WSI: December Respite From the Cold Expected in the Eastern US

Cold Pattern Expected to Return Again After New Year

ANDOVER, Mass. (November 21, 2014) — WSI (Weather Services International) has issued their latest forecast for the December-February period. The forecast indicates below-normal temperatures will be prevalent in the eastern US and south-central states, with above-normal temperatures expected in the western US and north-central states. The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year normal (1981-2010).

According to WSI Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford: “The record cold in many areas in November has drudged up memories of the very cold winter last year. However, there are so many differences this year compared to last (e.g., El Nino, North Pacific ocean temperatures, changes in the stratosphere) that we would be surprised to get the same sort of magnitude of numbing cold persisting for the entire winter again. While there is still considerable uncertainty regarding when and if the current very cold pattern will breakdown, we do expect a pattern transition in December that would allow for milder temperatures in the eastern half of the US. However, there are many indicators that suggest to us that colder weather is on tap for the back half of winter, as we expect a collapse of the stratospheric polar vortex that would allow for Arctic air to make many more guest appearances in mid-latitudes again during January and February.”

In December, WSI sees the monthly breakdown as:
Northeast – Warmer than normal
Southeast – Warmer than normal
North Central – Warmer than normal Great Lakes, colder northern Plains
South Central – Colder than normal
Northwest – Colder than normal
Southwest – Colder than normal, except coastal California

According to Chris Kostas, Senior Power and Gas Analyst at ESAI Power LLC: “Aggregate weather-related energy demand is expected to run slightly below normal in December. With slightly warmer-than-normal temperatures expected east of the Mississippi (and in much of California), major heating-demand centers could find relief from the cold temperatures of November. Despite the year-over-year inventory deficit, natural-gas prices in PJM should be subdued in December, benefiting from mild seasonal temperatures combined with increased year-over-year shale-gas supplies and pipeline upgrades (such as the TEAM 2014 project on the Texas Eastern pipeline). Natural-gas prices in New England should remain firm, however, despite the milder-than-normal temperatures, as the region remains pipeline constrained and even more dependent on natural gas this year due to power-plant retirements in the region. With slightly colder-than-normal temperatures expected in Texas, power prices in ERCOT may be somewhat firm.”

In January, WSI forecasts:
Northeast – Colder than normal
Southeast – Colder than normal
North Central – Warmer than normal northern Plains, colder Great Lakes
South Central – Colder than normal
Northwest – Warmer than normal
Southwest – Warmer than normal

Kostas added: “Natural-gas prices could get a boost in January due to the significant shift in the temperature pattern that is expected. With colder-than-normal temperatures expected to move into in the population-rich eastern half of the country including Texas and the southern Plains, energy demand is likely to increase dramatically in January. Natural-gas prices would rise as a result of the colder-than-normal temperatures. Although colder-than-normal January temperatures are expected in many of the same regions that experienced frigid temperatures last January, production gains and pipeline expansions over the summer have improved supply availability and should prevent a recurrence of the volatile price behavior seen last winter. While natural-gas inventories in January will most likely be below last year’s levels, gains in shale-gas production should help offset the year-over-year inventory deficit.”

In February, WSI forecasts:
Northeast – Colder than normal
Southeast – Colder than normal
North Central – Colder than normal
South Central – Colder than normal
Northwest – Warmer than normal
Southwest – Warmer than normal

Kostas noted: “With much-colder-than-normal temperatures expected to linger over the eastern portion of the country in February, natural gas and power prices could finish the Jan./Feb. period very firm. With WSI forecasts for colder-than-normal Jan./Feb. temperatures over much of the eastern portion of the country, natural-gas inventories could finish the heating season at very low levels again this year. Inventories were left at very low levels last winter (at 822 Bcf, nearly 1,000 Bcf below the 5-yr avg.) and never fully recovered over the summer (261 Bcf below the 5-yr avg. to begin the heating season). Despite significant gains in year-over-year production levels (production is 4 Bcf/day higher), back-to-back years of very cold Jan./Feb. periods would leave inventories at very low levels again and boost regional delivered natural-gas prices.”

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

About WSI Corporation
WSI (Weather Services International) and Weather Central are the world's leading providers of weather-driven business solutions for professionals in the energy, aviation, insurance and media markets, as well as multiple federal and state government agencies. Together they comprise the professional division of The Weather Company and are owned by a consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private equity firms, The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital.

About ESAI
Since its inception in 1984, Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) has been dedicated to monitoring, analyzing and synthesizing information about world-wide energy markets. Tapping the talents of its senior-level staff, ESAI provides clients with unparalleled insight into where the markets have been and where they are headed. ESAI provides ongoing systematic analysis of energy prices in the oil, natural gas and energy markets. For more information on ESAI services, see www.esai.com.

Media Contacts:
Linda Maynard
WSI
(978) 983-6715
lmaynard@wsi.com

Tommy Sutro
Energy Security Analysis, Inc.
(781) 245-2036
tsutro@esai.com