ITHACA, N.Y. — Being August, most of us who weren’t born or bred in warmer, more humid climates are just about done with summer heat. It doesn’t necessarily mean people want winter just yet (the Ithaca Times committed a cardinal sin two weeks ago by putting a winter theme on its cover before Labor Day, but atoned for it with last week’s totally legit voter registration form), but it’s been a wet and unusually humid summer in upstate New York, and most folks have had their fill.

So of course that means this week’s weather update involves a late summer heat wave with humid, hazy conditions. Sorry. For what it’s worth, it should be relatively brief before temperatures and dewpoints return to more comfortable levels.

Weather Recap

You might have noticed that the skies appeared unusually milky last week, especially in the direction of the sun. That would be due to the massive wildfires over the Western United States and Canada. What happens is that all those burning acres release tons of smoky particulates into the atmosphere. Unlike clean air, which is best at scattering blue light, smoky air scatters all colors of the spectrum, creating a gray-white color that results in a washed-out effect in the skies overhead. It also makes for some pretty colorful sunsets. As the fires continue, these smoke emissions are generally staying aloft at about two miles above ground level, but should they make it down to the earth’s surface (under intense high pressure areas, for example), it could result in serious health risks.

Something else you might have noticed last week – substantially less humid conditions. Early on Thursday morning, the dew point dropped below 50 °F for the first this month – in fact, it had hardly dipped below 60 °F prior to the last cold front ushering in drier air from Canada. The weather station at the Syracuse airport has reported 590 hours of dewpoints 70 °F this summer, far above the average of 135 hours. For comparison, Atlanta typically average 570 hours of >70 °F dewpoints per year.

Unfortunately for them and us, it looks like they’ll add a few more hours to their tally. The heat and humidity will crank up for the first half of the week, until a cold front Wednesday evening brings some relief.

Your Weekly Weather

The current large-scale weather setup is a high pressure area situated over the Atlantic Ocean east of the Carolinas, and a low pressure area over the northern Great Plains. The clockwise flow of the high pressure system and the counterclockwise flow of the low mean there’s a strong flow of warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico and and Deep South, and that air will dominate the weather over the next couple of days.

For your Monday, expect a quick warm-up during the morning as southerly winds and partly cloudy skies send the thermometer upward. It will be muggy, with dewpoints in the low 70s, and it will be quite warm, with highs in the mid 80s in the valleys and the low 80s at higher elevations. The ridge of high pressure is strong enough to prevent much in the way of pop-up precipitation, so it should be a rain-free muggy day, even though clouds might increase a bit by evening. Monday night will be a warm, humid summer night, with partly cloudy skies and lows in the low 70s – sleep with the fan on and the windows closed if you can.

Tuesday’s looking to be the most uncomfortable day of the week. With southwesterly winds pumping in lots of hot, humid air, temperatures will climb into the low 90s under partly cloudy skies. With oppressively muggy conditions once again, the heat index will flirt with 100 °F. As before, take precaution if outdoors or undertaking strenuous activity – drink plenty of cool fluids, take frequent breaks in the shades, and be aware of signs of heat-related illness. Tuesday night will be uncomfortable yet again, with humid conditions and a low in the low 70s with mostly clear skies overhead.

It’s looking like Wednesday will be the day to bring relief from the heat and humidity, as the high pressure ridge slides eastward and recedes to the south, while a strong cold front pushes in from the west. Temperatures will still have time to surge into the upper 80s to near 90 °F by afternoon, with the front moving in during the late afternoon hours. Depending on the exact timing could also play a role in how much energy there is in the air to strengthen showers and thunderstorms ahead of the front, the later it is in the day, the stronger the storms could be, and the greater the risk for severe storms. If you’ll be out and about late Wednesday afternoon or early evening, keep an eye on it.

Wednesday night will have scattered showers and thunderstorms early on, tapering off after 1 AM with just a few stragglers by sunrise. Lows will be in the low to mid 60s as cooler air filters in during the overnight hours, with drier conditions by daybreak. The cold front may stall to our south, so a few isolated storms may remain south of Ithaca through the morning hours Thursday.

Thursday and Friday are otherwise looking seasonably warm, less humid and pleasant. For Thursday, expect partly sunny skies and a high in the mid 70s with a light northerly breeze. Thursday night will be partly cloudy and comfortable with lows in the mid 50s. Friday should host mostly sunny skies and a high in the mid to upper 70s, and Friday night will be partly cloudy with lows near 60 °F.

It appears a new ridge of warmer air may attempt to build into the Northeast next weekend, so temperatures Saturday and Sunday may be a bit warmer, near 80 °F Saturday and low 80s Sunday with mostly sunny skies and an increased chance for pop-up storms late in the period. Overall, it’s looking like a nice start to the Labor Day weekend.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking beyond Labor Day, it appears summer’s last hurrah is still a ways’ out. A pronounced ridge will prevail over the Eastern United States for the first week of September, resulting in substantially warmer than normal conditions. The chance of precipitation will be elevated as well as a persistent trough  over the upper Midwest may create unstable conditions ripe for the formation of showers and thunderstorms. Keep the sunscreen and swim trunks handy – while the schools may be back in session and the apples are coming into season, this summer weather is going to hang around for a little while.

Brian Crandall

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