Cold coming? Not yet

Cold snap for Texas? Not yet

Whenever friends start sending me model forecasts for extreme weather, I figure that something is going viral. Sure enough, one model run from the American model over the weekend indicated a BIG cold snap coming our way. Here’s what was going around and you can see 20s here and teens to our east.

One run beyond a reasonable forecast brought cold weather our way

Why was this suspect? Because it’s for two weeks out (Jan. 23) and even a forecast eight days out is suspect. When these come down the pike, we have to be patient and see several more runs to check for consistency. And there was none. That cold snap was gone in the next run. There IS cold right now for the country and more to come, but generally for the Northeast. For tonight, Bangor, Maine, is forecasting -6° with 16° in New York City. Here’s the American model temperature forecast the next couple of weeks and you can see those ‘cold colors’ stay away from us.

You can see the big cold air outbreaks staying north and east of Texas courtesy

The polar vortex

You probably recall the polar vortex which is a strong upper-level air pattern circulating the north pole and keeping the really cold air locked up there. When the polar vortex splits or weakens, that cold air plunges south. What weakens the polar vortex? A sudden surge of warm air which comes from a lack of cold air meaning that Siberian snow cover is less than normal and/or Arctic sea ice is shrinking. So when those two cold air sources diminish, then warm air takes over, splitting the polar vortex. Here is an example of a ‘normal’ polar vortex and one that has split (from 2018):

The splitting allows cold air to move south into Canada and the US. courtesy NASA

Interestingly, the polar vortex is undisturbed right now, but it is “stretched” and very close the the United States border. That location allows some cold air to spill in to the U.S., which is exactly what is happening now in the Northeast:

You can see how close the PV is to the US border. Courtesy

So will we get cold here?

All this to say that for now we will remain relatively “normal to mild” here in Southeast Texas. Other features to watch are high pressure to our west and near Alaska (known as the Pacific Ridge). That pattern keeps us on the warm side and is what allows the cold air to move into the northeast:


Weather patterns change, of course, and we will continue to watch but the next 10 days look pretty normal for us and even above normal:

Normal to above normal temperatures forecast

It’s GREAT Marathon weather on Sunday and for MLK parades on Monday! Have a safe week!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.