Subzero cold to freeze northern Rockies, Upper Midwest in biggest Arctic blast of 2023
Colder temperatures are good news for winter festivals that have been working to open their doors.
Temperatures have been well above normal through the first month of the year in the north-central United States, but AccuWeather meteorologists say a fresh blast of Arctic air will deliver some of the coldest weather since Christmas.
The cold air mass continued to steadily seep across parts of the northern tier of the country through Sunday.
"This Arctic air mass will certainly be the coldest of 2023, and the coldest since the Arctic outbreak leading up to Christmas, but it may not necessarily break many records," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz.
In general, record lows in this area range from 40 below zero to 30 degrees below zero at this time of the year.
Temperatures in the Upper Midwest as of 5 a.m. on Sunday, January 29, 2023.
The cold has already been intense over the weekend, with the thermometer plunging as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit in northern Minnesota. However, thanks to some wind, temperatures will not dip as low as they sometimes do in an Arctic air mass.
"Since Arctic air masses are shallow in nature, it is not hard for a breeze to keep the atmosphere mixed and prevent temperatures from dropping like a rock, although any wind will aid in producing dangerous AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures," explained Benz.
When no wind is present, cold air tends to sink right to the surface. With even a slight breeze, the temperature is more uniform in the lowest part of the atmosphere, as opposed to the coldest air being right at ground level.
High temperatures stayed below zero in the higher elevations of Montana to northern Minnesota on Sunday, and similar conditions are expected for much of that area again on Monday.
International Falls, Minnesota, sometimes referred to as the "Icebox of the Nation," bottomed out at near -30 Sunday morning, and has fallen well into the -20s Monday morning as well. So far this month, subzero cold had been hard to come by in International Falls before this Arctic outbreak.
"As of Friday morning, International Falls had not recorded a high temperature in the single digits or lower so far in 2023, and they had only dropped below zero four times," Benz said. This weekend, temperatures failed to go above zero in the city, and are not expected to do so until Tuesday. Even then, high temperatures are expected to remain in the single digits or colder in the city until the upcoming weekend at the earliest.
The lack of cold thus far has also limited the amount of ice on the Great Lakes, but this air mass should begin to change that.
"This cold air should go a long way in helping to increase ice concentrations, at least on Lake Superior," noted Benz.
For some, mainly in the northern Rockies, the cold should gradually loosen its grip by late this week. For example, Great Falls, Montana, only reached -2 F on Sunday, but highs there may exceed 40 degrees by Thursday.
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