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David Epstein

Just how long can this cold possibly stick around?

A cold snap like this has hit Boston only once before — a century ago. Video by Scott LaPierre and Taylor de Lench
A cold snap like this has hit Boston only once before — a century ago. Video by Scott LaPierre and Taylor de Lench

It’s cold this morning, and it’s going to get even colder in the next 24 hours.

A wind chill advisory is now posted for much of New England later Wednesday and into Thursday morning — that’s when it will feel the coldest in this, the first of what will probably be two arctic outbreaks.

Winter is one of those seasons that some of us embrace and some of us tolerate. Just like summer heat waves can eventually wear down even the most ardent of beachgoers, consecutive days of sub-freezing temperatures can erode the enthusiasm of any cold-season fan.

Thursday will be a record-breaking day. With highs predicted to not even reach 15 degrees, Thursday would be the coldest daily maximum temperature recorded in Boston. Worcester would also break its record.


A jet stream gone south

The weather over the next 10 days features temperatures significantly below average. The jet stream has moved far to our south and is allowing a flow of polar air straight into New England. The satellite loop shows where the jet stream is positioned: by the clouds exiting the coastal Atlantic region, near the Carolinas.

Another notable feature is the big swirl to the northeast of Maine. That’s our Christmas storm backing down toward us again, and it’s also why winds will be increasing Wednesday and Thursday. Don’t worry, it’s not going to get far enough south to give us anything more than wind.

The cold could be worse, however: Wind chill readings this morning across parts of the Upper Midwest are in the -40s.

Not every day over the next two weeks will be equally cold. At times, a renewed blast of arctic air will cross New England and temperatures will dip a little bit lower. As the core of that particular air mass moves east, temperatures will recover slightly but never get anywhere near freezing.


The black line on the image below represents the average of several versions of the European model.

Any snow with this cold?

Long range forecasts can still certainly change dramatically. That said, I don’t see any big snow in the forecast as the dry arctic air will probably keep the storm track out over the ocean. That’s why a storm Saturday should miss us, but a slight shift can bring one of those storms closer to the coast. That’s similar to what we saw back in February 2015, the last time we had a long stretch of sub-freezing temperatures.

February 2015 ranks third for most successive days without breaking the 32-degree mark in Boston. These sub-freezing temperatures will probably last between 10 and 14 days. That’s a very long range forecast, but I feel confident this will break late in the first or early in the second week of January.

Until then — bundle up.

Finally, this cold can be hard on seniors and pets. There are inexpensive coats for dogs, so your furry friends can still go outside — but keep trips short on the coldest of days. If you are running to do some errands, why not ask an elderly neighbor if they need anything? They’re likely to appreciate not having to go outside and deal with the frigid air.