ITHACA, N.Y. — Generally speaking, we’ve gotten off rather lightly so far this winter, pre-Christmas storm system and a few icy mornings excepted. It’s been the warmest January since 1990. Snowfall is modestly below average, it’s been a wet month but much of that has been rain, which the last I checked, you don’t have to shovel.

However, anyone who thought we could get through the whole winter without a bitterly cold blast will be bitterly disappointed later this week, as an Arctic high sends temperatures plunging later in the week. Start saving those Netflix movies in your queue and do your groceries early this week, because you’ll want to just hunker down and tuck into something warm next weekend.

Your Weekly Weather

A low pressure storm system is moving northeastward up the Saint Lawrence River Valley, and that’s triggered ample cloud cover and some scattered rain and snow showers across the region this Sunday. Temperatures are well above here in the warm sector of the low’s counterclockwise flow, with highs in the lower 40s during the afternoon.

A brief drier period will take place later tonight in as the trailing cold front presses down from the northwest early Monday morning, and before any lake-effect rain and snow showers start up. The few remaining rain showers will turn to snow this evening, but little to no accumulation is expected, with drier if still cloudy conditions after midnight, behind the front. Lows will be well above normal, in the upper 20s.

Monday will be another grey day, and a few degrees cooler behind the front. A coating of new snow from the lake-enhanced showers is possible, though most areas will just see a few flakes in the air, raindrops during the afternoon. Highs will be in the mid 30s. Monday night will see winds turn more briskly from the northwest as a weak shortwave passes through, though once again with minimal accumulation. Skies will be cloudy and lows will be around 20 (which is still a little above normal).

Tuesday will be a little colder as a strong high moves in from the west. In its clockwise flow, polar air will be drawn into the Northeast. Skies will be largely cloudy with highs in the mid 20s. Tuesday night will be quiet but cold, with mostly cloudy skies and lows in the mid teens, though that could drop lower if the clouds break up during the night.

As the high weakens somewhat and the core dips to the south, a more westerly flow will build in (highs have clockwise flow in the Northern Hemisphere), so temperatures may be a touch warmer, in the upper 20s for highs with sustained glimpses of a mysterious bright orb that some cultures call “the sun”. We’re working to verify its existence here, and will keep you posted. Wednesday night will be mostly cloudy with lows in the upper teens.

Thursday sees a developing Canadian clipper low pass to the north, but its cold front will break down the meteorological door for a powerful Arctic high that will move into the Upper Midwest and bring freezing temperatures down the Eastern U.S. all the way into the Deep South. Ahead of the low, temperatures will actually perk above normal, into the mid and upper 30s, with WSW winds and partly cloudy skies. But once that cold front moves through Thursday evening, the temperature sinks, even as some cloud cover continued as part of lake-effect snow showers. The wind will pick up from the NW and become quite strong, 25-30 MPH by morning. Lows will be in the mid teens, but with wind chills, it’ll feel like it’s near zero.

Friday is just an atrociously cold day as that Arctic high’s icy reign extends across the Great Lakes and Northeast. Stay indoors if you can. Highs will be near 20 with partly cloudy skies, but with winds 30-40 MPH, the wind chills will be 0 to -10 F. Friday night will see the winds slacken late as the core of the low approaches, but it will be bitterly cold, with lows around 0 and wind chills -15 to -25 F. Take care to check your pipes, take care of your outdoor critters, and give extra time for your car to heat up if you have to go out, because these conditions are very rough on the mechanicals, and bundle up thoroughly because frostbite happens fast in these conditions.

Saturday will be a mostly sunny but frigid day with highs in the teens, though the Arctic high will move east of Tompkins County by later in the day, which will put us in the rear flank, southerly flow, and warmer air advection. As a result, lows Saturday night will be seasonable, in the low and mid teens with mostly cloudy skies.

Sunday will be quite the rebound, though it’ll likely wreak havoc on the water mains. Expect cloudy skies and highs in the mid 30s. Sunday night is looking to be above normal, in the mid 20s with overcast conditions. The cold will be intense Thursday night through Saturday, but at least it’s fairly brief.

Graphics courtesy of the NOAA Climate Prediction Centter.

Extended Outlook

Looking into mid-February, the large-scale outlook calls for a jet stream trough in the Western United States, and a ridge over the East Coast. That would allow unseasonably warmer air to filter into the Northeastern U.S., Tompkins County included. On the precipitation side, a combination of Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico moisture will be channeled up the right over the Great Plains and into the Great Lakes, which will also allow for wetter-than-normal conditions over Upstate New York. Or, in short – it’s a recipe for continued conditions we’ve seen this January.

Brian Crandall

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