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Warmer-Than-Normal Summer Forecast Across United States

Temperatures across almost all of the United States will average warmer than normal over the next three months, though the Southeast and Ohio Valley may get some cooler breaks, according to a seasonal forecast released last week by Weather Services International (WSI).

"The summer has gone as expected so far, with the most significant heat focused across the western United States, and only occasional bursts of heat across into the eastern U.S.," said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. "In general, we expect this pattern to continue through the remainder of summer, with the more persistent below-normal temperatures confined to the Southeast U.S."

WSI's forecast for the summer months includes some warmer predictions than its previous forecast (see NGI, May 27).

"The polar vortex has been stronger this summer than in recent years, which is allowing warmer temperatures to spread across the northern U.S. this week," Crawford said. "This recent development, along with the usual statistical and dynamical model guidance, has resulted in some changes to our July forecast across the northern U.S. We are now favoring slightly above-normal temperatures across key population centers of the north-central and northeastern U.S., as opposed to our previous forecast, which favored slightly below-normal temperatures."

The Southeast is likely to average cooler than normal in July, but the rest of the country, except Arizona and New Mexico, can expect warmer-than-normal temperatures during the month, according to the WSI forecasters.

"With natural gas prices expected to run significantly higher this summer compared to last summer, coal-fired generators throughout the country should experience increased year-over-year capacity factors and profit margins," said Energy Securities Analysis Inc. Senior Analyst Chris Kostas. "Increased coal-fired generation and higher natural gas prices should also help to keep implied market heat-rates from reaching the very high monthly averages seen last summer. Natural gas prices can be expected to remain firm due to above-normal aggregate cooling demand and increased year-over-year storage injection demand. Firm gas demand and prices should be partially offset, however, by increased coal-fired generation."

WSI's temperature forecast map is little changed for August, with cooler-than-normal temperatures staying in place in the Southeast, and Arizona and New Mexico shifting to the warmer-than-normal column.

"Firm gas prices in July and August should help to boost coal-fired generation throughout the country this summer and will help to moderate the upward pressure on implied market heat-rates, however," Kostas said. "Mild August temperatures in the Southeast should help to moderate power prices in that region."

Warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected to move into the Southeast in September and the North Central area will average cooler than normal, according to WSI's forecast.

"Firm power prices this summer could extend into September, particularly in California and Texas," Kostas said. "While electrical loads begin to decline in September as average temperatures decrease, above-normal temperatures and electrical loads in California and Texas should help to extend the firm summer power prices into September. Cooling loads in PJM, NY, and New England generally begin to decline precipitously in September. However, warmer-than-normal September temperatures expected in those regions should help to support power prices, particularly as the generation maintenance season begins."

A potential trends toward a weak El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean this fall could increase chances for a cool fall across the eastern U.S., Crawford said. WSI, based in Andover, MA, plans to issue its next seasonal outlook on July 23.

The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season is likely to be another active one, but conditions have WSI trimming its forecast, just a bit, to 16 named storms, including nine hurricanes, four of them major (Category 3 or higher), from the previous forecast of 19 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them major (see NGI, April 15).

"The main drivers of tropical activity this year are not particularly remarkable and suggest a rather typical season of the current active era," Crawford said. "North Atlantic temperatures are warm compared to long-term normals but are typical of those observed over the active period of the last 20 years.

"There are no indications that a particularly strong El Nino or La Nina event (which would modify the background wind shear patterns towards fewer or greater number of storms, respectively) will be present either. Our statistical and dynamical models do suggest a slightly quieter season than they did last month, however, as ocean temperatures have cooled slightly and the chances for El Nino development, though still small, have increased a bit."

The Atlantic Hurricane season, which officially began on June 1, has so far produced two named storms. Tropical Storm Andrea formed in the eastern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) on June 5 and quickly crossed Florida into the Atlantic Ocean, causing little damage as it hurried up the East Coast. Tropical Storm Barry formed almost two weeks later in the southern GOM and made landfall near Veracruz, Mexico.

The consensus forecast has been for above-average tropical storm activity this year (see NGI, June 3).

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