We’re already just a few weeks into spring and it looks like an early spring warm up is coming to your area. While a warm spring might sound nice, if you live in Dallas or Houston or almost anywhere in Texas, a warm spring means it’s just going to get a whole heck of a lot hot sooner and then stay that way. From April 8 to 21, there will be 60 to 70% chance of above normal temps in Texas. That translates roughly to 3-6 degrees warmer on average with low 60s/upper 50s at night and daytime highs in the low 80s throughout east-central Texas. Going April to May, it just gets warmer. If you haven’t locked in a low rate for a long term, fixed rate plan with the cheapest electric company you can find, the now’s the time to get hopping!
And here’s why—
The big picture
NOAA is forecasting above average temps for states east of Colorado this coming month with a 50% chance for above normal rainfall in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, the mid-Atlantic states, and the Northeast. Part of the reason behind this is that the Arctic Oscillation (AO) is expected to stay near neutral, reducing the chance for a sudden outbreak of cold arctic air. Normally, as the northern hemisphere moves into spring, the Polar Vortex gradually weakens and begins to packing up for its summer vacation. The other reason is that because of current drought conditions in the panhandle of Texas, there’s not very much soil moisture present (nor too much expected) to produce much regional evaporative cooling. So, summer temperatures are expected to be above average, too, and that usually means higher cooling costs. However, there may some good news ahead, too.
A look ahead
One of the big global climate engines is the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The ENSO region is over 8,300 miles of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Sea surface temperatures (SST) are monitored here because this huge amount of water interacts with the atmosphere by heating or cooling it and can thereby affect global weather. The ENSO region is divided into four areas. Nino 4 starts at 160°E and ends at 150°W. Nino 3 begins at 150°W and ends a 90°w. Nino 1 and 2 begin there and end on the Ecuadorian coast. Midway across is what’s called Nino 3.4. Temperature readings taken from this area are used as an average of SSTs across the equatorial Pacific.
SSRTs in the 3.4 region have risen from their recent cold La Niña phase. They’re not warm enough to be considered El Niño temperatures, so the condition is called “ENSO Neutral”. While ENSO doesn’t really effect temperatures in North America during the spring, El Niño’s effect wind shear during the summer and tend to suppress Atlantic hurricanes . La Niñas are somewhat opposite. ENSO neutral conditions allow other atmospheric cycles to exert more influence. That said, researchers expect SSTs to climb this summer in the Nino zones. So, there’s a good possibility that an El Niño may emerge this summer — which is good news for the Gulf coast since an emerging El Niño might reduce the number of tropical storms or hurricanes right at the most dangerous part of the season.
Forward planning = Future savings
If an El Niño emerges and develops into the fall, it could have an effect on winter temperatures in North America depending on how strong it is. In the winter, El Niños bring cool, wet weather to Texas and the southeastern states while northern states experience more moderate temperatures. Warmer temperatures in the north mean less natural gas is burned for space heating.
At present, the EIA expects higher natural gas prices for the rest of the year. Natural gas stocks are finishing up the 2016/2017 winter 19% below the five-year average. All this above average warmth we’re seeing now will hang around into the summer. So, it’s going to get hot and electricity prices will probably spike, especially in large metro areas like Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Doubtless, power burn to meet cooling demand will drive the price of gas through the summer. But — if a strong El Niño emerges, natural gas prices and electricity rates this winter could fall as they did in 2012 and 2016.
Sure, that’s all speculation. But, it shows how global weather conditions can shape your Texas electricity rates. Knowing that, can you afford your current energy provider and still keep your cool this summer? What about next winter’s rates? Will you want to change providers? And how can you find the best price for the best rate with the best provider?
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