CARIBOU — Don’t put away your parka, scarf or gloves just yet. The temperatures that are expected to be well into the 40s early in the week are predicted to crash steeply Thursday and beyond, giving Maine its coldest weather of the winter.
AccuWeather, based in College Park, Pa., predicts “brutal cold” air originating over the North Pole will descend from Canada over northern New England. It blames the arctic blast on a change in the jet stream caused by upper atmosphere air conditions.
AccuWeather’s long-range weather expert Paul Pastelok, in a press release send out Jan. 7, notes that “early indications are that the initial thrust of the brutal cold will be directed over the Northwest, northern Rockies or northern Plains first, with subsequent waves reaching farther east.”
The cold could “arrive in one big blast,” Pastelok wrote “However, it is more likely the cold will advance along in waves of progressively colder air with each wave driving farther south and east.
On Friday, AccuWeather’s senior meteorologist, Bob Smerbeck, reiterated the prediction of frigid air flowing over Maine.
“It still looks like the leading edge of the cold air is coming in Monday night,” Jan. 14, which will begin to make its presence known gradually, he said.
“There’s a more impressive front that comes in Thursday,” he said, with highs in the Bangor area only in the teens. “And at some point [into the weekend], you may have highs in the single digits.”
Todd Foisy, science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Caribou, believes conditions could change to moderate AccuWeather’s view. He also put the prediction into context, saying the cold snap will not be so severe as to fall into the “once in a decade” category, but more like a once-every-two-years event.
“It’s going to get cold, but I don’t know if it’s going to be unprecedented,” he said.
“It is coming,” Foisy said of the cold, and northern Maine areas “may struggle to reach 0 degrees.” The air will be the coldest felt in Maine this winter, Foisy added.
The weather conditions are not expected to produce much snow, though some is likely, he said.
AccuWeather cited the phenomenon “known as sudden stratospheric warming,” which was observed earlier this week in the arctic. The stratosphere is located between 6 miles and 30 miles above the Earth. This warming forces cold air to build up in the lowest layer of the atmosphere, where it then moves south.
Last year, when Maine and much of the nation experienced a warmer than average winter, no such patterns were observed, Smerbeck said.
Foisy agreed that though most of Maine would see temperatures five degrees colder than experienced in the first week of January, coming after unseasonable warmth on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday may be a shock for many.
AccuWeather warned that “folks may want to check their supply of fuel for the second half of the winter sooner rather than later, in the event the waves of arctic air develop to their full potential.”