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WSI Forecasts: Heat in the East; Nine Hurricanes This Year

Warmer-than-normal temperatures will settle in over the Northeast and North Central regions in August and remain there through October, while the western United States will see cooler-than-normal air taking over in September and October, according to forecaster WSI Corp. of Andover, MA. WSI also increased by one the number of named storms and hurricanes that it predicts will form in the Atlantic Basin this year.

"We expect August to be characterized by above-normal temperatures in the northern U.S. and relatively cool temperatures across much of the southern U.S.," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "The most intense heat will likely be confined to the Northeast, northern Rockies and northern Plains. The very wet ground in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes states will likely limit the magnitude of the heat in those regions. A continuation of the relatively cool and wet recent pattern will continue in the Southeast. As fall approaches, above-normal temperatures will continue to persist in the northeastern quarter of the country, with below-normal temperatures becoming confined to parts of the western U.S."

In its Energycast Outlook for August, WSI forecast warmer-than-normal temperatures for the Northeast, North Central, South Central (except southern Texas), Northwest (except coastal areas) and Southwest (except coastal locations) regions, with cooler-than-normal temperatures in the Southeast.

Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said injections to gas storage are likely to be in the normal range during August. Lower hydro availability in the West could be a bullish factor for gas demand. Power prices in the Northeast markets will be firm, while the normal to cooler temperatures expected in California and Texas should help power prices remain moderate in relation to prevailing natural gas prices, ESAI said.

WSI looks for cooler-than-normal temperatures spreading across the western and South Central U.S. (except east Texas) in September, with warmer-than-normal air in control of the East and North Central portions of the country. According to ESAI, injections are likely to be slightly higher than normal due to the lower probability of late season heat in most areas. Cooler temperatures in September should moderate power prices, except in the Northeast, where warmer temperature expectations would be moderately bullish for power prices, ESAI said.

The WSI forecast for October calls for warmer-than-normal temperatures across all of the East and Central regions and cooler-than-normal air remaining in place over the West (except New Mexico, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming). For the month, injections to gas storage are likely to be close to normal, with power prices in most regions more dependent upon generator planned maintenance programs, as load will be moderate with shoulder season temperatures, according to ESAI.

The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year norm (1971-2000). The next forecast, for September-November, is scheduled to be issued Aug. 19.

WSI is calling for 15 named storms and nine hurricanes, including four intense hurricanes (Category 3 or greater) to form by Nov. 30. The season has already produced four named storms and one hurricane, with a second storm ready to claim hurricane status in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

The forecast numbers are significantly higher than the 1950-2007 averages of 9.7 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes.

Previously WSI forecasters had said they expected 14 named storms, eight hurricanes with four of them intense hurricanes (see NGI, July 7). The slight increase is primarily due to increasing sea surface temperature anomalies in portions of the Atlantic Basin that play a role in storm development and intensity, WSI said.

"Since 1995 most tropical seasons have been more active than the long-term averages due to warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures. We do not see any reason why this active regime will not continue in 2008," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "The recent La Nina event [cooling ocean surface temperatures off the western coast of South America] should leave behind a wind shear environment that is favorable for the development of tropical systems in the summer and fall of 2008. Recent warming in the Atlantic Basin has resulted in an increase in the forecast numbers from our statistical model, so we have increased our official numbers slightly. The relatively early occurrence of the first intense hurricane, Bertha, is also usually an omen for a very active season."

Hurricane Dolly brought heavy rain and wind speeds of more than 100 mph when it made landfall at South Padre Island near Brownsville, TX, on Wednesday. After rising through Wednesday, GOM production outages and the numbers of evacuated infrastructure were dwindling Thursday -- enough so that Minerals Management Service (MMS) said it would issue no more reports on shut-in and evacuation data related to Dolly. Based on reports received from 21 companies, MMS on Thursday said shut-ins totaled 420 MMcf/d of gas (down from 606 MMcf/d Wednesday) and 18,047 b/d of oil (down from 58,122 b/d). Its count of evacuated platforms and mobile drilling rigs fell from 62 to 43 and from eight to four, respectively. AEP Texas reported approximately 201,000 storm-related outages by Thursday morning.

Dolly's time spent over land reduced it to a tropical storm and then to a tropical depression as it passed into Mexican territory near Laredo, TX. Despite its weakening, the storm was still dumping heavy rains over South Texas and northeastern Mexico Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, adding that it would issue no further advisories on Dolly. By Friday Dolly had been downgraded to a tropical rainstorm and was bringing heavy rains to northern Mexico as it continued to move west.

Tropical Storm Cristobal stayed in the Atlantic as it traveled traveled northeast last week, eventually being downgraded to an extratropical depression as it moved into cooler North Atlantic waters.

Tropical Storm Arthur, the first tropical storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, developed May 31 in the western Caribbean Sea and wasted little time in moving ashore over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, where it was downgraded to a tropical depression on June 1. Bertha meandered through much of the Atlantic between July 3 and July 20, threatening Bermuda and twice becoming a hurricane, but never threatened gas or oil interests.

Most forecasters this year have called for an active or above-average Atlantic hurricane season. Last month Colorado State University forecasters maintained their earlier forecast, which called for a well above-average hurricane season this year with 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin (see NGI, June 9a).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said projected climate conditions point to a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year (see NGI, May 26). The outlook indicates a 60-70% chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes, NOAA said.

MDA EarthSat forecasters also said the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be busier than average but quieter than last year (see NGI, April 21). MDA EarthSat forecasters said 13 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense or major hurricanes are likely to form during the Atlantic hurricane season.

AccuWeather.com meteorologist Joe Bastardi said the East Coast will be at greater risk this coming hurricane season even though the number of named storms is expected to be about average, and GOM interests can expect seven to 10 days with at least the threat of weather disruptions (see NGI, May 19).

Using NOAA data and its own storm tracking tool, forecasting network WeatherBug said it expects 10-12 named storms and an above-average Atlantic hurricane season (see NGI, June 2).

Last month energy consultant IHS Inc. issued a report that said average impact on U.S. oil and natural gas production from GOM hurricanes over a 45-year period was "relatively modest" and the impact on energy supplies "typically short-lived" (see NGI, June 9b).

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