Anybody tired of the "polar vortex" yet? No? Excellent, because it's returning soon with all its tail-whipping winds and freezing temperatures as low as 35 degrees below average.
The expected timetable for the vortex – a name that's not technically accurate in many cases – is that the cold will arrive in the Midwest this weekend and in the following days paint the South and East with misery. If anybody wants to shoot the messenger, although please don't, consult this prognostication yesterday from the Weather Underground's Jeff Masters. Here's part of it:
Temperatures 20°F below normal will likely invade the Upper Midwest on Sunday, and gradually spread southeastwards during the week. The peak cold is predicted to occur late next week, with temperatures 20 - 35° below normal covering much of the eastern 2/3 of the country. As a result of these new model runs, the natural gas market has been soaring ever since early this morning, and is now approaching a five-year high of $6.
That five-year high had been topped as of Wednesday afternoon, with prices soaring to $6.25. That's understandable considering that in the past month, only 4 days have reportedly had below-average demand for natural gas in the United States.
To get an idea of how widespread this chill-fest is looking, here's the 6 to 10-day temperature forecast issued Wednesday night by the NWS Climate Prediction Center. Darker-blue regions represent areas with greater probabilities of below-average cold (and that thin white band is just-about average):
The injection of arctic air won't do much to thaw out the eastern half of the country, still stinging from a January of below-average temperatures:
Top photo: Frigid New Yorkers perhaps hearing about this "polar vortex" thing for the first time in mid-January. (Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press)