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WSI: 'Notable Heat' Coming to Northeast, Hurricane Season 'Average'

The next three months will bring above-normal temperatures to the Northeast and Southwest, while portions of the Southeast and North Central regions can expect cooler-than-normal temperatures, according to forecaster WSI Corp. of Andover, MA.

Looking further ahead, WSI said it expects the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Ohio Valley and southern and central Plains to see cooler-than-normal weather in June, July and August, with above-normal temperatures confined to the Northeast and Rockies during the late summer. And, in an update to its tropical forecast, WSI said it now expects fewer Atlantic hurricanes this year than it had previously predicted.

"We expect most of the significant and prolonged heat this summer to be confined to drought-plagued areas of the western U.S.," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "Our internal forecast models all suggest that the coolest temperatures, relative to normal, will be found in the Southeast this summer, with near to slightly above-normal temperatures in the Northeast...We do think that there is potential for some notable heat in the Northeast early in the summer before a cooler pattern sets in." A lack of any significant drought conditions in the East, combined with the first cooler-than-normal temperatures in 15 years in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans, should result in a relatively cool summer east of the Rockies, Crawford said.

In its Energycast Outlook for May WSI forecast cooler-than-normal temperatures across the nation's northern tier and warmer-than-normal temperatures across the southern tier except Florida and coastal California.

In a statement issued in conjunction with WSI's outlook release, Paul Fleming, Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) director of power and gas, said the cooler outlook for the nation's northern regions reduces the likelihood of early season heat-related demand for electricity and power sector gas. Natural gas demand in May will be influenced by higher gas plant utilization due to nuclear and coal generator maintenance programs and weather deviations will be less important due to shoulder season electricity loads, according to ESAI. Injections to storage should be close to normal in May, but the slowing economy could lower demand and increase injections, ESAI said.

While WSI sees warmer-than-normal temperatures moving across the Northeast in June and a cooling trend taking control of the Southeast, its temperature forecast for the rest of the country remains unchanged from May: cooler than normal across the North Central and Northwest, warmer than normal in the South Central and Southwest (except coastal California).

"Warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Northeast are indicative of a higher probability of early season heat events that are bullish for electricity demand and prices, particularly in New York and PJM," Flemming said. "Cooler weather in the Southeast region should result in slightly lower gas demand from the power sector, partly offsetting higher demand expectations across the other southern regions."

In July warmer-than-normal temperatures will remain dominant in the Northeast and Southwest (except coastal California) and will move into the Northwest as well, WSI said. Cooler-than-normal temperatures will be seen across the Southeast and Central regions (except North Dakota), according to the forecast. Warmer weather in the Northeast will drive electricity loads higher and will be bullish for electricity demand and prices, especially with a higher likelihood of heat events, Flemming said. At the same time higher demand expectations in the West and Northeast are likely to be offset by the cooler weather forecast for the Southeast and Central regions.

The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year norm (1971-2000). The next forecast, for June-August, is scheduled to be issued May 27.

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season will be less active than last year, with 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of them intense (Category Three or greater) forming between June 1 and Nov. 30, according to WSI.

In its initial hurricane forecast for the 2009 season WSI had predicted 13 named storms, three of them intense (see NGI, Jan. 5). But a continuation of relatively cool tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures, combined with the waning of a recent La Nina event and normal to above-normal wind shear in the tropical Atlantic, prompted the forecaster to reduce those numbers.

"Neither the cooler tropical Atlantic nor the neutral wind shear conditions are enabling for tropical activity this year," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "We have reduced our forecast numbers to adapt to the latest information, and future changes to our forecast are more likely to be towards smaller numbers than larger numbers."

WSI joined Colorado State University (CSU) forecasters in lowering its Atlantic hurricane season forecast. The CSU team, which had previously estimated there would be 14 named storms during the 2009 season (see NGI, Dec. 15, 2008), recently revised its forecast to 12 named storms, with at least half of them likely to become hurricanes, two of them intense (see NGI, April 13).

Still predicting a more active hurricane season is's Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi, who last month called for 13 named storms, including two intense hurricanes (see NGI, March 23). MDA EarthSat last week said it has not changed its February call for 13 named storms, including seven hurricanes, four of them intense, to form this year.

A total of 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, five of them intense, formed during the 2008 season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an average Atlantic hurricane season has 11 named storms, which include two major hurricanes. NOAA said the Atlantic's tropical storm development is increasing. Research indicates that the ocean has periods of 20-30 years when there are more storms than "normal." The current cycle began in 1995, the agency noted.

London-based forecaster Tropical Storm Risk recently said it expects Atlantic basin tropical storm activity and U.S. landfall of tropical storms during the upcoming hurricane season are forecast to be about 35% above the 1950-2008 norm (see NGI, April 20).

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