The Northeast has seen a run of colder-than-normal weather through March Madness, but the next three months should bring the region a considerable warm-up, according to forecasters at Andover, MA-based Weather Services International (WSI).

The intermountain West is also expected to average warmer than normal through June, while western Canada and the northern Plains will be colder than normal, the forecasters said.

“After a persistently cold March across many parts of the central and eastern United States, driven by unusually strong high-latitude atmospheric blocking, we expect the pattern to recover a bit by the second week in April,” said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. “This should allow for the return of warmer-than-normal temperatures across parts of the north-central and northeastern U.S., with the possible exception of the southern tier.”

The spring months approach with natural gas storage levels down significantly from 2012 levels. Working gas in underground storage stood at 1,781 Bcf for the week ending March 28, according to the Energy Information Administration’s Weekly Gas Storage Report, down 95 Bcf from the prior week and 642 Bcf lower than a year ago, but still 61 Bcf (3.5%) more than the five-year average.

WSI expects temperatures in April to average warmer than normal in the Northeast and Southwest; slightly warmer than normal in the Southeast and South Central; slightly cooler than normal in the North-Central; and cooler than normal in the Northwest.

“With warmer-than-normal temperatures expected across much of the country in April, natural-gas demand is likely to finish the heating season on a softer note,” said Paul Flemming, Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) director of power and gas. “The injection season will begin with robust inventories and natural gas prices are likely to remain stable to soft in April.”

WSI’s temperature forecast map for May is largely unchanged, with the North-Central region expected to average warmer than normal, the Northwest colder than normal and coastal southern California slipping out of the warmer-than-normal column.

“Temperatures across most of the country will be warmer than normal, with New England and New York likely to see greater variances to warmer temperatures,” Flemming said. “Generator maintenance in these regions should begin wrapping up by mid-month, however. Increasing electrical load due to growing cooling demand by the end of the May should help to firm implied market heat rates in the South and Southwest, particularly in ERCOT…natural gas should see demand at above-normal levels due to higher temperatures and the need for early season cooling.”

In June, WSI expects slightly-warmer-than-normal temperatures to dominate all of the East and warmer-than-normal weather to have a firm hold on the West and South-Central areas, with cooler-than-normal temperatures to be in place over the North-Central region.

“Natural gas demand will be stronger in the West to support cooling demand from the power sector and cooler temperatures in the North-Central region will not provide any meaningful offset to gas demand in the West,” Flemming said. “In PJM, the cooler-Midwest/warmer-East temperature gradient splits the pool and should tend to increase west to east flows and congestion. Overall, June should be a stronger-than-average month for gas demand as the power sector ramps up to meet cooling demand.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently said it expects that most of the continental United States and northern Alaska will average warmer than normal this spring, while below-normal temperatures are expected for the Pacific Northwest and extreme northern Great Plains. Spring promises little drought relief for Texas, the Southwest, the Great Plains or Florida, NOAA said.

While it is early for a proper summer forecast, WSI is monitoring the potential emergence of an El Nino event later this spring, which would reduce the risk of an unusually hot summer, especially across the North-Central and Northeast areas, Crawford said.

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