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January 23, 2017

Seasonal Outlook: The Weather Company Expects Another Cold Spell in Early February for the U.S., But Warmth to Return Quickly

ANDOVER, Mass. (January 23, 2017) — In its latest U.S. seasonal forecast for the February-April period, The Weather Company, an IBM Business, predicts warmer-than-normal temperatures across the southern U.S. into the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic, with below-normal temperatures expected across the northwestern quarter of the country into parts of the Northeast. The largest positive temperature anomalies are expected across the southern Plains. (The Weather Company seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year normal [1981-2010]).

“This winter, we’ve seen two significant cold spells so far: one in mid-December and another shorter one in early January,” said Dr. Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company. “The current mild pattern is unusual and will likely come to an end as we head into early February, as the Alaskan ridge rises for the third time this winter. The big question for February is how long will the cold last. There is no real reason to expect the cold to stick around any longer than it did in December and January. Looking forward into spring and summer, we expect the La Nina event to weaken over the next few months, but it is still unclear how quickly, if at all, El Nino forcing will emerge. If earlier, spring and summer will likely be cooler across the eastern half of the U.S.; if later, spring and maybe even early summer may be unusually warm in the East."

February

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

“With some arctic air moving down into the Lower 48 in February, Mother Nature is not ready to call off winter quite yet,” said Jeff Richter, principal at EnergyGPS. “We started this winter well-supplied from a storage perspective, so the cold weather we’ve had so far has made little dent in the supply/demand balance but is keeping the forward curve in check.”

March

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

According to Richter, “There are three regions we will be keeping a close eye on in March: In the Northeast, the slightly colder-than-normal weather will start to intersect with some early planned outages.  This will increase both the residential/commercial demand and power burn numbers in the region. In the South Central, wind output will factor into the net load in both Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). In the Southwest and California, wind generation has helped to balance the gas grid without any major price spikes.”

April

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

“By April, the two storylines will be tied to production and power burns with the latter focused on the natural gas liquids stemming from the growth in the Permian oil fields,” said Richter. “The latter will be the swing component that balances the grid.  If the grid is well-supplied, prices will have to shift down to stimulate more power burns. If the grid is tightening from production not hitting it, power burns will be offset and coal generation will look more attractive in the East, Central, and Southeast. As of right now, summer prices are range-bound, indicating the market is waiting for more directional clarity.”

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 February 21.