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.
On Saturday (8/30) in North and Central CA a mix of local north windswell, residual Marie windswell and new small southern hemi background swell was producing surf in the waist high range and textured with westerly bump on it and weak. Cleaner at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high on the sets at the better peaks and clean and lined up but still slow. In Southern California up north it's back to the summertime norm with surf in the thigh to maybe waist high range and clean early but fogged in. Down south waves were waist high with a few chest high sets and clean. But it looks like Marie tore the bottom up pretty good. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with not a breath of wind. The South Shore was still getting a decent dose of southern hemi swell with waves chest high with a few bigger sets to near head high and clean. On the East Shore Marie swell was chest to shoulder high and reasonably clean early.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell production for the North Pacific was limited to locally produced windswell for Hawaii and California. From the southern hemisphere a tiny gale formed southeast of Tahiti on Fri (8/22) with 27 ft seas targeting Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. Swell is still hitting Hawaii and starting to show in CA, expected to hold for the long Labor Day weekend. A primer gale developed southeast of New Zealand on Tues (8/27) tracking northeast with 32 ft seas, but swell from that one will be quickly overtaken by a stronger one that tracked through the South Central Pacific on Wed-Thurs (8/28) with up to 48 ft seas pushing northeast (Swell #3S). And one small secondary fetch developed from that storm in the Southeast Pacific Fri-Sat (8/30) with 32 ft seas over a tiny area aimed north, but minimal in terms of it's swell production capacity. After that the charts settle down with nothing of interest projected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (8/30) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered in the Southwestern Gulf of Alaska ridging east to almost Oregon but was getting cut off by the remnants of Marie circulating off Southern CA. Still a weak 15 kt northerly flow was set up along and just off the entire CA coast. no windswell producing fetch of interest was indicated. Weak low pressure was circulating over the Eastern Aleutians producing no fetch of interest. Trades were below the 15 kt threshold relative to Hawaii too. In short, a very.cgiacid pattern was in control.
Over the next 72 hours Marie is expected to slowly dissipate 1000 nmiles west of Pt Conception by late Mon (9/1). High pressure is to make better inroads along the California coast setting up the usual pressure gradient and north winds over the North and Central CA coast on Sun (8/31) at 20 kts then consolidating over North CA on Mon-Tues (9/2) at 25 kts making for minimal northerly windswell at exposed breaks. Trades relative to Hawaii are to remain suppressed with no meaningful windswell resulting along east facing shores.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Depression Marie - Marie was fading steadily 800 nmiles west-southwest of Southern CA with winds 30 kts while tracking northwest. No additional forecast are being issued by the National Weather Service. No further swell production is anticipated.
Hawaii: Residuals on Sun AM (8/31) fading from 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 260-265 degrees
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (8/30) weak high pressure was trying to ridge into the North CA coast but was mostly being held at bay by the remnants of what was Hurricane Marie still circulating off Southern CA. Still northwest winds at 15 kts was pushing down outer water of the North and Central coasts. North winds to continue at 15-20 kts over North and Central CA pushing to 20+ kts Sunday reaching down to the Channel Islands. On Mon AM (9/1) winds to start fading over Central waters and start consolidating over Northern CA at 25 kts. By Tues (9/2) those 25 kt winds to rapidly retreat to the north isolated to Cape Mendocino with an eddy flow back in control of all of Central and South CA. The gradient is to build to near 30 kts on Wednesday holding Thursday with an eddy flow in control of Central CA. The gradient to fade to 20 kts on Friday, but over a broad area extending north up into the Pacific Northwest wit limited 15 kts winds reaching down over all of Central CA continuing into Saturday. The hope is this short lived north wind event will not cause significant upwelling, keep water temps at near record levels.
Jetstream - On Saturday (8/30) a solid trough continued holding over the Southeast Pacific with 120-130 kts winds flowing up into it offering decent support for gale development there. A ridge was still in control of the far Southeast Pacific and another was under New Zealand. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to moderate and flatten out turning into more of a zonal flow tracking flat west to east on the 55S latitude line offering no real support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere, but not suppressing it either. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast as a zonal flow becomes more established with the whole of the southern branch of the jet gradually falling south down to 60S by the end of the period (9/6). No real support for gale development is expected.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (8/30) swell from a gale that formed southwest of Tahiti last weekend is starting to hit US West Coast while fading over Hawaii (see Small Tahiti Gale below). A primer swell is behind that pushing towards the same targets (see Primer Gale below). And far stronger swell is in the water being generated by a small but strong storm that pushed through the South Central Pacific Wed-Thurs (8/28) (see Strong Small Tahitian Storm - Swell #3S below).
Currently modest high pressure remained stationary over New Zealand at 1028 mbs with the Southwest Pacific still open for storm production. An elongated fetch of 25-30 kt winds was in.cgiace from under New Zealand arching northeast along the southeastern flank of the aforementioned high pressure system reaching to a point 1400 nmiles south of Tahiti. A new gale started developing at the eastern edge of this fetch on Fri AM (8/29) with a small area of 35-40 kt south winds taking shape there. By evening a decent sized fetch of 40-45 kt southerly winds were in.cgiay 1800 nmiles south of Tahiti aimed well to the north-northeast with a small area of 30 ft seas in.cgiay at 48S 150W targeting Tahiti with sideband energy and mainly targeting the Southwest US Coast (198-199 degs CA and unshadowed by Tahiti). This fetch held while lifting northeast Sat AM (8/30) with 32 ft seas at 44S 142W (195-196 degs CA) with a tiny core of embedded 34 ft seas within it. The fetch is to be fading fast in the evening with wind dropping from 40 kts over a small area and seas fading from 30 ft over a small area at 42S 134W (188 degs CA), positioned well north of normal. A small pulse of secondary swell to result for CA following right on the heels of bigger swell expected for the area, merging with it.
Over the next 72 hours continued spattered fetch is forecast at up to 45 kts for 12 hours intervals over the Southeast Pacific with the best likely generating 30 ft seas near 55S 155W on Mon (9/1) aimed east, but gone by Tues AM. Maybe some background swell for California with luck. Otherwise nothing of interest is forecast.
Small Tahitian Gale
A small cutoff gale developed 900 nmiles east of the north coast of New Zealand on Fri PM (8/22) with 35 kt south winds over a tiny area aimed north. Seas built to 24 ft at 41S 161W. A broader area of 30-35 kt south winds continued overnight into Sat AM (8/23) with seas building to 26 ft over a larger area near 38S 161W aimed due north. Fetch continued in the evening but aimed more east with 26 ft seas at 34S 151W or just 1000 nmiles southwest of Tahiti. Additional fetch held into Sun AM with 27 ft seas near 34S 144W (199 depress CA). Swell hit Tahiti on Mon (8/25) and is working its way towards Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Swell holding Fri AM (8/29) at 3.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell fading on Sat (8/30) from 3.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 191 degrees
Southern CA: Sun (8/31) swell to peak at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs early (3.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (9/1) from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 210-220 degrees
North CA: Sun (8/31) swell to peak at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs early (3.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (9/1) from 2.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 215 degrees
On Monday PM (8/25) a new gale formed and tracked northeast from a point south of New Zealand producing 40 kt southwest winds over a modest sized area with seas on the increase. By Tuesday AM (8/26) 40-45 kt southwest winds continued in.cgiay over a reasonably broad area aimed better to the northeast generating a small area of 30 ft seas at 59S 171W (187 degs HI, 205 degs SCal and 204 degs NCal and barely shadowed by Tahiti) pushing well to the northeast. 40 kt southwest winds were over a broad area Tues PM with 32 ft seas lifting northeast at 57S 160W (181 degs HI, 202 degs SCal and 200 degs NCal and east of the shadow). Fetch was fading fast from 30-35 kts Wed AM (8/27) with seas fading from 26 ft at 53S 145W aimed decently to the north (199 degs SCal and 198 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti).
A modest pulse of swell to result for Tahiti, Hawaii, and California.
Hawaii: Swell arrival expected Sun (8/31) with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) in the morning and holding. Swell holding Mon (9/1) at 2.1 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) then fading late. Residuals on Tues (9/2) with swell 2 ft @ 12-13 sec (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 181-187 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) with period 18 secs building to 1.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (3.0 ft) at sunset and getting overrun by stronger swell (below).
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) with period 18 secs building to 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) at sunset and getting overrun by stronger swell (below). Swell Direction: 200-204 degrees
Strong Small Tahitian Storm (Storm #3S)
A storm developed directly on the same path as the previous system under New Zealand getting traction on already roughed up sea surface tracking to the northeast starting Wed AM (8/27) with 55 kt west-southwest winds and 34 ft seas building at 61S 173E just off the Ross Ice Shelf (198 degs HI, 209 degs SCal, 208 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). By Wed PM (8/27) a solid area of 50-55 kt southwest winds were blowing while lifting northeast with seas building to 48 ft at 58.5S 174W (188 degs HI, 207 degrees SCal and 205 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). Winds were fading from 45 kts Thurs AM (8/28) with a solid area of 41 ft seas at 55S 162W (182 degs HI, 203 degs SCal and 202 degs NCal and east of the Tahiti swell shadow). The Jason-2 satellite made a clean pass over the core of the fetch at 18Z and reported average seas 41.2 ft with a peak reading of 48.5 ft, exceeding what the model projected. A rapid fade followed with winds down to 35 kts in the evening and seas fading fast from 34 ft at 50S 153W (201 degs SCal, 199 degs NCal and unshadowed). This system was gone by Fri AM (8/29).
Solid swell to result for all locations though less than expected size for Hawaii given the fact the fetch was tracking well east of the great circle paths up into the Islands. Conversely the fetch was aimed almost right up the great circle paths to California (though shadowed at the peak of the storm by Tahiti).
Tahiti: Expect swell arrival on Sat (8/30) at 8 PM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building steadily. Swell to start peaking near 7 AM Sun (8/31) and holding through 2 PM with pure swell 8.7-9.7 ft @ 18-19 secs (15.7-18.4 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to hold as period drops to 17 secs at sunset. Residuals on Mon (9/1). Swell Direction: 192-198 degrees
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tues late afternoon (9/2) with period 22 secs. Swell building to 2 ft @ 21-22 secs late (4.0-4.5 ft with bigger sets). Swell peaking on Wed (9/3) at 2.6 ft @ 19 secs mid-day (5.0 ft with sets to 6.2 ft). Period down to 18 secs at sunset. Inconsistent. Swell holding on Thurs (9/4) at 2.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.6 ft with sets to near 6 ft). Swell fading from 15 secs on Fri (9/5). Swell Direction: 182-188 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) near 5 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building pushing 1.7 ft @ 20-21 secs late (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Period turning to 19 secs Fri AM (9/5) and swell getting solid near mid-day with swell 2.8 ft @ 18-19 secs (5 ft with sets to 6.4 ft). Solid swell expected Sat (9/6) at 3.8 ft @ 17-18 secs (6.6 ft with sets to 8.3 ft). Swell fading Sun (9/7) with swell 3.7 ft at 16-17 secs early (6.1 ft with sets to 7.6 ft). Swell Direction: 204-207 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) near 8 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building pushing 1.3 ft @ 21-22 secs late (2.5-3.0 ft). Period turning to 19 secs mid Fri AM (9/5) with swell getting solid mid-day at 2.8 ft @ 19 secs (5 ft within sets to 6.5 ft). Solid swell expected Sat (9/6) at 3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.8 ft with sets to 7.3 ft). Swell fading Sun (9/7) with swell 3.3 ft at 17 secs early (5.6 ft with sets to 7.0 ft). Swell Direction: 201-205 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 high pressure is to continue ridging into the Pacific Northwest during the coming workweek (9/1-9/4) resulting in north winds at 25 kts over Cape Mendocino through Sat (9/6) and if anything building there next weekend. Some degree of north windswell is expected to result for exposed breaks in North and Central CA for the next 7 days. For Hawaii, trades are to remain suppressed with no windswell of interest forecast along east facing shores. A broad but ill defined low pressure system is to start developing on the dateline Wed (9/3) perhaps generating 20-25 kt north winds targeting Hawaii then lifting north over the Central Aleutians on Sat (9/6). Maybe some windswell to result for Hawaii with luck.
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).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Saturday (8/30) the daily SOI was down to -26.04. The 30 day average was down to -10.01 and the 90 day average was down some at -5.28. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. A series of weak low pressure systems are forecast developing near Tahiti through Wed (9/3) and falling southeast likely holding the SOI somewhat negative. But then high pressure and a rising SOI is projected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated light west anomalies were over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline. Neutral anomalies extended from there to a point south of Hawaii then continuing neutral on to the Galapagos. Weak westerly anomalies continued in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) from the dateline to Hawaii fading at 140W. A week from now (9/7) light to modest east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading west of the dateline, then turning neutral on the dateline continuing to the Galapagos. Neutral winds to take hold of the ITCZ too, likely shutting down tropical development there. Looking at the trend over the past few months there has not been a extended period of trades so far this year, and we're over 243 days into the year. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25 holding through 7/6, then turning neutral. But by 7/11 light west anomalies redeveloped holding through 7/20. A legitimate Westerly Wind Burst then formed and held through 8/10, then weakened with neutral anomalies through 8/18, turning light westerly 8/20-8/22. Latest data from the TAO array indicates light west anomalies were trying to get established on 8/29 west of the dateline. Another Kelvin Wave (weak at this point) is developing. Compared to La Nina where enhanced trades (20+ kts) would be blowing non-stop, we're in great shape and have been all year. It would be hard to make a case stating El Nino was not in.cgiay at this point.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
Previously a series of WWBs occurred 1/8-4/20 creating a large Kelvin Wave that impacted Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru, May and June. This was very similar situation that led up to the big El Nino's of '82/32 and '97/98. But in those instances the WWBs and Kelvin Wave generation progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months. An article presenting a Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and this 2014 WWB event has been posted here. A second analysis from 5/28 is posted here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/29 are generally in sync. They both suggest an almost neutral pattern was in control biased slightly Inactive just east of the Philippines getting no real traction. 5 days out it is to be fading more and gone 8 days out per the Statistic model with a weak Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean and pushing into the far West Pacific 15 days out while building. The Dynamic model has the very small and weak version of the Inactive Phase holding steady for the next 15 days.This Dynamic model, while conservative,. has been steadily backing off it's projection for Inactive Phase development, good news. The ultra long range upper level model run 8/30 suggests a weak Inactive Phase was quickly fading over the Central Pacific with most energy from it in the far East Pacific now. It is to ease east and dissipate over Central America 9/9 while a weak Active Phase starts building in the West Pacific starting 9/4 tracking east through through 10/4 with a modest Inactive Phase behind it. Recent experience this year suggests this model overhypes any Inactive Phase. The suspicion is this model does not work well in an El Nino situation. We're looking for a very weak MJO pattern biased Active if an El Nino were developing. This is what happened during July, even though the model suggested an Inactive Phase was to develop. And that is what happened in August. This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some impact on the atmosphere above. 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 (8/28), a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, and looking nearly identical to the peak of the Kelvin Wave eruptions in late June, just a little more ragged. It's actually holding up way better than expected. Some limited cool water is depicted along the immediate Peruvian Coast, but even that has retreated compared to a few days ago. TOA data suggest neutral water temps are building from 100W to 150W, but the satellite data and hi res data does not depict it. No real cool water remains in the Nino 3.4 region with warm anomalies over the entire area. +1.0 deg C anomalies remain over the dateline, the start of a new Kelvin Wave. Even though the bulk of the massive Kelvin Wave earlier this year has dispersed, at least at this moment, another source of warm water is in.cgiay. Perhaps trades are dying there, like most everywhere else in the North Pacific, enabling the sun to provide warming to the top most layer. Still, reinforcements are preferred, but are not coming immediately. Water temps off Peru are the proverbial tail of the dog, while Westerly Wind Bursts are the nose. The issue remains getting more warm water into the pipe to eventually erupt near the Galapagos.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California as would be expected this time of year. And serious warm water is entrenched along the California coast and building in coverage, the exact opposite of the trend of the past 3+ years. Waters temps in San Francisco are 62 degrees and holding solid. Very rare. But this is expected if El Nino were in.cgiay. This is significant in that is suggests the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weakened relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is mostly normal/neutral except for cool water streaming off Southern Chile pushing west reaching up to the equator just south of Hawaii. But even the areal coverage of that pocket is in decline, suggesting a warm regime is getting the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific remains most impressive, while the South Pacific is starting to trend in the same direction.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are on the rebound. Residual warm subsurface water from the previous Kelvin Wave dissipated on 7/31. Temps from it peaked at +6 degs C above normal on 6/21. As of 8/30 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was arching from the dateline down then pushing up towards the Galapagos. This is great news indicating the pipe is open and modest warm waters are pushing east - the next Kelvin Wave. Satellite data from 8/26 depicts a solid and building area of +5 cm anomalies are covering the dateline region and tracking east reaching to 115W, suggestive of a Kelvin Wave in flight. Subsurface models depict a building pocket of solid +2 deg anomalies in.cgiace under the dateline per the TAO array and building in coverage while easing east suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave is in.cgiay and pushing east. Some models depict peak temps there at +3 degs. Regardless, they all suggest the Kelvin wave is pushing east, as is the satellite height anomaly data. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (8/26) indicates a new Kelvin Wave is developing in the west reaching east to 120W, with the cool upwelling Phase of the previous Kelvin Wave all but gone except east of 115W. As the last of the cool water anomalies are squeezed out of the 'pipe' over the Galapagos, and light westerly anomalies continue, they will feed more warm water into the building Kelvin Wave. One more solid Kelvin Wave is required to warm waters to the El Nino threshold. But even without that, it appears some other process is in.cgiay favoring warm water accumulation in the Galapagos region. At this time we are over the proverbial 'hump'. And when the developing Kelvin Wave arrives at the Galapagos 2-3 months later (~Sept 30), more warm water will reinforce the existing warm pool theoretically pushing things well into El Nino territory. That cannot be declared until it happens, but everything is lining up.
Pacific Counter Current data is again available. Data as of 8/27 suggests things are continuing to improve. The current is pushing west to east over the entire West and Central Pacific north of the equator on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. A patch of strong west current was on the equator between 135E-160E in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Easterly current was on the equator from 130-150W but exceedingly weak and loosing ground, with strong west anomalies from 135W into the Galapagos. This is great news and suggests the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave is over. The situation is vastly improved from June and July during the height of the current upwelling phase and continues to improve with each update. As of right now it appears the westerly current is building and overtaking the easterly component. We assume it is all tied to continued westerly winds in the West Pacific reaching over the dateline over the next 30-45 days. Westerly anomalies are forecast to continue....
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 8/30 have stabilized but downward some, suggesting water temps building to +0.6 deg C by early Oct peaking at +1.0 deg C in Dec (down from the +1.75 deg C predicted in May and then revised down to +1.55 deg C predicted in early July) holding into May 2015, then presumably fading. Interestingly this model actually depicts warm waters dissipating in the Nino1+2 regions in August then redeveloping in the Nino 3.4 regions in Sept and gaining momentum and areal coverage while building back into Nino1.2 into Jan-Feb 2015 link.
Analysis: A massive Kelvin Wave was generated by successive Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April and erupted in the Galapagos region late June and is now dispersed. The WWB ended on 5/1 with the last of the warm water from it arriving 3 months later over the Galapagos on 8/1. At one point it looked like neutral water temps would be taking over the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle with no immediate Kelvin Wave reinforcements projected. But instead a persistent warm water temp regime stabilized there, and not much different temperature-wise from what it was at the peak of Kelvin Wave impact. And renewed WWB and west anomalies developed in the West Pacific (starting 6/28) with a new Kelvin wave at +2 degs C in flight now. But that Kelvin Wave is not expected to reach the Galapagos till 9/28. So there's a 8 week 'hole' with no significant warm water to resu.cgiy the Ecuador triangle between 8/1 and 9/28. We had been thinking this would cause water temps to decease in the Nino1+2 regions, likely to near neutral. But that has not happened. Instead water temps are holding in the Galapagos triangle in the +1.5 degree range. Some other process is at work keeping water temp stable in the Galapagos region (as of 8/28).
Assuming westerly anomalies continue in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (west of the dateline), more warm water will migrate east. This is a reasonable assumption seeing how there has been virtually no easterly anomalies for the first 8 months of this year. And trades tend to weaken during Fall months in the northern hemi, meaning we're just now starting to reach the point in time where Westerly Wind Bursts should have the best support for development. All data suggests we're at the end of the 'upwelling' Phase of the Kelvin Wave. It's normal after a downwelling Kevin Wave impacts the Ecuador coast, especially a massive one like just experienced, that some period of upwelling (cooling) occurs. And for that to be true, the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle would be facilitated by a lack of westerly winds in the West Pacific (as what occurred during May and June). Most El Nino's do not develop till the Fall, including the Super El Nino of '83/83. Only a few (namely the '97 Super El Nino) developed and survived strong through the summer and over the span of an entire year. A more 'normal' development life cycle would favor the alternating 'downwelling/upwelling' Kelvin Wave cycle. See currently Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here. Notice the alternating eastward migrating 'cool' and 'warm' cycles (upwelling/downwelling Kelvin Waves).
The CFSv2 model depicts exactly this scenario.cgiaying out, with water temps in Nino1.2 fading in August then redeveloping in September, exactly filling the 'hole' scenario described above. The redevelopment of westerly winds started in July and is hoped to continue into at least August if not beyond, resulting in a new Kelvin Wave. All evidence at this time suggests this is the case. Monitoring surface wind anomalies in the West Pacific remains critical to determining the future of this years potential El Nino pattern.
And finally, there's the 'feedback loop' consideration. We suspect it might already be in.cgiay. The largest argument in favor of that is the total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of mult.cgie tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline. And the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific is most telling. And then that pulse was followed by another pulse off Mexico (818-8/28). The only argument against the feedback loop is the development of a west moving Pacific Counter Current, a dissipating Kelvin Wave and the degradation of peak water temps in the Ecuador triangle and only a neutral 90 day SOI (rather than a negative one). But all these could just be symptoms of the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Only once the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied on a global level (that is, the ocean has imparted enough heat into the atmosphere to start changing the global jetstream pattern) can one begin to have confidence that a feedback loop is developing and a fully matured El Nino can result. About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. We have reach that threshold. As of 8/28, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in.cgiace were fading out. Instead the SOI was steadily trending negative, the Pacific Counter Current is again starting to trend westerly, and a new Kelvin Wave is building with slightly warmer water already priming the subsurface channel. Assuming the arguments against co.cgiing were all associated with the upwelling Kelvin Wave phase, then one can conclude the ocean and atmosphere are now linked/teleconnected. Considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, it seem hard to believe that at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had been developing since perhaps as early and Oct of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). Monitoring the number, location and track of tropical systems in the North Pacific over the next few weeks will help to sort things out, as will monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which is now starting to looks much better as of 8/19) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which is nonexistent) is key. But at this time odds continue stacking in favor of a global teleconnection now being established. If that's true, deepening of the ENSO cycle could begin in the next month or so, and perhaps rapidly once it starts.
But for now we'll remain cautious. Overall the immediate outlook remains unchanged, but potentially trending towards something that would be considered warm by Sept 2014. At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Regardless of the WWBs etc, we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern at this time with neither any form of El Nino in.cgiay. But given all current signs, atmospheric transition appears to be underway, and hopefully intensifying into Fall. Still this is a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. And it seems apparent we've recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. We've turned the corner, but we'll remain cautious and not say to much yet, especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours the models suggest a pair of weak gales are to track east under New Zealand on Fri (9/5) with 26 ft seas and then again on Sat (9/6) with 32 ft seas over a tiny area. No real swell to result. A far quieter pattern is taking shape.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table