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Western U.S. to Bake Through Summer's End, WSI Says

Most of the United States -- and particularly parts of Texas and the Northeast -- can expect above-normal temperatures through October, but the Southeast may see some relief from the worst of summer heat, according to forecasters at Weather Services International (WSI). The forecaster also trimmed the number of tropical storms it expects to form in the Atlantic Basin this year.

"The summer has been quite hot so far across much of the western U.S., with temperatures near or below normal across much the Midwest, Ohio Valley and the Southeast. As we head into August, we expect this general trend to persist, with the most significant and consistent heat found in parts of the West," said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. "The Southeast U.S. has the best chance to see extended periods of rain and below-normal temperatures, while the Plains, Midwest and Northeast will likely see more variability, with aggregate monthly temperatures slightly above normal.

"As we head towards fall, we are monitoring the possible development of a weak El Nino event, which would increase the chances for cooler-than-normal temperatures and an early start to the heating-demand season across the eastern US. At this time, we are not particularly bullish on an El Nino event developing, and our current forecast through October is for generally mild conditions across the major heating demand centers of the eastern US."

WSI expects all of the United States to average warmer than normal in August, with the exception of the Southeast, which can expect cooler-than-normal temperatures.

"Power prices and implied market heat-rates will likely find strength in many parts of the country through mid-August," said Energy Securities Analysis Inc. Senior Analyst Chris Kostas. "California, in particular, could be at risk for sustained higher prices in August as hydro generation tapers off and temperatures remain high...Firm gas prices and increased electrical loads should also help to boost coal-fired generation throughout the country and will help to moderate the upward pressure on implied market heat-rates."

WSI's temperature forecast map remains unchanged for September, with the West continuing to bake and the Southeast still averaging cooler than normal. By October, the forecasters expect warmer-than-normal temperatures to move into the Southeast, while the Northwest and North Central areas can expect a cool-down.

"Weather-related energy demand is generally very soft in October. New England can buck the trend as seasonal norms begin to fall, but with mild temperatures expected in the region, delivered natural gas prices may remain soft (especially if Canadian imports increase as expected due to new production at Deep Panuke)," Kostas said. "Texas could see continued strength in implied market heat-rates as nuclear and coal-fired generators complete maintenance.

"Although heating and cooling demand will be relatively soft in October, natural gas prices may be supported through the end of the month due to increased year-over-year injection demand. Inventories were drawn well below last year's level to begin the injection season and we expect that a hefty year-over-year increase in injection demand (i.e. 4.0 Bcf/day) will be required through the end of October to make up the deficit."

For the second time in a month, WSI trimmed its tropical storm forecast, saying it now expects 13 named storms to form in the Atlantic Basin this year, including eight hurricanes, three of them major (Category 3 or higher), in what it still believes will be an active hurricane season.

"North Atlantic temperatures have not warmed as fast as expected this summer, and the most recent runs of our statistical and dynamical models reflect this with lower forecast numbers going forward," Crawford said. "The main drivers of tropical activity this year are simply not that remarkable relative to recent years, so a further reduction to the forecast numbers is warranted. There is still a slight chance that a new El Nino event will develop during the next couple of months, which would lower expectations further, but we do not currently see that possibility being much of a factor."

In its first forecast of the Atlantic hurricane season, WSI had called for 19 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them major (see NGI, April 15). Last month, the forecasters trimmed that prediction to 16 named storms, including nine hurricanes, four of them major (see NGI, July 1). The consensus forecast has been for above-average tropical storm activity this year (see NGI, June 3).

The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season, which officially began June 1, has so far produced four named storms. The National Hurricane Center on Thursday was monitoring Tropical Storm Dorian, which was about 1,800 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.

The first named storm of the season, 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. Tropical Storm Chantal formed off the east coast of South America on July 7 but was downgraded to a Tropical Wave well before reaching the Florida coast days later.

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