ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s been sunnier this weekend, though it comes with some of the most significant cold we’ve seen this winter. Expect the cold to be reinforced with a storm system Tuesday, with a few inches of snow and below average temperatures. Persistently warmer conditions are expected to return late next weekend.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

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The sky has progressively grown cloudier during the daylight hours on this frosty Sunday, as the cloud shield of a weakening frontal trough passes into the Southern Tier. This shouldn’t amount to much, but will result in mostly cloudy to overcast skies through most of the night tonight, but nothing expected in the way of precipitation, thanks to cold, dry and stable low-level air ushered into the region by the high pressure system currently centered over Virginia and North Carolina.

The cloud cover will provide for a modest insulating effect overnight – compared to our friends in the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys where the cloud cover will have yet to work in, we’ll be a few degrees warmer for overnight lows, though still plenty chilly with lows in the mid teens in the city of Ithaca and right by Cayuga Lake, and low teens in the higher elevations and outlying towns.

Monday should be a fairly quiet day as the weak frontal trough moves eastward. Partly cloudy skies in the morning will become mostly cloudy by the late afternoon as the next, more substantial storm system begins to move in from the southwest. As the closed low moves over the Ohio River Valley Monday, there will be some milder air churned northward ahead of it, which should allow temperatures to make it into the low to mid 30s during the day Monday. Monday night will see mostly cloud to overcast skies as the system draws closer, with potential a few snow showers after midnight, and ahead of the main even. With that milder air ahead of the storm system, expect a milder overnight low, in the lower 20s.

Model projections show Tuesday’s storm will be weakening as it approaches, and the core will likely stay just south of us, passing eastward-southeastward over the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania while it falls apart. What that translates to weather-wise is a colder all-snow event, with substantial if still fairly modest snowfall amounts. Ithaca and areas to the south and west can expect 3-4″ of snow, while areas north and east, further from the core and/or more likely to experience the weaker end of the storm, can expect 2-3″. This is mostly going to accumulate during the daylight hours Tuesday, starting around 8-9 AM, with the most persistent snow winding down after 3 PM.

During the late morning and early afternoon Tuesday, expect periods of light to moderate snow with gray skies and highs in the low 30s. By late afternoon and early evening, we’ll transition to more broken up, frequent but light snow showers, with perhaps another half inch by midnight, and trailing off after midnight, though a few lingering light flurries may persist to morning. It will be cloudy overnight with lows in the low 20s.

Wednesday should be a quieter and cooler day, though mostly cloudy skies and a few light snow showers are to be expected as a short wave (pulse of atmospheric instability) passes to our north from Canada, across the Adirondacks and into New England, with perhaps a dusting of new snow but nothing measurable. Highs will be in the upper 20s. Wednesday night will be cold and mostly cloudy with a few flurries and lows in the mid to upper teens.

A potent storm system will be traversing across the Southern Appalachians into the Atlantic Ocean Thursday morning, and while the storm will be too far south to bring precipitation to Tompkins County, its large circulation will draw in colder air southward from Canada across the Southern Tier. Add in overcast skies and we’re only looking at low to mid 20s for highs. An isolated snow shower or two is possible. Thursday night will see mostly cloudy skies and frigid lows, lower teens in the urban areas and upper single digits on the hilltops.

Friday will be cold and quiet as weak high pressure builds in from the northwest, continuing that flow of northerly air. Highs will be in the lower 20s with mostly cloudy skies. A few lake-enhanced snow showers will be in the vicinity but no accumulations are expected. Friday night will be very cold and partly cloudy, with lows in the upper single digits.

Saturday will be a little less cold as the high shifts eastward from Ontario into Quebec, lessening the northerly flow. It will be mostly cloudy and dry with highs in the upper 20s. Saturday night will be cold with a few lake-enhanced snow showers possible, and lows in the upper teens. Sunday’s looking warmer as southerly air is churned up on the backside of the high, with mostly cloudy skies and highs in the mid to upper 30s.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Taking a look into the start of February, the good news is that temperatures are likely to trend back to the warmer side of normal as a persistent jet stream ridge develops over the eastern third of the country (really, a ridge shifting westward from the Great Plains). while a jet stream trough sends cold polar air streaming into the Western United States. The bad news is that with gulf moisture on tap and storm systems following its course, wetter than normal conditions are also expected, and temperatures a few degrees above normal still allows for a major snow event with the right timing.

Brian Crandall

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