Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 13.8 secs from 178 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 11.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 12.3 secs. Wind southeast 2-4 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.6 ft @ 11.3 secs from 197 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 11.5 secs from 188 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.5 ft @ 11.9 secs from 194 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 5.6 ft @ 7.0 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 7.7 secs. Wind northwest 10-12 kts. Water temp 54.7 degs.
On Thursday (6/18) in North and Central CA locally generated windswell was producing surf at waist high and blown out with northwest winds producing whitecaps. Down in Santa Cruz windswell was not wrapping in with waves thigh high and clean but very weak. In Southern California up north windswell was knee to maybe thigh high and reasonably clean with north texture on it. Down south waves were flat with textured conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore had a few waist high sets with clean to textured conditions. The East Shore was getting some east windswell with waves waist high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no swell producing weather systems were in.cgiay or forecast. Regarding windswell, trades were trying to develop over Hawaii offering a hint of east windswell and that situation is to hold through Saturday then fade out. Relative to California, high pressure generated north winds were blowing but only close to shore in North and Central CA producing minimal wind whipped local short period north windswell with poor conditions. More of the same situation is forecast into Saturday (6/20) generating more small and raw north local windswell, then fading out. For the southern hemisphere, a gale tracked southeast under New Zealand on Tues (6/9) with up to 38 ft seas, but all aimed southeast with little energy tracking northeast towards our forecast area. Another small gale developed in the same area Fri-Sun (6/14) but positioned just southeast of New Zealand generating seas at 30-34 ft. Possible small southern hemi swell to result. Another small gale developed further southeast of New Zealand on Tues (6/16) producing 26 ft seas at best aimed east, faded, then started redeveloping Thurs-Fri (6/19) with 26-30 ft seas aimed east. Minimal background swell possible. Two more small gales are forecast, one along side of New Zealand on Sun-Mon (6/22) with 28-30 ft seas aimed northeast and another just barely north of Antarctic Ice in the deep Central Pacific with 32-34 ft sea aimed east. Small swell possible again. And yet a third system is charted pushing Southeast of New Zealand Wed-Thurs (6/25) with up to 34 ft seas. So there's more to monitor but nothing strong projected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (6/18) no swell producing fetch was occurring over the greater North Pacific. Generic high pressure at 1020 mbs was located between California and Hawaii ridging to North California producing a weak and shallow version of the usual summertime pressure gradient generating north winds at 15-20 kts over North and Central CA resulting in production of small north angled short period windswell at exposed breaks. Relative to Hawaii, the same high pressure system was generating trades at 15 kts just east of the Islands offering minimal support for windswell production.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to try to hold on but eventually get undercut by low pressure moving to within 700 nmiles of the Central Coast by Sun (6/21) with north winds fading to 10 kts and any odds for windswell generation fading out at that time. Relative to Hawaii trades are to hold at 15 kts east of the the Islands Fri (6/19) producing minimal short period east windswell, then loosing coverage limited to just the immediate area directly over the Islands Saturday and then fading from even that by Sunday with windswell dropping out along exposed breaks on the East Shores of Hawaii.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having an impact on hurricane production in the East Pacific. No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (6/18) high pressure just off the North CA coast at 1022 mbs was generating a weak version of the usual summer time pressure gradient and north winds at 15 kts over North and Central CA. North winds are forecast rebuilding slightly over North and Central CA waters at 20 kts Friday into Saturday. The core of the gradient to lift north some on Sunday (6/21) to Cape Mendocino with north winds 10 kts over most of California north of Pt Conception, and fading into Monday AM then rebuilding to near 20 kts on Tuesday (6/23) and 25 kts over Cape Mendocino Wednesday fading some on Thurs (6/25).
On Thursday AM (6/18) a .cgiit flow was in control with the southern branch of the jet tracking flat west to east on the 55S latitude line and the northern branch doing the same up at 25S. A weak trough was southeast of New Zealand with winds barely up to 120 kts in one pocket, offering minimal support for gale development there. But east of there no troughs were indicated with no support for gale development suggested. Over the next 72 hours the New Zealand trough is to weaken and push southeast and all but gone by Fri AM (6/19). A new trough is to develop south of New Zealand on Sat (6/20) with 110 kt winds pushing up into it, easing east into Monday and getting cut off. Limited odds to support gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere possible. Beyond 72 hours a ridge is to be pushing into the Ross Ice Shelf southeast of New Zealand later Mon (6/22) and reaching east over the remainder of the South Pacific shutting any hope for gale production down. There's some suggestions of a broad trough building southeast of New Zealand starting Wed-Thurs (6/25) but only reaching up to 57S. The Ross Ice Shelf is up at 65S so there isn't to be much room between the apex of the trough and the hard stop of Antarctic Ice to the south, so not much is expected from this trough, if anything.
On Thursday AM (6/18) two high pressure systems were locking down the mid latitudes of the South Pacific at 1024 mbs just east of Northern New Zealand with another in the Southeast Pacific generally pushing fetch to the southeast on any low pressure tracking further south. A gale was tracking east, previously in close proximity to New Zealand, and marginally productive (see New Zealand Gale below). Also swell was in water tracking northeast (see 2nd New Zealand below). Prior to that a gale tracked under New Zealand on Tues (6/9) but fell southeast through it's life with low odds of any swell moving into our forecast area. Details provided below for tracking purposes (see 1st New Zealand Gale below).
Possible New Zealand Gale
A gale developed under New Zealand on Tues AM (6/16) producing 35 kt southwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface resulting in 24 ft seas at 58S 170E. In the evening a small area of 40 kt southwest winds generating 26 ft seas over a tiny area at 58S 176E. Fetch was fading while holding stationary from the southwest at 35 kts Wed AM (6/17) with seas fading from 25 ft at 59S 178E. Fetch was building in coverage at 35 kt in the evening aimed well to the northeast with no seas of interest resulting (24 ft at 58S 178E). Secondary fetch started pushing northeast at 35-40 kts Thurs AM (6/18) generating 26 ft seas at 56S 174W. In the evening 35 kts southwest fetch to hold while pushing northeast generating more 26 ft seas at 50S 162W while a tiny area of 45 kt south fetch builds southeast of there. By Fri AM (6/19) the new fetch is to fading from 40 kts from the southwest with seas fading 30 ft at 55S 148W. No additional fetch or sea production is forecast. Perhaps some small generic 14-15 sec period swell to result, but it's to be shadowed for the most part relative to CA. Maybe slightly better odds for Hawaii and more so for Tahiti. Something to monitor.
Hawaii: Swell Direction: Swell from the first part of the gale to arrive Thurs mid-day (6/25) with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 194-198 degrees
SCal: Swell from the first part of this gale to arrive early Sun AM (6/28) with period 15 secs. Swell Direction: 211 degrees
NCal: Swell from the first part of this gale to arrive Sun AM (6/28) with period 15 secs. Swell Direction: 209 degrees
1st New Zealand Gale (non-productive)
A gale develop under Tasmania on Mon (6/8) falling southeast and was clearing the New Zealand shadow Tues AM (6/9) producing 45 kt west-northwest winds and 39 ft seas over a tiny area at 53S 168E (200 degs HI and barely unshadowed by NZ, 217 degs NCal & SCal). The fetch continued falling southeast in the evening with 45 kt west to west-northwest winds remaining and seas fading some from 36 ft at 56S 179E (192 degs HI, 211 degs SCal and shadowed and barely shadowed relative to NCal). 40 kt west winds held into Wed AM (6/10) resulting in 33 ft seas at 58S 172W before crashing into the Ross Ice Shelf in the evening. Low odds of any swell resulting seeing how the fetch in this system was all aimed east to southeast and the core of the gale falling in that direction too. Minimal odds of sideband swell radiating northeast towards the US West Coast and even less odds for Hawaii.
2nd New Zealand Gale
A gale developed south of New Zealand on Thurs PM (6/11) generating 50-55 kt south winds over a small area with seas on the increase. By Fri AM (6/12) a decent sized fetch of 45-50 kt south winds were holding while easing east generating 32 ft seas at 60S 169E (195 degs HI, 210 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti and 210 degs NCal and barely unshadowed). In the evening 40 kt southwest winds were lifting northeast and loosing coverage generating 32 ft seas over a small area at 56S 170E (198 degs HI, 213 degs SCal and shadowed, but unshadowed for NCal). 40-45 kt southwest winds were pushing hard northeast Sat AM (6/13) with 32 ft seas at 52S 175E (195 degs HI, 214 degs SCal and shadowed but unshadowed for NCal). 40-45 kt southwest winds were holding in pockets in the evening with 32 ft seas at 48S 174W aimed mainly east (190 degs HI, 212 degs Scal and shadowed, 212 degs NCal and barely not shadowed). Residual 40 kt west fetch was holding Sun AM (6/14) with 31 ft seas at 50S 173W (190 degs HI, 210 degs SCal and Ncal and shadowed for both). This system is to be gone after that. Some modest swell should result for Hawaii and less so for the US West Coast, better in NCal than SCal doe to shadowing.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Fri (6/19) with swell pushing 1.3 ft @ 18-19 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). That is a little optimistic. Swell to arrive in earnest Sat AM (6/20) pushing maybe 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs at sunset (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell to start fading Sun AM (6/21) but still decent holding at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft). Residuals on Mon (6/22) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
SCal: Expect swell arrival on Sun (6/21) at sunset with period 18 secs and size hardly noticeable but building. Swell building some Mon AM (6/22) as period hits 17 secs at pushing 1.6 ft @ 16-17 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell fading Tues AM (6/23) from 1.7 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 210-215 degrees
NCal: Expect swell arrival on Mon first light (6/22) with period 18 secs and size small but building pushing 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs late (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell peaking Tues AM (6/23) at 1.9 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading Wed AM (6/24) with period dropping from 15 secs. Swell Direction: 210-214 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours low pressure is to fade 600 nmiles off Central CA by later Mon (6/22) with the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient trying to come back on-line later Tues (6/23) with north winds 20-25 kts along the North and Central coasts lifting north focused more on Cape Mendocino on Wednesday with increased odds for windswell production. But that too to fade on Thurs (6/18) to near nothing.
Relative to Hawaii trades to remain suppressed till maybe Thurs (6/25) when patchy 15 kt east trades are forecast redeveloping east of the Islands offering limited odds for small short period east windswell resulting at exposed breaks.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) As of Thursday (6/18) the daily SOI was hovering at 1.90. The 30 day average was rising from 3.14 and the 90 day average was rising from -5.60. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a slowly fading Active Phase of the MJO. High pressure was building over Southwest Australia low pressure was trying to build south of Tahiti hopefully resulting in falling SOI numbers. Beyond the same pattern is to hold into maybe Mon (6/22) the decaying with higher SOI number expected. High pressure over Australia could help the Southern Hemi Booster Index (a possible component of strong El Ninos) and supportive of storm development in the New Zealand area. That is, anomalous high pressure locks down the area roughly over Tasmania/Southeast Australia driving south surface winds up the East Australia coast then redirected to the east in the Kelvin Wave generation Area feeding continuous Westerly Wind Bursts. The theory suggests it is high pressure over this area that 'boosts' a regular El Nino into Super El Nino status. This high pressure boost occurs 3-5 months ahead of the the peak of a super El Nino (June-Aug) and has been evidenced in the 72, '82 and '97 Super El Ninos. Anecdotally this would be the connection between Super El Ninos and wildfires/drought in Eastern Australia and also the link to increased storm production under New Zealand typical of the N Hemi summer after said El Ninos.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis per 850 mb charts (4,500 ft up) indicated neutral anomalies were in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent to the dateline and continuing south of Hawaii into the Galapagos Islands. But down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated a different picture with modest west anomalies starting at 150E in the heart of Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to the dateline. Neutral anomalies were east of there to the Galapagos. The Inactive Phase of the MJO appears to be gone and has had no negative impact on the Kelvin Wave Generation area. This is good news and suggests the 850 mb charts are not telling the whole story. A week from now (6/26) building westerly anomalies are forecast at modest strength again over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area building over the dateline reaching a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are forecast east of there into the Galapagos. These westerly anomalies to start in earnest Sun AM (6/21). This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO, at least from a wind anomaly perspective at the surface, is already gone over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area and is to be moving east. The sooner the better. The GFS model (surface) suggests Calm to light winds building over the whole of the KWGA by late Sat (6/20) and becoming more widespread as the week progresses with actual west winds at 5 kts building in pockets pushing 11 kts by Thurs (6/25). This is exactly as hoped for to again reinforce warm water movement to the east. A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May with weaker but still solid west anomalies continuing into late May while easing east out of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. West anomalies held through 6/10 (per TAO data) with zero easterly anomalies reported so far this year. But more westerly anomalies are needed if a moderate to strong El Nino is to develop, as is projected by the long term models and based on evolving atmospheric signals.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/17 suggest a weak Inactive MJO signal was fading over Central America with the Active Phase starting to build over the far West Pacific. The Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to push steadily east over the next 15 days approaching the dateline at the end of that window. The Dynamic model depicts a different picture, with the Active Phase trying to ease east but progressively fading 8 days out, with a dead neutral pattern in.cgiace and holding 15 days out. The presence of regular pulses of the MJO is not an indication of El Nino. Rather a steady state Weak Active Phase would be more in line with what is believed to be a building El Nino. Something to consider. For now that could mean the atmosphere is not as co.cgied from a ENSO perspective as some might think, at least from the perspective of development of a major El Nino event. The truth at the surface will be known in the coming days through 6/22, but right now the models are optimistic. The ultra long range upper level model run on 6/18 depicts a weak Active pattern over the Central and West Pacific and is expected to track east over the equatorial Pacific through 7/3, even quicker than previous projections, with a weak Inactive Phase developing in the west starting 7/8 making it to the East Pacific by 7/28, We're looking for early signs of development of an upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave lifecycle, which is due per a normal Kelvin Wave Cycle and was evidenced in last years Modoki El Nino (which ultimately stalled it) and could theoretically do the same this year. But we're not seeing it (a good thing). Instead it looks like westerly anomalies are on track for a return. And if that happens, it adds fuel to the speculation that a strong El Nino might be in development. A well entrenched westerly wind anomaly pattern is required during the June/July timeframe if something that wants to rival the '97 El Nino is to develop. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean.
As of the most recent low-res imagery (6/18) first impressions continue indicating a moderate and well defined warm water/El Nino-like regime in.cgiace and building over the entire equatorial Pacific. It depicts a slowly building broader coverage near the Galapagos over the last 15 days, and warmer too. But that coverage may be stalling some as of the latest image. Warm water is building steadily west of there into the Nino 3.4 region from south of California to the dateline 2-3 degree north and south of the equator, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos area. Warm water continues in.cgiace along the Peruvian coast. Cool water continues holding if not building it's coverage along and west of West Africa. In the past we've used this as a sign of impending Inactive Phase upwelling in the Galapagos area. But that approach works only during normal MJO Phases. Compared to the '97 Super El Nino, today's image indicates the warm water temps pattern is very similar, though slightly stronger over the Nino 3.4 region (impressive). The cold water African signature is also present in the '97 image, though stronger, though 2015 appears to be rapidly catching up. We believe this reverse signal in the Atlantic this year is a good sign, suggesting a global scale atmospheric component to this years event, something not present last year. It is the permanent set up of a Inactive like Phase over West Africa and a semi permanent Active State over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area tracking slowly east, and high pressure locked over Southeast Australia that we are looking for.
TAO data indicates +1.5 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline. There is an embedded area of +2 deg anomalies from 120W into Ecuador and another trying to form south of Hawaii. We continue monitoring for the eastward movement of surface waters, from the dateline east, but that is not evidenced at this time. A key component of the later phases of El Nino is the migration east not only subsurface waters, but also surface waters forced by continued anomalous westerly winds pushing across the dateline.
The most recent hi-res data (6/13) indicates peak temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador are holding while advecting west. A peak station reading at the Galapagos occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had maxed out. But since then, 4.65 deg above normal readings were reported 6/4 and 6/7, besting the previous peak, and then stair stepped up from there, at +4.95 degs 6/10 and up to +5.3 degs on 6/12 and 5.5 degs on 6/14. Temps were holding at +5.3 degs above normal on 6/17. Something far larger is at.cgiay. The hi-res satellite data tells the broader story, specifically the coverage of those waters. See the coverage on May 24 versus June 3 and June 11. That coverage increasing through (6/15) and not limited to the Galapagos area but building down into Peru. No additional coverage was indicated on 6/18. The CDAS Nino 1+2 index spiked at +2.3 degs on 5/23 bottoming out at +0.55 degs June 1, and then climbed back quickly to +2.2 degs on 6/11 and +2.45 degs on 6/14, then down slightly at +2.25 degs on 6/18. The Nino 1.2 area is not of prime concern, and is very volatile and noisy. Though it is the source of much warm water (erupting Kelvin Waves), it is the Nino 3.4 region that is the hallmark indicator of El Nino, covering far more area and therefore having a greater impact on the atmosphere. Think of Nino1.2 as an early indicator only. And as warm water from the second Kelvin Wave impacts the Galapagos, temps should spike again. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps have been falling lately, down from a peak of +1.3 degs 6/9 dipping to 1.1 degs on 6/14 and stabilizing there. One would expect this area to start warming as warming water from Nino 1.2 starts advecting west into the Nino3.4 area.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator under the dateline (160-180W) have cooled a little, or at least tracked east some (as one would expect), still up to +2-3 degs C, the result of a WWB in early May. And more warm water is downwelling from the surface, the result of ongoing westerly anomalies. So the pipe is open. But the big story remains very warm anomalies under the equator in the East Pacific pushing up and east into the Galapagos and Ecuador. As of 6/13 a significant reorganization started. As of 6/16 +5 deg anomalies were impacting the Galapagos Islands.This is the source of the high temps being reported at the surface there. And a large pool of +6 degs anomalies is building centered at 110W with +5 deg anomalies reaching from 138W to Ecuador. The core increased from +5 - +6 in just the past 2 days and then to +7 degs on 6/16. Most impressive. This pocket is a mixture of warm water driven by an extended WWB that occurred Jan-March.cgius water from an additional WWB in early May. The first Kelvin Wave was expected to peak over the Galapagos anywhere from 5/28-6/10. We believe that peak occurred on 5/24 (see surface analysis above). Peak subsurface water temps (anomalies > 4 degs C) expanded their coverage to the west (western extent moving from 137W to 152W - not trivial 6/14) and now are drifting east, at 148W. This suggests there are not weeks but perhaps 2 months of warm water still in the pipe (into 7/28). This expansion of the subsurface warm pool is the result of the second WWB in May now starting to merge with the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-March. And more warm water continues downwelling on the dateline, the result of westerly anomalies that have been in.cgiay since the May WWB in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area to 6/5. This second Kelvin Wave should peak on Aug 1.
This is exactly how the '97 El Nino.cgiayed out, with not individual Kelvin Waves impacting the coast, but a huge pool of warm water developing at this time of year in the East Pacific creating a continuous upwelling of warm water off Ecuador, with continuous westerly anomalies in the KWGA feeding yet more warm water into that subsurface pool for 6+months. This is a significant development.
Satellite data from 6/12 has upgraded again slightly. It depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E with a core now to +15 cm expanding between 110-145W. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with embedded and merging Kelvin Waves forming into a large subsurface reservoir. This is a classic major El Nino setup, not a standard El Nino.
The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (6/12) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 180W and the Ecuador coast (easing east) with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170W eastward (loosing a little ground by moving east). +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 157W. And +2 deg anomalies are holding between the coast and 150W. The first Kelvin Wave has impacted the Ecuador Coast and the next wave of warming is building behind looking every bit as strong. This is a very good sign. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 6/7 continues to improve. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific with strongest velocity filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area over the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. Weaker velocities extended from Hawaii to the Galapagos. This is an expansion from the last update. No easterly current of interest is present. Anomaly wise - moderate west anomalies were in control on the equator over the far West Pacific, reaching over the dateline and south of Hawaii to a point just east of the Galapagos both north and south of the equator. This continues to look like a significant El Nino is setting up but does not compare to west velocities and anomalies that were raging near 170W in the '97 El Nino at this time. In '97 the anomalies and current were more concentrated, suggesting stronger westerly wind anomalies. Looking 30 days ahead (7/5), if any similarities to '97 are to be maintained, strong to massive west to east velocities and anomalies will need to start developing in the next 2 weeks. We're starting to think that is actually possible. This data suggests a defined west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model (PDF Corrected) run 6/18 for the Nino 3.4 region are steady. It suggests water temps are at +1.2 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm into July reaching +1.25 degs C, and continuing to +1.6 degs by Oct peaking at+1.85 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. This is down from the 1.9 deg peak projected a week ago. This suggests we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to a full blown moderate.cgius El Nino, maybe bordering on the strong side. But it is too early to believe just yet. The model overhyped it last year, then the atmospheric picture collapsed in June. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 5 months for a moderate to strong El Nino to develop (including surface warm water currently locked over the dateline), especially of the magnitude projected by the model. The mid-May consensus Plume suggests development of a moderate El Nino with peak temps 1.2-1.5 degs above normal. See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino until Feb 2015, and then very weak at that. Those were in effect primers to help move the atmosphere out of a perpetual La Nina biased pattern that had been in.cgiay for the past 15 years. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in.cgiay with some greater force dictating the pattern (likely the PDO). The focus now becomes whether this warming and teleconnection will persist if not strengthen in 2015. We are now out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier (March-May). June will reveal what is to come, be it a weak El Nino or something stronger. Water temps in the Nino 1.2 region warming solidly and advecting warmer waters west over the entire equatorial Pacific due to the arrival of the first of two Kelvin Wave (see details above). If that warming is sufficient to start the classic El Nino feedback loop, which we suspect is already the case given cooling temps off Africa, then continued westerly anomalies and WWBs should continue through July-Sept and beyond, with a full scale El Nino developing. But if the cool upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The real interesting thing is westerly anomalies and a certified WWB developed in early to mid May over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area creating another Kelvin Wave, much different than what occurred last year. And westerly anomalies, though stalled the past few days, are forecast to resume date. The latest subsurface anomaly charts have pretty much confirmed that too as of 6/2 data with a large reservoir of warm water now lodged just west of the Galapagos and continuously erupting. Per the models the Inactive Phase of the MJO is all but gone over the West Pacific, and surface data from TAO does not indicate any significant impact wind-wise (no east anomalies). And the models are now suggesting a building area of no trades if not light west winds in the equatorial West Pacific in the next 5 days. All this is very positive. But we will remain cautious.
It is do or die time. Either the ocean temps will warm significantly enough to kick off some degree of real El Nino, or it's more Modoki El Nino. But as of right now the scales are tipped much in favor of El Nino. A si.cgie glance a the SST Anomaly charts can tell that. Peak warming from the first big Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-March has hit. Westerly anomalies are holding over the dateline at the surface (regardless what the 850 mb charts and OLR models suggest), complete with previous tropical development north of the equator, suggestive perhaps of developing co.cgiing between the ocean and the atmosphere (in the classic El Nino sense). And east anomalies previously forecast at 850 mbs this week have not developed. Two tropical system in the West Pacific (Noul and Dolphin) have recurved northeast, and early in the season. And two early season hurricanes formed in the East Pacific with Andres topping out at 125 kts (145 mph) and Blanca at 115 kts (133 mph). And Carlos developed behind but weak, not supported by the Active Phase of the MJO. But these are symptoms of previous warm water in that area co.cgied with westerly anomalies over the equator in that area, and not a signal of anything new developing. All the other signals (recurving early forming tropical systems, warm water along the US West Coast, falling SOI etc) all mean nothing unless there are solid WWBs to continuously build sub surface temp anomalies over the Galapagos feeding the Nino3.4 region into November. In other words, the WWB are what drive El Nino. Everything else is symptoms. The focus continues to be the Kelvin Wave Generation Area and the presence of surface westerly anomalies and whether the 1st and 2nd Kelvin Waves targeting Ecuador actual manifest themselves by expanding the area and magnitude of warming surface waters in the Nino 3.4 Area. The real good news the second Kelvin Wave is expanding and organizing better than hoped for, not only starting to fill the East Pacific subsurface reservoir again, but expanding it significantly. The bigger, and warmer the better. This is required for a major El Nino to develop. and we will continue monitoring pressure over East Australia, to assess it's connection to the larger picture.
We are out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the Nino regions have emerged stronger and with much warm water in the subsurface pipe. We are supposedly past the peak of an Inactive MJO phase, and so far there is no surface data to suggest a cessation of westerly anomalies, or at least the development of easterly anomalies. It seems we should be able to make a reasonably confident call by June 15 for the coming Fall, assuming the Inactive Phase of the MJO does not come to fruition. But if it does, and the cool water off Africa is really a signal of something more ominous rather than a symptom of atmospheric co.cgiing, then much of the ground gained so far this year will be lost and we'll be back where we were last year, in Modoki territory. But, given all the data, the odds of that are looking more and more remote. And at this time we're not just thinking about this being a El Nino event, but an upgrade to a major El Nino.
We continue monitoring Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming of East Pacific equatorial waters for Sept-Dec 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours a weak gale is to be pushing under Southern New Zealand with 35-40 kt southwest winds generating near 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 51S 167E lifting northeast along the New Zealand coast Sun AM (6/21) with 28 ft seas at 46S 176E. In the evening 40-45 kt south fetch is to be tracking east generating more 28 ft seas at 50S 179W continuing into Mon AM (6/22) with 28 ft seas at 50S 173W. Fetch to consolidate some in the evening with 45 kt south winds generating 32 ft seas over a tiny area at 46S 172W. A rapid fade to follow.
Another fetch to develop on the edge of Antarctic Ice in the deep Central Pacific Sun AM (6/21) with 50 kt west winds producing 36 ft seas at 62S 144W. Fetch to fade from 40 kts from the west in the evening with 32 ft seas at 62S 137W. Given this system is to be tracking flat west to east, little swell is expected to push northeast towards California. Chile to be the primary target.
And yet a third gale is forecast developing off the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf under New Zealand on Tues (6/23) producing 40-45 kt west winds and 32 ft seas at 61S 178E serving primarily to roughen the oceans surface in preparation for another gale developing right behind on Wed (6/24) with 45 kt southwest winds producing 34 ft seas at 56S 173W. Something to monitor.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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