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.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 6.3 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 3.7 ft @ 8.9 secs from 150 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.3 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.3 ft @ 16.0 secs. Wind east 8-10 kts. Water temperature 70.3 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.5 ft @ 15.6 secs from 233 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.4 ft @ 15.9 secs from 205 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.6 ft @ 15.7 secs from 193 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 3.2 ft @ 15.9 secs with swell 1.5 ft @ 15.9 secs from 204 degrees. Wind southeast 6 kts. Water temp 62.6 degs.
Buoy 46059 is scheduled to come back on-line in October.
Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.
On Tuesday (10/6) in North and Central CA local north windswell and background southern hemi swell combo was producing surf in the waist high range and clean event at exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high plus on the sets at top breaks and clean and fun looking when it comes. In Southern California up north southern hemi background swell was producing was in the waist high range but trashed by north wind. Down south surf was waist high or so and lined up but pretty ragged from north winds.Hawaii's North Shore was getting Gulf windswell with waves in the chest to head high range but trashed by northeast wind. The South Shore was getting nice southern hemi swell with waves shoulder high on the sets and clean and lined up. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell with waves shoulder high and heavily chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific things were quiet for the moment with no swell producing gales occurring. Wind was light along the California coast offering no real windswell potential. But local northeast winds were blowing over the Hawaiian Islands at 15 kts making for some chopped windswell along east shores. A solid Westerly Wind Burst was still in control of the equatorial West and Central Pacific spawning two tropical systems: minimal typhoon Choi-Wan in the west and minimal hurricane Oho east-southeast of Hawaii. Oho hold some hope for generating swell for California, but Choi-Wan is doomed to move into Siberia. And three small southern hemi swells were tracking northeast, one from a gale previously under New Zealand, the second from a larger gale southeast of New Zealand, and the third from a solid storm under New Zealand last weekend that produced 53 ft seas.
Looking at the forecast charts Typhoon Oho is to race north-northeast putting 26 ft seas in the California swell window by Thurs (10/8) then move inland over Vancouver Island on Friday while a gale tries to organize in the Gulf of Alaska generating 24-26 ft seas targeting the US West Coast north of Pt Conception. Perhaps a stronger gale to organize over the northern dateline region mid-next week. But overall we're still waiting for the North Pacific to really activate. Down south the New Zealand storm corridor is to remain active, with a modest gale tracking under New Zealand on Thurs-Fri (10/9) generating 37 ft seas aimed east and hints of more behind it but nothing on the charts just yet. And El Nino remains front-and-center in our focus with a WWB in-flight, slowly erupting Kelvin Wave #3 mainly west of the Galapagos and hints of a stronger WWB to come.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tues AM (10/6) the jet was a bit split over Siberia then pushed off Japan ridging north and consolidating off the Kurils with winds 160 kts turning east and tracking south of the central Aleutians. From there it fell into a decent trough over the Gulf of Alaska before moving into land over Washington state. There was some support for low pressure development in the Gulf, but nothing noteworthy. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to get steadily better defined with 170 kt winds flowing well down into it bottoming out down at 40N or 1200 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii on Fri (10/9) with winds building to 180 kts. Good support for gale development possible. Back to the west a split flow is to continue over Siberia but consolidating just east of Kamchatka, with the consolidated energy feeding into the Gulf trough. Beyond 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold, but with the Gulf trough loosing some energy and lifting north some while a new pocket of 160 kt winds start build off Kamchatka Mon (10/12). Those winds are to start spilling into the Gulf trough but becoming quickly pinched off on Tues (10/13). Also a interesting cut-off upper low is forecast developing over Southern Baja on Fri (10/9), really the remnants of a backdoor trough that was over California last weekend. This upper low is to retrograde northwest up the California coast into the middle of next week. Maybe some weak weather to result. Overall, then jet is to be getting steadily stronger.
On Tues AM (10/6) a light swell pattern was in effect with no real energy in the water originating from the North Pacific. Remnants of a Gale were still circulating 1500 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii but generating no fetch of interest, but poised to tap jetstream energy. Two tropical systems were in-flight (see Tropical Update below). High pressure was not in play relative to California with a light winds pattern in play offering no windswell generation potential. But high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging southeast from the dateline generating a fetch of northeast winds pushing over Hawaii at 15-20 kts and interacting with Hurricane Oho, generating northeast local windswell for exposed shores there.
Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system is to retreat while Oho races north-northeast targeting California (see Tropical Update) while a pre-existing low start tapping jetstream energy and developing Thurs (10/8) in the Gulf. A fetch of 30+ kt northwest winds to build in the morning and pushing 35 kts in the evening getting traction on the oceans surface and turning more westerly while driving towards the US West Coast with seas to 18 ft later. By Fri AM (10/9) 40 kt west winds are forecast off the North CA coast with 25 ft seas at 40N 150W targeting all of California. Fetch is to start fading in coverage and turning more to the northeast in the evening with seas to 29 ft at 45N 141W targeting mainly Vancouver Island though sideband energy to still be targeting Central California northward. Decent odds for swell to result. regardless, this system is to be moving into British Columbia Saturday afternoon (10/10).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
A solid Westerly Wind Burst continued over the equatorial West Pacific supporting tropical storm formation. The WWB started in earnest on Thurs (10/1). The following systems are a result of it's influence:
Typhoon Choi-Wan: On Tues AM (10/6) this system was heading almost due north 600 nmiles east of Iwo To or 750 nmiles southeast of Tokyo Japan with winds 70 kts and accelerating. This system to peak out Tues PM (10/6) with winds 75 kts then loosing strength while tracking north over cooler water. By Thurs AM 910/8) Choi-Wan is to be just shy of impacting the Southern Kuril Islands with winds 55 kts (tropical storm force). The GFS model has this system becoming land locked west of the Kurils Friday (10/9). High pressure over the dateline is to prevent it from recurving northeast. This system is to die west of the Kurils. No swell production forecast for our forecast area.
Hurricane Oho: On Tues AM (10/6) this system was 450 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii with winds 65 kts (minimal hurricane status) heading northeast. It is to slowly turn more to the north-northeast and strengthen into Wed AM (10/8) with winds peaking at 70 kts while accelerating off to the north-northeast. On Thurs AM (10/8) Oho is to be at 30N 143W or 1,100 nmiles southwest of San Francisco on the 260 degree track there with winds 65 kts (still minimal hurricane force) with seas 26 ft at that location. 6 hours later it is to be at 35N 139W or barely on the 266 degree track to SF with seas 23 ft. It is to be impacting Vancouver Island Fri AM (10/9). Maybe some 13-14 sea period swell is to be reaching California on Sat AM (10/10) from 260 degrees if all goes as forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sat (10/3) high pressure was ridging south from the Eastern Gulf over Cape Mendocino generating a pressure gradient and north winds at 30 kts down to Pt Arena with light winds over Central CA. The gradient is to start fading rapidly Sun AM with a weak upper low over south Central CA setting up offshore winds at 5 kts for most of Central CA with a light flow up into the north part of the state. A light south flow is forecast taking over all coastal waters Monday through Wednesday with perhaps higher pressure to get a toe in the door over Pt Conception on Thursday setting up north winds there at 15-20 kts with light north winds up into Monterey Bay. But low pressure is to be in the Gulf of Alaska through the weekend with high pressure remaining not much of a factor.
On Tues AM (9/29) small swell from a New Zealand Gale was hitting Hawaii bound for California (see Small New Zealand Gale - First Swell below). A second stronger storm tracked across the deep Southwest Pacific generating seas of interest (see Southwest Pacific Gale - Second Swell below). And yet a third stronger system tracked under New Zealand on Sat AM (10/3) but much further away (see New Zealand Storm - Third Swell below).
Over the next 72 hours a series of weak low pressure systems are forecast flowing under New Zealand to the east. One system on Fri AM (10/9) is to generate a small area of 45-50 kt west winds and seas to 38 ft at 57S 172E. Fetch to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 35 ft at 57S 179E. 35-40 kt west winds to hold on into Sat AM (10/10) producing 32 ft seas at 58S 177W. This system is to be gone after that. Yet one more small swell might result.
Small New Zealand Gale (First Swell)
A gale formed while tracking under New Zealand Mon PM (9/28) producing 45 kt west-southwest winds and seas building from 32 ft at 60S 170E. On Tues AM (9/29) the fetch was covering a solid area at 40 kts all from the west with seas building to 33 ft at 59S 180W. By evening fetch was fading fast with seas dropping from 29 ft at 58S 165W. Sideband swell is likely for Tahiti and maybe minimal energy for Hawaii but the extreme east to almost southeast fetch heading is not favorable for solid swell propagation to the northeast.
Hawaii: Swell arrived as expected on Tues (10/6) building to 1.5 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell to continue Wed (10/7) fading from 1.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
California: Expect swell arrival Thurs (10/8) building to 1.8 ft @ 18 secs (3.0 ft). Swell holding Fri (10/9) at 2.2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Sat (10/10) from 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction 200 degrees
Southwest Pacific Gale (Second Swell)
Another small but stronger system developed in the deep Southwest Pacific on Wed AM (9/30) producing a tiny area of 55 kt west winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Wed PM 50 kt west winds were tracking flat east generating 40 ft seas over a tiny area at 61S 174W on the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf (189 degs HI, 205 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti, 206 degs SCal and not shadowed). This system tracked east Thurs AM (10/1) with 40-45 kt southwest winds starting to fade resulting in 39 ft seas at 59S 162W (182 degs HI, 201 degs NCal, 202 degs SCal). Winds to be fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 31 ft at 57S 150W. Better odds for swell from this one targeting mainly Chile and Peru with sideband energy up into California and far less size for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed AM (10/7) with swell 0.8 ft @ 19 secs late (1.5 ft). Swell holding Thurs (10/8) at 0.9 ft @ 16-17 secs (1.5 ft). Swell dissipating after that. Swell Direction: 180-190 degrees
South California: Expect swell arrival on Fri AM (10/9) with period 20 secs and size building, pushing 2.3 ft @ 19 secs late (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell building Sat AM (10/10) with period 18 secs and peaking at 2.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.5 ft) holding into late Saturday afternoon as period hits 17 secs. Swell fading Sun AM (10/11) from 2.8 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft). Residuals Monday (10/12) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 201-206 degrees.
North California: Expect swell arrival on Fri AM (10/9) with period 20 secs and size building, pushing 2.0 ft @ 19 secs late (4.0 ft). Swell building Sat AM (10/10) with period 18 secs and peaking at 2.1 ft @ 17-18 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) holding into late Saturday afternoon as period hits 17 secs. Swell fading Sun AM (10/11) with swell 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Residuals Monday (10/12) fading from 1.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 200-205 degrees.
New Zealand Storm (Third Swell)
A stronger but small storm developed south of Tasmania on Fri AM (10/2) producing 55 kt west winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. This system moved southwest of New Zealand on Fri PM (10/2) with 60-65 kt west winds over a small area generating a tiny area of 55 ft seas at 54.5S 154E (221 degs CA, shadowed by NZ relative to HI). By Sat AM (10/3) 50 kt southwest winds were positioned directly south of New Zealand generating 49 ft seas at 54.5S 166E (200 degs HI, 217 degs CA - shadowed by Tahiti in SCal). Fetch was fading from 40 kts over a decent sized area Sat PM with seas fading from 43 ft at 56S 177E (192 degs HI, 211 degs CA and shadowed by Tahiti for SCal). This system to be gone by Sun AM (10/4) with seas fading from 35 ft at 57S 172W. Some decent long period swell should result for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast.
California: Expect swell arrival on Mon (10/12) before sunrise with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell pushing 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (3 ft). Swell continuing up peaking likely near sunrise on Tues (10/13) with period 18 secs. Swell 1.7 ft @ 18 secs (3.0 ft). Swell starting to fade Wed AM at sunrise (10/14) with period dropping from 16-17 secs. Swell Direction: 220 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 residual low pressure is to continue over the Gulf of Alaska with perhaps a secondary fetch of 35 kt west-southwest winds developing off North CA on Sat (10/10) building to 40 kts off Oregon Sun AM (10/11) resulting in 23 ft seas near 45N 139W and building while racing northeast. 30 ft seas are in the evening off Vancouver Island at 49N 132W. Maybe some sideband swell to result for North CA and certainly for the Pacific Northwest.
Also a gale is forecast developing east of Kamchatka Tues (10/13) generating 40 kt west winds and almost 30 ft seas at 48N 173E pushing east. Something to monitor.
Beyond 72 hours no clearly defined swell producing weather systems are forecast.
Details to follow...
NOAA Posts Sept Monthly Data
All Indices Improving
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 planet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split 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).Explanation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric coupling analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.
Overview: A strong El Nino is developing. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Sat (10/3):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate to strong west winds (not anomalies) from 165E-160W mostly north of the equator but some fetch south of there. West winds at 15 kts were at 5 N in the Western KWGA and also to 18 kts in the eastern portion of that area. Anomalies continued strong from the west from 162E to 150W on and north of the equator with some anomalies just south of it and north of the equator also extending east to 120W. This situation started improving on Thurs (10/1) and continues today indicating a Westerly Wind burst is in full effect. This pattern has been in control in some form since 9/2, intensified some 9/17 and holding, and then intensified again on 10/1. This pattern has been locked over the eastern half of the KWGA, which is a normal configuration as El Nino matures. Previously, west anomalies were steady for a 29 day window (7/19-8/19) and followed directly behind a very strong WWB burst (third of the year) that was associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) 6/24-7/17 (nearly 2 months of west anomalies or stronger). Starting 9/2 a steady Westerly Wind anomaly pattern set up from 160E over the dateline intensifying some 9/17 and is holding through today. Most impressive.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies if not west winds started building on 10/1 at 175W and points east of there and are forecast to hold at least to 10/12 while easing west to 150E. The GFS model depicts west winds at 5N from the east and west corners of the KWGA up into the InterTropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) into Wed (10/7),then the whole fetch is to start falling south. By Fri (10/9) 18 kt west wind to be over the north KWGA from 150E-175W and building with a nice core of 20 kt west winds near 155E Sat-Mon (10/12) with follow-on 15 kt fetch west of there into Tues (10/13). In short this situation looks like a full-on WWB though limited some in terms of coverage to the northern KWGA. But it is to be clearly in the required area if all goes as forecast. Elsewhere in the KWGA a slack wind pattern is to continue (which is effectively west anomalies). This remains a great and improving situation. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast. The thought is these anomalies are continuing to push warm water from the West Pacific to depth and though not generating a distinct Kelvin Wave, are filling the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos.
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 after that through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern (the first such event of the year), then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB, the strongest of the year so far, starting on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 then held nicely through 7/17 (22 days), the result of a historically strong Active Phase of the MJO which produced a strong and large Kelvin Wave, the third this year and the strongest by far. Moderate westerly anomalies redeveloped 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continued through 8/19. That is nearly 2 months of non-stop anomalies if not out and out west winds (6/26-8/19). From 8/19-8/25 lesser westerly anomalies occurred and those were mainly east of the KWGA, with dead neutral anomalies in the West KWGA. West anomalies started rebuilding on 8/26 and turned to legit west winds up at 9N on 9/3 and held in some fashion up there into 9/29 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper. And now strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. We certainly have had a lot of that so far this year.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections: As of 10/3:
OLR Models: Indicate an dead neutral signal over the equatorial dateline region typical of a maturing El Nino. Both the Statistic and Dynamic model suggests an Inactive pattern over the far West Pacific with no MJO pattern over the dateline and east of there and that is to hold for for the next 15 days. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of weak 'MJO-like' signal over the Indian Ocean. forecast. The GEFS suggests a very weak Active Phase holding there over the next 2 weeks while the ECMF is less optimistic, depicting it starting and fading in the Indian Ocean, and never developing fully. In reality, this is likely not the MJO, but likely an enhanced El Nino base state westerly wind burst starting now.
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a weak Inactive Phase in the far West Pacific tracking east. In reality, this pattern has been on the charts for weeks now and consistently fails to materialize. It is suspected the stronger El Nino base state is in control, but exhibits an Inactive-like MJO pattern over the far West Pacific, with an Active-like pattern over the dateline and points east of there, but not moving. The model thinks it's a real Inactive Phase in a normal year in the West Pacific and tries to move it east. Clearly that is not the case. We are ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): A push of the supposed Active Phase of the MJO is occurring now and is to ease east and build into 10/20 enhanced even now in the East Pacific by a Rossby Wave and building through 10/20 over and just west of the dateline. A strong WWB is forecast resulting starting 10/14 and that is in addition to the WWB already occurring. This projected WWB is to rival the strong WWB of late June/early July that made massive Kelvin Wave #3. As if the existing westerly wind situation on the dateline isn't nice, this is even better. We don't believe this is an Active Phase per say, but instead an El Nino fueled Westerly Wind event (that manifests on the EOF charts like an Active MJO). Regardless, solid westerly anomalies a re forecast into early Nov, fading some as an Inactive Phase takes over 11/7-11/30. Still west anomalies are to continue unabated. Perhaps another Active Phase to develop behind that starting 12/15 continuing into January, but we don't believe that. Regardless west anomalies are to hold while slowly easing east centered near 150W by 12/30, suggesting the coming end of El Nino generation. The El Nino base state is now the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are entering the core of the EL Nino cycle (Oct-Dec) The question is, will another Kelvin Wave result or will the anomalies at least continue to fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into Dec? We think probably so. Is it possible this El Nino might last longer than previously expected? Too early to tell but we think not. The core westerly anomalies to start collapsing to the east by Jan 1 and out of the KWGA, meaning the warm water conveyor to the east is to shut down at that time, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay. At a minimum, three more months of west anomalies are forecast (per the model). Tropical systems have the best chance of constructively interfering (enhancing) westerly anomalies from here forward. We're on autopilot now. It doesn't get any better than this unless you're back in 1997.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (10/5) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 139W making some limited head way. The 28 deg Isotherm reaches east to 127W (easing east). Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 150W eastward (easing east), the direct effect of the massive June-July WWB and non-stop westerly anomalies ever since. A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal temps is starting to erupt into the Galapagos. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +6 degs anomalies centered at 110W (steady) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 143W to Ecuador (building west - impressive). This pocket is a mixture of warm water from a WWB in early May merging with water from the most recent strong WWB in late June-July and more warm water moving in from the dateline. The pipe is wide open. And warm warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline and into this reservoir. Warm waters appears to be erupting west of the Galapagos per the hi-res subsurface animation (9/30) at 100w and 105W at +4C with +3 deg C surface movement of the warm pool 145W-->100W (expanding).
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (9/30) It is holding depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170E (expanding). Peak anomalies were +15 cm extending from 115W to 140W (shrinking). +5 cm anomalies are pushing into Ecuador. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight. This is a classic major El Nino setup.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: As of (9/30) it indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 178E and the Galapagos (expanding west). +1.0-1.5 degs are easing east from 154W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same tracking east from 148W. A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 140W-->92W (expanding west slightly). The previous large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies that covered 20 degrees of distance shrunk to 10 degrees on the 9/25 update and now are no longer in the picture. 1.5-2.0 anomalies are pushing into Ecuador. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #3 is underway in earnest now. And there's a little pocket of 1.0-1.5 deg anomalies depicted out at 170W, the possible start of Kelvin Wave #4. This is possibly very good news.
A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. And now a third is erupting, but somewhat westward displaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. Still the volume and temps of warm water east of the Galapagos is not as strong as one would expect. The subsurface configuration suggests there are 2.5+ months of warm water in this reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). The peak was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4 in the Nino 1.2 region but we are revising that to 11/4 now given stalling effect the Upwelling Phase had. And westerly anomalies continue in the KWGA pushing more warm water to depth. Still, the fact that this massive Kelvin Wave is not having a more marked impact on surface temps is perplexing. Is this third Kelvin Wave the final one, or will another follow? Or maybe just a continued replenishment of the warm pool will continue for the next month or more driven by El Nino fueled westerly anomalies. We all hope the answer is more is on the way. But that is entirely dependent upon how strong the El Nino base state really is. All data suggests this is a good setup, but not manifesting itself in a robust or aggressive manner. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and underwhelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, though slow, is marked and historically strong. But if a WWB develops as forecast, then the situation will change for the better.
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.
Low-res: (10/5) Overall the picture is solid and unchanged in the past week or so. Warmer waters are building up into Central America and south into Peru and filling the Nino3.4 region nicely. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water now depicted from Ecuador to 130W (wave-like pulses). And the pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting more concentration compared to previous days data. The overall signature is the strongest of any point so far this year and of any time since mid-July 1997. Compared to '97, 2015 anomalies are warmer in the Nino3.4 region, but have less concentration and coverage in Nino1.2. Surprisingly coverage south of the equator is growing and trying to build south down the Peruvian coast, not quite on par with '97 but favorably building. Overall, the current expansion of water temps is impressive. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there but continues to loose some ground in the past month. This is not a worry at this point in the cycle. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and is holding and extending west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Slightly cool water is over North Australia extending north of New Guinea to the dateline (Maritime Continent), typical of a strong El Nino. The cool wake of previous tropical systems have all but faded off Japan and the Philippines. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (10/5) Temps have not built in coverage the past 2 days, but have built in concentration. +2.5 anomalies fill the Ecuador-Galapagos region with a small stream of +4.0 anomalies between Ecuador and the Galapagos. A tiny cool pocket is almost gone north of the Galapagos. We're starting to see aggressive warming here as compared to west of the Galapagos, a good sign and suggests that the Kelvin Wave eruption area, though westward displaced, is starting to backfill to the east. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since. Given its been 2.5 months, and warming has not redeveloped to previous levels, displacement still remain an explanation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (10/5) Anomalies are on the increase the past 4 days, rebounding from a low of +3.1 degrees on 10/1 to 3.8 degrees today (10/5). This most recent crash was attributable to the tiny cool pocket just east of the Galapagos. But that is fading fast now. Previously a solid reading occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had arrived, then built to +5.45 degs on 6/14. Temps faded from that high peak down to +4.1 degs in late June then rebuilt up to +4.94 on 7/17. Then a fade set in, down to +3.1 degs as of 7/31 and bouncing from +3.1-3.5 through 8/7, then falling dramatically to +2.0 on 8/10 and held at +2.1-2.3 degrees 8/14-8/19. Temps built to +2.7-3.2 8/22-8/27 and up to +3.5 on 9/5 then down to +3.2 degs on 9/9. A dramatic rise started 9/12 pushing up to +5.3 on 9/16 flirting with peak temps received back in 6/14 (+5.5). But a bit of a fade occurred 9/17 down to +4.5 falling to 3.8 degs on 9/23 then anomalies stabilized at +4.0 degs. A quick look at the Nino1.2 hi-res imagery explains the situation, with the last little pocket of the upwelling phase cooler waters moving into the East Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (10/5): Warming is the name of the game now with no cool pockets indicated. Modest warming was occurring over the entire stretch from Ecuador to the dateline in pockets.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (9/30) The latest image remains very impressive and getting more so. We are back to where we were weeks ago with a solid pool of warm surface water unbroken, advecting west from from the Galapagos with +2.25 degs anomalies from a previous Kelvin Wave reaching west to at least 160W. Within that, 2 pockets of +4 deg anomalies are present west of the Galapagos at 98W and 106W and still increasing in coverage. This is great news. These pockets are the leading edge/breach point of Kelvin Wave #3. Total concentration of anomalies have built in the past 2 days (see previous image here 9/28 and 9/30), and now exceed the peak when Kevin Wave #3 first started breaching on 9/19 especially in the western portion of this area. Impressive. Previously +2.25 anomalies reached west to 133W on 7/16 and then 138W (7/31) pushing to 149W on 8/10 and 158W on 8/15 and filling the area to 160W on 8/30 solidly. But a breakup started on 9/5 at 155W, regrouped 9/15 and held to 9/23, faded some, but has now rebuilt and exceeded the original peak as of 10/2. This is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of the 1st and 2nd Kelvin Waves earlier this year. And the third one is now underway having already refilled the area west of 150W, with much more to come.
Hi-res Overview: (10/5) Like the low-res image, the El Nino signal is unmistakable and the strongest since 1997, and stronger than anything in the satellite age prior to that. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos has stabilized since 9/28 and is building east of the Galapagos. A total of 5 pockets at 4+ degrees are now strung from Ecuador to the west (maybe even 6), the vent ports for Kelvin Wave #3. Temps between 160W-180W have lost a little ground in the past few days. Nothing significant though. So we're still trying to regain the peak levels from 9/16. They are more concentrated (at +2.25 C) but extend only to 170W where before they were to 178W. Nino3.4 temps should be near steady per visual inspection of the satellite imagery. With building westerly anomalies and a WWB in the West Pacific, that seems to be helping the situation. Given the subsurface situation, surface water temps should be raging. They had been in a holding pattern if not backsliding from 9/20-9/28, but are finally improving. This is good.
Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
(Based on Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp Anomalies)
Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 top & OISSTv4 bottom. This years data valid through Sept.
Top image suggests 2015 is already the third strongest El Nino in recorded history (beat only by '82 and '97). The bottom image suggests it's the 5th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the strongest or 2nd strongest for this time of year.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific, the warmest in years, advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline and beyond (holding at 175E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its at 157E (steady). +1.5 deg anomalies are steady in the west with the core unbroken temps at 178W rebuilding west. There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 172W with a previous pocket to +3.0 deg gone. Overall the warm water signature is rebuilding and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily Index Temps: (10/6) Temps are on the upswing as expected, at +2.594. They bottomed out at +1.265 degs on 9/15, and have been slowly rebuilding since. This is consistent with what is being indicated in the hi-res Nino1.2 imagery. Previously temps hovered at +2.1 degrees early June then spiked reaching +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded, then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again at +3.0 degs on 7/22. Temps fell to +1.9 degrees on 7/27 and bottomed out at +1.0 degs on 8/20 at the height of the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle. Then temps started building to +1.3 on 8/26 and +1.7 by 8/29 and to +2.0 by 9/8 before falling, down to +1.265 degs on 9/15. They started rising after that as Kelvin Wave #3 started arriving, and are solid today.
Nino 3.4 Daily Index Temps: Temps are falling some today at + 2.074, down from an all time peak of +2.44 on Sat (10/3). Previously temps were up from +2.037 on 10/1 and +2.077 on 9/17. The previous all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). We have crushed that level. By any standard we are at a Strong El Nino level bordering on Super El Nino status. We expect these temps to continue upward for the foreseeable future. (Note: These temps are OISSTv.4 - biased low compared to OISSTv.2).
SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below.
working theory is this years event is westward displaced somewhat
the '82/83 super El Nino event. The main evidence for this is the
eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos. Though that eruption is fading some now, and with no evidence to suggest peak eruption is occurring in the Nino1.2 region proper (yet), we will continue with this theory. This suggests the Walker circulation is not displaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 120W. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 9/16 the current was moderate but not overly impressive. The current is pushing strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific north of the equator from 130E to 155W, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 130W before fading out at 90W. A stream of weak to modest east current was just south of the equator from 110W to the dateline. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific, with a strong pocket north of the equator from 170E to 150W, then fading with another pocket at 100W. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated south of the equator from 140W to the dateline. This is not impressive but not unimpressive either. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 130E to 130W mainly north of the equator.
SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected: For the model run 10/6 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have upgraded slightly. Water temps per the model are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 2.1 degs today) and are now to peak at +1.9 degs in the Nov timeframe, then dropping off. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the new Kelvin Wave below, we suspect this projection is well on the low side. Uncorrected data has upgraded too suggesting a peak to +2.5 degs in Nov. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peak in Oct-Nov but suspect that might be on the low side.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Sept Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak temps between +2.1 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.45. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs and the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs. See chart here - link.
If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on the areal coverage of water temps, there is no comparison. '97 imagery leaves this years event in the dust. The '97 event built non-stop from this point forward (in terms of areal coverage). Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable to stronger anomalies in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2 and the coverage of warm waters is a worm in this area compared to '97s mammoth coverage. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 the result of a pause in upwelling of warm water in that region, a break between the first and second Kelvin wave eruptions and the third poised just off Ecuador. It finally looks like Kelvin Wave #3 is having a good impact in this area now (10/3) but it has hurt the overall coverage compared to '97. but compared to the other super El Nino in '82, this years event crushes it. We continue solidly placed between '97 and '82. There could be no better place to be.
Atmospheric Coupling Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (10/6): Was rising some at -20.20. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. The peak reading in the 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3/4.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -22.37. This is a new peak. The lowest point in years was achieved -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. both were beat on 10/6 at -22.37.
90 Day Average: Was falling from -17.97. The peak low was obtained on 9/16 at -18.56. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric coupling. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, peaking 9/16 at -18.56.
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A new high pressure system is building over the area on Tues (10/6) and is to hold thorugh fading into Sat (10/10). A new high pressure system building over Southeast Aust on Mon (10/12).
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): Higher pressure was building Tues (10/6) but a new local low is forecast setting up by Fri (10/9) with yet another one by Tues (10/13). this is exactly the pattern one wants to see if a Super Le Nino is in development. Continuous local lows near or over Tahiti.
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of negative to falling SOI values through the coming week.
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are coupled. Current numbers suggest good coupling though not great, but getting better footing slowly but steadily (notice the 90 day average trend). This pattern is to only change for the better as the El Nino base state builds as we move into Fall. A consistent 90 day average of -18 is our target, indicative of a strong El Nino.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino): Per the past 4 day 850 mbs anomaly charts, the south flow is building strong, with clear indication of the SHBI in effect. Per the GFS model a southerly flow is to hold into Sat (10/10) then be suppressed into Tues (10/13). It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the southerly surface flow. South and southeast wind anomalies have been in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18), then returning consistently 9/18 and in play up to today. The SHBI appears to only be slightly influencing El Nino development, but we have no hard numbers to confirm.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (10/6) todays value strengthen some to +2.04. It has been holding in this range for weeks now with only minor fluctuation. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 2.02 on 9/29. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well coupled with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Sept) The current ranking is up again, rising from +2.37 (Aug) to +2.53 (Sept) or up 0.16 standard deviations (65). The July MEI was 1.97 SD (65). At this same time in '97 the ranking was 3.00 SD (66) and in '82 it was 1.85 SD (62). So we continue between the '82 and '97 events but closer to '97, in strong El Nino territory presumably moving towards the Super El Nino range. The top 5 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. We've already beat all those. Suffice it to say we are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric coupling per this index. Most impressive.
North Pacific Jetstream (10/6) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet has started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, but nothing remarkable yet. Previously the jet has not at all looked like it is influenced by El Nino, so this is an upgrade. Given the slow nature of this El Nino, the slow response by the jetstream should not be unexpected.
Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
(Click to enlarge)
Conclusion: In late 2013 into 2014 the Active Phase of the MJO and successive Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific and primed the atmosphere out of a 15 year La Nina biased pattern that had been in play since the demise of the '97-98 Super El Nino. It is assumed the PDO was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern. This warming and teleconnection continued building in 2015 with two Kelvin Waves arriving in Ecuador warming surface waters well into El Nino territory and a third, the strongest so far, starting to erupt in the Galapagos region. At this time the classic El Nino feedback loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean well coupled and reinforcing and feeding the El Nino pattern at a global scale.
The 2015 El Nino pattern continues to build in fits and starts, most recently hampered by 'The Pause/Upwelling Phase of the Kevin Wave cycle ' that occurred in August and continued in Nino1.2 through Sept. Even in spite of that, El Nino continued to evolve. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today have surpassed their previous peak and expected to only build as massive Kelvin Wave #3 continues erupting focused mainly west of the Galapagos but showing signs of building east of there. The big question remains concerning how strong will this El Nino become. That is a function of anomalies in the Nino3.4 region. The warmer the core temps and the larger their areal coverage, the more influence on the jetstream. Obtaining high Nino3.4 temps is a function of the strength and duration of westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. And the frequency of those events is dictated by the 'character' of the El Nino. The '97 event was a bulldozer, developing out of a previous cold La Nina water state, and never looked back. Contrasting that was the '82-83 event, which didn't even start presenting until the Fall. The 2015 event has taken it's sweet time getting organized, in fit's and starts, but is on a roll recently. We expect peak warming in Nino1.2 to occur on 11/4 with peak warmth reaching Nino3.4 a month later. That would place this event as a late bloomer, more in line with the '82 than '97. Either way, they were both Super El Ninos, and we're well on track to reach that status.
The longer El Nino threshold temperatures persist, the longer it will take proportionally to dissipate. The atmosphere responds very slowly to change. but once changed, it doesn't turn back to it's previous configuration quickly. An official El Nino was declared in late 2014 and has only gotten stronger since then. If westerly anomalies continue as predicted by the CFS model with a peak in mid-Oct, and another Kelvin Wave results, it would not arrive in Ecuador till mid-Jan, 2016, and not reach NIno 3.4 till mid-Feb that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 16 months. The character of this even is slow and steady but persistent. That is a good thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107. And all data suggest this one is in the same league as both '97 and '82, just different in it's evolution. There no guarantee of this outcome, but all data suggests this is the trajectory we are on.
With the jetstream starting to come online, the final transition in the atmosphere appears to be underway. Still any direct influence from El Nino will probably occur later in the Fall rather than earlier. Continue preparations. Once the storm cycle starts, we expect it to only build in momentum, consistency, and intensity, peaking in the Feb timeframe.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
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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