There are lots of great things that Santa Claus will bring down from the North Pole this weekend - Christmas cheer, presents, an undying love for cookies – all wonderful. Unfortunately for New York, it looks like the Big Guy is also going to bring down something we’d rather he left at home: North Pole temperatures.

A Christmas Polar Vortex arriving later this week is bringing a brutal burst of bitter cold through the United States. The Capital Region and all of New York could have its coldest Christmas Day in decades. Some temperatures could drop 25-50 degrees overnight as the Arctic air approaches.

What Is A Polar Vortex?

Sub-Zero Temperatures Put Chicago Into Deep Freeze
Getty Images

A Polar Vortex occurs when a mass of frigid air typically held around the North Pole expands enough that it gets pulled south by the jet stream. The Polar Vortex was famously responsible for several recent deep freezes, including sub-zero temps in Chicago in 2014 and a blizzard-like 2019 storm that slapped Buffalo.

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This week’s Christmas Polar Vortex could land on Santa’s naughty list, with heavy winds teaming up with dramatic lows to strain Upstate energy grids and potentially make for dangerous power outages. The odds for precipitation are low, so that should protect holiday travelers.

What to do after a post-storm power outage

Here’s The Polar Vortex Timeline

Temp predictions for Christmas Day 2022

The Northern Rockies and the Midwest get the Arctic wave first on Wednesday. On Thursday, everywhere from Minnesota to Northern Texas will get hit. On Friday, the wave touches Western New York. Christmas Eve it’s our turn.

According to current Accuweather predictions, Upstate New York will drop almost 30 degrees in one night, as the December 24th forecast is for a high of 19 and a low of 12. It gets worse: 20mph wind gusts will make the area feel like it’s 3 degrees during the day and -3 at night.

So What About The Big Day?


On Christmas Day, Upstate NY will warm slightly to a high of 22. That evening, the expected low is 11, but wind chill could make the area feel like its 4 degrees.

If the predicted high holds, that would make 2022 the coldest Christmas in the Capital Region since the year 2000, when it only got up to 21. The coldest Christmas in Albany’s history was in 1969, when temperatures dropped to a brutal -22 degrees. The high that day was only 8 degrees.

77" In 48 Hours - A Look At WNY's Record Breaking Lake Effect Snowstorm

The wet and heavy lake effect snowstorm pelted the area, making traveling impossible. Flights were canceled at Buffalo-Niagara Airport, causing headaches for travelers heading into the Thanksgiving holiday week. Driving bans are in effect in multiple WNY counties, making it illegal for employers to require their workers to commute.

Here’s some snapshots of what it looks like on the ground:

Gallery Credit: Cameron Coats

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