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, August 27, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 4.5 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 3.1 ft @ 12.6 secs from 216 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.0 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 14.6 secs. Wind southeast 1-4 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.1 ft @ 14.7 secs from 262 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.0 ft @ 14.8 secs from 228 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.2 ft @ 14.9 secs from 228 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 2.2 ft @ 14.4 secs. Wind northwest 10-12 kts. Water temp 61.7 degs.
The hi-res Pt Reyes Buoy has been defunded. Funding comes from the CA Parks Dept. We're working to obtain info to explore ways to reactive this buoy.
Buoy 46059 is scheduled to come back on-line in October.
On Thursday (8/27) in North and Central CA at best breaks minimal west swell was producing surf at waist high and reasonably clean with just some light texture on it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high on the sets and clean with a little texture on top. In Southern California up north set waves were thigh high or so and weak and textured early. Down south waves were thigh to maybe waist high and textured early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more background west swell with waves head high on the sets at better breaks and clean and lined up. The South Shore was getting a mixture of southwest and west swell producing waves at chest to maybe head high and clean and lined up early. The East Shore was getting southeast hurricane swell with waves knee to thigh high and with near clean conditions with light east wind.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no large scale non-tropical swell producing weather systems were occurring. Swell from Typhoon Atsani is in the water pushing east towards Hawaii and the US West coast. A low pressure system remains forecast for the Northern Gulf of Alaska over the weekend but is now not forecast to produce seas greater than 17 ft. Some windswell is possible but nothing more. The model has been overhyping all forecast North Pacific systems, so beware. That said, 3 weak tropical tropical systems are forecast to develop significantly in the East and Central Pacific tracking west-northwest and all looking impressive by Sun (8/30) and continuing well into next week. Hawaii is the main focus, but we're not holding our breath. Regarding windswell, nothing of interest is forecast relative to California or Hawaii with the typical pre-Fall dead wind pattern setting up. For the southern hemisphere background swell in the water tracking northeast from a small gale that developed south of New Zealand on Wed (8/19) producing 28-30 ft seas. A cutoff low south of Tahiti generated 26 ft seas aimed north Thurs-Fri (8/21). And a gale is tracking today (Thurs 8/27) east from under New Zealand producing 39 ft seas aimed east with a broader on projected on it's tail Fri-Sun (8/30) generating up to 41 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast, with remnants tracking across the South Pacific. Summer is not done with us yet. And the El Nino base state continues to evolve with water temps in the Nino3.4 region holding nicely in the strong El Nino category, with a new strong Kelvin Wave starting to erupt in the east, and a more favorable environment for westerly anomalies forecast in the far West Pacific and continuing for the foreseeable future. The smell of a good Fall is in the air.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (8/27) no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific. But swell from what was Typhoon Atsani was pushing towards Hawaii and California (see Tropical Update section below for details). High pressure at 1036 mbs was in the Western Gulf of Alaska blocking the storm track into the Gulf but far west to not be able to ridge into the US West Coast therefore offering no windswell generation potential. For Hawaii the same high pressure system was positioned too far north to generate trades, with no direct windswell resulting. But a gradient between the west quadrant of the high and the remnants of Tropical Storm Loki (over the dateline and to the north) and the remnants of Atsani were generating fetch but mainly aimed either south at New Guinea or west at North Japan.
Over the next 72 hours relative to California the Gulf high pressure system is to start fading while easing southeast with maybe a finger of it touching Pt Conception and generating a small gradient with 20 kt north winds there by Sun (8/30), but not up into Monterey Bay and points northward. No real windswell expected to result. And this high is to then start blocking the track northward of three tropical systems swarming around Hawaii. Relative to Hawaii trades to remain light, below the 15 kt threshold to generate windswell. But the tropical situation is to be of more concern anyway.
Also low pressure is to form in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska on Fri AM (8/28) with northwest winds 30-35 kts and the low falling southeast into the evening but winds dropping to barely 30 kts generating 17 ft seas at 53N 143W. Fetch is to fade to barely 25 kts Sat AM (8/29) with no seas of interest forecast (< 16 ft). A secondary fetch is to develop in the same area on Sun AM (8/30) producing 25-30 kt west winds and seas on the increase. By evening 25-30 kt west winds and 16 ft seas are forecast at 54N 140W ( outside/northeast of the NCal swell window). Additional 30 kt northwest fetch is forecast in the NCal swell window Mon AM (8/31) but seas to only be 15 ft or less. More of the same is forecast in the evening with this system then fading out. Some small north angled windswell might result for North CA mid-next week, and larger up into Oregon, but nothing more.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (as of 12Z Thurs 8/27)
Typhoon Atsani: This system started to turn northeast Sun AM (8/23) positioned 350 nmiles southeast of Tokyo Japan with winds 75 kts and seas 24 ft per hurricane guidance but 36 ft per the model at 30.5N 148E. This system continued on a northeast heading in the evening with winds 81 kts and seas 36 ft at 32N 150E. Monday AM (8/24) the northeast heading held with winds 58 kts and seas 38 ft at 32N 152E. The Jason2 satellite passed over the western core of the storm at 18Z and reported a 15 reading peak average with seas at 30.0 ft with one reading to 33.4 ft where the model suggested 39 ft seas. The model appeared to be overhyping the storm. In the evening (8/24) winds held at 58 kts with seas 39 ft at 34N 156E (298 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). By Tues AM (8/25) more of the same occurred with 71 kt winds and seas 50 ft at 38N 161E (306 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). A quick fade occurred thereafter with Atsani starting to turn more northerly with winds down to 55 kts and seas 35 ft at 38N 163E (305 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the eastern core of the storm at 06Z and reported seas at 28.1 ft with one reading to 32.8 ft where the model suggested 29 ft seas should be. The model was right on track. This system was fading fast Wed AM (8/26) while stalled well west of the dateline with 41 kt winds and 25 ft seas at 38N 166E (307 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). This system faded in the evening with 43 kt winds covering a smaller area aimed southeast and seas to 25 ft at 39N 161E somewhat targeting Hawaii (306 degs, 297 degs NCal).
This system developed nowhere near are strong as the models initially suggested. And no extratropical development occurred. In short is was a fully tropical system circulating well off Japan and 1/2 way to the dateline in late August. That in and of itself is interesting from an El Nino development perspective. But extratropical development would have been far more impressive. This suggests the jetstream is not as has been feared, not really soaking up much energy yet from El Nino. The net result is to be some small longer period swell for Hawaii (swell energy not aimed well down the great circle tracks there but because they are closer, more size to result) and the US West Coast (aimed well down the GC tracks, but much further away). Still, any recurving tropical system that results in swell for US interests in August is a sign of some coupling of El Nino and the atmosphere, and bodes well for the coming Fall and Winter.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri (8/28) peaking near sunset at 4.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (6.5 ft). Swell to continue into Sat AM (8/29) slowly fading from 4 ft @ 16 secs (6.0-6.5 ft). Residuals fading Sun (8/30) from 3.3 ft @ 13-14 secs early (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 298-305 degrees)
NCal: Swell arriving early Sun (8/30) with period 19 secs and size tiny and very inconsistent but building. Swell peaking at sunset at 3.3 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft). residuals continuing on Mon (8/31) fading from 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 293-296 degrees
Hurricane Ignacio: On Wed (8/26) Ignacio had 50 kt winds and was positioned 1200 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island tracking west-northwest. On Thurs AM (8/27) wind were up to 80 kts positioned 1000 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island. Slow steady strengthening is forecast with Ignacio peaking on Sat (8/29) 550 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii with winds 100 kts on the 107 deg path (barely on the 112 degree path to northeast Oahu). Swell is to be generated targeting mainly the Big Island and exposed east shores of Maui and Oahu. Winds are to be down to 85 kts Mon AM (8/31) positioned 175 nmiles east of the Big Island and then winds down to 75 kts Tues AM (9/1) 50 nmiles north-northeast of the Big Island. The GFS model has Ignacio making a hard turn to the north-northwest from there positioned 300 nmiles north of the Big Island on Wed AM (9/2) starting to form a gradient with high pressure north of there but continuing forward progress to the north-northwest. Some decent northeast swell potential is possible through Tuesday (9/1) or so. Something to monitor.
Oahu Northeast Shore: Swell arrival Sun (8/30) building to 5.0 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5-7.0 ft) late. Mon (8/31) swell is to be building pushing 7 ft @ 14-15 secs (10 ft) . Swell holding Tues (9/1) at 8 ft @ 13 secs (10-11 ft). A slow fade to follow. Size errors could be large depending on this storms track and strength.
Tropical Storm Kilo: On Thurs AM (8/27) it was positioned 120 nmiles northeast of the Johnson Atoll with winds up to 55 kts and forecast to take a west-southwesterly track moving towards the dateline and building, with winds to hurricane force (65 kts) Sat AM (8/29) then lifting steadily northwest with winds to 75 kts by Mon AM (8/31) and 80 kts Tues AM (9/1) 300 nmiles south of Midway and tracking fully north. The GFS model has it stalling on the dateline near 22N Thurs (9/3) and building.
Tropical Storm Jimena: TS Jimena was 1200 nmiles south of San Diego CA and 2400 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii on Thurs AM (8/27) with winds 40 kts. A steady westerly track and slow strengthening is forecast with winds projected to 115 kts on Tues AM (9/1) positioned 1200 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island on the 95 degree track (100 deg track Oahu and in the swell window). The GFS has this system stalling 900 nmiles east of the Big Island Wed-Thurs (9/3). Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Wednesday (8/26) high pressure at 1034 mbs was well retrograded from the coast with a light wind pattern in play over nearshore California waters. No change is forecast until Mon (8/31) when high pressure from the Gulf gets a nose in the door sneaking under low pressure in the Gulf perhaps generating a small fetch of 15-20 kts north winds over North and Central CA continuing through Wed (9/2).
On Thursday AM (8/28) the southern branch of the jetstream was tracking east under New Zealand, but positioned a bit further north than weeks past, up at 58S running east at 140 kts forming something that almost looked like a trough and offering some support for gale development. East of the the southern branch fell hard south pushing into Antarctica at 140W and holding there the rest of the way across the South Pacific. No troughs were present. The northern branch of the jet was tracking east as it has all summer from a point north of Northern New Zealand on the 27S latitude line with winds building to 170 kts in one pocket starting south of Tahiti almost running into the Central Chilean coast. There was no support for gale formation by the northern branch of the jet in lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours a trough is to start developing under New Zealand on Fri (8/28) pushing the jet up to 55S well southeast of New Zealand late Saturday with winds 130 kts offering decent support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to get additional support with a pulse of 160 kt southerly winds pushing up into it, reinforcing it Sun AM (8/30) and pushing the jet up to 50S by Mon (8/31). Good support for gale development is expected at that time. That trough is to hold while easing east, but with winds slowly fading, then quickly collapsing Wed (9/2). But by late Thurs (9/3) there's suggestions of another trough forming in the far Southwest Pacific, but winds feeding it are to be weak, likely limiting it's ability to support gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere.
On Thurs AM (8/27) swell from a previous gale southeast of New Zealand a week earlier (8/20) was pushing northeast (see Cutoff Low below). And a previous gale south of New Zealand likely has not produced much swell of interest, but we're tracking it just in case (see New Zealand Gale below). A primer New Zealand gale followed directly (see 2nd New Zealand Gale below). Of more interest was a small gale developed under New Zealand (see 1st Real New Zealand Gale below).
Otherwise over the next 72 hours starting Thurs PM (8/27) a solid storm is to start building due south of New Zealand with 50 kt west winds over a decent sized area. Seas on the increase. 50 kt west-southwest winds to hold into Fri AM (8/28) generating 41 ft seas at 59S 178W (191 degs HI, 207 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti, 208 degs SCal and just east/clear of the Tahiti swell shadow). Fetch is to rapidly fade in the evening from 45 kts over a large area with 40 ft seas at 57S 175W (188 degs HI, 206 degs NCal and shadowed, 205 degs SCal and unshadowed). 40 kt west-southwest winds to continue east on Sat AM (8/29) with seas fading from 38 ft at 56S 162W (182 degs HI, 203 degs NCal and barely unshadowed, 204 degs SCal and clear). Fetch is to be gone by the evening tracking east fast from 35-40 kts with 34 ft seas fading at 55S 150W. Assuming this system forms as forecast a solid long period swell could result for SCal and unshadowed, but shadowed up into NCal and sideband energy for HI.
A cutoff low developed south of Tahiti on Wed PM (8/19) generating a small fetch of 45 kt south winds and a sliver of 26 ft seas at 43S 140W aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast. The low mellowed some Thurs AM (8/20) with 40 kt south winds pushing better to the north generating barely 26 ft seas at 42S 141W. 40 kt southwest winds to hold into the evening with seas 27 ft at 38S 138W. 40 kt southwest winds to hold into Fri AM (8/21) generating 28 ft seas at 37S 133W aimed mainly at Chile with sideband swell pushing north. This system to be fading after that. Possible 15 sec period south angled swell to result for California with a tiny pulse possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (8/27) building to 2 ft @ 13-14 secs late (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell to fade Fri (8/28) from 1.6 ft @ 13 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 167 degrees
SCal: Swell arrival expected late Thurs (8/27) with swell building to 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3 ft). Swell to continue up on Fri (8/28) peaking at 2.8 ft @ 15 secs late (4 ft). Residuals fading on Sat (8/29) from 2.8 ft @ 14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction 195 degrees
NCal: Swell arrival expected Fri (8/28) building to 2 ft @ 16 secs late (3 ft). Swell to continue up on Sat (8/29) peaking at 2.3 ft @ 15 secs late (3.5 ft). Residuals fading on Sun (8/30) from 2.2 ft @ 14 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction 190 degrees
New Zealand Gale
A gale low developed south of Tasmania Tues AM (8/18) with 40 kt west winds producing 28 ft seas at 59S 140E (219 degs CA) and tracking east offering some hope near term. The Tasmania gale tracked east with 40 kt west-southwest winds Tues PM (8/18) generating a tiny area of 30 ft seas at 60S 150E (216 degs NCal unshadowed by Tahiti, but becoming shadowed relative to SCal) and totally shadowed by New Zealand relative to HI. Winds were fading from 35 kts Wed AM (8/19) with 29 ft seas fading at 56.5S 162E (shadowed by NZ for HI, 216 NCal and unshadowed, 216 degs SCal and barely unshadowed). This system is to be gone by the evening. Small swell is possible but it was 7,000 nmiles from CA.
California: Rough data suggests swell arrival with period 17 secs on Sat (8/29) at about 9 PM. Swell to peak on Sun (8/30) at 1 ft @ 16-17 secs (1.5-2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 216 degrees
New Zealand Gale #2 (Primer)
A weak gale formed southwest of New Zealand on Mon PM (8/24) producing 45 kt west winds and 34 ft seas over a small area at 58S 146E (216 degs CA and shadowed by New Zealand relative to Hawaii). The gale was fading Tues AM (8/2) with fetch dropping from 40 kts and seas fading from 32 ft at 55S 159E (220 degs CA). Minimal background swell is possible relative to California starting Fri PM (9/4) being 7,400 nmiles out but this system served mainly to rough up the oceans surface to provide traction for what is behind.
1st Real New Zealand Gale
A stronger gale pushed under New Zealand Wed AM (8/26) generating 45 kt west winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By evening winds built to 50 kts from the west with seas to 38 ft at 62S 176E. On Thurs AM (8/27) 45 kt west winds continued tracking east with 38 ft seas at 61S 172W (188 degs HI, 202 degs NCal/204 degs SCal and unshadowed). Fetch is to be building to 50 kts in the evening with 39 ft seas at 62S 158W (180 degs HI, 197 degs NCal, 198 degs SCal). A quick fade to follow. Assuming all goes as forecast some small but decent length period swell could result for California with smaller sideband swell for HI.
Swell arrival in CA with period 20 secs starting Fri sunset (9/4) peaking roughly Sat (9/5) sunset. Swell Direction: 200-201 degs
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 no normal fall like swell producing fetch that is not tropical is forecast. But high pressure is to weakening in the Western Gulf over to the dateline, offering an opportunity for north bound tropical systems to perhaps tap jetstream energy near the dateline. But a ridge is to still be in control of the Gulf area. Perhaps there's a window of opportunity for extratropical development mainly for Kilo. And even that is more of a hope than anything grounded in reality at this time.
Beyond 72 hours a pair of fetches with 35-40 kt southwest winds to track northeast from under New Zealand Sun-Mon (8/31) and Mon-Tues (9/1) generating 26-28 ft seas aimed well to the north, but not strong enough to produce swell except for Tahiti with background energy for Hawaii. Perhaps a slightly stronger gale to develop under New Zealand Thurs (9/3). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Details to follow...
Kelvin Wave #3 Continues Slowly Warming Galapagos Region
West Wind Anomalies Rebuild West of Dateline
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).
Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean conditions (i.e. Kelvin Wave monitoring), then surface 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. 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.
Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Sun (8/23):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated weak west winds at 160E and well north of the equator to the dateline. Anomaly wise moderate west anomalies extend from 160E to 130W on the equator but strong north of and including 5N from 160E to 170W. The anomalous west wind pattern has started to rebuild in the heart of the KWGA. This is good news. 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).
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies faded west of the dateline on 8/18-8/24 courtesy of an Inactive Rossby Wave moving through the area. But from here (8/26) forward west anomalies are forecast from 140E to 130W. This is good news. The GFS model depicts a dead wind pattern starting Sun (8/30) and continuing forward from there. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day.
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 but 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 wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections: As of 8/26:
OLR Models: Indicate a modest Inactive MJO signal over the West Pacific. The Statistic model suggests a weak Inactive MJO pattern is to hold over the far West Pacific for the next 15 days making little eastward progress. The Dynamic model depicts the same but with the Inactive signal fading 7 days out. In essence no MJO influence is forecast. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): They suggest the Active Phase of the MJO is dead and collapsed and is to not return.
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a modest Active MJO pattern over the East Pacific tracking east over Central America through 9/5. A moderate Inactive Phase is developing in the far West Pacific 8/26 tracking east through 9/25. The weak east anomaly pattern that occurred 8/18-8/24 in the far west KWGA is likely part of this larger cycle. It is suspected a little bit of destructive interference has been occurring regarding surface west anomalies west of the dateline from this weak Inactive Phase and a Inactive Rossby Wave, but that should be all but gone now. The stronger El Nino base state starts it's influence from the dateline heading east though, with the Inactive MJO having no impact there.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb): A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is forecast 8/20-9/30 limited west of 170E. Some positive enhancement from a Rossby Wave is forecast 8/28-9/30, with a weak push of the Active Phase of the MJO remaining scheduled starting 10/5 (deferred compared to previous runs) in the far West Pacific holding till 11/11. No easterly anomalies are forecast for the long term. Westerly anomalies are to rule starting today (8/25) over the entire KWGA and holding well into mid-Nov. The question is, will another Kelvin Wave result?
The general consensus by the models has updated now with the slightly Inactive MJO pattern having a lesser role from now through the next 4 weeks. And that is to be negated by positive support from a Rossby Wave starting now in the East Pacific and easing west into early October. And the Active Phase is still on the charts, but forecast a little weaker than previous runs. In reality, a pure El Nino base state is at play driving current west anomalies and not expected to change much anytime soon, or if anything, build. Westerly anomalies, regardless of their source, are all that's required to push warm water to the east. And that situation is not in question.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (8/26) On the equator and under the dateline (160-180W) temperature anomalies remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 155E to 135W (holding) with a pocket at 30 degs building at 140-165W (expanding), 70 meters down. +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 155W eastward (expanding), the direct effects of the massive June-July WWB. A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal is poised to erupt into Ecuador (leading edge starting now). That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 110W (holding) and +5 deg anomalies extending east from 145W to Ecuador (expanding). 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. The pipe is open with more warm water rushing in and very warm water starting to erupt into the Galapagos. The hi-res subsurface animation clearly depicts the backdraft cool pool has dissipated and a finger of warm water is now starting to work it's way into the Galapagos.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): Data from 8/21 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 178E with a core at +15 cm from 110-150W (holding). And now anomalies are building into Ecuador (0-+5 cm) indicative of the arrival of the 3rd Kelvin wave. This is most impressive. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight in the mid-Pacific poised to merge with a subsurface reservoir poised off Ecuador. This is a classic major El Nino setup, not a standard El Nino.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: As of (8/21) this data drives the point home. It indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 178W and the Galapagos (holding). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 172W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 155W. All these sectors are holding. A pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 150W-->106W (holding) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 140W-->120W (shrinking some). A pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies is holding between the Galapagos and Ecuador (from 91W-80W) and not moving east but the satellite data above contradicts that suggesting eastward movement. We believe the backdraft pool is gone.
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 poised with it's leading edge starting to present over the Galapagos, the strongest of all an getting stronger with each update. A pause in warming near Ecuador occurred, suggestive of a break between successive strong Kelvin Waves. But that gap is fading fast now. The subsurface configuration suggests there are 2.5 months of warm water in this reservoir (till Nov 1) and some of that water is extremely warm. The peak is forecast to occur roughly on 10/4. And a pause in westerly anomalies over most of the KWGA is now fading, with westerly anomalies starting to rebuild. So the question becomes, is this third Kelvin Wave the final one, or will another follow? 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. Historically this is a great setup.
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: On (8/24) no change is evident. First impressions indicate a warm water signal covering the entire equatorial Pacific. But the pattern is ill defined and less concentrated compared to peak warming on 7/16. Some of this might be attributable to color scaling between the low-res images and hi-res images. Comparing the 8/24 image to anything post 1997, it's obvious the equatorial East Pacific is way warmer than anything other than 97 (at this time). A huge pool of warm water is covering the entire equatorial Pacific and filling the entire North Pacific Ocean. Temperatures in the NINO1.2 region as of the latest image have stabilized. No cool waters are present, just no markedly warm concentrated waters are depicted. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, perhaps building some now. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and holding while extending west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, but possibly attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Slightly cool water is over Australia. Slightly warm water continues near Madagascar.
Hi-res Nino1.2: (8/25) Good news! Water temps continue to warm along both sides of the Galapagos with a pocket of +4 deg anomalies just east of there and solid +2.25 anomalies west of there. and warm anomalies are starting to build down the Peruvian Coast. And other very warm pockets are starting to appear west of there to 120W. The hi-res chart that depict temp changes over the part 7 days depicts these pockets well, but also depict remnants cooler pockets at 90W and 100W. We're continuing to believe the 3rd Kelvin Wave is starting to erupt around the Galapagos and now into Peru and Ecuador in the exact same area the cooler upwelling pool is advecting over. The arrival of this Kelvin wave is highly anticipated. Previously a rapid decline in anomalies started 8/13 and then crashed on 8/15 east of 100W with only limited pockets of +2.5 deg or greater anomalies present. This cooler pocket started working it's way west over the Galapagos, but warming started just in time, on 8/23 and appears to be negating any cooling affect. The upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle appears to be over, and quickly. Peak temps occurred between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14, then faded between 7/14-7/30 (and is reflected in the low res imagery too - see above). From 7/31-8/13 temps between Ecuador and the Galapagos stabilized then crashed starting 8/13 finally bottoming out 8/17. A slow warm up started 8/23.
Galapagos Virtual Station: This station reported temps at +2.8 degs today, down from +3.2 anomalies the past 2 days. Regardless, the trend is upward. 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. Much more warm water is poised at depth just off Ecuador (see below).
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (8/25) Unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies continue advecting west from a previous Kelvin Wave that impacted the Galapagos, and are rebuilding from 145-155W, almost unbroken as of today. They retracted a bit between (8/15-8/22). And warmer anomalies are building back at 105W and 120W advecting west. Total coverage of anomalies continues to build. Previously +2.25 anomalies reached to 133W on 7/16 and then 138W (7/31) pushing to 149W on 8/10 and 158W on 8/15. This is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of the 1st and 2nd Kelvin Waves earlier this year.
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over most entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline. There's some solid evidence that the large surface warm pool is pushing east, at least north of the equator with the +1 degree anomaly periphery at 155W. A previous pool of +1.5 deg anomalies on the dateline has vanished and the extent of +1.0 deg anomalies is shrinking moving to the east. There is an embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 147W (expanding west) with +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 151W (easing west). Overall the warm water signature is holding and migrating west slowly. The peak may hold, rather than loose some ground as recently thought.
Nino1.2 Index Temps: (8/26) Temps have backtracked the past 2 days currently at +1.3 degs, but still up compared to the bottom temp of +1.0 degs on 8/20 (presumably the result of the backdraft that occurred off Ecuador). 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.
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are down a little at +1.93. The all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23. By any normal standard we are in Strong El Nino now. In '97 for Aug the monthly anomaly in Nino3.4 was +2.0. Our guess for this months monthly anomaly so far is ~+1.8. Based on what is happening in the Nino 1.2 region, with the 3rd Kelvin Wave apparently starting to erupt west and east of the Galapagos now, the thought is additional warming is possible. Water temps previously held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April, then started building pushing +1.5 degs on 6/30, held then crept up, peaking at +1.75 degs on 7/19 and +1.7 degs on 7/29, pushing +1.8 of 8/10 and now +2.24 on 8/23.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 8/17 the current continues solid and building. The current is pushing strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area mainly north of the equator and still solid but fading while pushing west from 160W to 120W before fading out. A pocket of modest east anomalies was over the immediate Galapagos. Anomaly wise - Strong west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific to the dateline, with a strong pocket north of the equator from the dateline to 140W, then fading in pockets continuing to 100W. No east anomalies were indicated. This is fairly impressive, suggesting this event is getting legs. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, today's image actually is fairly similar, if just a hair less strong. This is a significant improvement.
SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected: For the model run 8/26 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures have upgraded slightly again. It suggests water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 1.9 degs today) and are to steadily warm continuing to +2.0 degs by Oct peaking at +2.15 degs by Nov, then dropping off. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the new Kelvin Wave forming subsurface, we suspect this projection is on the low side. Uncorrected data suggests peaks to +3.15 degs
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Aug Plume has upgraded significantly, suggesting peak temps between +2.0 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.3. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs. See chart here - link.
(8/23) 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 and whatever comparison there was is fading out quickly. The '97 event built non-stop from this point forward (in terms of areal coverage). Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable anomalies in Nino3.4, is weak in Nino1.2 and the coverage of warm waters is a worm in comparison to '97s mammoth coverage. Total coverage of warm waters in the current imagery still remains respectable, but the depth of concentration is weak. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 and was likely 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. Concerns about these cooler waters advecting west and eventually negatively impacting temps in the Nino3.4 region are at least for now being moderated by pockets of warm water from the third Kelvin Wave starting to upwell around the Galapagos and into Ecuador. There appears to be plenty of water poised in the subsurface reservoir, and if anything, is building driven by the strength and duration of the most recent WWB (late June) when the resulting Kelvin Wave hits (peak temps in Nino 1.2 expected 10/4).
Atmospheric Coupling Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change): As of Sun (8/23):
Daily Southern Oscillation Index: Was falling from -12.10. We've just completed a roughly 25 day run of values below -10 with 16 days of that below -20 (7/23-8/22). Of note: the 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30/31st.
30 Day Average: Was rising from -19.91, responding to the negative run above. The lowest point in years was achieved -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15.
90 Day Average: Was falling slightly at -13.32. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and bottomed out at it's lowest reading in year on 8/5 at -14.17.
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): Weak high pressure is forecast here Wed-Sat (8/29) then again starting Wed (9/2).
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A semi tropical low was building west of Tahiti Wed (8/26) and is forecast building into Sun (8/30) driving the SOI negative. But high pressure is forecast for the same area Wed-Thurs (9/3).
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a modest falling SOI (8/26-8/30) then rising.
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are coupled. Current numbers suggest good but not great coupling and that trend to continue for the immediate future. That will likely 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): No south winds were in play, but are forecast to start building by Mon (8/31) but only holding for 2 days. 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), but not lately. 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): (8/26) Today's value was +178 and continuing it fall. It was +2.42 on (8/18) and had been steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling. 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) (July) The current ranking is 1.97 SD (65). The MEI for July actually went down (0.09 SD) from last month. At this same time in '97 the ranking was 2.85 SD (66) and in '82 it was 1.7 SD (61). So we're slightly above the '82 event but well below '97, or comfortably on track for this time of year to move into Super El Nino territory. 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. Suffice it to say were are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric coupling per this index.
North Pacific Jetstream Wed (8/27) A modest flow was trying to run across the North Pacific roughly centered at 48N but a huge ridge was just east of the dateline pushing the jet up into the Bering Sea. This is not impressive and suggests only weak influence by El Nino is occurring. The fact that Typhoon Atsani never turned extratropical only drives that point home. More of the same is forecast until Tues (9/1) when the ridge is forecast to break down and 100-110 kt winds start pushing off Japan to the dateline making a little more progress into the Gulf.
Analysis: 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 some greater force was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern, (the PDO). 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, in flight now. Preceding this Kelvin Wave is a pocket of less warm water. But with a large warm reservoir lodged just west of the Galapagos and the third Kelvin Wave moving into it, warming is expected to resume shortly. At this time we believe the classic El Nino feedback/teleconnection loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean are well coupled.
The 2015 El Nino pattern is not quite as impressive as it was in late July and certainly not compared to the '97 at this time of year. But it has found a way to move forward regardless. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today are a testament to that (+2.24 as of 8/23). So the big question then becomes: How strong will this El Nino become? In the end, strength is a function of the temperatures in the Nino3.4 region. The warmer the core temps and the larger their areal coverage, the higher the resulting number. And for the most part 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. All El Nino events are different. The '97 event started early, developed out of a previous cold La Nina water state, and never looked back. Other strong events in '72, '86, and '91 had dissimilar profiles. The point being, there is no exact template for a strong El Nino other than they tend to form in the Spring and peak during the following Winter. Regarding the exact micro-details of each event (WWB, Kelvin Wave speed, arrival time etc) all generally follow a similar pattern. Given the false start of this El Nino in 2014 (and for that matter the other false start in 2012), this event has taken it's sweet time getting organized. But it's been struggling against an atmospheric bias towards La Nina driven by the cool phase of the PDO. We believe the atmosphere is trying to transition to the warm phase of the PDO, but is still fighting some previous momentum from the cool phase, hence elongating this El Nino's lifecycle. Regardless, a large and strong Kelvin Wave, the largest of this event is poised to erupt now. It will take at least 3 months for the tail end to erupt over the Galapagos and advects through the Nino 3.4 region. So that covers us till November. And regarding the 'warm blob' off the Pacific Northwest, we believe that is more a symptom of the developing warm PDO, and will get punctured by incoming storms once El Nino gets traction and the jetstream energizes in the late Jan/early Feb 2016 timeframe. Winds from storms cause mixing and upwelling, which in turn cool surface waters.
The longer El Nino threshold temperatures persist, the thought is the longer it will take proportionally to dissipate. That is, the sooner warm water temps develop, the sooner they will have an effect on the atmosphere and the more momentum El Nino will have on the atmosphere, and will therefore take longer to dislodge. The atmosphere responds very slowly to change. but once changed, it doesn't turn back to it's previous configuration quick either. An official El Nino was declared in late 2014 and has only gotten stronger since then. If the Active Phase of the MJO does develop in the Sept-Oct timeframe as predicted by the CFS model, and if a significant Kelvin Wave results, it would not arrive in Ecuador till ~Jan 1, 2016, and not disburse till a month later (Feb). that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 16 months. That said, the character of this event is not at all like '97 (which was brisked paced and steady), but not at all like '82 either (which developed even later and faster). This one is a slow moving train wreck. That would not be a bad thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107.
So where does it go from here? Having a MEI (July) that is equivalent to two other Super El Nino events is no guarantee that this years event will eventually evolve into a Super El Nino. We still have 1.0 SDs to go. Though looking at the record back to 1950 for other events that have similar values in July, the odds favor that outcome. Still, the argument goes back moving warm water east and then advecting it west. That is accomplished through WWBs and Kelvin Waves. With an evolving El Nino base state in control and building, it seem more warm water transport east is inevitable. And we haven't even hit the Fall season switchover, which tends to supercharge westerly anomalies during El Nino years. The future concerning more and stronger WWBs is unknown, but we are betting on the CFSv2 being largely on the right track with the El Nino base state slowly having greater influence over time and being enhanced by the MJO and Rossby Waves at times.
So for now we're tracking towards an El Nino that will end up somewhere between the 82' and '97 event, with very good atmospheric momentum in play. We'll continue monitoring the North Pacific jetstream and will be looking for tropical activity in the West Pacific to recurve northeast moving towards the Gulf of Alaska, and for swell to result from such systems in later August and Sept. To us, those are the sure signs of deep changes in the atmosphere influenced by El Nino. Typhoon Atsani did not live up to the hype, but still should result in minimal swell, and we suspect is just the first of more to come. Until then, continue strength, endurance, flexibility and balance training. Don't forget breath holding either. Complete build out of your quivers. And if you own beachfront property in California, or even well inland, pay your insurance premiums. Life insurance isn't a bad idea either.
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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