Natural gas prices could find some support this winter if the just-released Farmers’ Almanac proves to be as accurate as the previous year’s edition. The 2011 issue paints New England as frigid cold.

For the coming year, the Farmers’ Almanac predicts that Old Man Winter will exhibit a “split personality.” However, while Farmers’ Almanac forecaster Caleb Weatherbee predicts some significant cold for the East, he believes that for most people it will turn out to be a “kinder and gentler” winter overall.

“The eastern third of the country, (New England down to Florida and as far west as the lower Ohio River and Mississippi River Valley), will experience colder-than-normal winter temperatures,” Weatherbee said. “Across New England, where relatively balmy temperatures prevailed during the winter of 2009-2010, the upcoming winter will be the equivalent of a cold slap in the face as we forecast much colder-than-normal temperatures.”

For the western states, milder-than-normal winter temperatures are expected. The almanac believes the milder temperatures will spread from the Pacific Coast inland as far as the Rockies and the western Great Plains. Across the nation’s midsection, near-normal winter temperatures are anticipated.

The almanac noted that its prediction last year that February 2010 would bring widespread snowfall, including many blizzards, “proved all too accurate, with snow blanketing states as far south as Florida and a beast of a storm — dubbed “Snowmageddon” by President Obama — shutting entire cities down throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.”

Looking at this winter’s precipitation forecast, the almanac said three storm tracks are expected to dominate. One will be across the Gulf Coast and Southeast, delivering “copious amounts” of precipitation from lower Texas across the South (Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia) into the Mid-Atlantic region. A second storm track will be oriented across southwestern Canada into the Great Lakes, producing a procession of fast-moving Alberta Clipper systems that will bring snowier-than-normal conditions to parts of the Northern and Central Plains, and to the Ohio River and Great Lakes region.

The almanac noted that as these clipper systems move off the Atlantic Coast, colder-than-normal conditions will move into much of the East. Also, disturbances sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean are expected to bring above-normal precipitation to parts of the Pacific Northwest.

The Farmers’ Almanac‘s 2010-2011 winter forecast differs on a number of counts from one released recently by Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi (see Daily GPI, Aug. 4).

Bastardi said severe cold will hit Alaska and portions of Canada during winter 2010-2011, and the worst of the season’s cold and snow will dominate the Pacific Northwest, northern Plains and western Great Lakes areas, but the U.S. East Coast will be granted a reprieve from the heavy snowfall it experienced last winter. He chalked up much of the coming winter’s weather pattern to a weakening El Nino, the warming of surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean.

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