Thursday, January 8, 2015

No-foolin' Arctic airmass takes Mid-South's collective breath away

The much anticipated Arctic airmass arrived as forecast overnight, though it's easy to forget what wind chills of zero feel like when it's been a year since their last visit! It almost just makes it hard to breath.

Temperatures plummeted into the single digits across nearly the entire metro this morning with wind chills hovering near zero. Though temperatures have "warmed" into the mid 20s this afternoon, a now-southerly wind of 10-15 mph has the same effect on wind chills as a north wind at the same speed. It still feels like the teens out.

This morning's official low of 9 degrees at Memphis International is just the 8th single digit low in the past 20 years (see list below), though it was far from the record low of -2 set in 1886. The last sub-zero readings in Memphis were on December 22nd (-4) and 23rd (-3), 1989.

Coldest Low Temperatures since 1995
  1. February 3, 1996 (4° F)
  2. February 4, 1996 (4° F)
  3. January 11, 1997 (8° F)
  4. January 7, 2014 (8° F)
  5. February 2, 1996 (9° F)
  6. January 8, 2010 (9° F)
  7. January 24, 2014 (9° F)
  8. January 8, 2015 (9° F)
Below are some images that seem to tell the story.

Temperatures across the metro from official and personal weather stations just before 6:30am when low temperatures occurred.

Regional temperature map as of 6:30am

We weren't the only place that was bitterly cold this morning...

As for where this cold air came from...

With temps that low, there are always interesting ice creations...

...even as far south as the Mississippi Delta!
As for how long the cold air will last, a reinforcing cold front will move through early Friday, ushering in another Canadian high, but this one not quite as cold. We may briefly get above freezing Friday afternoon after temperatures linger in the low to mid 20s overnight, but then it's right back into the mid teens by Saturday morning with another high near freezing. We look to get safely above freezing Sunday afternoon when the next precipitation arrives. This precip could briefly start as light ice (freezing rain or sleet) before becoming all rain. We'll be monitoring the Sunday-Wednesday period closely and update the forecast and blog as more info becomes available.

Stay warm!

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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