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WSI: Cool Spring Ahead for Northern U.S.

Cooler-than-normal temperatures can be expected across the United States' northern tier through May, though warmer-than-normal temperatures should move into the Northeast by June and could dominate the northern tier this summer, according to forecaster WSI Corp. of Andover, MA.

"The general pattern of cold-north and warm-south observed during recent months will generally continue into late spring," said WSI seasonal forecaster Todd Crawford. "The warmest temperatures, relative to normal, will continue to be in the south-central and southwestern states. The North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans are now both cooler than normal for the first time in 15 years. This may mean a cooler summer than we've had in quite some time, particularly in the southern U.S., if the drought breaks this spring. The current thinking is that much of the northern U.S. will see near to slightly above-normal temperatures this summer."

In its Energycast Outlook for April WSI forecast warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Southwest and south-central regions, with cooler-than-normal air expected across the rest of the country.

Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) said in conjunction with WSI's outlook release that it expects weather variations in April to have less impact on electricity demand swings due to lower shoulder-season loads. Natural gas demand will be impacted by cooler weather in the eastern and northern heating regions as incremental late-season withdrawals could reduce inventories, ESAI said. However, inventories are likely to finish at a high enough level that late-season withdrawals will have only minimal impacts on price. Demand should also move higher due to routine nuclear refueling shutdowns and generator maintenance at coal plants. Weather-related demand for gas and electricity should be slightly above normal in most regions, ESAI said.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures are expected to move into the Southeast (except Florida) in May, but otherwise WSI's temperature forecast remains unchanged for the month: cooler-than-normal temperatures in the northern tier, warmer-than-normal temperatures in the southern tier. The warmer weather spreading across the South should bring early cooling demand and boost electricity and natural gas loads, ESAI said. The cooler weather in the northern tier should preempt any early-season heat expectations and electricity demand should be slightly below normal, according to ESAI. Natural gas demand will continue to be impacted more by nuclear and coal generator maintenance programs. Based on the temperature forecast, ESAI said natural gas injections to storage should be close to normal but could be higher than normal if the lagging economy continues to lower demand.

In June warmer-than-normal temperatures will finally push into the Northeast, while cooler-than-normal temperatures will return to the Southeast and the rest of the temperature map will remain unchanged from May, according to WSI. The warming trend in the Northeast should be bullish for electricity demand and prices, particularly in New York and PJM, where higher temperature expectations result in a higher probability of early-season heat events, ESAI said. Cooler weather in the Southeast should result in slightly lower gas demand from the power sector, offsetting higher demand expectations across the other southern regions.

The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year norm (1971-2000). The next forecast, for May-July, is scheduled to be issued April 14.

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