Possibly the biggest factor affecting your electric bill is the weather. It not only directly influences how much you use to heat or cool your home but also affects the demand, supply, and ultimately the price of energy on the wholesale markets. In our What’s the Weather? series, we’ll track weather forecasts and events to see how they impact your energy bills and how that information can help you save.
Bye, Bye 2017 Hurricane Season!
The purple print in the middle of the NHC map sums it up nicely:
Tropical cyclone activity is not expected during the next 48 hours.
…or indeed for the next 5 days. After the season we’ve been through, that’s good to hear.
But now, everyone in North America is focusing on the coming winter, wondering how cold will it be and how big their heating bills will be. So, let’s dive straight into it.
Winter Weather Forecast
Nothing has really changed from NOAA’s winter forecast. The La Niña watch outlined last month continues. The NOAA points out that in the Niño 3.4 region of the Pacific there is a lot colder than normal water (from the surface to 300 meters — about 900 feet deep) so it’s looking more and more like a La Niña will emerge (~55-65%) as we move through November into December.
That doesn’t mean that blocks of solid ice are going to drop onto North America as soon as NOAA yells, “La Niña!”. Warmer than normal temperatures are currently forecast for much of the midwest, east, and Gulf coasts until the end of the year. As the New Year begins, we’ll see both “equal chance” and colder than normal temperatures push south and eastwards.
Compared to last year, NOAA predicts this winter will be colder (even though last winter was much warmer than normal), but mainly once the La Niña starts exerting its atmospheric influence. For North America during a La Niña winter, a blocking high pressure ridge will fall into place in the northern Pacific near Alaska. Colder and stormier weather usually moves into to the northern plains state, the upper Mississippi Valley, and states north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Now, if you’re suddenly worried about the Polar Vortex visiting, just stop it because there’s a few things to keep in mind.
As with any year, there is also the potential for visits from the Polar Vortex. Visits usually happen before January, partly because the wall of vortex gets all wibbly-wobbly and unsteady if there’s a ridge of warm air big enough to upset it. While La Niñas do set up blocking high pressure ridges, such a ridge might not occur before January or might not be strong enough to shift the Polar Vortex. Currently, the Polar Vortex is forecast to be “to be normal to stronger than normal for much of November” and may keep temperatures warmer a while longer.
How Much Will Winter Cost Me?
Once the La Niña winter does get going, we’re going to notice it. Precipitation is expected to be above average for New England, the Mid Atlantic States, the upper Mississippi Valley, and particularly the Ohio Valley. So, the potential chilling effects of a snow pack are being taken into account.
Temperatures nationally are expected to be 13% colder than last year; southern states could be 27% colder and 4% colder in the west. In terms of heating costs compared to last winter, EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook notes that natural gas prices will be slightly higher (2%) this winter, going into 2018. Homes using natural gas for heat can expect to spend 12% ($69) more. Those using electricity will see an 8% ($74) increase, and those using heating oil will pay up to 17% ($215) more this winter.
So winter is coming, but there’s still time to prepare for it by improving your home’s energy efficiency, getting your furnace ready and to shop for long term, low rate energy plan from Direct Energy.