(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is due for warmer-than average weather across the South and most of the East Coast this winter, potentially easing natural gas shortfalls that have driven prices near record highs and spurred demand for coal around the globe. 

Temperatures from Maine, to Florida, to Southern California are apt to be above average, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center said in its annual winter outlook released Thursday. The Pacific Northwest and Alaska are forecast to be colder than normal. 

“Consistent with typical La Nina conditions during winter months, we anticipate below-normal temperatures along portions of the northern tier of the U.S. while much of the South experiences above-normal temperatures,” Jon Gottschalck, head of the center’s operational prediction branch, said in the statement.

The outlook signals demand for gas to heat homes may remain low over the next several months, freeing up more fuel for power plants. The global economic recovery has led to surging need for electricity, and booming gas exports from the U.S. Mild weather will help ensure that utilities have adequate supplies of gas and coal to keep the lights on. 

It also means there may be less of a push to curtail gas exports to Europe and Asia, where fuel shortfalls have already triggered power outages and blackouts. Prices for gas and coal have boomed, especially in China, a potential roadblock to the global economic recovery.

Last winter, the polar vortex -- a swirl of winds that locks cold air in the Arctic -- gave way in February and released a blast of frigid air that reached all the way to Texas, crippling the electric grid and killing at least 210 people.

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