dominates US and Canada, record-breaking lows expected into New Year’s Day


Large swaths of the United States and Canada are experiencing a prolonged period of extremely cold Arctic air and forecast models call for even colder air to arrive before the New Year's Day and into the first week of 2018. Conditions will also remain favorable for continued, intense lake-effect snow around the Great Lakes, even in some regions that are out of traditional snow belt.

While Erie, Pennsylvania is still struggling through its record-shattering snowfall and dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills continue affecting the Northern/Central Plains, Great Lakes, and Northeast, meteorologists expect more heavy snow, freezing rain and some more record-breaking lows as we head into the weekend and the first week of 2018.

Lake-effect snow - December 27, 2017

Lake-effect snow – December 27, 2017. Credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP

Erie hit the news this week after its all-time daily snowfall record got shattered on Monday, December 25, 2017. That day, a potent storm dumped 86.3 cm (34 inches) of snow at Erie Airport which is more than four times its previous record for December 25 – 20.5 cm (8.1 inches).

The amount also smashed the city's snowiest single day record of 50.8 cm (20 inches) recorded on December 11, 1956. Another 62.2 cm (24.5 inches) fell by Tuesday night, bringing the total since December 23 to 159.7 cm (62.9 inches) and breaking the entire state of Pennsylvania 2-day total of 111.7 cm (44 inches), recorded on December 20 and 21, 1958.

It also beat the 13-day record snowfall for Erie of 134.1 cm (52.8 inches) recorded from December 31, 1998 to January 12, 1999.

By the end of Wednesday, an additional 6.6 cm (2.6 inches) of snow fell on the city, bringing their storm total snowfall to 165 cm (65.1 inches).

Since the start of the month, the city saw more than 253 cm (99.6 inches) of snow, breaking its previous monthly record of 169.9 cm (66.9 inches) measured in December 1989. On average, Erie receives 257 cm (101 inches) of snow per year and 70.6 cm (27.8 inches) from December 1 – 31.

On Wednesday, December 27, International Falls in Minnesota measured -36 °F (37.8 °C), breaking its previous daily record low of -32 °F (-35.5 °C). Lincoln, Nebraska set its new daily record low at -17 °F (-27.2 °C) and Norfolk, also in Nebraska, at -15 °F (-26.1 °C). 

On the same day, Detroit tied its daily record low of -4 °F (-20 °C) and Alpena, Michigan its daily record low of -16 °F (-26.6 °C).

With a preliminary 157.9 cm (62.2 inches) of snow, Redfield, NY broke the Oswego County record for two-day snow total as of 17:47 EST on December 26 (22:47 UTC). The old record was 144.8 cm (57 inches) measured in Bennetts Bridge in February 2008.

Light snow will spread across the Dakotas and Upper Midwest today, December 28 as a clipper system passes through the region, ramping up the lake effect snow production across the upper Great Lakes region as it approaches. It will move away eastward on Friday, December 29, ramping up lake-effect snow for the lower Great Lakes.

With Arctic air residing over a majority of the Northeast, as well as the West Virginia spine of the Appalachians, Wind Chill Advisories and Warnings are in effect, NWS said.

A persistent wet pattern is expected over the Pacific Northwest and the Intermountain West into the weekend and beyond. An approaching low pressure system will usher in a robust plume of moisture here that will result in widespread coastal rain, a mix of rain/freezing rain at the lower elevations of Washington and Oregon and snow in the higher elevations of the Cascades and Northern Rockies. Heavy snow is expected in this regime, according to NWS. Numerous Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Weather Advisories and Winter Storm Watches are in effect from Washington to Montana.

Several waves of Arctic air will ensure frigid temperatures over the United States from the Rockies to the southern and eastern U.S. as we head into the New Year's Day and beyond as a cold high pressure settles to the east of a sharp quasi-stationary front banking up against the Rockies.

ECMWF 850 hPa temperature anomaly model. Courtesy TropicalTidbits.com

"The Polar Vortex is back and it's delivering some of the coldest air on the planet to Ontario with dangerous wind chills and another round of snow to coat the ground as we say goodbye to 2017," The Weather Network reports

"With many cities across southern Ontario currently under extreme cold warnings, it may be disheartening to know that the coldest air has yet to arrive. In fact, it may be record-breaking cold by New Year's Eve across Ontario, including Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor as we head into New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day. If you have outdoor plans, be sure to bundle up as temperatures to start the first day of 2018 will be in the minus 20's and wind chills in the minus 30's," they added.

Video courtesy The Weather Network

Featured image: IR image acquired 16:00 UTC, December 28, 2017. Credit: WMS/SSEC/UW-CIMMS


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  1. Where was the video of the jet stream movement? If this article had that it would show how the stream moved up before coming to the coast of California and then went into Canada picking up arctic air and coming down into the great lakes. How could it do that?

  2. Take your Direct Relief ad and stuff it! I’m tired of supporting the rest of the world with our taxes and gifts. People overbreeding like demented rats — then waving beggar bowls in the air, pleading for help.

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