Heating bills could be higher this winter

Meteorologist says to expect colder-than-normal temps

November 2, 2012

Caroline O'Donovan

Chicago’s high temperature Thursday was 52 degrees, but area meteorologists are already predicting a much colder winter than last year.

That might not be too difficult with last year’s winter being one of the mildest on record across the country.But colder temps mean spending more on gas for heating.

Chicagoans spent a lot less on home heat last year as a result of the warmer weather. They’ll consume about 20 percent more fuel if this year’s temperatures are just average, according to People’s Gas. That means even though gas costs less than it did last year, people could be spending more.

Meteorologist Paul Sirvatka said people will definitely need more fuel this year. 

“It’ll be a lot worse than last year,” Sirvatka said. “I would think that when we look at the three winter months, of December, January and February, we’d definitely be looking at a slightly cooler than normal winter.”

He said there is no sign of the steady “block” patterns from winter 2011, and that systems will be moving much more quickly – meaning more precipitation and colder temperatures.

Gilbert Sebenste, a meteorologist at Northern Illinois University, agrees.

People’s Gas said that with average temperatures, people should plan on spending 12 to 16 percent more on heat than last year.

Last fall, meteorologists predicted an unusually nasty winter, but instead, got mild temperatures and little snowfall, said Sirvatka. "Canada right now has a lot of snow cover on the ground, and it's rather unusual for them to have that this early in the year," he said, "The lack of an El Nino and the preonderance of snow in th southern provinces of Canada have really got us concerend that this winter is going to be a lot different than last winter."

“Last March was the most insane month I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I have a hard time predicting anything after last year.”