Photo by Zac Peterson, taken in Dec. 2014

ITHACA, N.Y.  — Just a few days ago, high temperatures in Ithaca hit the lower 50s, about 20 degrees above normal for this time of year. But Thursday morning, windchill left Ithaca feeling below 10 degrees.

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So with such abnormal weather, how is this winter faring against last year’s beast or the average Ithaca winter?

Using historical data from the Northeast Regional Climate Center, we’ve divided facts about our snowy city into two categories for easy reading (Plus one more category for winter news).

1 – Snowfall is way below normal

So far in January, there’s been 3.2 inches of snowfall, .8 of an inch in December and .4 of an inch in November. That’s a cumulative 4.4 inches of powdery white stuff so far.

By this time last year, 29.6 inches of snow had fallen in Ithaca.

The shocking part?  The snowfall measured from November to  Jan. 13 last year was actually just above normal for Ithaca. The city usually sees about 25.9 inches of snow from November to mid-January.

That means that this winter, Ithacans have seen 25.2 fewer inches of snow than last year and 21.5 inches fewer than usually expected this time of year.

It’s a sad season for snow lovers. (But a happy season for snow haters.)

Photo by Zac Peterson, taken in Dec. 2014

2 — It’s not your imagination; Temperatures have been a roller coaster

On Jan. 5, the high temperature in Ithaca was only 12 degrees.

Just six says later,  Ithaca’s high temperature hit 53 degrees, according to some reports. That’s a record high for Jan. 11.

And the very next day, it was a maximum of 21 degrees.

The normal high temperature for the month of January is 31.3 degrees.

The low temperatures in January have been nothing to ignore though.

On Jan. 5 and 6, Ithaca reached record lows clocking in at 6 degrees. Four days later, the low temperature was 37 degrees.

Normally, low temperatures are 15.4 degrees.

That’s not the only time this winter has been a roller coaster ride.

On Dec. 20, the high temperature was only 28 degrees. By Christmas Day, it was a record breaking 65 degrees!

The normal high temperature for December is 35.8 degrees, but 2015 had a whopping average of 48 degrees for its high.

3– Why has winter been so weird this year?

So what exactly is causing the yo-yo temperatures and minimal snowfall?

A huge part of what was impacting this season’s weather was El Niño.

El Niño is a warming of the waters of the Eastern and Central Pacific that, through air-sea interactions, can impact the weather all over the world.
Strong El Niño events tend to create persistent jet stream troughs in the Western United States, giving them colder, stormier conditions, and persistent ridges in the Eastern U.S., leading to warmer and sometimes drier than normal conditions.
That explains the warm weather and lack of snow, but what about the shocking cold temperature dips in January?
Most recently, an arctic blast moving from the Midwest toward the East Coast finally brought winter to Ithaca. But while the past few days have been cold, Ithacans dodged the huge amount of lake effect snow that pounded parts of Central New York, such as Syracuse, which saw a record breaking 13.5 inches of snow Wednesday.
The National Weather Service is expecting more snow this weekend, though Saturday will likely be rainy.
Be prepared for another Arctic blast early next week, though.
The Weather Channel says an arctic blast moving through the mid-west this weekend will likely reach the East Coast early next week. But by the end of the week, New Yorkers might be graced with a January thaw.
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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.