KANSAS CITY, KS — Summer cooling needs are likely to be quite strong for much of the United States in 2000, based on the latest set of long-range computer weather forecast products provided by the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS). The outlook is for warmer-than-usual weather for the majority of the next several months in key populated areas of the nation.

Call it “global warming,” “La Niña,” or just about whatever you like, but the NWS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Climate Prediction Center each released summer commentary, all suggesting a warmer-than-usual pattern. Warm weather is always key in determining summer air conditioning use. And consumers — as well as producers and some traders — would be wise to pay special attention to the latest round of summer forecasts.

The government outlook noted that the balance of spring and summer is pointing in the direction of heat and dryness problems. Such conditions will lead to a stronger demand for natural gas, coal, and electricity, as air conditioning systems take on greater cooling needs.

This may be the summer that hvacr contractors have been waiting for to replace old, worn-out air conditioning systems. Cooling fuel demand could be steadily stronger in the coming season than it has been in recent past years.

Temperatures are predicted to be warmer than usual for most of the contiguous United States during the May-through-August period. The forecast, issued mid-March, was similar to that of mid-February when the first predictions of a warmer-than-usual spring and summer surfaced from the NWS.

Expect warmer surroundings

Warm weather could easily continue over the Midwest in September, but the probabilities for warmer-than-usual weather will begin easing then over the Rocky Mountain and Atlantic Coast states and not be as intense as that which occurs in the northern Plains.

None of the nation is expected to be cooler than usual through the end of this calendar year, although predictions for a normal temperature pattern in early autumn are relatively high for the central and southern Great Plains. The warm weather not only suggests strong cooling needs during the summer, but autumn heating needs may be less than usual because of the extended warm weather.

To make matters a little more complicated (and some may say worse), precipitation is expected to frequently be lower than usual across the Midwest, Plains, and Southeastern states during the spring and in the Midwest during the late summer and early autumn.

The drier tendencies would suggest decreasing runoff potential in areas that generate summer electricity from hydroelectric plants. A straining hydroelectric system may mean greater demand on traditional electricity-generating facilities, raising the potential for some brownout (or even blackouts) during the summer ahead.

The warmer-than-usual weather may not be quite as intense as the government has indicated, but the trend is in place for above-average temperatures this summer. That usually leads to greater demand for electricity and natural gas during the hottest periods of time.

Bridge Global Weather Services agrees with much of the warmer-than-usual outlook this year. However, Bridge believes the core of the hottest weather will be found in the Plains, where natural gas and electricity use will be highest relative to normal.

Areas to the east will also have a warmer-than-usual summer, but relief from the heat will occur more periodically than that in the Plains or Rocky Mountain states due to surges of relatively “cooler” air from Canada that will pass through the heart of the Midwest and Northeastern states.

Those brief surges of cooler air will help reduce the impact of warmer-than-usual temperatures at least periodically, but the same may not be said for Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, western Kansas, Colorado, or west Texas, where temperatures may be persistently hot from July into September.