Record cold possible tonight as D.C. prepares for early freeze

November 22nd, 2014. That was the last time Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. saw temperatures below 32° in the month of November, when they fell to 26°. The average date of the first freeze for the District, where temperatures hit or fall below 32°, is November 18th. Hitting that mark in the early morning hours of November 11th would make it the earliest freeze in the D.C. region since 2006, when the city saw its first freeze on November 4th.

If you are a Washingtonian who believes that all records were made to be broken, then the number to shoot for tonight is 26°, a record low that has held strong since 1973. As they typically are due to city influences and the fact the official temperature measurement sight for D.C. is located near the Potomac River (water can have a warming influence on the air around them during the cold season), the suburbs are expected to be several degrees colder than the District by dawn on Saturday. Lower 20s are expected just northwest of town, with teens even possible in the highlands west of the city. BWI Airport in Baltimore may fall just short of breaking their record of 21° though, and we do not expect teens to get close far enough south and east to threaten the frigid record low of 16° set at Dulles International Airport back in 1973.

The early winter blast comes courtesy of a very healthy fall snow season for North America, so far. Snowfall coverage across much of the continent is running well above the seasonal normal with the highest levels seen for this time of year since 2003. Snow expanse is important as it helps breed these cold air masses in northern Canada. The southern extent of the snow coverage helps keep them cold as they travel southward. As snow cover continues to expand across the northwest United States, it will likely help subsequent visits from cold air later in the month be even colder than the one visiting this weekend. Cold November's are nothing new to the region however, particularly in weak La Niña years as historically they have helped keep temperatures during the month cooler than normal.

Looking at the weekend, Saturday has the potential to be the coolest November day in three years. Veterans Day will at least start sunny and bright, but do not let the sunshine fool you from throwing on the heavy coat as you head out the door Saturday morning. By the afternoon, high pressure will begin to slide to the northeast and winds will begin to turn off the ocean. This will force air that is slightly warmed by the ocean to rise up and over the heavier, colder air in place in our region…a recipe for clouds! These clouds will hold on pretty strong for Sunday as well, but the good news is right now there is no indication we will see any drizzle or showers during the daylight hours although a little later in the evening a few will be possible. This is good news for Redskins fans, as kickoff looks chilly (40s) but dry as the Vikings come to town at 1pm Sunday afternoon. Temperatures into the next workweek will slowly moderate, but remain seasonably cool. Have a great weekend!

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