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Colder Northeast Winter May Boost U.S. Gas Demand

The coming winter in the U.S. Northeast may be colder and snowier than last year, driving up demand for fuel to heat homes and businesses, according to AccuWeather Inc.

A weak El Nino, or warming in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, will probably have developed by December, and that often means lower temperatures and more snow from Massachusetts to Georgia, said Jack Boston, expert senior meteorologist.

“I would say that energy usage in the Northeast is probably going to be up compared to last winter; I would be pretty confident of that,” Boston said from AccuWeather’s headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania.

Winter 2011-2012 was the fourth-warmest on record in the 48 contiguous U.S. states and contributed to a 26 percent decline in natural gas prices through the season. Meteorologists mark winter from Dec. 1 through February.

A weak El Nino may also mean the northern Great Plains and Midwest get less snow and warmer-than-normal weather, while the southern U.S. may be cooler and wetter than usual, he said.

“I think it is pretty safe to say that this winter is not going to be like last winter,” Boston said.

Boston said AccuWeather may make some modifications to its outlook before the season starts.

Last year, many meteorologists, including AccuWeather, predicted a cooler-than-normal winter, while the opposite occurred. Blocking patterns that usually set up in the Atlantic and keep cold air bottled up across the eastern U.S. never developed.

“Everybody’s forecast was lousy,” Boston said. “It doesn’t make it any easier to take.”

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