With updated weather models continuing to predict intense cold in the Lower 48 later this month, natural gas futures were up sharply in early trading Wednesday. The February Nymex contract had rallied 18.7 cents to $4.436/MMBtu as of around 8:45 a.m. ET.

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The European weather model shifted “decidedly colder” overnight, a development that was “clearly capturing market sentiment” early Wednesday, according to Bespoke Weather Services. The firm said its updated forecasting showed colder trends, with late January on track to deliver frigid temperatures to key parts of the Lower 48.

“Models continue to advertise a very strong cold pattern in the eastern two thirds of the nation as we move through the final third of the month, with no sign yet of any re-warming” at the end of the 15-day outlook period, Bespoke said. “Pattern signals we follow outside of the models also point to colder risks, supporting the model output.”

The firm cautioned that “the best cold remains around day 10 and beyond, so while signals do point toward cold, we still need to see this progress forward in the forecast to increase confidence to more than average.”

Maxar’s Weather Desk similarly made a “large colder change” to its updated 11-15 day forecast, for Jan. 22-26.

“The changes are focused in the eastern half and associated with the colder output from the Euro model,” the forecaster said. 

Based on the major weather models, Maxar called for “strong belows for a few days in the Midwest” during this time frame.

“A strong ridge over the eastern Pacific and Alaska is the primary influence on the pattern, directing air masses from the polar region toward the Midwest, South and East,” Maxar said.

Meanwhile, recent estimates of liquefied natural gas (LNG) feed gas demand showed volumes topping the 13.0 Bcf/d mark “for only the second time,” according to EBW Analytics Group senior analyst Eli Rubin.

“If sustained, higher Gulf Coast demand could tighten the natural gas supply/demand balance by 5 Bcf/week,” Rubin said.

The rally early Wednesday in part reflected “increased price volatility above $4.00/MMBtu,” according to the analyst. “While the rally may be due for a breather after a 50-cent gain since Friday, with the coldest January in eight years, record LNG exports, and lingering production freeze-offs, the market may continue to test higher over the next seven to 10 days.”