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Cold in East expected to subside; warmer-than-usual rest of winter in store

Following frigid weather across the East in December thus far, warmer-than-normal temperatures are eyed across the southern U.S. into the Northeast from January through March 2017, The Weather Company said in its latest monthly outlook issued on Dec. 19. Below-normal temperatures are expected across the northwestern quarter and the north-central states through the three-month period.

"The combination of a weakened early-season polar vortex and the emergence of an atmospheric pattern associated with La Niña allowed for the recent unusually cold pattern. However, as we head into the new year, the strengthening of the polar vortex and the natural evolution of the tropical sub seasonal signal should result in a moderation in temperatures across the East," Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company, said in the outlook. "Cold air will likely continue to linger in the Northwest and western Canada as the background La Niña signal will likely hold through the winter. This general pattern is also expected in February and March, although there will likely be another emergence of colder weather across the East, potentially as early as late January."

For January 2017, warmer-than-usual temperatures are eyed for much of the country, with colder-than-normal temperatures anticipated for the Northwest and Southwest. In February 2017, slightly above-normal temperatures are eyed for the Northeast, with warmer-than-average temperatures seen for the Southeast, south-central U.S. and the Southwest. Colder-than-normal temperatures are anticipated in the north-central U.S. and the Northwest.

"As we start to get settled into the new year, the key piece of the pricing puzzle outside of residential/commercial gas demand will be production across the South Central region," according to Jeff Richter, principal at EnergyGPS, which prepared the forecast in conjunction with The Weather Company. "With lowering supply due to Mexican exports and Sabine LNG exports, as well as the reduction in Canadian imports, we are only expecting production numbers in the 70.5-71.0 Bcf range, and the grid needs to get up to 73 Bcf of production at a minimum in order to get 3.5 Bcf back in the ground by the end of summer. So, any colder surprises in February will stress the storage situation further going forward."

For March 2017, warmer-than-normal temperatures are projected for the Northeast, Southeast, south-central U.S. and the Southwest. Colder-than-usual temperatures are eyed for the north-central region and the Northwest in March 2017.

"The first thing to point out is the Northwest continues to show colder-than-normal temperatures, which could equate to a later run-off period when it comes to the snowpack hitting the rivers," Richter said. "This will be something to keep an eye on, as December has given the mountain ranges a pretty good snow base from the recent storms. Portland and Seattle have 1-2 inches of snow on [the] ground. We should have a pretty good idea of how production is playing out as we watch the price action on the forward curve. We will need to see some uptick in the production numbers or the price for the summer block starts to look pretty cheap."

The Weather Company will issue its next seasonal outlook Jan. 23, 2017.