ITHACA, N.Y. — Let me preface this by saying that we know weather is probably not what’s on your minds at the moment. There’s a lot of very concerning news going our right now, about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts, whether social or economic or simply health and safety.

The Voice is determined to provide all the coverage it can to make sure you guys, our readers, are kept informed. But we also have every intent to keep up with our regular coverage as well, to make sure we’re keeping Ithaca and Tompkins County informed in every way we can. That includes the weather.

Anyway, looking into the week ahead, things will start off seasonably mild for mid-March, and mostly dry for the first half of the week, but a stronger storm system coming in Thursday into Friday will bring temperatures close to 70°F before a strong cold front ushers in a brisk if sunny weekend.

Your Weekly Weather

Right now, the dominant feature in our weather is a high pressure system centered over Ontario and Quebec and sliding eastward. We’re still on the southeastern flank of the high for the time being, which is keeping the air aloft stable and providing ample amounts of sunshine. However, it’s also steering northerly winds in its clockwise flow, meaning that temperatures remain fairly cool around 40°F, which is seasonable or a hair below average for mid-March.

In the near-term, the weather will remain quiet. The few daytime clouds will dissipate after sunset, and conditions will be clear if cold, with lows in the mid teens. By Monday morning, the high pressure center should be to our west, which will cause the winds to transition to out of the south. With that milder breeze, the temperature will climb accordingly. It will be a pleasant day for March, with mostly sunny skies and a high in the upper 40s.

More clouds will begin to build in during the late afternoon and evening Monday as the next low pressure storm system begins to approach, a frontal trough from Canada extending southward and sweeping through the Southern Tier. This will not be an especially potent or rainy event, with only modest amounts of moisture associated with the cold front, and the cold air behind it will largely stick around the Midwestern states.

Monday night will see clouds thicken and become overcast by midnight, with the first few rain showers coming in before daybreak. With the insulating effect of the clouds and strong southerly flow between the high and the incoming low pressure area, low temperatures will be in the upper 30s. Tuesday will see overcast skies and scattered showers, a tenth of an inch of rain or less in most areas, and with that southerly flow, temperatures will make into the low 50s before the front passes and winds turn to the northwest in the early evening. Rain showers will end by sunset, with clearing skies Tuesday night and a low around 30°F.

Wednesday will see another Canadian high move southeastward across Upstate New York and New England, and it will be a sunny and seasonably cool day, with highs in the mid 40s. The next system begins to move in Wednesday evening with increasing clouds, and rain after midnight. Lows Wednesday night will be around 40°F.

The storm systems moving in for Thursday and Friday are looking stronger than Tuesday’s event. The first will be coming in from the southeast Thursday morning, with ample moisture coming in from the Deep South and Gulf of Mexico. It will start off as all-rain from the early AM hours through late morning Thursday. With the warm air funneled up ahead of it, it will be breezy with a high in the mid 50s. Given that Thursday is the first day of astronomical spring, it will certainly feel very spring-like outside.

The afternoon and evening Thursday will offer a modest dry spell before system number two comes in, the most intense and moist of the storms this week, with ample subtropical moisture and a deep if quickly-moving low pressure core trekking from the Great Plains, over Michigan and into Atlantic Canada. With that forward motion, it’s going to enhance the southerly flow ahead of it. The second batch of rain moves in after sunset Thursday night, with periods of rain through the morning and a low around 50°F.

This will continue through the day Friday, with periods of moderate to heavy rain, and very warm temperatures, possibly breaking 70°F in the mid-afternoon hours. Unfortunately, it will be hard to enjoy the warmth given all the rain; 1.00-1.50 inches of total rainfall is likely between Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.

The cold front associated with this storm system swings through Friday evening, and temperatures will fall quickly as the rain winds down with incoming drier air. Upper 50s and lingering showers around sunset will give way to drier conditions, mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 30s by Saturday morning.

Next weekend will be dry and sunny, if a bit uncomfortable with the cold air and breezy conditions. Expect sunny and around 40°F for Saturday, partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 20s Saturday night, and with the high moving eastward for Sunday, temperatures will pick up a bit into the mid 40s with mostly sunny skies.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking ahead into the last week of March, the long-term pattern of a jet stream trough in the Western United States, and a ridge in the east looks to continue. Temperatures are likely to run modest warmer than normal for the start of spring, but also trend towards the wet side as storms ride along the jet stream and regularly bring doses of cloudy skies and rain to the Southern Tier. Early indications suggest a still warm if drier first half of April, but we’ll see if the models stick to that estimation as we get closer to the end of the month.

Brian Crandall

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