ITHACA, N.Y. — At a glance, the worst of winter is subsiding as we start meteorological spring tomorrow. Temperatures are rebounding from their climatological low point, sunsets are later in the evening, the snow is melting, and rain is appearing more frequently in place of its frozen counterpart. Of course, that doesn’t mean the weather will be pleasant, as Monday will be windy and unsettled, and the week is something of a temperature roller coaster, though no big storms are in the forecast. It’s raw, chilly, damp and muddy. But this week, it appears winter is winding down.

Your Weekly Weather

It’s an unsettled, cloudy Sunday across Tompkins County and the Southern Tier, albeit on the mild side for the end of February. The region is in the warm sector of an area of low pressure crossing the Western Great Lakes – with counterclockwise flow around the hill, southerly winds are bringing warmer air into the region. However, the warmer air mass is also somewhat unstable thanks to the low, so overcast skies dominate the region and light rain showers have spritzed the region but are moving on eastward. A second round of light rain showers is likely in the late evening and early overnight hours. Temperatures are topping out in the low 40s and will hold fairly steady through much of the evening and overnight, only slowly receding to the upper 30s by daybreak Monday.

Monday will be a raw, unpleasant day to be outdoors. The area of low pressure will continue to rapidly deepen (strengthen) as it pushes northeastward towards Hudson’s Bay. As it crosses Ithaca’s longitude around sunrise, the associated cold front will swing through and the low’s large and tight pressure gradient will turn from the southwest to the northwest, bringing in much cooler air on some very blustery northwest winds. Early highs around 40°F will fall back to about 30°F by sunset with a steady 15-20 MPH breeze and gusts from the northwest 40 MPH in Ithaca and up to 50 MPH on the hills, so be mindful not to park under any potentially weak tree limbs and take the time today to secure any light outdoor objects that could become airborne. It will be mostly cloudy with a few light rain showers turning to snow showers as a shortwave (pulse of instability) slips through on the heels of the front. North and east of Ithaca, daytime heating could inject enough energy into the atmosphere for brief snow squalls, with perhaps an inch of accumulation and briefly poor visibility, so keep that in mind if heading to Syracuse or Albany.

These wind gusts will continue through the night Monday into Tuesday as the large storm system continues to strengthen to the northeast, and a few light snow showers will attempt to deposit a new coating of snow under mostly cloudy skies, though with that kind of wind it’ll mostly be blowing around. Lows will be in the mid teens by daybreak Tuesday, but with those gusty winds, it’ll feel more like 0 to -5°F, so do bundle up and cover any exposed skin if you have to be out Monday night.

The storm moves far enough away after sunrise Tuesday morning to allow the winds to slacken, and it’ll be a brisk day if sunnier, as high pressure moves from the Upper Midwest into the Mid-Atlantic region. Plan for partly cloudy skies and temperatures climbing into the low 30s. That’s a little below average for early March, but the storm will have dragged a lot of cold polar air into the region behind it. A few lingering snow showers may hang around through the morning, but this will amount to no more than dusting. Tuesday night will see fairly calm and mostly clear conditions as the high remains in control, with lows in the low 20s.

Wednesday will see temperatures rebound quite a bit as the high shifts east of Ithaca’s longitude, and southerly winds advect milder air on the rear flank of the clockwise-circulating high. Expect mostly sunny skies with highs in the upper 40s, maybe 50°F in a few lucky spots. Wednesday night will be dry, though mostly clear skies will turn partly cloudy by daybreak. Lows will be in the low 30s.

Thursday will be cooler and cloudier as the result of some rather unusual circumstances. The storm from Monday will have spawned a secondary low over Maritime Canada that will strengthen during the week. A quick-moving shortwave passing to the north Wednesday will press into it, and when two lows get close enough, they tend to tug on each other (given enough time, they would rotate around a common center, a process known as the Fujiwhara Effect). The strong eastern system will retrograde in this setup, meaning it will move eastward enough to put Tompkins County under the influence of its cooler, unsettled northwesterly flow. As a result, it will be mostly cloudy with a few scattered rain and snow showers with highs around 40°F. Thursday night will be mostly cloudy with a few lake-enhanced snow showers and lows in the mid 20s.

The strong Canadian low unfortunately lingers in its new more western location closer to us. Friday will see the snow showers wind down as drier air is wrapped around the low, but it will be chilly with the northwest wind. Expect partly cloudy skies and highs in the mid 30s. Friday night will be mostly cloudy with lows around 20°F.

Saturday and Sunday will be dry with generous amounts of sun, if a little on the cool side. Saturday will be partly cloudy with highs in the low to mid 30s, and Sunday will be partly cloudy with highs in the mid to upper 30s. Lows will be in the upper teens.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Some good news as we head into the second week of March, at least for those who like warmer weather. A ridge over the Central United States will work eastward and nudge that Canadian low away, allowing for abnormally warm temperatures to develop across the Southern Tier. The prevailing storm track for the period will be to our west, so while it’s not impossible some individual systems bring rain or overnight snow to the region, overall precipitation amounts are looking to be near-normal for the period. Upstream from the ridge, unseasonably cold air will persist in Alaska and on the West Coast.

Brian Crandall

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