Add to the growing list of weather forecasters predicting mostly milder temperatures this winter WSI Corp. and WxRisk.com, which said in separate reports issued last week that colder-than-normal temperatures are most likely to be recorded only in the Pacific Northwest and portions of the Rockies and extreme norther tier of the United States.

WxRisk, which specializes in extended weather forecasting and risk management, said New England will see temperatures somewhat above normal with some significant cold spells, while the I-95 corridor stretching from New York south to Richmond will experience several bouts of above- and much-above-normal temperatures. Abnormally warm and dry conditions were forecast to continue across the South, while the Midwest and Central Plains, from Oklahoma to Nebraska, will be a mixed bag. The West Coast, especially the Pacific Northwest, and most of the Rockies and Upper Plains are most likely to see below-normal temperatures and active winter weather this year, the forecasters said.

"The pattern will bear a striking resemblance to the winter of 2005-2006 and the winter of 1970-1971," said WxRisk forecaster David Tolleris. "In many ways this winter will be a compromise between the two since I do not see the winter 2007-2008 as being as warm as the '05-'06 winter and not as cold or a snowy as the '70-'71 winter."

Referencing a standard 30-year normal period (1971-2000), Andover, MA-based WSI said temperatures will average colder than normal in the eastern United States in December, with a warmer-than-average February to end the winter. An ongoing La Nina event -- cooling ocean surface temperatures off the western coast of South America that have been found to disrupt normal weather patterns in the United States -- continues to influence weather heading into the winter months, said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford.

"The strong La Nina event has been in control of the prevailing weather pattern since late summer, with warm temperatures in the East sharply transitioning to cooler temperatures in November. It appears that this cold weather in the East will persist through much of December, before an abrupt transition to much warmer conditions for most of the rest of the January-February period. Many of the climate-monitoring indices are at record or near-record levels going into this winter, which suggests that we may see extremes in both the early cold pattern and the late warm pattern this winter," Crawford said.

Tolleris said the ongoing La Nina event will continue to effect North America's weather this winter and possibly into next spring.

"The moderate La Nina will hold its intensity through mid January, possibly later," Tolleris said. "There is also the issue of when and how the La Nina decays from moderate to weak intensity, which could have significant impact late in the winter and early in the spring of 2008."

The WSI forecast for December indicates colder-than normal-temperatures across the Northeast, Southeast (except Florida) and North Central regions, with warmer-than-normal temperatures across the rest of the country (except Montana, Idaho and Wyoming).

Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said record-high natural gas inventories at the start of the heating season in mid-November should moderate a bullish outlook for gas prices in December and warmer temperatures in the Gulf Coast and Southwest regions should temper overall demand slightly. Power prices are likely to be influenced more by gas price increases than through increased load induced by cold weather, ESAI said.

By January, warmer-than-normal temperatures will have spread across most of the country, with significantly warmer-than-normal weather in the Southeast, WSI predicted. Colder-than-normal temperatures were forecast only for the Northwest and near-normal temperatures were forecast for California, Nevada and North Dakota. ESAI said warmer temperatures in January would tend to decrease the chances for extended cold snaps, which would provide price volatility in natural gas, but added that the La Nina event could bring occasional shorter periods of very cold weather. Warmer temperatures across most of the country should result in below-normal natural gas demand and the colder outlook on the West Coast will not create enough demand to offset the lower demand from other regions, ESAI said.

While the eastern seaboard will be much warmer than normal in February, WSI forecast colder temperatures returning to the rest of the country, particularly in the Midwest and North Central regions. ESAI said increases in natural gas demand in the central and western U.S. should be offset by the much warmer temperatures in the East. With high inventories at the start of the heating season and generally warmer temperatures in January, the outlook for natural gas prices in February is neutral to slightly bearish, ESAI said.

In September the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) said warmer-than-normal temperatures, a flat economy and moderate growth in both natural gas demand and supply should produce a relatively stable market this winter (see NGI, Oct. 1).

MDA EarthSat Energy Weather has predicted that temperatures during December, January and February will be warmer-than-normal across the country's southern tier, from Texas to the Southeast, with seasonal to below-normal temperatures across the northern tier, including the Pacific Northwest, Chicago and the Northeast (see NGI, Nov. 5). Rockville, MD-based MDA EarthSat said the coming winter will be 4% colder than last year and the coldest the United States has experienced in four years, but it will still be 1% warmer than the 30-year (1971-2000) normal. According to MDA EarthSat, a colder December, warmer January and a mixed February are likely this year.

An extended winter weather forecast issued last month by Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi and his AccuWeather.com team called for a cooler-than-normal beginning and end to the winter, wrapped around three months of higher temperatures that could make it a warmer season than last year and one of the 10 warmest winters ever for the southeastern United States (see NGI, Oct. 29). Bastardi's winter forecast was generally in agreement with recent predictions from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and others calling for a relatively warm winter (see NGI, Oct. 22).

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