ITHACA, N.Y. – It’s been something of a roller coaster winter for cold and warm spells, and it looks like Tompkins County and Ithaca will be riding this latest warm swing in temperatures for a little while yet.

Weather Recap

We hope most of you had a chance to go out an enjoy that unseasonable warmth last Tuesday and Wednesday, because it came crashing back down rather quickly – according to the county airport’s observational data, it was 68°F at 11:56 AM on Wednesday, and one hour later, it was 48°F. It was one of those days where you might walk into work without a jacket, but you sure needed one for the ride home. This was followed by 3-5″ of snow with the incoming cold air mass, and a rather windy if seasonably mild weekend.

Sadly for the weather record buffs, neither Tuesday or Wednesday managed to hit 70°F. The airport recorded a pair of 69°F highs, while the Northeast Regional Climate Center’s Game Farm Road site recorded 67°F and 69°F. So close to hitting 70°F in February for only the second time in Tompkins County’s recorded meteorological history. And yet, so far.

This week looks to trend above to well above normal as well temperature-wise, though nothing quite as extreme as what we saw the week prior.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton

Your Weekly Forecast

The key thing driving our weather for the next couple of days will be a rather strong area of high pressure crawling across Ohio and through the Virginias over the next couple of days. Also called an anticyclone, a high pressure area is associated with sinking air from aloft – air dries as it sinks, and the vertical downward motion suppresses convection from bubbling up below, so that’s why they’re associated with calm conditions and fair skies.

Also associated with a high pressure, at least in the Northern Hemisphere – clockwise flow. That’s going to be the big player in this week’s mild temperatures. That high over the Virginias will tap into some southern heat, and its circulation will carry (advect) some of that into the Southern Tier for at least the next few days.

For the rest of your Monday, expect a fairly pleasant day, more spring-like than late winter. Expect sunny skies with highs in the mid and upper 40s, though the northwest breeze may make it feel a bit cooler at times. Temperatures should gradually taper down as we go into the overnight hours, with lows in the upper 20s and winds shifting to a light breeze out of the southwest.

Tuesday is looking pleasant, as the warm air advection kicks in to high gear. Temperatures will climb rapidly in the morning to the mid 50s – about 20 degrees warmer than normal. Even better, skies will still be fairly clear. A great day to be out and about. Tuesday night, clouds will start to build back in as the next system approaches, with a low around 32°F.

Wednesday is looking to be the last of the quiet days as clouds thicken through the day, from partly to mostly cloudy skies. Highs will once again be in the mid 50s with that southwest breeze. By Wednesday night, expect mostly cloudy skies that will start to include some rain showers mixed in, and lows in the mid to upper 30s.

Precipitation, mean sea level pressure and 1000-500 mb thickness (temperature proxy) for 1 AM Friday morning. Substantial rains will soak most of the region as a low over Ohio transfers energy to a low off the Atlantic coast. GFS Model output courtesy tropicaltidbits.com.

Things gets a little complex during the second half of the week. A storm system coming out of the south and west will pass south of Tompkins County and transfer its energy to a second low developing off the coast, strengthening it as it slowly moves to the northeast. By early Friday, this combined system is likely to drag in some colder air from the north, which could result in some accumulating snows by Friday morning, especially for those living up on the taller hills of Dryden or Newfield. At this point, Ithaca proper looks to have an all liquid event, but it’s a borderline case, so keep an eye out for updates as we get closer.

As it is, Thursday will start off cloudy, with rain overtaking the region by the afternoon. Highs should be around 50°F in the urban areas, and rainfall amounts are looking to push upwards of an inch. Thursday night, lows will be in the mid to upper 30s, and highs will only reach the low 40s on Friday as that cold air is dragged in. The system will move away slowly, so rain will hang around Friday and Friday night, with lows Friday night around 30 with rain and snow showers. Things finally clear out Saturday, with mostly cloudy skies and low 40s, and a quiet weekend, with clear skies, lows around the freezing point Saturday night, and low 40s for Sunday. All in all, above normal temperatures and precipitation for the week.

Image courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Extended Outlook

Over the next couple of weeks, expect the current pattern to continue, with a persistent ridge of warmer air over the Eastern U.S., and a trough in the jet stream in the Western part of the country that will produce colder, stormier conditions for them. It’s looking like the ridge should tilt the prevailing storm path northward enough to produce relatively drier-than-normal conditions for the early part of March, and the long-term prognosis calls for a somewhat warmer March with normal precipitation. We’ll see if that pans out.

Brian Crandall

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