Forecasters Warn of Summer Heat in Northeast, California

Hotter than normal temperatures should prevail through the heavily populated Northeast for the rest of the summer and into the fall, according to an updated weather forecast released last week by Weather Services International (WSI). The latest forecast backs up one issued in April by Salomon Smith Barney meteorologist Jon Davis, who predicts a chance of heat waves in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

Temperatures in the United States are expected to be consistently above normal in the Northeast from July through September, while cooler-than-normal conditions will be prevalent in the lower Mississippi Valley, the Gulf Coast states, Florida and portions of the southern Plains, WSI said. The rest of the country will likely experience slightly above normal temperatures over the three-month period.

WSI said the updated forecast could put highly populated areas in the Northeast on watch. New York City and Boston, to name a couple, could face the possibility of electricity system constraints. As for California, the update said the state's electric grid could be tested in July due to slightly warmer temperatures, but cooler expectations for August and September "dampen fears of late summer blackouts."

On the energy price front, Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) in its recent California market reports, said government-imposed price cap regulations, lower outage levels and now limited weather concerns have already begun to deflate the high wholesale price levels experienced by California over the last year.

In a monthly breakdown of WSI's forecast, cooler-than-normal temperatures are expected in the Ohio Valley, Gulf Coast states and parts of the southern Plains for July. Warmer-than-normal conditions are expected in the Northeast and Northwest.

August is expected to bring warmer-than-normal temperatures to most of the eastern half of the country, with the exception of the Gulf Coast states and Florida. WSI said the Pacific Northwest and California will be cooler than normal, with the rest of the country right about normal.

September is expected to still be warm in the East, with the northern Plains states moving toward the warmer side as well. California, Pacific Northwest, northern Rockies, Gulf Coast states, Florida, the southern Plains and the Southwest are all expected to be in the cool category, with the remainder of the country experiencing normal temperatures.

Sticking to his guns last week, prominent meteorologist Jon Davis of Salomon told NGI his "2001 Spring and Summer Outlook" released in April is still on course (see NGI, April 9). "If the report was released last week, it would not have been changed," he said.

In his outlook, Davis said this summer will not be a particularly hot one, but there is a chance that there will be some abnormal heat waves in specific regions, especially in the West, New York and New England. "It certainly appears to us that the consistent warmth of the 1990s, during both summers and winters, has come to an end," Davis said in the outlook. "Soil moisture levels going into this warm season indicate a lack of any early heat buildup and point away from an extremely hot summer due to the current wet bias."

With possible heat waves in the West, Davis said in his outlook that California "obviously" leads the list of trouble areas for the energy industry this summer with its current electricity shortages. Gas-fired generation is expected to play a large role as peaking plants are called into service. The forecast also highlighted parts of New England, as well as New York City, as areas that could be strapped for energy this summer. In assessing the California and New York City energy situations, Davis' outlook said, "It is hard to fathom the implications of a long-term heat wave in either of those areas; it becomes downright uncomfortable when one imagines such a scenario on both coasts simultaneously."

As for the early portion of July, Davis said early last week that the Rockies would be the area that would be most likely to have the most extreme, extended and noteworthy heat. "At times, the heat will advance into portions of the plains while during other periods, the heat will surge back toward the West Coast," he said in his short-term report. "The least favored area for extreme and extended heat will be the far eastern U.S."

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