After a cooler than normal March across much of the country, warmer than normal temperatures will dominate the U.S. weather map during April and May, and early indications are that summer temperatures will be above normal in the East, according to forecaster WSI Corp. of Andover, MA. Spring temperatures are expected to be cooler than normal north and west of a line from San Diego to Minneapolis.

"The impacts of the ongoing strong La Nina event will likely result in a cool spring across much of the northern U.S. and a warm spring across the south-central and southeastern states," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "As we approach summer, it appears that the southern warmth will expand eastward and northward. Current indications are that summer will be warmer-than-normal in the eastern U.S., with cooler-than-normal temperatures confined to the western U.S."

In its Energycast Outlook for March, WSI forecasts cooler than normal temperatures across the northern United States and into the Southwest (except New Mexico), with warmer than normal temperatures in the Southeast and South Central regions. Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said the resulting above-normal demand for natural gas, coming at the end of the winter months, should increase gas withdrawals from inventory and be somewhat bullish for prices. Inventories will be more than adequate to finish the heating season, finishing above the five year average, ESAI said.

The WSI forecast for April indicates warmer than normal temperatures sweeping across the Southeast, North Central, South Central and Southwest (except California), with cooler than normal temperatures hanging on in the Northeast and Northwest regions. ESAI said slightly lower natural gas demand can be expected during the last two to three weeks of the heating season, however, seasonal demand in April is already low and the impact on supply and market price is diminished. In April, electric loads will reflect shoulder season demand and prices will be influenced less by temperature fluctuations than by planned maintenance schedules.

WSI looks for much of the nation's temperatures to remain the same in May -- warmer than normal across the Southeast, South Central and Southwest (except California); cooler than normal in the Northeast and Northwest regions -- with cooler-than-normal temperatures moving back into the North Central region (except Michigan and Wisconsin). ESAI said low seasonal natural gas demand will be offset by increased demand from the power sector as nuclear and coal plant outages require increased operation of gas plants. In May, electric loads will reflect shoulder season demand but prices will be influenced mostly by planned maintenance schedules, according to ESAI.

WSI said early indications are that above-normal temperatures will be dominant across the eastern U.S. this summer, with near to slightly below-normal temperatures in the West.

The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year norm (1971-2000). The next forecast package, for April-June, and an updated summer outlook are scheduled to be issued March 18.

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