ITHACA, N.Y. — The difference between April and May in Tompkins County has been like night and day. The cold, dreary, occasionally snowy weather that bedeviled April has given way to sun, immensely dry air and seasonable and unseasonable heat. While not as extreme as last week, that pattern looks to continue for the next few days.

Weather Recap

It would be hard to argue that last week wasn’t a big change of pace. Recall that April finished out with temperatures struggling to get past 40 °F on Sunday the 29th (high 43 °F at the airport, to be specific). By Wednesday, warm and especially dry air had entered the region – so dry that the temperatures were able to warm up somewhat more than expected. Temperatures climbed up to 85 °F at Cornell’s Game Farm Road weather station, and 87 °F at the airport (still a bit short of the record high of 89 °F in 1913). Some parts of the Northeast like Albany, New York City and Hartford did see temperatures break 90 °F.

On a related note, here’s your random weather fact of the week, courtesy of the data at the Northeast Regional Climate Center: the earliest day of the year that Ithaca has touched 90 °F was April 28th, 2009, which is the only April instance. The next earliest 90 °F day is all the way out at May 19th (May 19th, 1911).

Unfortunately, all that mid-week heat translated to a lot of energy in the atmosphere. When Friday rolled around, an incoming cold front was able to tap into that energy as the air became unstable ahead of the frontal passage. The result was a line of strong thunderstorms, a cascade of severe thunderstorm warnings, and dozens of high wind reports across the state. Wind gusts as high as 66 MPH knocked out power to tens of thousands. The rain and cooler air that followed dampened many weekend plans, but that disturbance is exiting to the east, and high pressure is coming in.

Precipitation, mean sea level pressure and 1000-500 mb thickness (temperature proxy) for 8 AM Wednesday morning. Mild air will be channeled into the region, resulting in warm, dry conditions ahead of the next frontal boundary. GFS Model output courtesy tropicaltidbits.com.

Your Weekly Forecast

This morning, most are waking up to cloudy or mostly cloudy skies, some patchy fog or drizzle, and a bit of crispness to the air with a light wind out of the northwest. As the high pressure builds in from Canada, conditions should gradually improve as we head into the afternoon hours, with only a few clouds remaining by sunset. Today’s high will top out in the low 60s in the urban core and about 60 elsewhere, a hair below normal highs for this time of the year.

Monday night will feel a bit chilly, as clear skies allow for some significant radiational cooling. Temperatures should drop to the upper 30s before winds start to shift with our location with respect to the rotation of the high pressure center, to the north, east and then southeast.

That’s going to allow things to get a bit on Tuesday. Tapping into milder air will result in temperatures getting to 70 °F in most places, with partly cloudy skies. Tuesday night will be partly cloudy and seasonably cool, with lows in the upper 40s.

Wednesday is looking to be the warmest day of the week. With a south-southwest breeze and ample sunshine (only a few passing clouds), temperatures should climb into the upper 70s. The humidity should remain comfortable. The air won’t be so dry as to make fires ca concern, but it won’t be muggy either. Wednesday night looks to usher in the next change in the pattern, as clouds build ahead of the next system. Lows will only fall back to the mid 50s.

Thursday is looking unsettled as a result of an incoming cold front inducing uplift and the formation of some cloud cover and precipitation. Temperatures will climb into the low 70s under mostly cloudy skies, with scattered showers and a possible thunderstorm or two embedded in the activity. The clouds and moisture will keep temperatures in the low 50s Thursday night, with the winds shifting to the northwest after the front passes during the overnight hours.

Friday is the relative cool day, but not unpleasant, with mostly cloudy skies and highs in the low 60s. Friday night will see some clearing with lows in the mid 40s. A warm front will pass back through to start the weekend, but will stall out to the north, keeping the local atmosphere unstable. Saturday and Sunday will be mostly cloudy with maybe a shower or a thunderstorm on the warm side of the front, and highs in the upper 60s Saturday and mid 70s Sunday – under the right conditions, there could be heavy rain or strong storms, so keep an eye out for potential forecast updates as we get closer to the weekend. Overall, this will be a seasonable week without any major weather concerns.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, May is looking to be warmer than normal pretty much throughout the month, thanks to a persistent ridge in the jet stream over the Eastern United States. However, it’s also looking to be somewhat wetter than usual for the Southern Tier, as the jet itself will likely be near the region and will channel rain-inducing disturbances along its path. This is looking to be be more of a concern in the next couple of weeks, with drier than normal conditions expected late in the month and into June.

Brian Crandall

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