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Extremely cold air is flowing through Mass., but the cold won’t last long

Joy Lustig from Boston skated on the frozen Public Garden Lagoon on Tuesday.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A quick-moving line of snow showers marked the leading edge of the pure arctic air that arrived this morning, but the good news is, the cold won’t last for very long.

A line of snow showers passed through early Tuesday marking the leading edge of truly arctic air for our area.COD Weather

It’s unlikely that when walking through your home today that you’ll think that you’re walking through a fluid, but that’s exactly what you’re doing. Air is predictable, and arctic air is a much denser fluid with all the molecules of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and the rest packed tighter than they would be on a warm summer morning.

This cold air, with its components stuffed together, doesn’t leave much room for the water vapor molecules to sneak in between, the main reason why it’ll be so dry today. The air mass has arrived straight from the far reaches of the planet — probably close to the home of Superman. It will give you dry skin and even a scratchy throat.

Tuesday’s cold air can be sourced from the far northern part of Canada.NOAA


Temperatures have been going down since midnight, with the official high for today likely being in the lower 20s. Years from now, when people look at January 11, 2022, the only way they’d know how cold it was during the day would be to look at the hourly numbers. Indeed, this afternoon’s readings will hover between 9 and 15 degrees across the area, with a wind chill at or below zero.

The high temperature for today was set at midnight — it's been getting colder ever since.NOAA

Similar to that foot of snow that fell last week, the cold won’t last very long as it retreats northward, replaced by a milder southwesterly flow in less than 24 hours. Temperatures before sunrise Wednesday will go up, and although it’s going to be cold to start the day, by afternoon the readings will be in the mid to upper 30s.

It will be much milder on Wednesday afternoon with readings back well into the 30s.NOAA

A busy southwesterly flow will put a little bite back in the air in spite of the milder temperatures. Some more melting will occur on Thursday before a storm system passes out to sea to our east to conclude the week. As the storm moves farther away, it will usher in another round of cold air, but not as chilly as this one.


Most of the weekend looks dry, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day itself should feature partly sunny skies with temperatures seasonably cold — a nice day for winter activities. A quick note for the longer range: most of the models are agreeing that there’s going to be a storm somewhere to the east near us next Tuesday. This potentially could be rain or snow, but in terms of stormy weather, that’s next day for us to look out for.

A storm is likely to develop next Tuesday, but it’s track and proximity to New England is yet to be determined.WeatherBELL