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Natural Gas Prices Spike as Cold Grips the US

A blast of Arctic air accompanied snow in areas from the Great Lakes to the Northeast earlier this week, causing natural gas prices to rise throughout the country.

Prices in most places increased by between 10 and 30 cents with the bulk of that rise in the Northeast, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's natural gas weekly update.

"There was a sharp change to colder weather," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dale Mohler said. "It was a brief shot of fairly intense cold."

This cold dropped temperatures to 15 degrees below normal in some areas, including New York City.

In addition, areas from Boston to New York City and Philadelphia received their first snow of the season on Tuesday.

Despite the short-lived cold spurt, total consumption of natural gas increased by 15.6 percent from the previous week due to an increase in residential and commercial consumption, according to data from Bentek Energy and the EIA.

These increases were directly influenced by the week's onset of cooler-than-normal weather, reported the EIA.

As the East and Ohio Valley observe a warmup over the next few days, another cold wave will be ushered into the Central and Eastern states next week.

"The cold that's coming is less intense. Temperatures will be 5 to 10 degrees below normal," Mohler said.

Even though the next cold wave will not last long, it may again inflate natural gas prices.

An increase in these prices could result from higher energy use during periods of colder weather, as one-half of U.S. households use natural gas as their primary heating, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 American Community Survey.

As a whole, this winter, prices are expected to increase 13 percent for those using primarily natural gas to heat their homes, according to the EIA. This means an increase of roughly $80 compared to last winter.

In the West, residents can anticipate an inflation of up to 10 percent of costs, and residents in the Northeast should prepare for up to a 15 percent rise in prices, according to the EIA Short Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook.

"The Plains to the northern Rockies will be fairly cold this year, so there will be a high usage of natural gas in those areas," AccuWeather.com Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

As the AccuWeather Winter Forecast predicts blasts of extreme cold for the northern Plains and above-normal snow totals predicted for the Upper Midwest and Rockies, natural gas prices in these areas could continue to grow rapidly due to high demands.


Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kristen Rodman at Kristen.Rodman@accuweather.com, follow her on Twitter @Accu_Kristen or Google+. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.