A Taste of Winter Returns to U.S. Next Week, Shivering Markets

The U.S. will get a taste of some real February weather, only in April.

Cold is making a comeback across the central and eastern U.S., just in time to delay planting across the corn belt, and give wheat and crop farmers further south and west a few headaches. Energy demand, meanwhile, could get a boost as people staying at home because of the coronavirus nudge up their thermostats.

Temperatures will plunge into the mid-teens Fahrenheit as far south as western Nebraska and extending into the northern Midwest early next week, with cold pushing readings down into the 30s and 40s (low single digits Celsius) almost to the Gulf of Mexico, said Don Keeney, a meteorologist withMaxar in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

“This is some real cold, how late winter should be,” said Jim Rouiller, chief meteorologist of Energy Weather Group LLC. “It is going to have some staying power, it is not going to be an in and out sort of thing, this could go right through the end of April.”

Throughout most of the winter there was a strong Pacific jet stream that kept a steady flow of mild air moving across North America, Rouiller said. That kept frigid temperatures at bay. Now, the jet stream is forecast to buckle, allowing for a high pressure ridge to form over Alaska, leading to a burst of cold air across the middle of the continent.

The chill will keep soil temperatures cool, delaying planting across the Midwest, where many thought the threat of heavy spring rains would have been what kept farmers out of fields, Keeney said. The cold could also slow corn germination across the Mississippi River Delta region and hurt about 2% of jointing wheat crops in western Kansas and eastern Colorado.

New York, meanwhile, will have lows dip into the low- to mid-30s, while Washington is in the upper 30s to low 40s, Rouiller said.

“The big cities on the I-95 corridor, they will be below normal, but they won’t be anything earth shattering,” Rouiller said. “The bulk of the cold will be in the middle of the country.”

Across the contiguous 48 states, natural gas-weighted heating degree days values, a measure of weather’s impact on energy demand, will jump above average through April 12 to 21, according to The Weather Company.

One positive note is that the cold outbreak will be accompanied by dry air, which could help the Mississippi and other rivers absorb recent flood waters. Last week, theArmy Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway upstream from New Orleans to divert water into Lake Pontchartrain and away from the city.

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