Weather to bring record lows

Published 2:11 pm Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Eastern North Carolina is scheduled to experience record lows for Feb. 19 and the coldest temperatures since 1985 as a result of a massive cold air outbreak from Canada.

Jake Benedict, an atmospheric science graduate and freelance meteorologist, said an arctic high will be moving down from central interior Canada across the eastern United States, funneling down cold surface winds to the eastern United States. A Pacific ridge over the west coast, added with a large, deep trough — a dip in the jet stream — and an upper-level low over the Hudson Bay in Canada will bring the coldest weather conditions in 30 years. Winds coming up from the central Pacific Ocean and along the west coast meet the trough right over the Yukon Territory in Canada. An upper-level low over the Hudson Bay in Canada feeds cold air to the trough, traveling south. From there, the trough dips all the way to the Texas/Mexico border, goes over the Gulf of Mexico and continues upward off the Eastern seaboard, carrying cold air across the east, Benedict said.

“The winds aloft are coming ashore from the Pacific Ocean in the Alaska region and they go into interior Canada,” Benedict said. “Then they dive down towards Texas, and then the winds turn up south from there. That air is coming right over North Carolina. This is a very large, deep trough. One of the largest I’ve ever seen actually.”

Benedict said in addition to the storm that came through Monday night, another cold front is being tracked over Michigan, which has passed through Chicago and into central Missouri, which will play a role in Thursday’s projected low temperatures.

According to Benedict, as a result of these weather conditions, Thursday will see record lows for Feb. 19, which are projected to be 3 degrees—13 degrees below the record for that date. Data is based on recordings for Cape Hatteras and New Bern. For the month of February, the lowest temperature recorded in New Bern was 6 degrees on Feb. 13, 1973. The coldest temperature recorded in New Bern was -4 degrees on Dec. 25, 1989. The coldest temperature recorded in New Bern for Feb. 19 was 16 degrees in 1958, Benedict said.

Benedict said the wind chill, however, will cause temperatures to drop below zero. When the secondary cold front comes through, bringing the majority of the strong winds Thursday night into Friday morning, sub-zero temperatures will be recorded, Benedict said.

“I believe 1985 was the last time it was this cold—30 years ago,” Benedict said. “This will definitely be the coldest it’s been since I’ve been alive, especially this far south. I heard them saying on the news that it hasn’t been this cold since the Reagan inauguration of 1985. This is a very significant cold air outbreak. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this ever. I’m definitely not looking forward to it, I can tell you that. But yeah, this is one nasty arctic high that’s coming down from the central Canadian interior.”

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