ITHACA, N.Y. — They say every cloud has a silver lining. But if they blanket the sky and you can’t see the edges, good luck finding that silver lining. If there is any upside to this week, it’s that it will be seasonably cold with no Arctic blasts expected over the next several days, and while most days will host snow showers, no big accumulations appear to be in the forecast as we head into the climatologically coldest part of the year.

Your Weekly Weather

It’s been a dreary weekend across Tompkins County and the Southern Tier, though not particularly awful weather-wise. Cloud cover and seasonably chilly temperatures have persisted, with light lake-enhanced snow and rain showers clustered in bands off of Ontario and Erie. The winds and atmospheric instability have been strong enough to channel the Ontario bands over the Adirondacks and as far east as Albany, and the Erie bands occasionally making it all the way to the Ithaca area.

Our gray skies are largely driven by two factors – a large and powerful storm system over Atlantic Canada, and numerous weak waves that, as they move eastward, rotate around it, in something of a hub and spoke effect, where the primary storm is the “hub” and the weaker waves are the “spokes”. The low’s too far away to generate precipitation on its own, but the counterclockwise flow is tapping into energy from the relatively warmer water of the Great Lakes, which along with the weak boost to instability provided by the transient short waves, creates pulses of weak lake effect activity as well as the persistently cloudy skies.

One notable aspect of this is, the month is actually running well above average temperature-wise, not because our highs are warm (they’re about 2°F above normal), but that heavy cloud cover has an insulating effect and we aren’t hitting our normal low temperatures. The average to-date should be 15.7°F, but we’re running 9°F warmer than that at 24.7°F for an average nightly low. This has its pros and cons – a warmer low is less impactful on your heating bill, but without a deep freeze at some point, nasty little critters like ticks are more likely to survive the winter and be in greater abundance come spring.

Anyway, we’re not seeing any truly frigid air in the next several days, though some overnight lows in the teens will be possible. The latest short wave will be traveling across the region overnight into tomorrow morning, decaying at its goes. Cloudy skies and snow showers will dominate tonight, with lows around 30°F.

Tomorrow will be another cloudy day as that powerful storm system continues to churn over Canada and that short wave falls apart, though still provide enough localized instability to create a widespread spray of light snow showers. Plan for occasional light showers and cloudy skies with highs in the mid 30s. New snowfall Sunday night through Monday evening will be in the 1-2″ range, with maybe another inch on the hills more exposed to the northwest flow off of the lakes. Snow showers should diminish Monday night as the wave’s remnants push southeastward and away from Tompkins County, with cloudy skies, a few lingering light snow showers, and lows in the mid 20s.

Tuesday will be another cloudy day as the Atlantic low begins to pull away, but a quick-moving low develops over the Northern Great Lakes and skirts across Ontario and the Northeast. Ahead of the storm Tuesday, we may see a few breaks of sun as the low to the east pulls away, and highs will make it into the mid 30s. By evening though, the low will approach, and some light snow showers and overcast conditions return. Lows will be in the mid 20s overnight, with perhaps a new half inch of snow by Wednesday morning.

The cold front associated with that quick-moving low should swing through around sunrise Wednesday. The northwest winds will gust behind that front, with perhaps a few breaks in the clouds as the low moves out but before the lake effect machine fires up in earnest for the afternoon and evening. Highs will be cooler, in the mid to upper 20s. Wednesday night will be dry as the lake effect bands disintegrate with drier air darting overhead, and with some cloud breaks and overall colder air, lows will be more seasonably cold, in the mid to upper teens.

The brief respite ends Thursday morning as a broad low develops over the Northern Great Lakes and starts to head east-southeast, bringing more unstable, more moist air, more light snow and cloud cover for Thursday and Friday – just be glad these inland storms lack oceanic moist air, so snowfall remains limited as a result. Expect cloudy skies and a few snow showers with highs in the mid 30s as winds once again shift to the southwest ahead of the low. Thursday night will see mostly cloudy skies and a chance for some light snow showers, with lows in the upper 20s.

Friday will see lake effect redevelop late as the low passes out longitude a little before sunrise and west-northwest winds restart the lake effect machine. Highs will be in the mid 30s with mostly cloudy skies. Friday night will see high pressure begin to work its way in from the west, bringing genuine, prolonged breaks in the clouds, but also colder air. Expect lake effect snow showers early with  mostly cloudy skies after midnight, with lows around 20°F.

The weekend is looking dry, sunnier (if still partly to mostly cloudy), and cooler as a strong area of high pressure builds eastward across Upstate New York. Highs will be a little below normal, in the mid 20s for both Saturday and Sunday, with lows in the mid teens.

Extended Outlook

We haven’t seen many widespread unseasonably cold patterns lately, but the latest model runs from the Climate Prediction Center suggest as broad unseasonably cold polar air mass settling in across much of the continental United States for the last week of January. The bubble of warmer conditions over Texas is mostly due to the fact that, hemmed in on all sides, the warmer air built up over the lower latitudes is essentially locked in place by colder air masses. Slightly drier than normal conditions are expected, but regionally it’s a fairly neutral precipitation pattern – so big storms are unlikely, but it’s looking like a frosty close to the month is likely.

Brian Crandall

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