ITHACA, N.Y. — Ice, ice baby. It hasn’t been especially cold lately, and that comes with its own blessings and curses. The blessing is that it hasn’t been bone-chillingly frigid. The curse is that it seems the frequent visitations of mixed precipitation we’ve been experiencing, are likely to continue through the week ahead.
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We’re going to start off the week with a fresh coat of snow. A low pressure system is currently located over Southwestern Pennsylvania and trekking northeastward, with a more eastward shift expected as we go into Monday morning. The core of the storm should remain to the south, and the atmosphere’s vertical profile isn’t very supportive for a big snow event. However, light to moderate snow showers will be widespread during the overnight hours. Most of Tompkins County can expect 2-3″ by Morning morning, with temperatures overnight in the upper 20s in Ithaca, mid 20s to the north. Areas south of Ithaca should keep an eye out for some light mixed precipitation (sleet) if the warm air works a bit further north.
Monday’s high of about 30 °F is going to be in the mid-morning, as the low shifts east of Ithaca by 9-10 AM and the cold air begins to wrap in on the back side of its counterclockwise circulation. The snow showers will taper off, with maybe another half inch to an inch under cloudy skies and falling temperatures, down to the mid 20s by sunset. Monday night will be fairly quiet, with mostly cloudy skies, a few lingering snow showers, and lows in the low teens in Ithaca and along the lake, to upper single digits in elevated or outlying areas.
Tuesday will be cold but quiet. An area of high pressure centered over the upper Midwest builds in, its clockwise flow dragging in cold air from Canada. As a result, the cloud cover should break up somewhat, from mostly cloudy in the morning to partly cloudy by the afternoon, but temperatures will only make it into the lower 20s. As this high pressure continues to shift eastward and closer to the Southern Tier, it will be quiet Tuesday night, with partly cloudy skies and lows in the low teens.
Wednesday will see milder temperatures as the high quickly shifts further east and advects warmer air behind it, but the next storm will also be making its way into the region, an area of low pressure coming in from the Ohio River Valley and a secondary low developing off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Wednesday will start off mostly cloudy, but by afternoon it will be overcast and snow showers will build into the region from the southwest. Temperatures will make it into low 30s by sunset, and with the steady south wind, temperatures will actually continue to climb during Wednesday evening and through the overnight into Thursday morning, in the mid to upper 30s by daybreak.
This poses some potential hazards for Wednesday evening travel. As the air warm up, it’ll warm up from the top down, since warm air is less dense (lighter) than cold air and has to work its way down to the ground. From 7 PM to about midnight, we’re looking at a steady transition from snow showers to sleet showers to freezing rain showers before becoming a non-freezing cold rain as temperatures continue to warm during the overnight. If you’re traveling Wednesday evening or night, use caution, because the roads will be slick.
Thursday will feel warm for winter, as the low lifts moves northwest through Michigan and then westward along the New York-Canada border, ushering in mild air to Tompkins County. Temperatures should make it into the mid 40s with mostly cloudy skies and a few rain showers, and that’s a conservative estimate on the warmth, as the European model’s a bit more aggressive on the warm-up during the day Thursday. As this low shifts to the east, cold air will filter in as before, but it won’t be as cold as the air pulled in by Monday’s storm. Expect mostly cloudy skies Thursday night, with lows in the mid 20s.
Friday won’t be too shabby for a February day. With high pressure building in directly overhead, winds will be calm, the sun will poke through patchy, partly cloudy skies, and temperatures will be in the upper 30s. Friday night will be partly cloudy and quiet, with lows in the mid 20s.
As the high shifts to the east, some milder air will be brought into the region, and the weekend is looking to be on the warm side. Temperatures will be in the low to mid 40s Saturday, but a third storm system will make its way in from the Midwest, and as it enters the region Saturday evening, there will be another risk for sleet and freezing rain, as lows will be right around freezing. This risk should decrease by Sunday morning, as temperatures make it into the mid 40s before the next cold front swings through Sunday evening.
All in all, it’s looking like an unsettled week, with above normal precipitation and near to slightly above normal temperatures.
Looking in the longer-term and towards the end of the month, the current stormy, seasonably cool pattern is expected to persist. The deep and pronounced trough in the jet stream over the Western United States will result in abnormally cold conditions (Seattle has had one of its snowiest Februaries ever), and the ridge over the Southeastern United States will continue as well, with elevated precipitation risks as storms track along the jet stream, with the Southern Appalachians expected to take the brunt of it. The northeast and Tompkins County will be in a changeable zone between the trough and the ridge, and so near-to-slightly above normal temperatures are expected early, with slightly cooler temperatures for the start of March, and a stormy weather pattern throughout the period.