The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) has announced that a major arctic air mass is poised to plunge south into far northeast New Mexico within the hour.
The leading edge of this very cold air will then plunge south all the while deepening through the afternoon and evening, which will force the front into the Rio Grande Valley late tonight (most likely around or just after midnight). Gusty east canyon winds will signal its arrival.
The community may recall a significant arctic push back in mid-November that delivered quite a punch, with abrupt changes in the Santa Fe to ABQ corridor. This incoming air mass is deeper and colder — so the abrupt change will be notable.
Clayton, for example, is currently at 32 degrees and that will be their warmest temperature until sometime Friday. Areas of dry, fluffy-type snow (mostly light) will expand across the northeast and eventually much of the area east of central mountain chain tonight into Tuesday and Tuesday night.
Travel impacts are likely late this afternoon and early tonight for places like the I-25 corridor between Santa Fe and Raton Pass and northeast plains, with impacts spreading south Tuesday morning toward the I-40 corridor between Moriarty and Tucumcari.
The arctic blast will be round one. Round two will develop in response to a deep, cold upper level storm system that will be developing in the vicinity of Las Vegas, Nev. You may have heard about the potential for snow in and around Vegas on New Years Eve.
This cold system will eventually head in this direction but is not expected to pass over New Mexico until Thursday night or Friday. We expect snow to increase across the far west beginning late New Years Eve, but the biggest concern for New Years Eve will actually be across parts of the east where freezing drizzle or light freezing rain will likely develop as relatively warm, moist air is lifted up and over the arctic dome. This could develop as early as Tuesday night, but the potential is definitely heightened for Wednesday into New Years Day morning.