An icy sunrise on the Potomac River, Dec. 28. (Carol Jean Stalun via Flickr)

(This post, first published at 1:30 p.m., was updated at 4:30 p.m. with information on Thursday’s high temperatures)

It’s bitter cold in Washington, and it may get worse.

Blast after blast of Arctic air will pour out of Canada,  first arriving in the north-central United States before barreling toward the East Coast over the next week to 10 days.

On Thursday morning, Washington posted its coldest low temperature in December in nearly a decade. It dropped to 16 degrees, which it hadn’t done during the month since Dec. 22, 2008. Factoring in the winds, it felt as frigid as 1 degree.

Dulles and Baltimore each fell to 13 degrees, respectively, with wind chills plunging to zero.

On Thursday afternoon, Dulles only rose to 23 degrees, the coldest high temperature on record there on Dec. 28, below the previous record of 24 set in 1993. Baltimore tied its record coldest high of 24 from 1993.

Washington, which hit 25 Thursday afternoon, rose above its coldest high for the date, which is 19 degrees, set in 1894 (when measurements were taken at 24th and M streets in the District). However, since its observations began at Reagan National Airport in 1945,  it tied the coldest high, set in 1993.

On Friday morning, Dulles could challenge its record low of 7 degrees for Dec. 29, set in 1977.

Temperatures will moderate some Friday afternoon and Saturday, with highs in the 30s (still at least 10 degrees below normal) before the next punishing surge of cold arrives New Year’s Eve.

Highs on Sunday will hover in the 20s, and by the time midnight strikes and we ring in the New Year, the American (GFS) model forecasts, the air temperature to be in the teens with wind chills in the low single digits.


Forecast temperatures from the American (GFS model at 1 a.m. New Year’s Day.)

On New Year’s Day, highs are predicted to only be 20 to 25 degrees after a low of 10 to 15 degrees. If the low is 15 degrees or less, it will be the coldest New Year’s Day temperature since at least 1977 (when it was 15). We won’t come close, however, to the record low for Jan. 1: minus-14 in 1881.

If the high temperature New Year’s Day is 25 degrees or lower, it will be the coldest Jan. 1 high since at least 1940.

Beyond New Year’s Day, it stays cold, and there are emerging signs another potent blast of cold may sweep through the region the second half of next week.


Ten-day temperature forecast from the GFS model. (WeatherBell.com)

By the time this cold wave ends, it is likely to rival the coldest stretch since Feb. 13-21, 2015 or possibly earlier.

As long as it stays this cold, remember that the best way to stay warm is to wear layers, cover your head and protect the extremities, including with gloves. Also remember to protect your pets: bring animals indoors.

Where’s the snow?

This weather pattern is so cold that it is suppressing storminess well south of the Mid-Atlantic, killing opportunities for snow. But there are a couple wrinkles.

A clipper sweeping through the region Saturday morning may offer some snow showers and flurries, perhaps giving a dusting to parts of the region.


American (GFS model snowfall forecast for Saturday.)

For snow lovers awaiting something more substantial, the time period to watch is the middle of next week. Models are suggesting that a storm may develop off the Atlantic coast. The European model predicts it to track closely enough to shore to generate snow over our region, while the American and Canadian models keep it well out to sea. We’ll update, as needed, on this potential in the coming days.


European model brings snow into the region Wednesday night into Thursday. (WeatherBell.com)

If we do manage any accumulating snow, it will make the cold air over the region even more intense as the snow acts like a refrigerator.