Cooler-than-normal weather in the Northeast this summer could be a hint that a cold, snowy winter is in store for an area stretching from Boston to Washington, DC, according to Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi.

This has been the coolest summer in more than a decade for the Northeast and Great Lakes and, after a period of more typical summer heat over the next few weeks, cooler weather is once again expected to dominate those regions, Bastardi said. It has also been unusually cool across the northern Plains and parts of the West, in what Bastardi called the "year without true summer." In the past, cool summers have been followed by harsh winters, he said.

El Nino and recent worldwide volcanic activity may have played a role in the cooling trend, Bastardi said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently said El Nino -- the warming of surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, which can influence North American weather events -- has arrived (see NGI, July 13). In addition to suppressing Atlantic hurricane formation, El Nino events can increase storminess across the South, produce winter storms in California and the Southwest, and create less wintry weather across the North. El Nino's impacts depend on a variety of factors, including intensity and extent of ocean warming, NOAA said.

Some forecasters, including Andover, MA-based WSI Corp., have said a new El Nino event, combined with cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures, is likely to make the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season "relatively quiet" (see NGI, June 29).

The overall weather pattern that has prevailed this summer is pointing to a winter similar to that of 2003-03, when cities on the East Coast had above-average snowfall, Bastardi said. The storm track that could develop this year will bring storms up the Eastern seaboard, and some areas could see 50-100 inches of snow.

"The areas that will be hit hardest this winter by cold, snowy weather will be from New England through the Appalachians and Mid-Atlantic, including North Carolina. Areas from New York City to Raleigh [NC] have gotten by the past two years with very little snowfall. This year these areas could end up with above-normal snowfall," Bastardi said.

Bastardi's long-range forecast also calls for somewhat milder temperatures and below-normal snowfall in the Midwest and central Plains this winter, with a warm and somewhat dry weather pattern predicted for the Pacific Northwest and northern Plains.

More typical late-summer heat and humidity will prevail across the Southeast for much of the rest of the summer, and the hot weather that has gripped Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana will remain, though the heat should be less extreme, Bastardi said.

WSI has predicted that temperatures across the eastern third of the country will average cooler than normal over through September, while above-average temperatures will dominate much of the West. Taking into account its own forecast of mild summer weather, Barclays Capital recently said it expects just a 0.1 Bcf/d uptick in natural gas demand for power generation during May-September compared with the same period last year.

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