Winter Weather

A pedestrian walks under snow-covered trees in Boston on Feb. 18, 2014. Another cold snap affecting a wide area of North America is forecast for the next two weeks, driving up natural gas prices. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

Natural gas prices crossed the $6 threshold Wednesday as forecasts of more cold weather drove up the value of the futures contract for the fuel.

The March futures contract for natural gas traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped 65 cents to $6.20 per million BTUs in afternoon trading. The contract briefly hit $6.25 — the highest since December 2008. 

The near-month contract price has rocketed higher in the last few weeks as bitterly cold temperatures forced millions of Americans and Canadians to burn more gas to keep their houses warm.  

The latest U.S. weather forecasts call for more frigid weather. The longer-term forecast from MDA Weather Services is for "ongoing colder than normal conditions" over much of North America. As many as half of American households heat their homes with gas.  

Last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said the supplies of natural gas in storage were 631 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 2,317 billion cubic feet.  The latest supply figures to be released on Thursday are expected to show a further gas drawdown.