ITHACA, N.Y. — With a fairly harsh winter to date, a quiet, mild period is a welcome reprieve. With the exception of a brief mid-week cooldown, we’re going to get just what the doctor (meteorologist?) ordered.
After last Tuesday’s snow, things have been fairly quiet in Tompkins County. In the past few days, Ithaca and its environs have enjoyed a substantial warm-up, with temperatures getting into the mid-40s over the weekend – not quite the 50s that were initially prognosticated, but for January, it’s hard to complain.
For those of you with New York Times subscriptions or free article views you want to burn, the Grey Lady is doing a feature on 2017 weather, using data from Accuweather to plot annual temperature and precipitation graphs for all around the world. Locally, however, Ithaca’s own Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) is happy to put together the same thing without the need for a subscription.
On the balance, Ithaca averaged 48.3°F in 2017, 1.6°F above normal. That puts it at a tie for 38th place out of 125 years of records. 2017 set ten daily record highs (mostly in February and September, because these records tend to cluster in heat waves and cold snaps), and one daily record low.
Precipitation, as recorded at the airport and used in the NYT, was also above normal, reporting 38.7 inches, a modest surplus of 1.4 inches. However, at the NRCC Cornell site, the total was 42.54 inches. A closer inspection shows these numbers differed the most in high-precipitation months, so it’s probably a case of localized impacts, like a thunderstorm or lake-enhanced snow band passing over Cornell’s Game Farm Road site, but not the airport. The NYT’s total is about 30th place in the record books, the NRCC’s is 11th. The long story short is that 2017 was a modestly warm, rather wet year.
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Looking at the week ahead, the temperatures will swing a bit, but otherwise it’s not looking too shabby for January, especially given the frigid first half of the month.
On the large-scale, a fairly strong area of low pressure is seated over the Midwest, and will be tracking east-northeast over the next day or so. Its counterclockwise circulation means that some mild, moist air is being churned northward ahead of the low, resulting in some mild if misty conditions.
The warm, humid air and the melting snow will result in some dense foggy conditions for some of the locally higher elevations, so be mindful of reduced visibility if you plan to be on the roads this evening or tonight. The drizzle and fog will give way to steady rain by daybreak. Temperatures will stay mild tonight, low 40s in Ithaca proper, with upper 30s in the more rural areas. Quick reminder, this is typically the coldest time of the year, with high temperatures in the low 30s and lows in the mid teens.
On Tuesday, things get a bit more active as the cold front approaches with the storm system. It will be a rainy but mild morning. Temperatures may touch 50°F around lunch hour, but by late afternoon it should be a steady downward trend. The rain will taper to scattered showers as the cold air filters in, changing over to snow showers by late evening. Don’t expect more than a dusting. Overnight lows will be in the upper 20s.
With the winds firmly out of the northwest, Wednesday will be quieter but seasonably chilly. Expect mostly cloudy skies, a scattered flurry or two (the northern and western parts of the county might see weak lake-effect snow showers), and highs in the upper 20s to near 30. Prepare for a frosty breeze if you’re out and about during the day. Wednesday night will clear out a bit more, with passing clouds and lows in the upper teens. Thursday looks to be the coldest day as a high pressure system passes overhead. Expect partly cloudy skies with highs in the low to mid 20s, and lows in the lower teens to around 10°F.
After those two chilly days, temperatures will be on the upswing as mild air returns from the south on the back edge of that high pressure area (clockwise flow means air from the south). Friday should reach mid to upper 30s in most of the area, lows Friday night just a little below freezing, and the weekend looks to be well above normal, the second weekend in a row with mid 40s for both Saturday and Sunday. It is looking like another bout of rain will be moving in Saturday night into Sunday, so plan your outdoor events for earlier in the weekend.
Looking over the next couple of weeks, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center foresees a continuation of current trends – temperatures are likely to average above normal through the next two weeks, but so is precipitation, so it’ll likely be a mild but wet start to February. Under latest jet stream configuration, the ridge is persistent over the eastern United States while the Pacific Northwest and interior Western U.S. can expect a persistent jet stream trough, leading to colder than normal and much wetter than normal conditions.