Coming U.S. Winter May Be No Help for Natural Gas, MDA Says

The U.S. winter may be the second in a row to produce low energy demand for heating even while falling short of the record high temperatures of the 2011-2012 season, MDA EarthSat Weather predicted.

The winter, measured by meteorologists as running from December through February, will probably have temperatures above the 10- and 30-year normal ranges, according to MDA in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The result may be less natural gas, heating oil and electricity needed to warm homes and businesses, MDA said.

“Even with the warmer risks considered it would be difficult to repeat last winter’s record warmth,” said the forecasting company.

Traders are watching the coming season because last year’s above-normal U.S. temperatures, combined with increased production, kept natural gas stockpiles high and prices low. Natural gas futures fell to a 10-year low in the U.S. this year and by April made the fuel the worst performer on Standard & Poor’s GSCI commodity index.

The winter of 2011-2012 was the fourth-warmest on record in the contiguous 48 states, with an average temperature of 36.8 degrees Fahrenheit (2.7 Celsius), said the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

Monthly Outlook

December will probably be the warmest of the three winter months, with most of the U.S. experiencing above-normal temperatures, MDA said. February should be the coolest, with seasonal temperatures across most of the country and below-normal readings from North Carolina to Florida.

MDA expects a national gas-weighted heating degree days value of 2,555 for the U.S. this winter season. The 10-year normal is 2,585 and the 30-year mark is 2,588.

Heating days are calculated by subtracting the daily average temperature from 65. The higher the value, the colder the weather and the more probable it is that people turned on the heat to keep warm.

The gas-weighted value puts a greater emphasis on the part of the U.S. that uses natural gas for heating.

The forecast may be up-ended by fluctuations in the Arctic and North Atlantic oscillations, MDA said. The oscillations, which are changes in air pressure over the North Pole and Atlantic Ocean, can pour cold air across the U.S. and then bottle it up for weeks.

Forecasting changes in those patterns more than a few weeks in advance is difficult.

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