Temperature difference from normal over the planet at 7 a.m. Thursday (Thanksgiving) Eastern, as projected by the American (GFS) forecast model. (University of Maine Climate Re-analyzer)

Temperatures in the Northeast U.S. will drop to record lows on Thanksgiving as a punishing blast of Arctic air plunges south from Canada. The intensity of the cold in the Northeast, compared with normal, will be the most extreme on the planet.

The mercury will plunge about 20 to 30 degrees below normal. In some places, these temperatures will mark the coldest ever recorded not only on Thanksgiving but also in the entire month of November.


Temperature difference from normal predicted at 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving from American (GFS) forecast model.

This cold is truly anomalous, as much of the rest of Earth will experience higher-than-normal temperatures on the holiday. Locations in Antarctica, Iceland, Norway and Alaska will be milder.

Let’s take a look at just how cold we’re talking about in some of the major population centers.

In Boston, the high temperature on Thursday is predicted to be 22 degrees, which would be the coldest on record for Thanksgiving. It would also be the coldest high temperature ever recorded during the entire Thanksgiving week of Nov. 22-28, according to Peter Mullinax, a meteorologist with Planalytics.

Wind chills in Boston are likely to dip below zero at times on Thanksgiving Day, especially in the morning.

This shot of piercing cold is just the latest in a long list of holiday weather extremes in Beantown.

“In the past 7 years, we’ll have set the record for coldest Thanksgiving, coldest Valentine’s Day, coldest New Year’s Day…and the warmest Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day,” wrote Eric Fisher, chief meteorologist for Boston’s CBS affiliate.


Forecast high temperatures on Thanksgiving from the National Weather Service. Locations circled indicate they will be within one degree of the record-lowest high temperature for the date. (WeatherBell.com)

Burlington, Vt., and Providence also are predicted to have record-cold high temperatures of 16 and 22 degrees on Turkey Day. In Worcester, the forecast high of 16 would not only mark its coldest Thanksgiving, but also its coldest November day on record.

Unusually colder air will strike New York City, as well, where a high of 27 is predicted. That would mark the coldest Thanksgiving in the Big Apple in more than a century, since 1901.

“In summary, after Thursday everyone in #NYC can say they just experienced the coldest Thanksgiving anyone alive has ever witnessed in the Big Apple,” tweeted Bill Karins, meteorologist for MSNBC.

Spectators for the 92nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be forced to endure temperatures in the low 20s, wind gusts over 25 mph and wind chills in the single digits. If gusts reach 35 mph, a small possibility, large balloons will not be permitted because of safety concerns, according to AccuWeather.


Forecast wind chills from NAM model at 7 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

Philadelphia may join the ranks of cities notching their coldest ever Thanksgiving, with a forecast high of 28, compared with the previous record of 30 from 1996.

The chill will ease into Baltimore and Washington but still deliver some of the lowest Thanksgiving temperatures in decades. In both cities, highs in the low to mid-30s would be the coldest since at least 1996.

The bitter cold air mass diving into the Northeast has pure Arctic pedigree, originating from within the polar vortex and shooting south.

A cold air outbreak of this magnitude is statistically very rare for this time of year and more common in the core winter months of December through February. Although outside the norm, this cold in no way refutes the reality of long-term climate warming in the region and over the entire planet. As mentioned, much of the rest of the world will be warmer than average on Thanksgiving.

And, while intense, this cold shot will be fleeting, exiting the Northeast by Saturday, when near-normal temperatures return.