Extreme cold grips Siberia, as temperatures fall to lowest levels since 2002
Icicles hung from a wooden house in Ufa, Russia, after firefighters tackled a fire in subzero temperatures on Jan. 8.
The coldest air on Earth plunged into Siberia this week, dropping temperatures to as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. An expansion of that cold is expected across eastern Asia into early next week and eventually North America, according to AccuWeather forecasters.
The bitter cold not only allowed temperature benchmarks that have not been hit in decades in some parts of Russia, but the extreme weather also created an icy spectacle as firefighters battled a fire in subzero temperatures on Jan. 8 in Ufa, Russia. Massive icicles clung to the home amid the anomalous cold.
The same Arctic blast dropped temperatures in Moscow to their lowest levels in years this past weekend, while even parts of northern India will get a taste of the cold beginning later this weekend.
A sampling of temperatures (in degrees Fahrenheit) across Siberia, as of Friday evening, local time.
Headlining this exceptional cold were temperature readings from the northern Siberia town of Zhilinda, which dropped to 80 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (62.1 degrees Celsius below zero) both Wednesday morning and Thursday morning, local time. Not only were these readings the coldest at this rural station since 1942 and represented new records for the month of January, but they were also the lowest temperatures recorded in all of Russia since 2002.
Climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, who tweets about extreme temperatures across the globe, pointed out that only 37 Russian stations have recorded temperatures as low as what was observed in Zhilinda and that such a temperature has become rare in Russia since the mid-1980s.
All-time low temperatures at Zhilinda and Russia overall are 82 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (64 degrees Celsius below zero) and 90 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (68 degrees Celsius below zero), respectively.
Another station in northeastern Siberia, Oymyakon, was nearly as cold on Wednesday morning, local time, measuring a low of 76 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (60 degrees Celsius below zero), which tied the all-time record low temperature there from 2008.
A similar, but less intense blast of cold air sent temperatures tumbling as low as 54 below zero in Siberia back in mid-November. The cold, however, has not been evenly distributed across all of Siberia this winter. The large population center of Omsk, in southern Siberia, has actually experienced temperatures above average on the whole since the beginning of the year, but the temperature recently fell to 25 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (32 degrees Celsius below zero) for the first time this season earlier this week.
"The driving force behind the cold is a trough of low pressure that has been slowly moving east across northern Asia over the past few days," said AccuWeather Lead International Forecaster Jason Nicholls. "Eastern Siberia will likely remain colder than normal well into next week."
A man plays on his accordion to earn money near a subway station in a cold, windy day in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. The temperatures in St. Petersburg reached -9 Celsius (16 Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
Nicholls is also expecting the cold blast to lead to accumulating snow in parts of North Korea, South Korea and northern Japan from Saturday through Monday, local time.
The bitter cold in Asia stands in stark contrast to what has been a much-warmer-than-average start to 2023 in much of North America, following a brief, bitter cold snap around Christmas. That warm weather will continue for most in the United States into next week.
A buildup of cold air over Siberia can often portend a cold wave arriving in North America mere weeks later. Sure enough, AccuWeather long-range forecasters have their eye on the potential for a big cooldown in North America around the beginning of the week of Jan. 23. Preceding this cold blast might be a smaller cold wave by the weekend of Jan. 21-22 in the central and northeastern U.S.
Ahead of the potential arrival of some Siberian air in North America the week of January 23, it will remain mild through the week prior.
"The connection of cold air from Siberia to western North America will spread east later this month, first arriving in the Rockies and Plains then breaking into pieces as it comes east," said AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok.
With any intense cold in midwinter, there will also be the threat of travel-disrupting wintry precipitation. The potential for a storm around the weekend of January 21 has caught the eyes of our long-range forecasters, who believe the cold coming in behind it could lead to a more widespread snow or ice event.
"This storm will have to be monitored closely to see how much cold air can infiltrate behind it, as another storm later in the month could produce more widespread wintry precipitation if enough cold air is in place," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham.
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