ITHACA, N.Y. — Having warmer-than-normal temperatures in January can feel like winning the “nicest car” contest in a parking lot of old Hyundais. Yes, it’s nice. It’s probably not something you’re going to brag about, though.

Anyway, it is looking like a quiet start to the week. with high pressure in place to ward off weaker disturbances. However, a stronger storm system is likely impact the area Thursday night into Friday, which would be primarily a rain event, though some snow is likely to be on the ground Friday morning. Average daily temperatures will continue to run about 10-15 F above normal, with the low temperatures being more anomalously warm than the highs.

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Skies are turning sunnier this Sunday as low lake-enhanced cloud cover burns away from south to north. Temperatures are near-normal today running in the lower to mid 30s for highs across Tompkins County as high pressure over the Mid-Atlantic provides for relatively placid conditions.

Some cloud cover will build back into the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes from the southwest and south tonight, the fringes of a cloud shield from a disturbance crossing the Southern Appalachians and developing into a closed low coastal storm system tonight and tomorrow morning. This system will remain far enough from Tompkins County that no precipitation is expected. Lows tonight will be in the mid 20s with partly cloudy skies turning mostly cloudy.

Monday will be another quiet day for Ithaca and its environs, as the coastal system moves away and another area of high pressure builds in from the Mississippi River Valley. Clous cover will decrease, with mostly sunny skies by afternoon, and highs in the upper 30s. Monday night will see cloud cover build back in to near-overcast conditions, as a weak low skirts across Canada into the Adirondacks and New England, but once again no precipitation is expected. Lows Monday night will be in the upper 20s.

Heading into Tuesday, the low to the east will result in mostly cloudy skies and temperatures a degree or two cooler than Monday, but still fairly quiet overall. Highs will be in the mid to upper 30s. A polar high asserts itself from the north later in the day, and Tuesday night will see mostly cloudy skies, with a few weak lake-effect snow showers north of Ithaca, as lows settle in the mid 20s.

Wednesday will be another peaceable day with the high over Quebec and Labrador. Skies will be partly sunny, and light southerly winds will bring highs to near 40. A clipper-type low skirts across the Western Great Lakes and Northern New York Wednesday night into Thursday, with a snow flurry or two but otherwise just replenished mostly cloudy conditions, with lows in the mid to upper 20s.

Thursday will start off quiet, but a storm system will work its way in from the Ohio River Valley during the day. This looks fairly middling strength-wise but it will be tapping into moister air over the Gulf of Mexico, so there will be some substantial precipitation with this storm. During the day expect partly cloudy skies turning mostly cloudy, with precipitation after sunset, and highs around 40.

Precipitation will start as leading rain showers Thursday evening, turning to snow for the 12 AM – 6 AM period as temperatures and dewpoints cool down just enough to allow for some wet snow – higher elevations can expected a longer period of snow, with higher accumulations, though it’s a little early to give definite amounts – I do not expect anything disruptive, as early indications suggest something in the ballpark of a couple of inches. Plan for periods of light to moderate rain and wet snow showers overnight Thursday if you’ll be outdoors, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 30s for lows in Ithaca and along Cayuga Lake, and around 30 on the surrounding hilltops.

With the core of the low over Ohio and Lake Erie for most of the day Friday, and lows having counterclockwise flow in the Northern Hemisphere, Tompkins County will be in the warm sector, so snow will change back over to a cold rain Friday morning. Expect a grey, rainy day, with highs in the low 40s. Friday night will see rain break down into rain showers and then snow showers as the system heads ENE across NYS Friday evening and northeasterly flow keeps providing energy for some lingering showers. Lows Friday will be around 30.

As for next weekend, showers will end as the storm pulls away, and its looking like another lobe of high pressure will enter the area from the southwest. Showers will end Saturday, with a quiet Saturday night and sunnier Sunday. Highs are likely in the lower to mid 30s, with overnight lows in the mid to upper 20s.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking into the second half of January and the Marth Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, above-normal temperatures are expected to continue with a West Coast trough / East Coast ridge in the jet stream. The atmospheric river of the Pacific Ocean jet stream branch is running full blast this year, providing ample, needed rain for the West Coast, if unfortunately too fast with the delivery. Downstream with the ridge, air flow from the Gulf of Mexico and subtropics will provide moisture for rain and snowfall in systems riding along the edges of the ridge, which will vary enough such that just about everybody will be in the above-normal range for precipitation. This is one of those situations that high temperatures will be less anomalous than low temperatures – cloud cover and high dewpoints with frequent precipitation keep air from cooling off and warming up as fast as dry air would. But, it’s looking more like umbrella weather than snow shovel weather.

Brian Crandall

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