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Colder February to Give Way to Warmer March, WSI Says

March may disappoint those who are still waiting for winter to show up, according to Andover, MA-based WSI Corp. The month is expected to bring more warmer than normal weather for a majority of the U.S., WSI said.

In its seasonal outlook for the March-May period, the forecasting firm said it expects temperatures over the three months to average cooler than normal in the northeastern states with warmer-than-normal temperatures elsewhere.

"It appears that the cold weather pattern of late February will break over most of the country during the first half of March, and that an early spring is likely over most of the central U.S.," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "However, winter temperatures will linger along the West Coast and in parts of New England. We are also concerned that a continuing drought in the south-central and southwestern U.S. may result in an early onset of summer temperatures in much of the central U.S."

In the monthly breakdown, WSI said March is expected to bring warmer than normal temperatures to the entire central and eastern portions of the country, except New Hampshire and Maine. However, the entire West is expected to see cooler than normal temperatures during this time.

Commenting on the WSI forecast for March, Wakefield, MA-based Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said the warmer temperature outlook for the month will result in lower natural gas demand and lower withdrawals from storage. "With current inventories over 40% above the five-year average, warmer weather in March will provide additional below-average withdrawals from storage," ESAI said. "This will result in end-of-heating season inventories of 1.5 Tcf or higher. Power prices will be moderate due to lower gas prices and the lower loads associated with warmer temperatures."

The arrival of April will look much like March, with warmer than normal temperatures dominating the central and eastern U.S., except for Maine. Out West, the script changes slightly with the Southwest experiencing warmer than normal temperatures while the Northwest comes in cooler than normal.

ESAI said that as the heating season winds down to a finish in April, the WSI warmer outlook decreases the possibilities of above-average withdrawals from natural gas storage, which might offset the growing surplus above the five-year average. During the month, ESAI said power prices are more likely to be affected by generator outages as the maintenance season commences than by variations in weather.

WSI said it expects May to be cooler than normal in the Northeast and Northwest, while the rest of the country experiences warmer than normal conditions -- especially warm in Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Arizona and New Mexico.

"Early-season cooling demand in the Gulf and Southwest states due to warmer temperatures will increase demand for natural gas in the electricity sector in these areas and provide some support to sagging natural gas prices," ESAI predicted. "However, cooler weather in the key Northeast demand areas will offset demand in the Southern regions for natural gas. Power prices in the Northeast will be less affected by scheduled generator outages under the lower loads that are commensurate with the cooler weather outlook."

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