AccuWeather reports below-normal temperatures could be the culprit for an increase in heating bills across parts of the Northeast and Midwest."The cold isn't over yet," AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said.
Residential customers that heat their homes with natural gas, oil or electric are experiencing a longer heating season this year compared to last. Unfortunately, the cold could potentially last for a few more weeks, according to AccuWeather.com meteorologists.
The cold air masses could last into the first week of April and potentially into mid-April, Lundberg said.
These temperatures are below normal for this time of year. Some cities with below-normal temperatures are St. Louis at 6 degrees below normal, New York City at 3 degrees below normal, Chicago at 6 degrees below normal, Fargo at 11 degrees below normal and Denver at 4 degrees below normal.
"From the East to the Rockies, temperatures have been below normal and will end the season that way," Lundberg said.
The cold air masses keep creeping into the United States due to a blocking area of high pressure sitting over Greenland. The high restricts the jet stream and pushes cold air into the Southern states. Air masses following along the jet stream are forced to go around the block instead of moving west to east.
As far as substantial snowfall for major cities, Lundberg said significant snow is about over.
"By the end of March and April, the atmosphere is really fighting climatology," he said.
Compared to last year at this time, much of the country had minimal to no snow and temperatures were in the 70s and 80s in most places. For example last March, Chicago experienced an average temperature of 53.5 degrees which was 15.6 degrees above normal. This March, the Windy City's average temperature was 32.6, which was 5.3 degrees below normal. For more on March 2013 record temperatures, read "March 2013 Falls Well Short of Last Year's Records."
West Penn Power, an electric company by FirstEnergy, provides services to six million customers across six states throughout the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions, according to firstenergycorp.com. A West Penn Power Spokesperson Todd Meyers said that a customer who uses 1,000 kilowatts of power for the month of March will roughly pay $81.97, compared to last March's total of $96.87.
Meyers said that the price of electric might have been more expensive last year due to supply and demand being lower for the seasons of fall and spring.
The cost of natural gas and fuel is relatively low, according to Meyers, which might be a reason why electric is relatively low this season.
"Natural gas is a big component not only for driving down costs, but also generation costs dropping," Meyers said.
Scott Waitleverpch, an Equitable Gas Company spokesperson said that starting April 1 through the end of June, also known as the "Second Quarterly," new prices will be in effect for Equitable gas customers. The Equitable Gas Company serves roughly 275,000 customers and maintains 3,300 miles of natural gas pipeline across southwestern Pennsylvania, north-central West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, according to equitablegas.com.
A rough estimate of natural gas is $4 Mcf, 1,000 cubic feet, according to Waitleverpch. It is estimated that the natural gas prices will increase by 58 cents on April 1.
Waitleverpch said this could be due to a longer heating season this year.
As April progresses and temperatures rise, Waitleverpch doesn't know how much of an impact the higher prices will affect paying customers.
"From a customer standpoint, I don't know that it means much because as it gets warmer, customers will stop using the product," he said.
Fred Martin, who works at Satterlee Oil Company, a central Pennsylvania oil company, said that a gallon of heating oil in March is $3.55, compared to last year's $3.61 a gallon.
Martin said that prices should start to decline by the end of April.
This winter has been the complete opposite of last year. The weather went from one extreme to another. According to NOAA, last year was the warmest year ever for the U.S. As Lumberg said, this winter parts of the Northeast and Midwest are experiencing below-normal temperatures for this time of year.
AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said that the fluctuation of temperatures between last year and this year is not unusual. Spring is a transitional season that consists of a battle between winter and summer. Cold air lingers across the northern tier, while warmer air returns to the South.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was written by Molly Cochran, staff writer for AccuWeather.com.