This column was written by Brian Crandall, who runs “Ithacating in Cornell Heights.”
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Just how cold is cold?
As of Friday, this is the second coldest month Ithaca’s ever recorded. According to data from the Northeast Regional Climate Center here in Ithaca, the average temperature this month is 11.7 °F. Since records began in 1893, only one month has been colder – February 1979, when the monthly average was only 11.3 °F.
The average February temperature is 23.7 °F — about double of that for February 2015. Records at Wells College indicate that February 1979 was the last time Cayuga Lake completely froze over (although that record seems to be disputed, with some citing the winter of 1911/1912).
The cold this year has been extraordinary. January’s average temperature of 16.6 °F places it at a tie for the 12th coldest January and 19th coldest month recorded. January could have been a potential record-breaker as well, had it not for a warm spell in the first week of the month. With no such breaks in February, this month has the potential to be the most frigid month in 122 years of record-keeping.
Although temperatures this weekend were mild enough to raise the average, this upcoming week will negate much of that, with an almighty high of 4 °F on Monday and a forecasted low of -15 °F. The rest of the week will really be on the cusp of breaking the record, but it will be close, especially as forecast models indicate a moderation of the cold next weekend.
Model blends released by the Climate Prediction Center call for temperatures below normal almost nationwide for the next two weeks, the exceptions being Alaska, the tip of the West Coast, and our good friends in Key West. But let’s not lose all hope – March 1979 was well above normal, so keep your fingers crossed for March 2015.