ITHACA, N.Y. — For those getting tired of repeated bouts of rainstorms and snowstorms, this upcoming week offers at least some respite from the pattern of the past several weeks. However, at least one part of the weather pattern will continue –  temperatures will continue to run below average for much of the next week.

Graphic courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Weather Recap

With November in the record books, two things are clear – it was very cold, and it was also very snowy.

With an average temperature of 34.1 °F, November 2018 clocked in at 5.5 degrees below normal. According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, that result was chilly enough to earn fourth place in the ranking for coldest November in Ithaca’s 119 years of valid temperature records. Only 1951 (33.5 °F), 1901 (32.7 °F) and 1976 (32.7 °F) were colder. On the precipitation side, the 4.13″ of liquid equivalent was just about an inch above normal (0.97″, to be precise) and wet enough for an 18th place ranking in the modern climate record.

Note the use of the term liquid equivalent, because if it was thing we definitely received a lot of during the month, it was snow. The second highest snowfall total ever recorded in an Ithaca November, 18.8″ of the white stuff in the gauge at Game Farm Road. It was just 0.3″ short of the all-time record, 19.1″ in November 1995. A typical November in Ithaca brings in a meager 4.5″ of snowfall.

Of course, some parts of the county like had much more than 18.8″. Consider last week. Last week’s narrow but intense lake effect bands resulted in some high snowfall variations across the county, from 2.7″ on West Hill, to nearly a foot in the eastern half of Dryden.

With the exception of the West Coast, most of the continental United States has seen much higher and more widespread snowfall this year when compared to last. The blame can be laid on the jet stream configuration, which had persistently produces a strong ridge over California (fueling those massive and deadly wildfires), and persistent stormy conditions and Arctic air outbreaks everywhere east of the Rockies.

The cold air looks to continue into this upcoming week, but with high pressure generally in control and tranquil conditions expected, we’ll hopefully keep our new snowfall accumulations fairly low. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any snow.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Your Weekly Weather

If Sunday night seems a bit warm to you, that’s because it is – with southerly flow ahead of an area of low pressure, milder air is being funneled into the region, keeping overnight lows rather toasty for early December. With the bulk of the rain now to the north and east, only some scattered showers remain, and skies will be mostly cloudy with lows only very slowly creeping downward, from about the upper 40s now, to the low to mid 40s by daybreak.

This storm system should pass to the north of Ithaca and Tompkins County, but as it passes east of Ithaca during the afternoon, the wraparound cold air will be pulled into the low’s counterclockwise circulation and down into the region. Temperatures won’t warm up much if at all on Monday, holding steady in the low to mid 40s under cloudy skies and scattered rain showers. Then by 1 PM or so, winds should shift to a more west-northwest direction and the temperatures will start to slide. With cold air passing over warmer Lake Ontario, that added instability will allow some lake-enhanced rain showers and some snow showers to develop as temperatures continue to recede to a low in the upper 20s. Any new snow accumulations Monday night should be less than an inch.

By Tuesday morning, an area of high pressure building in from the west should dry out and stabilize the atmosphere, winding down the snow showers, but with cold air still passing over the warmer lakes, mostly cloudy skies and an isolated snow shower or two will continue. Temperatures will be below normal, only in the low 30s in Ithaca and struggling to break 30 °F in the outlying areas. Tuesday night will be quiet as the high pressure continues to build in, with partly cloudy skies and a low in the mid 20s.

Wednesday will be another quiet day, on the cloudy side as a weak disturbance passes aloft, and the cold northerly air continues to destabilize over Lake Ontario, producing clouds and isolated snow showers. Highs will be in the low to mid 30s with partly cloudy skies. Wednesday night will be dry, mostly cloudy with lows in the mid 20s.

Thursday should be another quiet as the high pressure slides eastward past the Appalachians, allowing for partly sunny skies and highs in the mid 30s. However, as we get later in the day Thursday, a cold front will start pushing in from the northwest, and this will bring some scattered snow showers into the region. This is not a very strong front nor will it have much moisture to tap into, but Thursday night could see a fresh coating to an inch of snow on the roads, with the snow showers tapering off after the front passes through during the overnight hours. Lows Thursday night will be in the upper 20s.

Behind the front, a reinvigorated northerly breeze will tap into Lake Ontario and allow for some lake effect in the region, although it should be light snow if any. Friday will be mostly cloudy, some lake-enhanced snow showers, and highs around 32 °F, and Friday night will be mostly cloudy with lows in the low 20s.

For the weekend, it’s looking cold but otherwise pleasant, with sunny skies and highs in the low 30s Saturday and mid 30s Sunday. Lows will be in mid 20s. A rather potent storm system will pass through Texas and into the Southern Appalachians (and the mere mention of snow to folks in Charlotte or Atlanta can cause alarm), but it looks like that will be too far south to impact our weather at this time.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Through at least the middle of the month, it’s looking like the abnormally cold conditions will continue, as the jet stream establishes a deep, long-period trough that causes unusual cold over most of the eastern half of the country, and dry conditions for us as all the storms get shunted into the Deep South and wreak havoc on their commutes.

Then it looks like we might be in for a pattern change mid-month, with a ridge in the jet stream developing and persisting over the Great Lakes, and providing unseasonably mild conditions for mid and late December. You know, Christmastime. The one time people seem to embrace cold air and snow. Sorry folks, Mother Nature couldn’t care less about the holidays.

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