ITHACA, N.Y. — Time to dig the swim trunks out from the closets, and the golf clubs from the garage. The first real heat wave of the season looks to be be making it into the region this week. Our cabin fever is about to break.

Weather Recap

It will be a welcome change of pace from the snowflakes in the air Sunday, which came as a result of a deep low pressure area aloft. With the core of the cold pool sitting directly overhead, temperatures struggled to get into the low 40s F Sunday. The average high temperatures this time of the year are supposed to be in the low to mid 60s. Yes. it was if our operating system of Spring 2018 had given unexpectedly shut down and had to be rebooted over a couple days. The problem is that Mother Nature has horrendous customer service, downright apathetic.

Similar abnormal spring weather has been noted across the country, not all of it bad. Severe to extreme drought continues in much of the Southwestern United States and southern Great Plains states, resulting in deadly wildfires. Record lows were reported in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati (new home of former Ithaca Voice Executive Director Mike Blaney; you can’t escape Mike). Oklahoma, aka “Tornado Alley”, has yet to record a tornado this year, the latest start to tornado season since 1962.

Last week did set our highest high temperature of the month – according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center here in Ithaca, it was 69 °F on the 24th, and that is unlikely to change on this last day of April. Fun fact, the highest temperature in February – February! – was as warm as the highest temperature in April, and March wasn’t even close (56 °F, for the curious).

Rest assured, it appears very likely that, thanks to a building ridge in the mid-latitude jet stream over the Eastern United States, we will see the warmest temperatures of the year so far in the next few days,

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Weekly Weather Outlook

It’s a grey, cloudy start to the work week this morning, as the last few rain and snow showers pull away with the deep low pressure area spinning eastward through interior New England. However, that should clear out fairly quickly as the next air mass pushes in and quickly dries out and eats through the cloud layer.

The next air mass is a large high pressure area over the Southeastern U.S. Its clockwise flow will bring in much warmer air from the south and west, so temperatures are going to increase quite a bit as we head through the next couple of days. Just as important, that air will be dry. That makes for some fine outdoor weather for your activity of choice, but be mindful of any local burn bans, because the combination of heat, wind and rapidly drying vegetation will pose a brushfire risk.

For today, expect clearing skies and breezy northwest winds. High temperatures will vary quite a bit depending on how soon the cloud cover disintegrates; those who clear sooner will see upper 50s and low 60s F for highs; those further east where the cloud cover lingers, will only top out around 50 °F.

For Monday night, the region will have thoroughly cleared out, and winds will calm down. Expect clear skies with a low in the upper 30s.

Tuesday is the definition of “picture perfect”. With the southwest flow only beginning to be tapped, Ithaca and Tompkins County can expect partly cloudy skies, a mild west-southwest breeze, and highs in the low 70s with low humidity.

Tuesday night will be fairly warm for mid-spring; with clear skies but a light southwest breeze, temperature will only fall back to the low 50s in Ithaca, perhaps upper 40s in the rural towns.

Wednesday; now we’re cooking. The southerly flow is in full force. Temperatures will climb into the upper 70s to around 80 °F under partly cloudy skies. There will be a bit more moisture in the air, but still comfortable. However, with that moisture, the air will be a bit more unstable, so pop-up showers and thunderstorms are possible late in the day Wednesday.

Wednesday night will be warm, if a bit unsettled. Expect mostly cloudy skies, some scattered showers and even a thunderstorm or two, and lows around 60 °F. In three days, we’ve practically gone from mid-March to mid-July. Spring in Tompkins County, folks.

By Thursday, we’re looking at the high pressure area shifting eastward into the Atlantic, and a cold front coming in as part of a surface low pressure area moving from the central U.S. into the Great Lakes region. Conditions will be unsettled as the front sweeps through, though temperatures won’t decrease much. Expect mostly cloudy skies Thursday, with showers and thunderstorms likely, and temperatures in the mid to upper 70s. The strength of the thunderstorms will depend on how much heating has occurred ahead of the front, which will provide the instability needed to allow lift of the surface air ahead of the front, and build up the storms.

Thursday night will continue that instability, with cloudy skies, scattered showers and thunderstorms, and lows in the upper 50s. Friday will be mostly cloudy with pop-up showers and thunderstorms, with a high in the upper 60s to around 70 °F.

With cooler, drier Canadian air filtering in for the weekend, temperatures Saturday and Sunday are expected to be in the mid 60s and low 60s respectively, under sunny skies. Lows Saturday night and Sunday night will be in the low 40s.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

The long-term outlook is a return to the pattern we’ve been seeing for most of spring – a jet stream trough in the eastern United States, and a big jet stream ridge in the west. That portends cooler-than-normal conditions in the second and third weeks of May. However, unlike January, this means 50s and 60s here, and triple-digit temperatures in parts of the west, which is not an ideal situation for their ongoing drought.

If there’s a silver lining, the monthly outlook suggests that, if we end up more on the edge of that stubborn jet stream trough, conditions will be more variable, with occasional warm spells to moderate the otherwise cool conditions.

Brian Crandall

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