WSI Corp. made no changes in an updated tropical outlook, continuing to forecast 14 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense hurricanes (Category 3 or greater) during the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, and predicted warmer than normal temperatures across all but the northwestern quarter of the U.S. through November.
The number of storms predicted is larger than the long-term averages of 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes, and also larger than the numbers from 2006, WSI said. The main drivers of the expected active season are a continuation of the warmer than normal temperatures in the western tropical Atlantic basin and a relatively benign vertical wind shear environment due to the lack of an El Nino event.
"While the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean temperature anomalies have remained relatively cool this summer, the western tropical Atlantic Basin is quite warm, as evidenced by the strength attained by Hurricane Dean before landfall," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "Further, the trend towards La Nina conditions has been accompanied by a reduction in the vertical wind shear in the tropics, another enabling factor for tropical development.
"While this season will not approach the historic levels observed in 2005, we do continue to expect an active season relative to long-term averages, and certainly more active than the 2006 season. The five named storms, one hurricane and one major hurricane observed so far in 2007 are outpacing the long-term averages of three named storms and one hurricane by this point in the season. The warm western Atlantic ocean temperatures and benign shear environment should continue to support this above-normal pace through the remainder of the tropical season."
In a separate report, WSI forecast warmer than normal temperatures across all but the northwestern quarter of the U.S. during September, October and November.
"The transition to warm temperatures in the East in August should persist into September, as coastal ocean temperatures have warmed considerably, relative to normal, and as a pattern characteristic of La Nina becomes more firmly entrenched," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "This means that the focus of cooler temperatures should shift to the northwestern and north-central states during the next couple of months. There are rather striking similarities between current global atmospheric/oceanic patterns and those in late summer of 1996. That year was characterized by a very cool fall in many locations, especially the north-central states."
In its most recent Energycast Outlook, WSI forecasts a continuation of warm temperatures in September in the eastern and southern portions of the country, with cooler than normal temperatures in the Northwest and north-central regions. An increase in the probability of late-season heat events and higher power prices would be marginally bullish for natural gas demand and prices. September natural gas demand from the power sector should be neutral to slightly bullish for gas prices, and high gas inventories should outweigh any bullish demand pulls from the power sector, WSI said.
WSI looks for slightly cooler than normal temperatures and slightly higher than normal heating demand across the northern tier of the country in October. Power demand will be moderate due to shoulder-season temperatures. In the Northeast, fall generator maintenance programs are low and there are no scheduled nuclear outages in New York or New England. Gas demand from the power sector in the Northeast will be moderate. October temperatures are likely to be warmer than normal in the South, especially in Arizona and New Mexico, WSI said.
The WSI November forecast indicates colder than normal temperatures across the north-central and western regions. With the key Upper-Midwest and Northeast heating demand regions expecting warmer than normal temperatures, the November heating season may get off to a slow start, WSI said. Lower demand in November could allow more time for inventories to approach maximum levels, providing a bearish start to winter gas prices. Planned generator maintenance in November will have more sway over power prices than will temperature fluctuations.
The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year norm (1971-2000). The next forecast package, for October-December, is scheduled to be issued Sept. 18.
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