Temperatures today started in the 30s to near 40 — typical for daytime highs, not overnight lows, in mid-January. But if you follow me regularly you know that a couple of weeks ago I talked about the possibility that conditions would eventually turn colder.
Long-range forecasts are notoriously fickle, and when it comes to how much cold air will arrive, the outlook can change a lot. There’s little doubt that we are going to see chillier conditions this week. Temperatures will decrease as the week progresses, although Friday may be a bit milder before a second shot of colder air arrives for the weekend.
But this upcoming decrease in temperatures won’t be an unusual cold spell; it’s pretty much in line with the 30-year averages. It’s been so mild so far this January that even average temperatures are going to feel a lot chillier.
In terms of precipitation, anything that does fall will likely be in the form of snow, but moisture will be limited, so you can keep the shovels in the back of the garage for the time being. At best, the ground could become coated in white later this week from a few snow showers.
Yes, the winter of 2020-21 has so far been mild, but that doesn’t guarantee that this pattern will continue. To give you an idea of how cold it potentially could get, let’s look at the past 20 years.
On the left side of the chart below are the coldest high temperatures over the next week and on the right side are the coldest low temperatures. Notice that just two years ago, the temperature was only 10 degrees on the Jan. 21. On the days before and after that, temperatures went from above normal to that bone-chilling day and then back above normal again.
Even though we still see cold weather during the winter, the amount of time it lasts has been shrinking. Yes, February 2015 was incredibly cold, but that month stands out over the past three decades.
I still don’t see any prolonged chill in the forecast and in terms of precipitation, there’s also no major snowstorms on the horizon. Were this pattern to continue, it would mark the third winter in a row of below-average snowfall and not much in the way of notable cold. There are other clusters of years where there was low snow like this, and of course it remains to be seen if our winter continues in this manner.
For now, the winter lull rolls on. The only thing you might have to change day to day is the weight of your coat or whether you want gloves or mittens.