ITHACA, N.Y. — It may be cold right now, but in much of the area snow is lacking; and for those hoping for some Currier and Ives postcard scenes for Christmas, your chances aren’t looking so good, as dry conditions and temperatures into the upper 30s and 40s will define much of the week ahead.
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Following yesterday’s mixed-precipitation combination as part of a storm system pushing eastward across the region, things have quieted down around Upstate New York this Sunday, though cold northwesterly flow behind the low has kept temperatures in the 20s to around 30°F. That northwesterly flow is also tapping into some of the heat energy of Lake Ontario and even a bit of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes to fire off some weak lake effect snow flurries, as well as substantial cloudcover.
With high pressure in place, the air is relatively stable and dry, so there’s little to no accumulations expected from those lake-enhanced showers. It will be a quiet night tonight, with a few isolated flurries downwind of the Finger Lakes, mostly cloudy skies otherwise, with lows in the mid to upper teens.
The high pressure will shift south-southeastward during the day Monday as a storm system passes to the north. The storm system will be too far north to impact Tompkins County, but the reorientation of the high will allow for flow to turn southerly (out of the south) overnight, and temperatures will climb somewhat higher. Expect highs Monday to be in the upper 30s with partly cloudy skies. Monday night will see mostly cloudy skies, and thanks to those clouds and the southerly wind, lows will only fall back to the lower 30s.
Tuesday will see a return of northwesterly flow, because the northern storm system will press against the mass of high pressure, causing it to slide down and back westward, in a way the high pressure system is sloshing (our atmosphere behaves as a very thin fluid). Skies will stay dry, and temperature will be the same if not a hair cooler than Monday, topping out in the upper 30s. Tuesday night will see partly cloudy skies and lows in the upper 20s.
A quick-moving and weak storm system will pass through the Great Lakes and to the north of Tompkins County Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, but this will produce little to no precipitation, just some additional cloud cover. The southerly flow ahead of the low will bring the temperatures up into the low 40s for highs Wednesday, though once the associated dry cold front slips through around noon, temperatures will begin to gall again, with mostly cloudy skies and overnight lows in the mid 20s Wednesday night.
High pressure builds back in from the west Thursday, with light northwesterly winds. Expect partly cloudy skies and highs in the mid 30s. Thursday night will be quiet with partly to mostly cloudy skies and lows in the mid to upper 20s.
Heading into Friday, the high shifts east, placing Ithaca and Tompkins County in the back-side of its clockwise circulation, and in the path of southerly flow. Skies will be partly cloudy with highs in the lower 40s. Friday night will be interesting, as a storm system begins to move in from the Great Lakes. Right now, this appears to be more likely a rain event vs. a snow event, as temperatures will still be in the upper 30s at the time of precipitation onset, 6-9 PM Christmas Eve. Some higher elevations may briefly see snow, but as the high skirts north of us, it’ll place Tompkins County in the warm sector for much of the night and into Christmas Morning, so if you see a few flakes Christmas Eve night, they aren’t likely to last long, as temperatures rise into the low 40s by sunrise Christmas Day.
Christmas Day will likely be a green one. Expect cloudy skies and scattered rain showers as the low passes through, with highs in the mid to upper 40s. Temperatures will fall into the mid 30s Saturday night as the rain ends, and Sunday will be cooler, dry and partly cloudy with highs in the mid 30s.
Looking ahead into New Year’s Day, the large-scale pattern favors a dome of warmer air over the Southeast and Gulf Coast, with an upstream just stream trough over the West Coast and Mountain West. The pattern is favorable for flow of Pacific systems into the Mountain West and continental storm systems sliding into the Great Lakes, resulting in above normal chances of precipitation across much of the country. It’ll be quiet locally, with near-normal temperatures and slightly above-normal precipitation.