Bullish energy traders must have been celebrating their good fortune Thursday as they received supportive price news from the same man for the second time in a little more than a week. AccuWeather.com Chief Long-Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi and his team said Thursday that they expect this summer to be hotter than normal across a large part of the United States, including the most heavily populated areas of the Northeast.

Last week, Bastardi said that this season's hurricanes and tropical storms -- with six or seven storms likely striking the U.S. coast, especially Florida and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico -- will pose a "far greater threat to lives and property" than the storms seen during last year's mild season (see Daily GPI, May 9).

The forecast was so bullish that some said Thursday's natural gas futures rally settle above $8 resistance could have been related. June natural gas climbed 18.5 cents Thursday to close at $8.075, despite receiving news that 95 Bcf was injected into underground stores for the week ended May 11, which was in line with expectations (see related story).

Ken Reeves, AccuWeather.com director of forecast operations, added, "Whenever you start talking about a hotter-than-average summer in the Northeast, especially the middle and late summer, you have to consider the hit that consumers will take to their wallets and pocketbooks as they are forced to cool their homes and businesses longer and more often."

Bastardi said it is in the second half of the summer that most of the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, and the Midwest will experience the warmest temperatures relative to normal. Texas will be one of the few exceptions to a hotter-than-normal summer.

Bastardi and his team are basing the AccuWeather.com summer forecast in part on parallels they see to conditions that existed in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. "During that time, torrid heat waves were common across the United States, and hurricanes attacked our coasts more frequently," he said. "There is a very impressive resume of nasty weather events that occur whenever we see a transition from warmer than normal waters in the tropical Pacific to near normal or even cooler ocean temperatures, such as we're seeing now. The overwhelming majority of these events are hurricanes or extreme heat and, in about half of the years, both cause major disruptions."

Despite attempts by some to attribute this summer's heat to the global warming phenomenon, Bastardi disagrees. "The weather events that occur in individual seasons don't provide conclusive proof of global warming," he said. "Also, conditions this summer will be similar to the summers of the '30s, '40s and '50s, and no one attributes the severe weather that occurred then to human-induced global warming, particularly since we entered a period of cooler temperatures soon thereafter."

As for the summer's precipitation forecast, Bastardi detailed that most of the nation will experience near-normal rainfall, other than the wildfire-prone Southwest and the Rockies, which are expected to see below-normal precipitation. The Great Lakes area, Texas and peninsular Florida are projected to receive above-normal levels of precipitation.

"While the Southeast will experience close-to-average rainfall amounts, we don't expect any significant relief from the ongoing drought until hurricanes and tropical storms bring additional moisture later in the summer," Bastardi said. "Though, of course, when you're talking about the possibility of hurricane strikes, that arrival of moisture is a double-edged sword."

©Copyright 2007 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.