Minus 20 to 30? Siberian Express may bring coldest air of winter in about 2 weeks

Forecast models suggest extreme cold may be on the way

NOAA GFS model 16-day temperature output for 6 a.m. Jan. 22.
NOAA GFS model 16-day temperature output for 6 a.m. Jan. 22.
NOAA via pivotal weather

It’s a typical part of a Minnesota winter.

A pool of subzero air over Siberia crosses the polar regions and dives southeast into Minnesota in late January. Temperatures and windchills plunge to double-digit subzero levels. Minnesotans hunker down, and watch how low the thermometers go.

We’re used to bitter cold in Minnesota winters. But it still creates problems with travel, potential school closings, and frostbite.

Wednesday’s medium-range forecast models continue to suggest a subzero arctic outbreak for Minnesota in about 10 days to two weeks. If the early read on the forecast models turns out to be correct, it could be the coldest air mass of winter.

Siberia: Minus 40

The coldest air on planet Earth in the northern hemisphere winter often pools in Siberia. Temperatures colder than minus 40 have been common for the past few weeks.

The northern hemisphere temperature map shows a massive pool of bitterly cold air over Siberia. The Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures scales meet at minus 40, you can use that as a guide on the map below which shows temperatures in degrees Celsius last Sunday.

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Observed temperatures Sunday in degrees Celsius
Observed temperatures Sunday in degrees Celsius
NOAA via tropical tidbits

Clearly that’s cold enough to freeze most objects in seconds. Minnesota has nothing on Siberia when it comes to extreme cold weather tricks.

Arctic outbreak

The upper-level winds drive weather patterns across the northern hemisphere. Watch this animation between Jan. 12 and 21, and you can see how mild air over Minnesota is replaced by pulses of colder air. The last few frames show a deep cold wave diving through Minnesota into the eastern half of the U.S. by around Jan. 21.

NOAA GFS model upper air forecast animation between January 12 and 21
NOAA GFS model upper air forecast animation between Jan. 12 and 21.
NOAA via tropical tidbits

Minus 20 to minus 30?

I’m getting more confident by the day that subzero air is likely in Minnesota after about Jan. 16. But it’s still too early to be confident about the precise magnitude of the cold outbreak.

The extended range GFS output may be overdone here, but it suggests temperatures in the minus 20s, to possible minus 30 across Minnesota by around Jan. 21.

NOAA GFS model 16-day temperature output for 6 am January 22
NOAA GFS model 16-day temperature output for 6 a.m. Jan. 22.
NOAA via pivotal weather

Stay tuned as we track the trends for a potential bitterly cold arctic outbreak in about 10 days to two weeks.