ITHACA, N.Y. — If you play hookie tomorrow and/or Wednesday, don’t worry, we won’t tell. But temperature mid-week will be nothing short of sizzling for this time of the year.

Now, we’re sympathetic to this; this is far from normal, this is not great for wildlife, this isn’t good for ice and soil hydrology. This is not something you want to have around for weeks at a time. But for a couple of days? We’ll entertain the option.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton

Weather Recap

Last week was fairly quiet as winter goes. Temperatures were near to well above normal, with the county airport touching 61°F on the afternoon of Thursday the 15th. The weekend coastal storm that impacted the big cities of the East Coast was too far south and west to wield too much force in Tompkins County, with most places picking up just under an inch to just a little over 2 inches. Basically, enough to notice, not enough for most to worry about. The usual suspects downwind of Lake Ontario picked up several inches, which is a coating compared to their usual lake-effect blasts.

At this time, we’re not running just a tad above normal for temperatures this month, with overall precipitation and snowfall just a bit below normal. We can expect quite chance to those averages after this week coming up.

Precipitation, mean sea level pressure and 1000-500 mb thickness (temperature proxy) for 7 PM Tuesday evening. Warm air will be advected into the region between two areas of high pressure. Rain will have lifted northward with the warm front. GFS Model output courtesy tropicaltidbits.com.

Your Weekly Forecast

It was a tranquil morning this Monday, but clouds and rain have started to invade the region, presaging a potent warm front that will be moving across the Southern Tier later in the day. Strong 15-20 MPH winds with stronger gusts have been kicking up from the south, bringing in deep layer moisture from the Gulf of Mexico across the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.

As this front continues to press north and east, the Southern Tier will slip into a ridge in the jet stream, and with it a dome of intensely warm air. The clockwise flow of a high off east in the Atlantic Ocean will act as a meteorological conveyor belt of heat and moisture.  To say high-temperature records will likely be broken is an understatement.

Let’s preface this by noting that average high temperatures this time of the year are 35-36°F, with lows in the upper teens.

Expect periods of rain to continue through Monday evening, tapering off as we go into the late night. Under cloudy skies and a strong south wind, temperatures are not expected to fall back from their 40-45°F highs. In fact, temperatures should stay steady even after sunset, and creep upward to near 50°F by daybreak Tuesday. A quarter to half an inch of rain is possible (more north and east of Ithaca), and with those warm temperatures melting the leftover snow and ice, there is some stream and river flooding risk, so keep an eye out if you live in a prone area like Fall Creek.

Tuesday is looking to be a scorcher by February standards. Under a south breeze and mostly cloudy skies, temperatures will climb rapidly in the morning. Looks for a late afternoon high in the upper 60s, and it may touch 70°F in a few spots. Dewpoints will be in the mid 50s, palpable but not muggy.

If we hit 70°F tomorrow, it would be only the second time in 125 years for the month of February. The first time was last year, when it hit 73°F on February 25th. According to data from the Northeast Regional Climate Center, it would be the second earliest 70°F recorded in Ithaca, after January 21st, 1906. Looks like those teachers in town for winter break are getting a real treat.

Tuesday night will feel more like a summer night than a winter one. It will be mostly cloudy, with lows only in the mid 50s, probably a record for highest low temperature. Wednesday will be mostly cloudy to start, with rain moving in ahead of a cold front. Highs will top out in the upper 60s to near 70°F, with the front coming through around 5 or 6 PM. Temperatures will drop at a good clip as the winds shift to the north, and temperatures will be in the upper 30s by daybreak Thursday.

After that front, temperatures will be more seasonable, but still warmer than normal. Thursday is looking to be the “coldest” day, with highs in the low 40s under mostly cloudy skies. Thursday night will fall back into the upper 20s to around 32°F in the more urban areas, but as winds shift to the south once more with another warm front, rain showers will make a return to the area. While temperatures will be above normal, it won’t be quite so extreme in this second round.

Friday is looking to be cloudy, rain showers, and a high in the upper 40s. The weekend is looking fairly unsettled but mild – mostly cloudy, scattered rain showers through the weekend, with lows Friday night and Saturday night in the upper 30s, and highs Saturday and Sunday in the low 50s.

Image courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Right now, it’s look like the rest of February will be well above average temperature-wise, as the eastern mid-latitude ridge continues to park itself over the Southeastern U.S. However, intrusions of colder air from the north and west are possible, if not exactly likely. Being near the edge of the mass opens the area up for increased moisture and precipitation coming up and around the “heat dome”, so precipitation will likely be above averaged. By early March, the ridge is expected to start breaking down, and temperatures are looking to be near to slightly above normal, with drier than normal conditions.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.