ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca hit 70 ºF for the first time this year over the past weekend, and with that heat comes the risk of some lightning and thunder as we head into what’s looking like an unsettled week ahead. Temperature will swing quite a bit from well above to well below normal before moderating out later in the week.

Graphic courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Weather Recap

With the March data finalized, it looks like March ended up being substantially colder and drier than normal. According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center located right here in Ithaca, the average temperature for the month was 29.1 °F, about 3.5 °F below normal. That’s good enough for 30th place in the ranking of coldest Marches in Ithaca’s 120 years of valid records. For the past decade or so, March, already a highly variable month because of the transition from winter to spring, has been more extreme than usual, with record cold snaps and warm spells. 2012 was the warmest March ever (45.2 °F) and 2016 was tied for 12th warmest. In contrast, 2014 was the 4th coldest March ever recorded (24.5 °F), followed in 5th place by 2015.

Graphic courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Meanwhile, in terms of precipitation side, it was a fairly dry month. There was only 1.44″ of liquid and liquid-equivalent precipitation, a little more than half of the usual total of 2.64″. Without much in the way of precipitation, that meant that, while March was on the cold side, it was fairly lacking in snowfall – the 5.7″ received at the NRCC/Cornell Game Farm Road weather station was less than half of the average March snowfall of 11.7″. Barring any strange April events, this winter will have the unusual combination of being both colder than normal but also much less snowier than normal, but we’ll save those figures for a few more weeks, when we’re more likely to be in the clear (we don’t do jinxes here).

At least for the week ahead, it’s looking like we should avoid snow, but you’ll want an umbrella, a light jacket, a heavy coat, sunglasses – oh heck, just leave the whole closet open.

Image courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Your Weekly Weather

We’ll be starting off the week with an even warmer surge of air and a downright balmy Monday by April standards. A developing area of low pressure over the upper Midwest will track east-northeast over Michigan and northern New York. As it does, its counterclockwise circulation will bring milder air northward, and this will pass into the region as a warm front, with a fair amount of moisture to make for a soggy commute. Most of the rain should fall in the 12 AM – 6 AM time frame, but showers and possibly some thunderstorms will continue through the late morning and early afternoon, with mostly cloudy skies otherwise. Overall rainfall totals look to be in the 0.25″ – 0.50″ range.

Temperature wise, Monday will be quite warm, with lows tonight only falling back into the low 50s, and highs Monday reaching into the mid 70s in many of or typically warmer (valley/urban) locations. Expect gusty south winds throughout much of the day, with some 30 MPH gusts possible in the afternoon. Monday night will be fairly dry as the low moves east of us and cooler air filters in behind it, with lows in the mid 40s, calming winds and partly cloudy skies.

It looks like the more substantial wave of cooler air will come with a second, weaker area of cold pressure that will follow closely behind the first system, quickly tracking across the Southern Tier Tuesday morning and afternoon. Expect scattered showers to fire off around late morning Tuesday and continue through the afternoon as the cold front passes around lunch hour, with highs in the upper 50s to low 60s before falling back later in the afternoon. As the winds shift to the northwest and colder air enters the region, temperatures Tuesday night will bottom out in the mid 30s with a few scattered rain showers, which could be snow showers over higher elevations.

Wednesday will be cool if dry. Expect mostly cloudy skies to clear out somewhat as the day progresses, but with those northwest winds, highs will only reach the upper 40s. Wednesday night will be partly cloudy, thickening towards daybreak, with lows around 30 °F.

A ridge of warmer air will begin to build back into the region on Thursday ahead of the next low pressure system. During the day itself, it will remain dry if mostly cloudy, with highs in the mid 50s. Thursday night will be cloudy, with south winds and a low in the low 40s.

Friday’s rainmaker should pass to the northwest, leaving the Southern Tier on the warm side but with periods of rain and perhaps a few thunderstorms in the mix. Highs will be around 60 °F. As the low passes to the north and then east, the cold front will swing through later in the day, and Friday night will host showers early follwed by clearing skies and lows in the low to mid 40s.

The weekend is looking seasonable, and not too shabby. Expect partly cloudy skies, maybe a few rain showers on Saturday and Sunday with weak high pressure in place before another storm system begins to make its way in for the start of next week. Highs will be in the mid 50s for both days, and mid 30s for lows Saturday night.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Over the past week, a rather unfortunate event happened in the broad-scale. A large area of high pressure is expected to sit in place over Greenland, and this has a “blocking” effect on the jet stream, like a rock in a river. The stream flows around, and in this case, that means an anomalous ridge of warm air over Greenland, and a deep trough in the jet stream develops upstream – i.e. the United States. Most of the country is now expected to see cooler than normal temperatures for the middle of April, and a potentially stormy environment for the Southern United States, right as they’re getting into their peak season for tornadic activity. Not the kind of pattern anybody wants to see, but Mother Nature is apathetic.

Brian Crandall

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