The January thaw is coming to shake the United States

The January thaw is coming to shake the United States

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  • The extreme cold will take a break in much of the country this week.
  • The January thaw can continue into early February.
  • Locations recently buried by heavy snow may see rain this week.

The ice began thawing in January, bringing relief to areas hit hard by the recent display of winter storms and outbreaks of cold air.

Temperate air now flows north into the frigid Plains, Midwest, South, and East.

(Current map trackers: Temperatures | cold air).

what are you expecting: By midweek, most of the south will be in the 60s and 70s and highs will reach the 40s for the southern Great Lakes and Northeast. Late this week, temperatures will likely reach highs in the 60s as far north as Philadelphia and Washington, D.C

(Forecast details: The highest and lowest levels in the United States in 10 days)

Morning lows will also trend milder. Lows during the second half of the week will be well above average, and dozens of daily record lows are possible across much of the East. Lows will only drop to the 50s and 60s in the South, with the 30s and 40s in the Midwest and Northeast.

How long will it last: The January thaw may have staying power not only through the rest of the month, but perhaps into the first weekend of February.

Flies in the ointment: This melting will not be accompanied by abundant sunlight. It is January, after all.

Warmer, more humid air flowing over a large snowpack will bring dense clouds, including some fog, to the Midwest, South and East this week.

It won't be dry either. Precipitation will continue to pour into the Midwest and Northeast for most of this week. When it's still cold enough, this precipitation may fall as sleet, freezing rain, or snow along the northern tier of the states.

But for most other areas, because the air will be milder, that means more of that could end up falling as rain.

This combination of warm air and rain should melt what's left of the southern snowpack, and could also affect snow cover in the Midwest and Northeast. This could lead to some flooding, especially in areas where deep snow blocks storm drains on city streets. It could also lead to ice jams in some rivers and streams.

Why the change? This melting is mainly due to a reversal of the pattern that caused trapping of cold air and winter storms.

A high-pressure dam high near Greenland and the Canadian Arctic has disappeared, leaving low pressure in its place.

This means there is no mechanism to force the persistent cold air out of Canada and into the United States.

Instead, milder air from the Pacific will dominate, warmer air will flow north from the southern United States, and cold air will be trapped in Canada for a while.

It's a pattern that contributed to America's record warmest December in 129 years and the lowest Christmas snow cover in 20 years.

Winter fatigue: In less than two weeks, five separate winter storms have struck parts of the country, from Winter Storm Ember in the Northeast on the first weekend of January to the current Winter Storm Nile, which spread from the West to the Midwest and East this week. This is equivalent to the amount of winter storms in January, on average.

Then a wave of bitterly cold air blew across the eastern two-thirds of the country. Dillon, Montana, hit an all-time record low (41 degrees below zero), the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins played the coldest game in franchise history (41 degrees below zero), and the lowest temperature in the lower 48 states on Wednesday was not in Montana, but in Kentucky.

More at Weather.COM

How to prevent frozen pipes in your home

Tips for staying warm when the power goes out

How to protect yourself from hypothermia

Historic cold waves in US history

Jonathan Erdmann is a senior meteorologist at Weather.com and has been covering national and international weather since 1996. His lifelong love of meteorology began with a close encounter with a tornado as a child in Wisconsin. He studied physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then completed a master's degree working with dual polarization radar and lightning data at Colorado State University. Extreme and strange weather are his favorite subjects. Contact him on X (formerly Twitter), Threads, Facebook And the sky is blue.

The Weather Company's primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment, and the importance of science in our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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