November 21, 2016

Seasonal Outlook: More Unusual Warmth Expected Parts of Northern U.S. in December

Weak Polar Vortex Implies Potential for Colder Shift Later in Winter

In its latest seasonal forecast for the December–February (winter) period, The Weather Company, an IBM Business, is predicting warmer-than-normal temperatures across all of the U.S. on average, with the exception of parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast.  The largest positive temperature anomalies are expected across the northern Plains. (The Weather Company seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year normal [1981-2010]).

“November has been another in a seemingly endless string of warm months across the U.S.,” said Dr. Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist, The Weather Company. “Winter has started quite early across much of Europe and Asia, which has forced an unusually strong North Pacific jet stream that has kept the Arctic air at bay on our side of the world. While there are some signs that cold air may become more likely later in the winter, due to an unusually weak stratospheric polar vortex, in the near term we are not particularly bullish on any extended or extreme cold. La Nina forcing should become a little more prominent during the back half of winter, which should result in more Arctic air in western Canada into the northwestern U.S., but it will take a significant change to the current background state to usher in a more persistent cold air regime into the eastern U.S.”

December Forecast by Region

  • Northeast* – Warmer than normal
  • Southeast* – Colder than normal
  • North Central * – Warmer than normal
  • South Central* – Warmer than normal
  • Northwest* – Slightly warmer than normal
  • Southwest* – Slightly warmer than normal

“Even though there is a bit of colder weather expected at the end of November, the December forecast looks to revert back to warmer than normal for the Northeast and Midwest,” said Jeff Richter, principal, EnergyGPS. “This will keep the residential/commercial demand in check and, with storage levels strong and production solid, the grid will have to stimulate its demand from power burns, which means price has to shift down in the cash market to offset the coal that is running.”

January Forecast by Region

  • Northeast – Slightly warmer than normal
  • Southeast – Slightly colder than normal
  • North Central – Warmer than normal
  • South Central –Warmer than normal
  • Northwest – Slightly colder than normal
  • Southwest – Warmer than normal


Richter said, “With warmer-than-normal temperatures expected in the Midwest and Northeast regions, the market will likely continue to undergo price pressure, especially since we will be walking into December with over 4 trillion cubic feet of gas stored in the ground. This does not include the massive amount of gas storage up in Canada. The mild weather expected in the Southwest will help mitigate the impact of the Aliso Canyon supply disruptions. Bottom line: If the current weather forecast sticks, there will be plenty of gas available for southern California so that the lack of storage there will not be an issue.”

February Forecast by Region

  • Northeast – Slightly warmer than normal
  • Southeast – Slightly warmer than normal
  • North Central – Slightly warmer than normal
  • South Central – Warmer than normal
  • Northwest – Colder than normal
  • Southwest – Slightly warmer than normal

“The theme continues to be slightly warmer to warmer than normal in the key demand regions across the country,” said Richter. “The biggest question that we will try to answer is will there be enough demand from Mexican exports, liquefied natural gas and power burns to offset the lack of residential/commercial demand across the country. It should be noted that we will see an increase in heating degree days year-over-year due to the historical warmth last winter. Production will be the thing to keep a close eye on as a new president takes office and policies will be likely to change.”

The Weather Company provides customized weather information to global commodity traders via its industry-leading WSI Trader Web site. The Weather Company will issue its next seasonal outlook on December 19, 2016.