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Get ready: bitter cold is on the way

A jogger runs along the Charles River past the Boston skyline.BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS

Even at a time when winters aren’t as cold as they once were, we still can experience bitter cold and indeed we have about 36 hours of icy winds on the way.

After highs Monday reach the 20s with sunshine and a cold wind, the real arctic air arrives overnight. Tuesday is going to be the core of the cold. Let’s start with the wind chill. Wind chill is based on the premise of your skin losing moisture to the wind and cold making you feel even chillier. I like to think of this as the opposite of our summer heat index. On Tuesday morning with a busy northwesterly wind and temperatures in the single numbers, the wind chills will be well below zero.


8 am forecast windchill temperatures will be below zero in nearly all of New England. (WeatherBELL)

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory for the higher elevations of Berkshire and Worcester counties, but even in areas without the advisory it’s going to be uncomfortable. This is the type of cold where you need to protect your face and hands from frostbite if you’re going to be outside for longer than 30 minutes.

Wind Chill advisories are posted for parts of Massachusetts. (NOAA)

Later Tuesday afternoon, the winds will diminish somewhat and as temperatures reach the upper single numbers and lower teens they won’t be quite a sting to the air.

Since the air that’s arriving is coming from deep in Canada there’s not much moisture with it. As a matter of fact, the loop below shows the dew points dropping well below zero.

Pure arctic air arrives overnight Monday and into Tuesday with very low dew points.DaveEpstein/(WeatherBELL)

When this extremely dry air is brought into your house and heated up, it makes the relative humidity not much above zero. As a result, your skin and your lips will easily crack and even furniture can exhibit stress after long periods. Humidifiers do a great job of increasing the moisture in our homes and I highly recommend them.



The actual temperature is forecast to be about 12 degrees Tuesday afternoon. The chart below shows the coldest maximum temperatures for January 11 since the year 2000. If the temperature in Boston does not climb above 12 or 13 degrees Tuesday afternoon, it will be among the colder ones and possibly the coldest.


There should be a moderation coming by Wednesday after many areas start the day near zero. It will remain more seasonably cold the rest of the week with no big storms for at least a few days.