Following several weeks of economic data that has been, despite erroneous expectations of a Fed rate hike, one major disappointment after another including regional Fed reports, housing data, manufacturing surveys, construction spending, and durable goods data, the US economy is about to get the slowdown scapegoat it so desperately needs: according to Weather.com, following a brief overnight respite from cold temperatures, entering the first full week of January, both the Midwest and the East will see a plunge to the coldest temperatures of the season. This blast of cold temperatures will be different than the Arctic chill that ended 2014, which was mainly confined to the northern tier. This time the frigid air will push farther south and east.
As Weather.com forecasts, two rounds of Arctic cold will move through much of the U.S. this week. The first blast moves in behind Winter Storm Frona and begins in the Plains on Sunday and into the Midwest on Monday. High temperatures will be up to 25 degrees below average and will not reach above the freezing mark as far south as Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.
The second round will be even colder and will push farther south and east. A ridge of high pressure will build in the West with a deep trough in eastern Canada which will allow air from the Arctic to move southward across the eastern half of the U.S.
As a result, high temperatures are expected to be up to 35 degrees below average in parts of the Midwest by midweek. Chicago may see a subzero high temperature on Wednesday. The last time the mercury did not reach zero was on January 6 of last year. Chicago may also set a daily record cold high temperature on Wednesday (current record is 3 degrees set just last year) and a record low temperature on Thursday morning (current record is 10 degrees below zero).
It's not just the midwest states that will be impacted: a stretch of below-freezing temperatures may be in store for New York next week as the current forecast has temperatures below 32 degrees from Monday night to Sunday afternoon. Boston is expected to see the coldest conditions so far this winter as lows may drop down into the single digits for Thursday morning. The lowest temperature so far this season is 18 which was recorded on December 8.
And that's when the wind chill arrives: gusty winds will accompany the cold temperatures as a strong area of high pressure builds in behind the clipper system. These gusty winds will make it feel even colder. Wind chill values are expected to be below zero for much of the Midwest and Northeast overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning and in the single digits for parts of the Southeast. The coldest morning for many will be on Thursday as lows will plunge into the single digits and teens for much of East, with subzero readings in the Midwest and northern New England.
The Great Lakes region, which was stunned at the lake-effect that burried it under several feet of snow in late November, will get a chance to reprise it all over again, when it gets another lake-effect snowfall in under two months in the coming week.
The brutal cold is not expected to last too terribly long. Temperatures will begin to warm by the weekend throughout much of the Midwest and East, but temperatures may remain below average as a third shot of cold temperatures may impact the Great Lakes and Northeast next weekend.
The best news for establishment economists is that, post-facto, there will be yet another very convenient explanation to justify the rapid decline in economic data in December, especially now that the "Polar Vortex" phenomenon is firmly ingrained in the popular consciousness, the same polar vortex which in Q1 2014 singlehandedly wiped away nearly $200 billion in trendline growth from the US economy. And with the December jobs report on deck this week, the frigid weather couldn't have come at a more convenient moment. Just please forget that the "explanation" for the December slowdown took place in January.