From February through April, warmer-than-usual weather is eyed for the southern U.S., the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic, with below-normal temperatures anticipated in the Northwest and areas of the Northeast, according to the latest monthly forecast from The Weather Company.
"This winter, we've seen two significant cold spells so far: one in mid-December and another shorter one in early January," Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company, said in the Jan. 23 outlook. "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 Niña event to weaken over the next few months, but it is still unclear how quickly, if at all, El Niño 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."
In February, warmer-than-normal conditions are anticipated for the Northeast, Southeast and the south-central region. During the month, colder-than-usual conditions are seen in the Northwest, Southwest and the south-central U.S.
In March, slightly colder-than-normal conditions are projected for the Northeast, with colder-than-usual conditions seen for the north-central region and the Northwest. During the month, warmer-than-average weather is expected for the remainder of the country.
"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," according to Jeff Richter, principal at EnergyGPS, which prepared the forecast in conjunction with The Weather Company. "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."
In April, slightly colder-than-normal conditions are seen lingering in the Northeast, with colder-than-usual temperatures expected in the Northwest. Warmer-than-typical conditions are projected for the rest of the U.S. through the month.
"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," Richter said. "The latter will be the swing component that balances the grid. If the grid is well-supplied, price 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 will issue its next three-month forward-looking weather forecast Feb. 21.