Winter storm prospects in 6 maps, from arctic storms to bomb cyclones


We could write all day about the unbelievably cold air and strong winds hitting much of the country. But sometimes pictures tell the story best. Here are six images that help show the breadth and impact of the winter storm, which is already setting records as it advances across the country.

1. Beautiful animation depicts cold air sweeping across much of the country

The animation shows forecast temperatures for 48 hours across the United States starting Wednesday afternoon. If it weren’t for the real-life consequences of the brutal blast of cold air, one might mistake it for a beautiful work of art.

That forecast, purple and white representing temperatures 30 to 50 degrees below normal, has already been achieved across much of the northern plains, with temperatures dropping to -10 to -30 degrees on Thursday. As of noon Thursday, numbers in the teens and single digits had reached as far south as the northern half of Texas.

If you thought the coldest air (white and purple) could blow south from Siberia, you’d be right!

2. Upside-down temperatures make Oklahoma colder than Alaska

The arctic storm left its mark as far south as Oklahoma with single-digit temperatures midday Thursday.Turns out, Oklahoma City is 13 degrees colder Utqiagvik, the northernmost city in Alaska, is pictured above. Taking the wind into account, Oklahoma City was minus 22 degrees, while Utqiagvik had a wind chill of 5 degrees.

The world should return to normal again by Friday, when Oklahoma City is expected to hit a relatively modest high of 19, while Utqiagvik may only hit a high of 4.

3. According to the “apparent temperature” forecast, it will obviously be very cold

This “apparent temperature” forecast from the National Weather Service, or what you and I call wind chill, shows just how cold the air is expected to be at 7 a.m. Friday across the country, from sub-zero temperatures across the northern Plains and much of the Midwest. 30 to minus 50, minus 20 to minus 30 in the central plains, zero to minus 10 south to central and north Texas or Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.

Wind chills near zero to minus 20 degrees are expected to reach the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast through Friday night and into Saturday morning, with wind chills in the single digits and mid-teens along the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast coast.

In such extreme cold winds, frostbite can occur within minutes.

4. Watch sub-zero winds head east

Just as impressive as the low wind chill value is how quickly the wind chill air travels across the country from west to east. In this zoomed-in view of the National Weather Service’s high-resolution NAM model, you can see how quickly the forecast cold air is heading east, and how tight the gradient is between the relatively warmer air ahead of the front and the dangerously cold front. Chill behind.

We’ve already seen how quickly this arctic front can bring temperatures down in places like Casper, Wyoming, where temperatures dropped from 27 degrees to 3 degrees in just 15 minutes after the front passed on Wednesday, and in It dropped for 24 hours in less than 70 degrees and the wind chill plummeted to minus 65 degrees. Temperatures in Denver dropped a record 37 degrees in an hour on Wednesday, and the wind chill dropped to minus 40 degrees on Thursday morning.

5. Winds whipped up huge waves on the Great Lakes

Lake Superior is expected to see huge waves, peaking late Friday through Saturday, according to experimental wave models run by NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. The southeastern part of the lake is expected to accumulate in waves of 20 feet or higher if northwesterly gusts of 50 to 60 mph or higher are expected from noon Friday through early Sunday.

With temperatures in the single digits and high teens, a severe freezing spray warning is in effect for central, eastern and western parts of Lake Superior Thursday night through Friday night. According to the National Weather Service, “freezing spray velocities of 2 centimeters per hour or greater are expected to rapidly accumulate on ships”.

Big swell forecasts for some of the other Great Lakes are listed below.

6. The storm may form a bomb cyclone as it advances eastward

The low pressure will intensify rapidly along the Arctic front, possibly qualifying as a “bomb cyclone”, which requires a pressure drop of at least 24 millibars over a 24-hour period. This animation is a projection of the European model, which predicts that the storm’s pressure will drop from 1005 millibars over Indiana to 961 millibars over southern Quebec.

In general, the faster a storm drops in pressure, the more extreme the weather it creates. In this case, the precipitation will not be as extreme as we have seen in some other bomb cyclones. Just as impressive as the wind gusts are the speed and strength with which the storm will push the southward arctic air.

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