ITHACA, N.Y. — The week will start off crisp and bright, but as we finally start to see our first taste of spring-like conditions, rain showers will be following closely on its heels.
The weather gods must have smiled upon us last week, for the latest Nor’Easter to strike the northeast – number four, for those keeping track – stayed south of the region, producing clouds for Ithaca and Tompkins County, and little in the way of snowfall. The same couldn’t be said for places south and east – New York City picked up 8.4″ in Central Park, and over 20″ on parts of Long Island. The Philadelphia area had 10-12″, and the DC-Baltimore corridor received 6-8″. The word of the day is ‘schadenfreude’, meaning we’re just glad we didn’t get socked this time, and that the Northeast is just plumb tired out from its abnormally cold and snowy March.
For the sake of tallies, here’s a list of snowfall accumulations ans averages for communities throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic – right now, with 192.3″, Erie, Pennsylvania is the champion, and another 7.2″ will make it the snowiest winter for any good-sized city (100,000+) in the United States, surpassing the 199.4″ set by Buffalo in 1976-77. Keep in mind, some smaller places like Oswego and Marquette, Michigan get much more.
Although Ithaca’s not on that list, here are the statistics as of yesterday, with averages per the Northeast Regional Climate Center – 57.2″ received so far, normal snowfall through March 25th 59.5″, and last winter’s snowfall through March 25th, 65.1″. Practically normal. The low bound to-date is 18.5″ just a couple years ago in the warm winter of 2015-16, and the highest is 119.7″ in the winter of 1977-78.
Chances for snow appear slim to none in the short-term, as one tends to expect with the onset of late March. However, it does look like you’ll need an umbrella for the second half of the week.
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At present, things are quiet, blue skies and a few wispy cirrus clouds. This is thanks to a strong dome of high pressure over Canada, which is pumping cool, dry air into the region, and tampering down any chance of cloudiness and precipitation.
In the short-term, this will continue to dominate. Expect sunny skies and highs in the mid 40s closer to the lake and Ithaca city, low 40s in the more rural areas and higher elevations. Tonight, expect clear skies with a few clouds moving in by dawn ahead of the next storm system. Lows will be in the upper 20s.
On Tuesday, the next rainmaker starts to move in from the west. Partly cloudy skies will become overcast by late afternoon, with rain showers in most areas Tuesday evening, and a steady rain overnight. The clouds will cap temperatures in the low 40s, with lows Tuesday night in the mid-30s. It is looking at this point that enough warm air will be present that this should be an all-rain event for most, although some freezing rain may be possible Tuesday night on some of the higher hills east of Ithaca. Winds will be gusting out of the south as well with 20-25 MPH sustained and gusts of 40-45 mph possible. Rainfall amounts should be no more than a quarter of an inch.
The winds will quiet down for Wednesday, but it will remain cloudy with scattered rain showers. A slowly-moving warm front will tap into mild, moist air from the southwest, so high temperatures Wednesday will get up into the upper 40s. Wednesday night will see any remaining showers dissipate, leaving the area with mostly cloudy skies and temperatures around 40 degrees.
Thursday’s not looking shabby. With the passage of that warm front, temperatures should climb into the mid-50s with mostly cloudy skies and a few isolated showers. Thursday night will be mostly cloudy, a chance of rain showers, and lows in the upper 30s.
Things get a little complicated for Friday and the weekend. A fairly broad and complex storm system will result in pulses of energy passing over the region, and with the moist air aloft, it won’t take much to trigger rain or perhaps even snow on the heels of a cold front Friday night. According to NWS Binghamton, how much (if any) will depend on where the moisture is deepest and the location of the low pressure center could significant change the timing and type of precipitation. For now, the best call is to say it will be unsettled with periods of rain and possibly snow during the night.
Plan for a rainy, cloudy Friday with highs in the upper 40s, and a mostly cloudy Friday night with occasional rain or snow showers, and lows around 32 degrees. Saturday will be partly cloudy, rain and snow showers, and highs in the mid 40s, and mostly cloudy Saturday night with lows in the upper 20s. Things quiet down by Sunday, with partly sunny skies and highs in the mid 40s. Overall, it will be a wet week with seasonable temperatures a little below or above average on any given day.
Unfortunately for those hoping for mild early spring weather, it’s not looking likely. A pronounced trough in the jet stream will likely in frequent shots of cold air plunging through the upper Midwest and likely parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. It is also likely to be somewhat wetter and stormier than normal as storm systems follow along the jet stream trough. Meanwhile, places south and west of the Rocky Mountains are likely to see warmer-than-normal conditions thanks to a persistent jet stream ridge over the Western United States.
This pattern is a bit problematic not just for lovers of warm air here in the Southern Tier, but for those down south, it portends an active storm pattern. Strong westerly jet stream flow and warm air coming north off the Gulf of Mexico can create a fertile environment for severe storms. It also suggests a continuing of dry conditions over Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico, worsening the existing drought.