ITHACA, N.Y. — As we approach the climatologically coldest part of the year, conditions across the region continue to run unseasonably mild and relatively snow-free compared to the norm. While a wintry mix Tuesday morning may make for a messy drive, and rain is likely later in the week, the bitter cold overnight lows and inches of snowy white will continue to be lacking.

Your Weekly Weather

A strong coastal low over the Western Atlantic has continued to drive ESE and away from the Northeast, allowing drier air to work into the region and eat away at existing low-level cloud cover and bring sunnier skies to the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

This drier air is being driven by a Canadian high north of the low, and with this north-northeasterly flow, temperatures will continue to be on the chilly side if near-normal for the next day or so. For the rest of your Sunday, expect mostly cloudy skies, become a little sunnier as we head into sunset, with northerly winds and seasonable highs around 30. Tonight will see partly to mostly cloudy skies with calm air present; the trade-off of not having wind chill is that not agitating the ambient atmosphere allows it to cool off more efficient, so lows Sunday night will be in the low and mid teens across Tompkins County.

Monday will be a largely peaceful day weather-wise for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The high will remain in control through the daylight hours, with mostly sunny skies. Being in a mixed air mass between the large coastal low (which may become a subtropical storm, according to a few models) and highs over Canada and the Southeastern U.S. will result in weak winds, and just like overnight cooling, this lack of agitation allows air to heat more efficiently under those sunny skies, and highs will be in the mid to upper 30s.

Monday night will see increasing clouds, however, as a fourth system begins to impede on the other three – a modestly-strong low pressure storm system trekking eastward across the Midwest and Western Great Lakes, with the leading precipitation ahead of its warm front likely to move in a little before sunrise. I’m not seeing anything too disruptive, but with lows in the mid 20s and only starting to creep up ahead of the precipitation band, plan for a light snow-sleet-freezing rain combo to in the 6-8 AM period Tuesday morning, and take extra time out for your commute.

Tuesday will transition from that wintry mix to a cold rain later in the morning as the warm front passes and Tompkins County enters the warm sector of the Great Lakes low. Expect light to moderate rain during the day Tuesday, nothing too substantial, becoming more showery later in the day behind the front. Skies will be overcast but winds will be light out of south, so highs will be in the low 40s, and temperatures will be sticking around that high for most of the afternoon and evening. Tuesday night only falls back a few degrees to the mid 30s for low, and showers overnight will stay in the form of rain, decreasing in frequency towards daybreak Wednesday.

The low pressure system falls apart Tuesday night and Wednesday, its remnant low sliding eastward across Northern New York and into New England during the day Wednesday. With little in the way of a cold front, winds will turn breezy to the WNW but temperatures will make it make into the lower 40s for highs, with overcast skies and an isolated shower or two as the decayed low passes to the north. Wednesday night will remain cloudy as the next system begins to approach from the southwest. Lows will be in the lower 30s.

This next system is to likely to be a major event either, as the models show it larger but weaker than the Great Lakes low initially was when entering into the region. The low stays intact as it crosses the Ohio River Valley before taking a more eastward turn across Upstate New York and heads out to the Atlantic Friday morning. As before, a few snow showers ahead of the low will transition to a cold rain for Thursday (temperature profiles suggest a wintry mix isn’t likely this time around), with cloudy skies and highs around 40. The rain will become more prevalent into the night Thursday, and while a brief snow transition on the hills is possible around sunrise Friday, this should stay a nearly-all rain event with lows in the mid 30s, and decreasing showers after midnight Thursday.

With the low heading out Friday morning, a few lingering showers and breezy westerly winds are likely here on its backside. However, these winds won’t be tapping into cold air as a broad high pressure system over the lower Midwest begins to assert itself into the region. Friday will see those few rain showers, with near-overcast skies and highs in the low 40s. Friday night will see a few rain or snow showers early, becoming dry after midnight, with mostly cloudy skies and lows in the upper 20s.

Looking into next weekend, it’ll be cloudy but largely dry. The low will hang over the Atlantic and provide cloud cover for Saturday and a clipper low likely brings a few rain or snow showers and replenished clouds for Sunday, but highs and particularly lows will remain above average, in the upper 30s to around 40, and lows around 30. For reference, mid 30s and mid teens are the typical high and low for later January, so while it may not seem like it, we’re running above average temperature-wise.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

With that “modestly warmer high / much warmer low” pattern in place and frequent storm systems with ample cloud cover across Upstate, no one begrudges you for wanting a change of pace, ideally the sunnier kind. Unfortunately, the large-scale pattern doesn’t support a major regime change at this point, not for the end of the month at least. A deep trough in the jest stream will bring colder conditions to the west, though it will give a chance for California to drive out as the precipitation axis shifts downstream, and further downstream over the city of gorges, the ridge will remain in place, with warmer than normal temperatures and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and frequent storm systems in the lee of the Rockies to impact our weather through the end of January. Could be worse of course, but don’t worry too much about being blinded by the sun over the next couple of weeks.

Brian Crandall

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