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U.S. winter forecast: warm in Midwest

The U.S. Midwest will have warmer-than-normal temperatures through February, the National Weather Service predicted on Thursday, which could ease demand for natural gas for home heating this winter.
/ Source: Reuters

The Midwest will have warmer-than-normal temperatures through February, the National Weather Service predicted on Thursday, which could ease demand for natural gas for home heating this winter.

The NWS said it could not determine if winter would be colder or warmer than usual for the Northeast. It said the entire East Coast has an equal chance of above- to below-average temperatures during those three months, the NWS said in its monthly forecast.

However, private forecaster AccuWeather said it expected the East Coast to have winter temperatures averaging about 2 degrees Fahrenheit colder than normal despite a mild start to the heating season.

The NWS forecast Florida and parts of bordering states stretching from Mississippi to South Carolina will get less rain than normal during the three months ending in February. The rest of the nation has an equal chance of above- to below-normal precipitation, it said.

Warmer-than-normal winter temperatures are expected in most of Illinois and adjacent areas of Wisconsin and Indiana, the NWS said.

Separately, the NWS’ parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said it also expected most of the central United States, including the Midwest and Great Plains, to have a relatively warm winter.

“Equal chances, for temperature or precipitation, means there are no strong or consistent climate signals for either above or below normal conditions during the season,” said Edward O’Lenic, a NOAA forecaster.

Much of the U.S. Midwest depends on natural gas for home heating. U.S. natural gas production in the Gulf Coast has been crippled since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, leading some analysts to warn that cold winter temperatures could push prices as high as $20 per million British thermal units.

Households in the U.S. Northeast use mostly heating oil for winter heating.

The next NWS monthly outlook will be issued Dec. 15.