Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

ITHACA, N.Y. — My mother taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. That would make this week’s forecast really, really short.

Buckle in, break out the rock salt and fish out the long johns if you haven’t done so already, it’s going to be a harsh week weather-wise.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Binghamton.

Your Weekly Weather

Currently, skies are clearing out and cold air is filtering in as a low pressure system and associated cold front spin northeastward and away the region, and high pressure builds in from the Western Great Lakes. This will make for a cold but quiet night, with a few passing clouds and lows 5 to 10 above zero.

Monday will be seasonably cold and quiet ahead of the next storm system, a fairly potent clipper-type low from the west. Some cloud cover will begin to build in during the afternoon and evening hours ahead of the low pressure center, but otherwise expect partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 20s. Note that late January is typically the climatological minimum for temperatures in Tompkins County, with highs in the low 30s and lows in the mid teens. Monday night will start mostly cloudy, but will become overcast, with snow likely by midnight. Lows will be in the low 20s. There may be an inch on the ground by morning, but “ground” might be a bit optimistic, as gusty 20-30 MPH winds out of the south will keep the snow from settling.

The storm system coming is really a two-part event. The first will sweep in Monday night into Tuesday and will pass northwest of the region, which will allow some weak warm, moist air advection into the Southern Tier, but it’s looking like precipitation will be all snow. Highs Tuesday will climb into the mid 30s under overcast skies and snow likely, with another 2-4″ expected during the day in Tompkins County. Snowfall totals are somewhat uncertain, as a second low will develop over upstate New York as the arctic cold front sweeps through the region Tuesday afternoon – generally speaking, the further east one is, the stronger and more organized the second low will likely be, and the higher the snowfall amount. The Voice will keep you posted if the second low develops more quickly and a winter storm watch or warning is issued.

Tuesday night, skies will clear out somewhat, and only a few weak snow showers will persist, but the temperatures will drop steadily as that bitter Arctic air infiltrates the Southern Tier. This is the same powerfully cold air mass bringing temperatures of -50 °F to Minnesota, and could break Chicago’s all-time record low of -27 °F. This is also a very large cold airmass, and temperatures will likely be below freezing in San Antonio, New Orleans and Jacksonville. In many of these areas, this cold snap will rival the severe cold air outbreak of 1994.

If there’s any silver lining to this, it’s that by the time the air mass passes through the Northeast, it will have lost much of its Arctic sourcing from being at these lower latitudes, and so it will have time to moderate. That said, it will still be very cold.

Wednesday will be partly cloudy with a few lake-effect snow showers around the region. However, temperatures will only top out at 5 to 10 degrees above zero, and winds may gust to 30-35 MPH, which will send wind chills well below zero, even during the daylight hours. Try to avoid being outdoors for any extended time period Wednesday if at all possible, and cover skin with multiple layers so as to avoid frostbite. Temperature will fall to 0° to -5 °F Wednesday night under partly cloudy skies, but the winds only slack off modestly to 15-20 MPH, and wind chills will be in the -20 °F range. If you don’t have to, don’t go outside Wednesday night.

Thursday will be another sunny but bitterly cold day. Temperatures will be stuck in the +5 to +10 °F range for a high temperature, and although it won’t be as windy, there will still be a breeze with subzero wind chills. As the trough of Arctic air begins to recede Thursday night, temperatures should stay above zero in most valley areas, and winds will calm considerably.

On Friday, a high pressure area will be passing to the south, and it should provide for some slightly warmer air to make its way into Tompkins County, with partly cloudy skies and highs will be in the upper teens to around 20 °F. Lows Friday night will be in the single digits, but Saturday should be partly sunny and make it into the mid to upper 20s, and a building ridge of mild air should bringing temperatures close to 40 °F for Sunday, with mostly cloudy skies.

Graphic courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Extended Outlook

Looking into February, there are some glimmers of hope for more seasonable and somewhat less frigid conditions. A ridge is expected to build in the jet stream over Texas and the Lower Mississippi Valley after the cold snap, and that ridge will shift eastward and northward. That should allow for a moderating effect on our weather, with near normal temperatures and slightly elevated chances for precipitation, as storms track along the jet stream.

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