Wisconsin Weather

Major Cold Next Week in Wisconsin; Northern US

UPDATE - MON JAN 28, 2019 - This story was written last week. Please see our facebook page for the latest updates. Thank you!

Next week a highly amplified upper level pattern with a ridge in the west and trough (polar vortex) over the Great Lakes will funnel arctic air straight into the United States. This will set the stage for major cold in Wisconsin, possibly record breaking in the coldest time of the year.

500mb height anomaly. Ridge in the west and trough in the east work together to funnel arctic cold straight into the United States. This is highly amplified upper level flow.
500mb height anomaly. Ridge in the west and trough in the east work together to funnel arctic cold straight into the United States. This is highly amplified upper level flow.

Forecast models have been very consistent in showing MAJOR cold across Wisconsin and the entire upper Mississippi Valley/Midwest. Latest predictions call for temperatures around -20 to -33°F... nearly 30°F below average on Wednesday and Thursday! It will be cold on Tuesday and Friday also. Friday and beyond is still on the edge of being mentioned. I suspect temperatures will still be very cold.

Below I have the GFS temperature forecast loop from pivotalweather.com. Models show some clouds across the Great Lakes that may keep temperatures from really dropping off. Meanwhile to the west more clear skies and lower temps. If clouds are less common it could be colder. Models can change. This is intended to be an approximation. Not my literal forecast. Think ranges, not specific temperatures.

1/24 00Z GFS - Near record breaking cold expected mid-late next week. Forecast hours 96-180hr = Monday through Thursday AM. The cold will likely extend beyond 180 hr but I have a rule about not showing things that far away. GIF from pivotalweather.com
1/24 12Z GFS - Near record breaking cold expected mid-late next week. Forecast hours 96-168hr = Monday through Thursday AM. The cold may extend beyond 168 hr but I believe the worst of it will be around Wednesday. GIF from pivotalweather.com

As you can see this really is a big deal. Not just Wisconsin getting this. And should models trend a bit warmer in the upcoming days I still think feel this forecast is appropriate. At minimum it will be the coldest since 2014. I'm not going to share a windchill map until we get a bit closer for the same reasons I wouldn't post raw model snowfall amounts days in advance. I will say windchills could be even more impressive. -50°F or lower potentially. Serious stuff.

This is what the 7-Day temperature graph looks like for Wisconsin Rapids.

15°F below average this weekend. 30°F below average next week. I would say that is pretty extreme.
15°F below average this weekend. 30°F below average next week. I would say that is pretty extreme.

Record Breaking Cold?

If you are going to make that claim you better have data to back it up. Thankfully at WISCONSINWX.COM we host historical records for many locations in and around Wisconsin.

I wanted to find a record in a location where temperatures should be of the coldest spots next week based. I stayed away from eastern Wisconsin. It seems southwest, western, and northern Wisconsin get the coldest on average. I downloaded the Reedsburg, Wisconsin daily data set via Richland Center, WI forecast page on our website. This record goes back to 1945. It's missing a good portion of the 1990's including 1996.

The latest model forecast places locations in Wisconsin at a low temperature of around -20 to -30°F (conservatively) with spots to -35°F on Jan 30 and Jan 31. If we reach 35°F would that set a record at Reedsburg?

Records from Reedsburg and Green Bay Wisconsin. I view the Green Bay record has higher quality and would be more impressed to beat those.
Records from Reedsburg and Green Bay Wisconsin. I view the Green Bay record has higher quality and would be more impressed to beat those.

On Wednesday Jan 30, probably not. The record of -42F in 1951 is pretty darn cold. Maybe there is a data quality issue? But on Thursday, yes it would break the record. The Green Bay record book is higher quality and length therefore I would be more impressed to beat those. And -26°F is doable.

So yes, I would say possibly record breaking is a realistic possibility. I didn't talk about high temperatures which have their own set of records and might be more susceptible. If everything works out; whether we break records or not could simply be a matter of timing and location. I think places such as northern Illinois or Iowa may have a better chance at breaking records.

I don't think whether it breaks records or not should be the key point at this stage. No matter whether it's -30° or -35°F. It's still darn cold!

I think the graphic below is the best visualization of how extreme the upcoming cold could be. The farther you get outside of standard deviation (gray area) the more extreme it becomes.

Green Bay, WI high temperature trend. The forecast for late January is far lower than the average deviation. Where I've drawn in the forecast I am being conservative. It will probably go lower than that.
Green Bay, WI high temperature trend. The temperature forecast for late January is far lower than the average deviation (extreme). Where I've drawn in the forecast I am being conservative. It will may go lower than that based on what I've seen today.

Thank you for reading! I hope this was helpful! Stay warm! Talk to you soon!

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