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Forecasters Differ on Northeast's November Temperatures

A pair of weather forecasts issued last week offered differing views of upcoming temperatures in the Northeast, with one saying the region may be seeing an early start to wintry conditions and another predicting a warmer-than-normal November. Both forecasts called for colder-than-average temperatures to dominate the region in December.

"We could be looking at the coldest November since 2002," according to Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi. "Admittedly the past few Novembers have been relatively warm. However, we could also be setting the stage for a cold December."

But forecaster WSI Corp. of Andover, MA, sees November differently, saying the Northeast can expect warmer-than-normal temperatures during the month, with colder-than-normal temperatures taking over in December.

"The ocean temperature signals in the Pacific Ocean are generally suggestive of a relatively warm period in most of the eastern U.S. during late fall and winter, with the exception of December," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "Further, neither ocean temperatures in the Atlantic nor the snow cover buildup at Arctic latitudes are suggestive of sustained cold and snowy weather in the East this upcoming winter. We expect the best chances of sustained cold weather to occur prior to the New Year, with mild conditions prevailing after that."

In its Energycast Outlook for November WSI forecast warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Northeast, North Central, South Central and Southwest (except California) regions, with cooler-than-normal air over the Southeast, South Central and Northwest areas.

Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said the warmer-than-normal temperatures will result in slightly below-average early season heating demand across the northern tier of the country. While shoulder season temperatures will moderate power prices in most regions, generator planned maintenance programs will impact prices in many regions through late November. If early cold weather arrives in late November, it would be bullish for power prices in areas that have not completed maintenance, ESAI said.

While conditions will remain the same across the West and South Central regions, the Northeast and North Central regions can expect colder-than-normal temperatures to dominate in December, and the Southeast will see warmer-than-normal temperatures, according to WSI.

The cooler air moving into key heating regions across the northern tier should be bullish for natural gas demand and could help to spark an early rally for natural gas prices due to a strong start to the heating season demand, according to ESAI. Cooler early winter weather will be moderately bullish for power prices in the northern states due to higher than average loads, ESAI said.

The Northeast will revert to warmer-than-normal temperatures in January and warmer-than-normal conditions will remain in place in the Southeast and South Central regions, while colder-than-normal temperatures will continue to dominate in the West and North Central portions of the county, WSI said.

ESAI said it expects the conditions in January to provide a balanced outlook for natural gas demand with higher demand expected in the North Central region and slightly lower demand in the east. Strong seasonal starting inventories should moderate supply concerns. Power prices will be sensitive to gas prices in areas where local deliverability constraints occur under very cold weather conditions, such as in New York and New England, according to ESAI.

The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year norm (1971-2000). The next forecast, for December-February, is scheduled to be issued Nov. 18.

A combination of colder-than-normal temperatures and rising energy costs could create a wintry one-two punch for consumers. The Energy Information Administration recently said average household heating expenditures for the upcoming winter season are expected to be 15% more than last winter, increasing from an estimated $986 spent a year ago to a projected $1,137 (see NGI, Oct. 13).

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