Cold May Send U.S. Energy Use Above Normal

Cold weather in the central U.S. and snow in the Northeast may push energy consumption above seasonal norms across much of the country, forecasters said.

Low temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s in New York and about 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow may fall starting tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service. In Chicago, where 3 inches of snow may fall today, temperatures are expected to drop to about 15 degrees (minus 9 Celsius) tomorrow.

“To the average person, it’s going to feel nasty,” said Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

Energy use for heating will probably exceed normal levels across the southern U.S. from New Mexico to central Georgia and north into Colorado, according to David Salmon, owner of Weather Derivatives in Belton, Missouri.

Heating demand is expected to reach normal levels through the Midwest and the Ohio Valley and may be as much as 10 percent below average in the upper Great Plains and Northeast, according to Salmon’s forecast.

Traders watch temperature predictions and heating degree day values to gauge energy use and demand for heating and cooling. About 51 percent of U.S. households use natural gas for heating, according to the Energy Department.

Central U.S. Cold

Temperatures across the central U.S. from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico may be 5 to 14 degrees below normal, according to a 1- to 5-day forecast by Travis Hartman with MDA EarthSat Weather in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Lows are forecast to reach 25 in Dallas today and tomorrow; 33 in Houston tomorrow; 23 in Atlanta; 12 in St. Louis; and 22 in Washington, according to the weather service.

“Sub-zero temperatures are entering the far upper Midwest and Plains this morning as the big weekend cold push initiates its arrival,” said Matt Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

Forecasters are split on how soon milder temperatures will return to the East following the weekend cold snap and how far they will spread.

In his 6- to 10-day forecast, Rogers predicts most of the U.S. will be seasonal with just the very northern edge from the upper Great Plains to northern New England having temperatures 3 to 5 degrees above normal.

Salmon calls for temperatures to be 6 to 10 degrees above normal for most areas east of the Mississippi River in his forecast for Feb. 16 to Feb. 20.

For Feb. 14, the normal average temperature in New York is about 35 degrees, according to MDA. It’s about 32 in Boston; 36 in Philadelphia; 47 in Atlanta; 28 in Chicago; 49 in Dallas; 44 in Seattle; and 56 in Burbank, California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

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