Heat Bakes Town, Crops in U.S. Midwest Before Heading East

Temperatures may near 100 degrees as far north as Minnesota as a heat wave builds in the central U.S. this weekend, threatening to boost energy usage and damage crops before spreading to the East Coast.

An excessive heat watch, meaning temperatures will feel hotter than 105 Fahrenheit (41 Celsius), has been issued by the National Weather Service for eastern Kansas and Nebraska.

“The heat is the definite No. 1 market driver as far as fundamentals,” said Jim Rouiller, an energy meteorologist at Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. “This will rival historic heat waves.”

The heat caused soybeans to rise for a ninth session in Chicago, the longest streak since August, and sent natural gas futures higher. Temperatures in the 90s are expected to spread across the U.S. and possibly into southern Canada next week.

“The most extreme heat is going to be in the Plains; that’s the area where it is going to be in the 100s,” said Mike Pigott, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

By early next week, higher-than-normal temperatures may stretch all the way from Salt Lake City to New York, Pigott said. Omaha, Nebraska, is expected to reach at least 98 degrees over the weekend, 12 degrees above the normal high temperature.

“It’s going to last through a good portion of next week,” Pigott said.

Midwest Heat

To the south, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Fort Smith, Arkansas, continue to swelter. High temperatures in Tulsa, where an excessive heat warning is in effect, have been above 90 since May 31 and higher than 100 for 11 of the past 17 days, Fort Smith has broken 100 degrees 17 times since June 24, according to the weather service.

The high in Minneapolis is expected to reach 98 this weekend, 15 degrees above normal, according to the weather service. In Des Moines, Iowa, temperatures may reach 96 by next week, 10 degrees above normal, the weather service said.

Natural gas futures gained for a fourth day yesterday in New York on forecasts of above-normal temperatures that may boost air conditioning demand. Power plants use about 30 percent of U.S. gas supplies.

Temperatures of 95 degrees and higher can affect corn pollination, said David Miller, director of research for the Iowa Farm Bureau in Des Moines.

Pollination Period

“This week and into next week we will see a lot of corn entering into the pollination period,” Miller said. “The good news is that we are going into some of these hotter temperatures with pretty good moisture conditions.”

Corn is the biggest U.S. crop, valued at $66.7 billion in 2010, followed by soybeans at $38.9 billion, government figures show.

Corn rose yesterday on the Chicago Board of Trade, capping the biggest two-day advance in eight weeks, and soybeans gained the most in eight weeks on concern that hot, dry weather will reduce yields.

Temperatures may remain high enough to stress pollinating corn in the southern Plains and Texas through the end of July, according to Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland.

In his 6- to 10-day and 11- to 15-day forecasts, Commodity’s president, Matt Rogers, says the most extreme heat may stay fixed on the center of the country through July 28.

Heat Outlook

“The big picture theme right now is that we continue to see variations in the details of the impressive mid-summer, mid-continent hot-ridging pattern, but the overall hot-dominated regime does not really go away,” Rogers said in a note to clients.

Rogers said the heat in the center of the country will spread eastward, possibly reaching the East Coast on July 23 to July 24. After that, Rogers said the heat in the East may retreat while it rebuilds intensity in the central U.S.

Pigott said there is a chance severe thunderstorms will develop at the fringes of the heat through the upper Great Lakes and southern Canada. He said these storms may rival the one that tore across the Midwest earlier this week, knocking down trees and leaving more than 900,000 customers without power.

Chicago’s Commonwealth Edison in a statement today called the July 11 event “one of the worst storms in terms of damage and customer impact in the company’s history.”

About 105,000 customers were still without power as of 7 a.m. Chicago time, the company said.

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