Friday, January 16, 2015

Winter Cold: We're About Halfway Through The Chill

The coldest day of the year, on average is
roughly about now in the United States.  
Another sharp Arctic cold front is slicing across New England today, promising subzero temperatures again tonight.

It'll stay chilly in the Northeast next week after a brief warmup this weekend.

A few admittably uncertain signs are pointing to perhaps some renewed outbreaks of frigid North Pole air across the central and eastern United States in late January or the first half of February.


This is the time of year when people who aren't fans of winter think this will NEVER end.

Cheer up, though. We're about at the bottom of winter, temperature wise. We're halfway through it.

The map on this page shows the average date of the coldest temperature of the winter. Click on the map to make it bigger and easier to see.

Now, these are just averages. You never know year to year. Maybe where you live, the coldest day of the year has already passed. Or it's yet to come in late January, February or even March.  You won't know until spring hits.

But as you can see, in most of the western United States, on average, has already seen its coldest day of the year.

In the Midwest and Northeast, the coldest day of the year comes in late January or early February. In the Southeast, the worst chill typically comes in mid-January.

Even though the winter solstice was on December 21, the northern hemisphere keeps cooling off for a few weeks after the solstice. The sun is still low and weak, so days that are a few minutes longer than they were in December don't matter. The North keeps losing heat.

I think the Northeast and Midwest has the latest average coldest temperatures because it often takes until late January or early February for some of the deepest snows of the season to accumulate.

The coldest nights of the year are more likely than not to come when there is deep snow on the ground.

But in any event even in the Northeast, the coldest week of the year, on average, is usually right after Martin Luther King day. That's next week.

From there, it's a long, unsteady slog up the temperature scale towards spring. The days are getting longer, and the slowly strenghening sun will finally start to have its effect.

You even notice it on cold days. Sunny, but subzero days here in Vermont feel a bit warmer in February than they do in December or the first half of January, because the sun has a little more oomph to it.

So yes, we'll freeze our tushes off for awhile yet in much of the country. But before you know it, you'll be planting snow peas in your garden instead of just shoveling snow in the Arctic chill.

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