Temperatures in the Northeast and North Central portions of the United States will average warmer than normal through November, but are likely to turn colder than normal in December as the historically persistent negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation and the strength of the North Pacific climate overcome the effects of a La Nina event off the western coast of South America and record warm North Atlantic, WSI forecasters said Monday.

Overall, the three-month October-December period will average warmer than normal across Northeast and parts of the Southwest, with below-normal temperatures expected in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest, the forecasters said. WSI issued a similar forecast in August (see Daily GPI, Aug. 24).

"For the October-December period as a whole, we are forecasting 1,776 gas-weighted heating degree days, within 1-2% of both last year and the 1971-2000 mean," said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures will dominate the Northeast, North Central, South Central and Southwest (except coastal California areas) in October, with cooler-than-normal temperatures expected in the Southeast and Northwest, the WSI forecasters said.

"Power demand in most regions will reflect shoulder season temperatures and warmer-than-normal temperatures will have less impact on load," Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) Director of Power and Gas Paul Flemming said in a statement issued in conjunction with WSI's outlook. "Power prices will be more reflective of planned seasonal generator maintenance, which will reach its highest levels in most regions during October. Gas demand for heating is likely to be delayed with warmer temperatures expected across the northern tier regions, but this could be offset somewhat by increased demand from the power sector due to coal and nuclear outages."

WSI's temperature forecast map remains mostly unchanged for November, with the exception of cooler-than-normal temperatures moving into the Southwest. Gas demand for heating should be normal or slightly below normal for the month and power prices are likely to continue to reflect lower load conditions, although generator maintenance is expected to provide "a bullish underpinning in most markets to otherwise weak prices," Flemming said.

By December, WSI sees colder-than-normal temperatures taking over in the Northeast and North Central areas, while the month is expected to be warmer than normal in both the Southeast and Southwest (except coastal California).

"Colder weather in December tends to spark concern over the possibility of a very cold winter and is bullish for natural gas prices," Flemming said. "Heating-related demand for gas and power will be above normal in all of the key heating markets and inventory draws from natural gas storage would be expected to be above normal. Slightly warmer weather in the Southern and Gulf states will not provide much offset to heating demand in the North."

WSI's forecast follows the Energy Information Administration's estimate of 3,267 Bcf of working gas in storage as of Sept. 10, which is 182 Bcf lower than last year at this time and 192 Bcf above the five-year average of 3,075 Bcf (see Daily GPI, Sept. 17).

WSI is scheduled to issue its next seasonal outlook on Oct. 26.

AccuWeather.com Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi has also said he expects La Nina to produce significantly colder-than-normal temperatures in portions of the western United States this winter (see Daily GPI, Aug. 4).

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