Local Weather History: The January 30-31, 2019 Arctic Outbreak

The cold broke daily temperatures records & brought the lowest wind chills since 1994 to 1985 over the viewing area.

Posted: Jan 30, 2019 9:00 PM
Updated: Feb 9, 2019 6:08 PM

Arctic outbreak arrived on the evening of January 29 & persisted to January 31.  Wind chills dipped to -54 to -35 over the viewing area with actual air temperatures dropping to -23 to -12.  Purdue University cancelled classes for only the 12th time in 42 years & for the first time since the January 2014 major winter storm & extreme cold (-40 wind chill at the Purdue Airport & wind chill to -46 in our northwestern counties).

Frost quakes occurred & loud, interesting, billowy accoustics were heard from planes & jets passing overhead from the cold.  The troposphere shrunk to its thinnest thickness since January 1985 with the 480 dm thickness reaching our area.  Also, ice crystals fell from a clear sky at times (bitter, dry could not hold the moisture) on January 30 with sun dogs & halo occasionally observed around the sun.  The crystals refracted the sunlight, causing the optical phenomena.  These crystals also made the sky hazy at times.

Flash freeze occurred as the first of two Arctic cold fronts brought the extreme cold in.  Snow of up to 1" also accompanied the the surges of cold with three rounds of strong winds with some gusts of up to 48 mph.

Much of the area was shut down due to the life-threatening nature of the cold & a Wind Chill Warning was issued viewing area-wide for the first time since January 2014.

This was all preceded by the weakening of the Polar Vortex into three sections, which allowed extreme cold to invade the central & eastern U.S. & Europe.  Intense cold with wind chills <-25 & multiple rounds of snow (but also a brief thawing with around to to some 40s) preceded this Arctic outbreak.  This Polar Vortex weakening & segmenting followed a significant stratospheric warming event in late December.  These warmings usually occur weeks before the actual outbreak hits.

The lowest wind chills since January 1994 or January 1985 (depending on where you were) occurred on the morning of January 30 & the morning low of -17 at West Lafayette broke the daily record low of -12 set in 1966.  This occurred on the same day that Anchorage, Alaska saw record warmth with a record warm low temperature of 33!  The January 31 reading of -19 at West Lafayette broke the -13 daily record set in 1899.  A record low daily high was set as well.

Interestingly, January 30 has the warmest record low temperatures for any day of the month in the 1879-2019 West Lafayette data set.  There is a climatological bump upward in the temperature at the very end of the month with signals of the typical late January thaw that often just precedes Groundhog's Day in early February.

TOP 5 LOWEST WIND CHILLS RECORDED SINCE 1950:

1. -51 January 20, 1985

2. -45 December 24, 1983...January 23, 1963...January 24, 1963

3. -44 January 18, 1994

4. -41 January 15, 1977 (New #4 Now -42 January 30, 2019)

5. -40 January 15, 1972...January 15, 1994...December 22, 1989...January 6, 2014*

*Note - several hours of data were missing prior to -40 reading in 2014, so it may have gotten lower.

TOP 5 LONGEST DURATIONS WITH WIND CHILLS OF LESS THAN -40:

1. 16 Hours: January 20, 1985

2. 15 Hours: December 24, 1983

3. 7 Hours: January 18, 1994

4. 5 Hours: January 16, 1977

5. 3 Hours January 23, 1963...January 24, 1963

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Barry remnants skim by, then intense heat wave sets in.
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