Sunday January 26, 2014 | 08:52 AM
Posted by David Epstein

 Another overall cold week is on the way for New England with multiple shots of artic air keeping the region frozen solid.

This has been a winter where folks are talking about the temperature. From Bismarck to Bangor, Chicago to Calais and everywhere in-between the cold weather is making headlines.  One of the side effects of the cold is the financial cost this is having on folks.  With temperatures so cold for so long, the cost of keeping warm is becoming a financial line item larger than many of us expected.  As a function of heating degree days (HDD), we have needed about 14% more energy to keep warm this season as compared to the previous one.  Of course that increase doesn’t take into account higher base price of electricity, oil or gas this year, you need to add those numbers in the equation as well to see just how much your budget has been impacted.  

Heating degree days are found by taking the average temperature and subtracting it from 65F.  For example, in Boston yesterday the average daily temperature was 24.  If you subtract that number from 65 you get 41 which are the number of HDD for Saturday.  (Interestingly that number was slightly fewer than average with the mild afternoon)

The reason the number 65 is used, is because it gives a rough idea to energy companies when you likely turn on your heat.  The higher the HDD the more oil or natural gas you are using and this helps companies plan reserves etc.   If you heat with home heating oil and have automatic delivery, this is how the company knows when to come to your house.  In a cold winter like this one, they might be coming just as that tank is close to empty.  Since we have another cold period on the way this week, it’s not a bad idea to take a moment and check the oil level.

While it’s been cold in the northeast, it’s been colder in the Midwest.  I was looking at the maps from that region of the country this morning and temperatures and wind both brutal.  In parts of North Dakota tomorrow the highs will remain near 10 below zero with winds gusting at times over 50 miles per hour.  That kind of cold is serious and life-threatening.   There are blizzard and wind chill warnings affecting millions of Americans this weekend in a winter to remember.

Locally, after a cold day today, we have a one day thaw for Monday before more arctic air arrives.  As the milder air takes hold, there could be a period of snow and rain showers during the day, but I am not predicting anything more than a dusting of snow.   Temperatures will climb enough above freezing Monday to do a bit of melting.

I'll be updating the forecast on Twitter @growingwisdom, please follow me there.

Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be very cold days again, with highs in the teens on Tuesday and near 20F by Wednesday.  There is a slow moderation in temperature forecast for the end of the week. Notice temperatures Tuesday morning on  the map below.  It's cold from here westward to Chicago!

The weekend starts dry, but a storm moving from Ohio to the coastline brings a chance of precipitation for Super Bowl Sunday.  It’s 7 days out and I am not going to speculate about the size of the storm or the amount of any rain or snow we will receive.  It’s just too early in the game for specifics and as we have seen several times this winter, forecasts are changing a day or two before an event.

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About the Author

David Epstein has been a meteorologist for more than 25 years. He spent 16 years in Boston and currently freelances at WGME13 in Portland.

In 2006, David founded GrowingWisdom.com, a business producing educational and marketing videos for the green industry. He currently is a professor at Framingham State College, teaches Jan Plan at Colby College and owns Bloomscapes Inc., a landscape design business.

David authored "Gardens Of New England" and his work has been published in Grolier's Science Annual for 10 years. He lives in South Natick, Mass., and has a summer home in Harpswell.

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