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Warmer-Than-Normal Autumn Across Northeast, WSI Says

September 1, 2008
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Warmer-than-normal temperatures will dominate in the Northeast from September through November, while cooler-than-average conditions will be in place in parts of the Southeast and along the Pacific Coast, according to forecaster WSI Corp. of Andover, MA, which also reiterated its "active" hurricane season prognostication.

"We expect a return to warmer-than-normal temperatures in September across the eastern U.S. as the cool and wet pattern of recent weeks finally relents," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "The strongest current climate signal is the very cold ocean temperatures in the north Pacific, and this cold water should help to drive the general atmospheric pattern this fall towards a very warm regime in the northeastern U.S. There is still significant uncertainty regarding the evolution of El Nino/La Nina, although the recent emergence of very cold subsurface water in the equatorial tropical Pacific would seem to reduce the chances of a transition to El Nino later this fall."

In its Energycast Outlook for September WSI forecast warmer-than-normal temperatures in both the Northeast and Southeast, with cooler-than-normal air situated over the rest of the country, except Wisconsin, Michigan and East Texas.

Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said injections to gas storage are likely to be slightly higher than normal in September due to the lower probability of late-season heat in most areas. Cooler temperatures during the month should moderate power prices everywhere but the Northeast, where the warmer temperatures forecast would be moderately bullish for power prices.

WSI's forecast for October calls for cooler-than-normal temperatures to remain in place in the Northwest, while warmer-than-normal temperatures will cover all the rest of the country except California. According to ESAI, injections are likely to be above normal as warmer temperatures delay the need for heating. Loads will be moderate due to shoulder season temperatures, so power prices in most regions will be more dependent on generator-planned maintenance programs, ESAI said.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures will remain in place over the Northwest, North Central, South Central (except Texas) and Southwest (except California) regions in November, while cooler-than-normal air will move into the South Central (except east Texas) and Northwest (except Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) regions, WSI said. Natural gas demand for early season heating should be below average due to the expected warmer temperatures across the country's northern tier, and power prices in most regions will tend to be related to generator planned maintenance programs through late November, ESAI said.

The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year norm (1971-2000). The next forecast, for October-December, is scheduled to be issued Sept. 23.

Looking further ahead, demand for natural gas and electricity could be high this winter if the predictions of the Farmers' Almanac -- which is calling for below average temperatures across two-thirds of the country -- prove to be accurate.

The far West and Southeast will see near-normal temperatures this winter, but "numb's the word" for most of the rest of the country, according to the 192-year-old publication. Few, if any, locations will enjoy many above-normal temperature days this winter, according to the Farmers' Almanac 2009 edition, which went on sale last week. The forecast calls for especially cold weather to dominate from Montana, Wyoming and Colorado east all the way into New England.

The Great Lakes and Midwest can also expect above-normal snowfall, especially during January and February, according to the Farmers' Almanac. Most of the South and the Midwest will also experience above-normal precipitation, but their relatively warm temperatures will produce some rain as well as snow during the winter months. The Almanac also predicted above-normal precipitation for the Southwest during December, for the Southeast in January and February, and for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic in February. The usually damp Pacific Northwest could have a drier-than-normal February, the Almanac said.

As Many as Four Major Hurricanes Still to Come

With the year's seventh named tropical storm, Gustav, threatening the Gulf of Mexico and the eighth, tropical storm Hanna, moving towards the Bahamas, WSI said its forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season remains unchanged, with 15 named storms, including nine hurricanes, four of them intense (Category Three or greater) to form by Nov. 30.

WSI forecasters said their expectations for an active hurricane season are based on the expected continuation of warmer-than-normal Atlantic Ocean temperature anomalies throughout the remainder of the season and the likelihood of a favorable or neutral wind shear environment on the heels of the recent La Nina event.

"Since 1995, most tropical seasons have been more active than the long-term averages, due to warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures," Crawford said. "This active regime has continued into the current year, with seven named storms already. This is slightly ahead of the pace of the active seasons of 2003-04, both of which had six named storms by this time. The wind shear environment has been relatively favorable for the development of tropical systems so far. The only negative factor is the increase in eastern tropical Pacific SST [sea surface temperature] anomalies, which is historically correlated with reduced tropical activity during the latter half of the season."

WSI's forecast numbers are significantly higher than the 1950-2007 averages of 9.7 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes. After a preliminary forecast of 14 named storms, eight hurricanes with four of them intense (see NGI, July 7), WSI later increased by one the number of named storms and hurricanes that it predicted would form in the Atlantic Basin this year (see NGI, July 28).

Most forecasters this year have called for an active or above-average Atlantic hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center recently increased the number of named storms and hurricanes in its tropical storm forecast, saying atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the Atlantic Basin that favor storm development, combined with the strong activity seen in the early weeks of the season, had increased the likelihood of an above-normal hurricane season this year (see NGI, Aug. 11). NOAA, which said in May there was a 60-70% chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes, two to five of them major hurricanes (see NGI, May 26), now sees a 67% change of 14 to 18 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, three to six of them major hurricanes.

The Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane team also increased the number of storms it said will form in the Atlantic Basin this year, forecasting a total of 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them intense. CSU forecasters had previously called for a well above-average hurricane season this year with 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin (see NGI, June 9a).

MDA EarthSat forecasters also said the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be busier than average but quieter than last year (see NGI, April 21). MDA EarthSat forecasters said 13 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense or major hurricanes are likely to form during the Atlantic hurricane season. meteorologist Joe Bastardi said the East Coast will be at greater risk this coming hurricane season even though the number of named storms is expected to be about average, and Gulf of Mexico interests can expect seven to 10 days with at least the threat of weather disruptions (see NGI, May 19).

In June the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said it expected a total of 11.3 million bbl of crude oil and 78 Bcf of natural gas to be shut in in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) during the 2008 hurricane season (see NGI, June 16). The prediction was based on the results of a Monte Carlo hurricane outage simulation, which is conditioned on how NOAA's most recent predictions for the level of Atlantic Basin hurricane activity compare to historical activity, the EIA said. A report issued this summer by energy consultant IHS Inc. said the average impact on U.S. oil and natural gas production from Gulf of Mexico hurricanes over a 45-year period was "relatively modest" and the impact on energy supplies "typically short-lived" (see NGI, June 9b).

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