The months of August through October are likely to bring little let-up from the warmer-than-normal temperatures that have settled across most of the United States, WSI forecasters said Monday.

The only areas of the country to escape the warm breezes and stifling temperatures will be parts of the Southeast and California's coastal cities, according to the Andover, MA-based forecaster. WSI issued a similar forecast in June (see Daily GPI, June 22).

"The newly emerging La Nina event, a relatively cold north Pacific, and a record warm North Atlantic are quite bullish for a very warm late summer and early fall period," said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford.

High soil moisture levels across the Plains, combined with few drought conditions in the country, may "temper the overall magnitude of the heat a little," Crawford said. However, the coming three-month period "we are forecasting 571 population-weighted cooling degree days, 15% more than both last year and the 1971-2000 mean."

Energy Securities Analysis Inc.'s senior analyst Chris Kostas commented on WSI's forecast and its possible effect on natural gas power demand in the next few months.

"WSI is forecasting warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest with much warmer-than-normal temperatures" in the Central Rockies, said Kostas. Slightly cooler-than-normal temperatures are expected in Texas, the South and along the California coast.

"Gas demand from the power sector will run slightly above normal on-balance with continued firm implied market heat rates in PJM and the Northeast," said Kostas. "Gas prices are unlikely to move significantly higher on the August heat, however, as cooler temperatures in California and the South will combine with strong production figures to keep the market well supplied."

Warmer-than-normal temperatures are forecast for September across most of the country, with the exception of the Southeast and along the California coast.

"Although seasonal temperatures in the North begin to decline below levels that draw significant cooling demand in September, generator maintenance in PJM will begin the second week of the month," Kostas said. "This should keep Northeast heat rates firm and gas demand above normal through the end of summer."

The above-normal weather-related demand in September "will be needed to keep gas prices from collapsing under the weight of increasing shale gas production and rising inventory levels," Kostas added. "Prices should be supported, but we do not expect much upside without a hurricane disruption."

WSI's latest hurricane forecast "suggests above-normal hurricane activity this season and there is upside price risk associated with hurricane tracks through the Gulf of Mexico," Kostas noted.

In October forecasters expect warmer-than-normal temperatures "throughout nearly the entire country" except the Pacific Coast. The largest anomalies above seasonal normal temperatures are forecast for the Northeast and Midwest.

"Although Northeast power demand and heat rates should be firm on higher-than-normal cooling demand, the increase in gas demand for power will be more than offset by the reduction in heating demand in the Consuming East," said Kostas.

"An extension of the summer cooling season in the South, however, will increase gas demand in the Producing Region On balance, gas demand is likely to begin October above normal but end the month below normal. This should pressure spot prices lower as the injection season wraps up."

WSI is scheduled to issue its next seasonal outlook on Aug. 24.

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