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  • Tim McGill

Frigid By Friday Night

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Bit Blustery Today

O'Hare dipped down to 13° this morning making it the second coldest morning of the season so far. The coldest morning occurred on Christmas day when the low dropped to 8°. By Chicago standards this morning isn't so bad though. Average lows for this date are around 16°.

This has been a relatively mild winter so far with December running 5.1° above average and January now running 7.3° above average. A low in the teens would ordinarily go unnoticed here but in the middle of such a mild winter it gets our attention.

It could be a lot worse. Today marks the anniversary of the coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago. On January 20th, 1985 the mercury plunged to -27°. The wind chill dipped to an incredible -77°. On the 2001 revised wind chill scale it would be -57°. The high that day was -4°. We weren't the only city in the grips of an Arctic blast. President Reagan's second inauguration was held that day. It was the coldest January inauguration on record. It was forced inside because of single digit temperatures in our nation's capital and wind chills near -25°. Today's inauguration of Joe Biden as our 46th president will feature warmer weather with highs in the 40s.

Cover Of Chicago Tribune On January 21st, 1985

Today starts with wind chills in the single digits. Highs will reach into the lower to middle 30s but blustery conditions (gusts to 30 mph) will make it feel like the teens and 20s at best.

We will thaw out on Thursday to near 40° but then temperatures tumble. We fall into the 20s for Friday and then recover back into the 30s by Sunday. Friday could be our first below average day in nearly a month.

Friday night will be frigid and Saturday morning could be the coldest morning of the season so far. Lows will dip into the single digits north and west of the city with sub-zero readings in northwest Illinois.

The GFS model temperature anomaly forecast has northern Illinois around 10° to 20° below average Saturday morning. With wind chills dipping down just below zero it will feel more than 40° colder Saturday morning compared to Thursday afternoon.

Complicated Wintry Mix This Weekend

O'Hare saw its sixth straight day with snowfall yesterday. During that stretch 3.2" of snow fell in total. So far this winter there has been 7.9" of snow compared to an average to date of 14.6" for the season.

The GFS model cloud cover and precipitation meteogram has some light snowfall coming Saturday night. A wintry mix is possible Sunday with areas north of the city favored for snow. This could spill over into early Monday. Another round of light snow is indicated for late Tuesday into Wednesday.

The accumulated snowfall meteogram for O'Hare considers not just the GFS model but many different computer models. It suggests a dusting to nearly an inch for the weekend system.

Heavier Snow Stays North

The GFS model forecast for this weekend keeps the heavier snowfall well to our north. Adding up all the snowfall from Saturday night into early Monday it spits out a few tenths of an inch for most of us with nearly 2" near the Wisconsin state line. This is a complicated system though that might mix in freezing rain and plain rain at times. Any shift in the forecast track or change in the strength of the system will mean changes to those totals so stay tuned.

No Signs Of Sustained Cold Into Start Of February

As mentioned above, we will have at least one bitter blast of cold Friday night but beyond that, there is no sign of any sustained intrusion of Arctic air anytime soon. The longer range temperature probability forecasts favor us for about average temperatures for the end of January and first few days of February. The 6-10 day temperature probability forecast has the Chicago area outlooked for about average temperatures overall from January 25th through January 29th. The longer range 8-14 day forecast keeps the Chicago area outlooked for about average temperatures overall for the period from January 27th through February 2nd.

The experimental multi-model ensemble has us outlooked slightly below average for the week ending on February 5th. It bumps us up a bit above average for the following week of February ending on the 12th.

The experimental multi-model ensemble temperature anomaly forecast for next month keeps the mild pattern we saw for the first two months of winter coming for February too. The only part of the country with below average temperatures on the map is a small portion of Washington and Idaho.

The precipitation probability forecast for February has the Midwest, including Chicago, and most of the northern half of the country outlooked for above average precipitation overall for next month. The southern tier of the US is outlooked for below average precipitation which is consistent with a La Nina pattern.

Shift In Precip Pattern

It has been a fairly active pattern lately but the long range precipitation pattern may be shifting into a more quiet mode. We are outlooked to shift from above average precipitation overall to around average as we close out this month and start the next. The 6-10 day forecast from January 25th through January 29th has us outlooked for above average precipitation overall. The 8-14 day forecast has us outlooked for about average precipitation from January 27th through the February 2nd. There is a growing area of tan and brown on the map which suggests much of our country will be trending towards drier weather for the start of February.

Here is my 7 day forecast:

Today: Partly to mostly sunny, blustery High: 33

Thursday: Partly to mostly sunny Low: 28 High: 39

Friday: Mostly sunny Low: 16 High: 25

Saturday: Partly to mostly cloudy (light snow overnight) Low: 8 High: 27

Sunday: Mostly cloudy, light snow or mix possible Low: 24 High: 34

Monday: Mostly cloudy Low: 27 High: 34

Tuesday: Partly to mostly cloudy Low: 19 High: 32



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