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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, July 4, 2015 5:36 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
Swell Potential Rating = 3.0 - California & 3.0- Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 7/6 thru Sun 7/12

Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

1st of Two Southwest Swells Hitting HI
Solid WWB Holding in West Pacific

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer
- Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer
- Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

On Sunday, July 5, 2015 :

  • Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 4.2 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 18.1 secs from 212 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 16.4 secs. Wind west 8-12 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.7 ft @ 17.1 secs from 207 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 17.0 secs from 208 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.6 ft @ 17.0 secs from 202 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 9.0 secs with swell 2.0 ft @ 16.0 secs. Wind southwest 4-6 kts. Water temp 59.7 degs.

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Saturday (7/4) in North and Central CA locally generated north windswell was producing surf at thigh to waist high and textured from southwest winds and pretty crumbled but clean at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz small southern hemi swell was producing sets in the waist to chest high range at better breaks and clean but slow and generally weak.  In Southern California up north windswell was pushing in some knee high waves at best and clean. Down south southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist high with some bigger sets and textured with southwest winds coming up. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with a few thigh-waist high sets. The South Shore was getting new New Zealand swell with waves waist to chest high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was getting no real east windswell with waves thigh high or less and chopped from light trades. 

See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific no swell producing weather systems were in play or forecast.  Regarding windswell, no trades of interest were east of Hawaii and none forecast until Tuesday (7/7), with possible tropical activity bearing down on the Big Island by the weekend. Something to monitor. Relative to California, a weak pressure pattern was in control with no north winds or pressure gradient in effect and none forecast for the next week. For the southern hemisphere small swell from a tiny gale that developed just along the New Zealand coast on Wed (6/24) with 32 ft seas aimed north was hitting California. A more interesting gale tracked east under New Zealand with 37 ft seas on Sun (6/28) aimed east, and swell from it is starting to show on Hawaii's South Shore. A stronger storm followed on Tues (6/30) with 48 ft seas over a tiny area aimed east. Swell is in the water from that one too pushing towards all the usual Pacific targets. Beyond 3 small cutoff low in the mid-south latitudes might generate small areas of 30 ft seas for 18 hours aimed north primarily targeting Hawaii. But no large scale swell producing weather systems are forecast.   

SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

Overview 
Surface Analysis
On Saturday (7/4) no swell producing fetch was occurring over the greater North Pacific. One weak low pressure system was 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii but offering no fetch of interest. Otherwise modest high pressure at 1024 mbs was over and ridging south from the North Canadian coast but producing no fetch capable of generating windswell for California and only limited north windswell for Oregon. And weak eddy flow was in control of CA waters. Relative to Hawaii, the same high pressure system was too weak to generate any trades of interest, with east winds less than 15 kts. No windswell was resulting.

Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to continue in the Western Gulf of Alaska eventually migrating into the Bering Sea on Mon (7/6) and holding there but offering no fetch strong enough to produce swell. A weak pressure pattern is to hold off California for the coming week with no windswell expected to be produced. A weak eddy flow (south winds) to continue relative to Central CA holding through the week.  Relative to Hawaii high pressure is to start building over the dateline well to the south and ridging east with trades developing at 15 kts on Tues (7/7) while tropical low pressure systems track south of the Islands aided by the Active Phase of the MJO building from the West equatorial Pacific eastward. trades to continue building. East windswell developing along exposed east facing shores. Long term tropical storm formation is possible (see Tropical Update).     

  North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height

 

Tropical Update (as of 12Z Sat 7/4)
Tropical Storm Linfa was 50 nmiles east of the northern Philippines tracking northwest just grazing the northern Philippines and expected to build with winds to 60 kts Sun PM (7/5) then turning north and slowly loosing intensity, positioned just off Taiwan on Wed (7/8) with winds 40 kts or less. No swell production relative to our forecast area is forecast.

Typhoon Chan-Hom lost organization and fell to tropical storm status, and continues that was as of Sat (7/4) positioned 50 nmiles north of Guam with winds 40 kts tracking northwest. Chan-Hom to continue tracking northwest and building to minimal typhoon status Sun PM (7/5) with winds to 70 kts. Continue strengthening is forecast pushing 120 kts on Wed AM (7/8) positioned 300 nmiles from the south most Japan outer Islands and moving in that direction (northwest). The GFS model has this system tracking into China late Thurs (7/9) with no recurvature to the northeast forecast. This system is the result of a significant Westerly Wind Burst currently occurring in the West Pacific.  

Tropical Storm Nangka was 150 nmiles north of Kwajalein on Sat (7/4) with winds 50 kts tracking west. Slow strengthening is forecast with an eventually turn to the northwest with winds building to 100 kts on Thurs (7/9) positioned 450 nmiles north of Guam and following directly on the heels of Chan-Hom. Something to monitor with the GFS suggesting it stalling south of Japan next weekend.

Hawaii - The model suggest some form of tropical system developing 800 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island late Tues (7/7) and building in intensity while turning a bit more to the north reaching a point just off the east coast of the Big Island late on Sat (7/11).

 

California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (7/4) high pressure at 1028 mbs was well off the Washington coast having no effect on California waters but generating north winds at 15-20 kts off Washington. Even that gradient is to be gone by Monday with a light westerly wind flow in control of California waters for the coming week and weekend except northwest winds 15 kts for Pt Conception on Wed (7/8).   

   

South Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Saturday AM (7/4) the southern branch of the jet had a solid trough in it pushing north with winds at 110 kts almost joining the northern branch over Northern New Zealand providing decent support for gale development just south of New Zealand. From there then southern branch tracked southeast form a ridge over the Central Pacific with another ridge east of there pushing into Antarctica and offering no support for gale development. The northern branch was solid with 140 kts winds ripping flat east on the 28S latitude line eventually pushing into Chile. Over the next 72 hours the New Zealand trough is to hold together decently through Monday (7/6) with 100 kt winds still feeding it offering some support for gale development. But east of there the ridging pattern is to only get more entrenched actively suppressing gale development. Beyond 72 hours that New Zealand trough is to fade out totally Tues PM with a new ridge building under Tasmania shutting down any hope for gale development and sweeping east into Thurs (7/9) with a total split flow taking control of the entire South Pacific with the southern branch running entirely over Antarctic Ice and the northern branch well to the north up at 27S. No troughs are forecast offering no support for gale development.

Surface Analysis  
On Saturday AM (7/4) a broad area of low pressure was circulating south of New Zealand reaching west to a point south of Tasmania and east to a point well south of Hawaii. But fetch wise all winds in the Southwest Pacific were pushing southeast offering no indication of producing swell tracking into our forecast area. But there was fetch south of Tasmania targeting Fiji (see Fiji Gale below). Small swell from a cut-off gale previously east of New Zealand was hitting the US West Coast (see Cut-Off Gale below). Swell from a pair of solid swell producing storms in the coveted New Zealand swell corridor relative to Tahiti and North CA was pushing northeast with energy from the first one starting to hit Hawaii now (see 1st and 2nd New Zealand Storms below).

Over the next 72 hours

Cut-Off Gale
Also a small cut-off gale formed just east of New Zealand on Wed AM (6/24) producing 45 kt south to southeast winds over a tiny area aimed north with seas building from 23 ft.  In the evening 45 kt south winds continued pushing north with 32 ft seas building over an infinitesimal sized area area at 40S 174W. Fetch was fading from 35 kts Thurs AM (6/25) with seas from previous fetch fading over a tiny area from 29 ft at 35S 170W, very far to the north. This system was gone after that.
The tiny footprint of this system will be it's limiting factor for everywhere but Tahiti.  

Background energy for the Southern California is to be fading Sun (7/5) from 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) from 217 degrees. 

Background energy for the North California is to be fading Sun (7/5) from 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) from 216 degrees

 

Fiji Gale
A gale developed south of Tasmania Fri PM (7/3) with 40 kt southwest winds and seas building to 26 ft at 55S 143E targeting Fiji. Those winds to pushed northeast still at 40 kts on Sat AM (7/4) generating 30 ft seas at 53S 149E. By the evening fetch is to be fading fast from 30-35 kts just southwest of southern New Zealand with a small area of 26 ft seas fading at 50S 158E targeting only east New Zealand. No energy is expected to be pushing into the US swell window other than well filtered energy targeting Hawaii via Fiji.  

1st New Zealand Storm
A storm pushed south of Tasmania on Sat AM (6/27) with 45-50 kt west winds generating 43 ft seas at 52S 141E targeting only Fiji. Fetch rebuilt some in the evening still 45 kts but over a little larger area aimed east-northeast with 38 ft seas at 54S 154E barely in the 221 degree window relative to North and Central CA (222 degs SCal) and unshadowed by Tahiti and shadowed in HI by New Zealand. The Jason-2 satellite passed over the eastern edge of this area at 21Z and reported a 15 reading average of 38.3 ft with one reading to 42.1 ft where the model indicated 37 ft seas. This was a bit better than what the model indicated. Fetch was fading from 40 kt Sun AM (6/28) with seas from previous fetch fading from 35 ft at 56S 165E (215 degs NCal and unshadowed, 216 degs South CA and starting to be shadowed, and on the 201 degree unshadowed path to Hawaii. 40 kt southwest winds held into Sunday evening aimed well to the northeast with 33 ft seas at 56S 172E (196 degs HI, 213 degs NCal and unshadowed and aimed right up the GC path there, 214 degs SCal and shadowed). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the western periphery at 3Z reporting seas of 29.3 ft with one reading to 37.0 ft where the model indicated seas should be 28 ft. Again, the model was under hyping it some. 30-35 kt southwest winds were fading Mon AM (6/29) with a broad area of 28 ft seas fading at 54S 177E (195 degs HI, 213 degs SCal and shadowed, 211 degs NCal and starting to become shadowed). This system was gone after that. 

Good energy is pushing northeast though a long ways away targeting mainly the US West Coast and Tahiti with sideband energy for Hawaii. And the model was right on track if not a bit conservative. 

Hawaii:  Swell to hold nicely Sun AM (7/5) at 2.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.0 ft with sets to 5 ft) with period dropping to 17 secs at sunset. Swell fading Mon AM (7/6) from 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195-201 degrees with most energy 201 degrees

South CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon at 10 PM (7/6) with period 20 secs and size tiny but starting to build. Period dropping to 19 secs by noon Tues (7/7) with small but rideable energy starting to show. Period turning to 18 secs at 1 AM Wed (7/8) with swell 2.2 ft @ 18 secs (4.0 ft with sets to 5.0 ft) and well rideable swell holding through the morning, and still decent into the afternoon with period down to 17 secs at 3 PM (2.3 ft @ 17 secs - 4.0 ft with sets to 5.0 ft). Residuals fading on Thurs AM (7/9) with swell fading from 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) and becoming overridden by the next swell (see below).  Swell Direction: 214-221 degrees with peak size at 219 degs.     

North CA:  Expect swell arrival on Tues at 1 AM (7/7) with swell 1.6 ft @ 20 secs (3.0 ft) and size tiny but starting to build. Period dropping to 19 secs by 3 PM with small but rideable energy starting to show at 1.8 ft @ 19 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Period turning to 18 secs at 4 AM Wed (7/8) with swell 2.0 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) and well rideable swell holding through the day as period turns to 17 secs at 6 PM (2.2 ft @ 17 secs - 3.5-4.0 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Residuals on Thurs AM (7/9) fading from 2 ft @ 16 secs (3.0 ft) and becoming overridden by the next swell (see below).  Swell Direction: 213-220 degrees with peak size at 218 degs.   

     

2nd New Zealand Storm
Another small but potent storm developed south of Tasmania on Mon AM (6/29) with 50+ kt southwest winds over a tiny area and 39 ft seas building at 55S 144E and moving into the NCal/SCal swell window from 222 degrees.  The WindSAT satellite confirmed winds at 60 kts at 18Z. Fetch was fading from 55 kts in the evening tracking east-northeast with 48 ft seas at 54S 156E and again unshadowed relative to NCal (219 degrees) and SCal (218 degrees) but shadowed by NZ relative to HI.   The Jason-2 satellite passed over the western core of this storm at 4Z Tues and reported a 15 reading average of 47.0 ft with one reading to 51.4 ft where the model suggested seas should be 45 ft. The model was right on track. 45 kt southwest winds were fading over a solid area pushing under New Zealand on Tues AM (6/30) generating 39 ft seas at 50S 165E (220 degs NCal and SCal unshadowed) and barely moving into the HI swell window at 201 degrees. Fetch was fading from barely 40 kts in the evening still aimed well northeast with 31 ft seas at 50S 180W (197 degs HI, 214 degs NCal and unshadowed, 216 degs SCal and starting to become shadowed). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the core of the fetch at 2Z and reported seas 32.0 ft with one reading to 35.6 ft where the model suggested 31 ft seas. The model was about right on track. 35 kt southwest fetch faded Wed AM (7/1) aimed well northeast with 29 ft seas at 51S 175W (190 degs HI, SCal 211 degs and shadowed, 211 degs NCal and barely shadowed). In the evening a tiny area of 45 kt southwest fetch to redevelop further south with 30 ft seas at 55S 165W (184 degs HI, 205 degs SCal and mostly unshadowed, 204 degs NCal and shadowed). Maybe one more spurt of 29 ft seas to hold into Thurs AM (7/2) at 55S 159W and then this system is to be gone.  

Solid swell production has already occurred and right on the heels of the previous storm.  Most energy to be focused on Tahiti up into the US West Coast but with sideband energy relative to Hawaii. And again the model is underhyping it slightly. 

Hawaii: Swell arrival starting Mon AM (7/6) with period 20 secs and swell building late to 1.9 ft @ 19 secs (3.6 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Swell to peak on Tues (7/7) at 2.1 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft).  Residuals on Wed (7/8) wit period 15-16 secs.  Swell Direction: 195-201 degree    

Southern CA: Swell arrival expected on Tues (7/7) at 11 AM with period 22-23 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Period turning to 22 secs at 10 PM and size becoming noticeable if it were not buried in the previous swell. Swell  hitting 21 secs at 7 AM Wed (7/8). Decent swell to finally start showing near 4 PM as period hits 20 secs (1.3 ft @ 20 secs - 2.5-3.0 ft) . Swell building Thurs (7/9) starting at 4 AM as period hits 19 secs with period dropping to 18 secs at 3 PM. Size estimated to 2.0 ft @ 18-19 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Swell peaking on Fri (7/10) as period hits 17 secs. Swell to 3.0 ft @ 17 secs early (5.0 ft with sets to 6.5 ft). Residuals fading on Sat (7/11) from 2.0 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft).  Swell Direction: 213-220 degrees with peak energy 218 degrees     

Northern CA: Swell arrival expected on Tues (7/7) at 2 PM with period 22-23 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Period turning to 22 secs on Wed (7/8) at 1 AM and size becoming noticeable if it were not buried in the previous swell hitting 21 secs at 10 AM. Decent swell to finally start showing near 8 PM as period hits 20 secs (1.3 ft @ 20 secs - 2.6 ft with sets to 3.5 ft). Swell continues Thurs (7/9) starting at 7 AM as period hits 19 secs building through the day with period dropping to 18 secs at 6 PM. Size estimated at 2.3 ft @ 18-19 secs (4.3 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Swell to peak on Fri (7/10) as period hits 17 secs. Swell to 2.6 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Residuals fading on Sat (7/11) from 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft).  Swell Direction: 212-219 degrees with peak energy 218 degrees   

 

South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height

 

QuikCAST's

 

LONG-TERM FORECAST
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a weak pressure pattern is to remain in control for the workweek into the weekend (7/12) with no windswell producing winds forecast.

Relative to Hawaii trades to continue building at 15+ kts by Wed (7/8) and possibly stronger depending on whether a tropical system develops southeast of the Islands later in the workweek. regardless, some form of easterly windswell is likely though the later part of the workweek into the weekend at exposed east facing shores.  

MJO/ENSO Update
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to 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).

(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) As of Saturday (7/4) the daily SOI was holding well negative at -30.70 having previously bottomed out on (6/26) at -48.90. The 30 day average was falling from -15.11 and the 90 day average was falling from -10.62. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of strong Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a modest Active Phase of the MJO if not a modest El Nino base state. Fading high pressure at 1020 mbs was over Southeast Australia while high pressure was building south of Tahiti. A rising SOI seems likely. Beyond high pressure is to start fading south of Tahiti on Tues (7/7) while a weak but steady high pressure pattern holds over Southeast Australia with a neutral SOI taking hold, perhaps starting to fade a week out. But strong high pressure is to be building over Southwest Australia a week out bound for the Southeast possibly resulting in a falling SOI long term. High pressure over Australia could help the Southern Hemi Booster Index (a component of strong El Ninos) and supportive of storm development under New Zealand. The theory suggests it is high pressure over this area that 'boosts' a regular El Nino into Super El Nino status. But at this time we're not seeing that developing. And if anything, a rising SOI wont help the 90 day average get down into the -15 range required of a typical El Nino.

Current equatorial surface wind analysis per 850 mb charts (~4,500 ft up) indicated strong west anomalies continued over the Maritime Continent reaching over the dateline, turning to moderate strength while pushing south of Hawaii before fading south of California at 120W. The WWB burst had grown to cover most of the equatorial Pacific. Neutral to light east anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated a similar picture with very strong strong west winds (not just anomalies) between 160E-170E and raging west anomalies reaching to the dateline and moderate anomalies to 150W. This is very solid WWB and get good duration and coverage. The GFS model 00 hr Hindcast indicated west winds at 16 kts in play in one small pocket over the Central KWGA near 160E. And a triplet of low pressure systems were set up, 2 north of the KWGA (Chan Hom, Nangka, and one to the south, the direct result of this WWB. It's been a long time since we've seen something like this and we're not even in the season yet (Fall). This Active Phase of this MJO is impressive. A week from now (7/12) moderate westerly anomalies are forecast shifting east but still over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area pushing from 160E to a point south of Hawaii, fading some, then redeveloping at modest strength south of California pushing almost to 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 easing east out of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. West anomalies held through 6/10 (per TAO data) fading to neutral for 8 days, then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. Zero easterly anomalies have been reported so far this year. And now we're in a significant WWB, the strongest of the year so far, starting on 6/26 and forecast to hold for 15 days (7/11). Another Kelvin Wave is expected to result. Still more westerly anomalies are needed into Sept if a strong El Nino is to develop, as is projected by the long term models and based on evolving atmospheric signals.    

See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.

The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/3 suggests a moderate Active MJO signal was in control over the far West Pacific. The Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is peaking and is to push steadily east over the next 5 days while withering, gone 8 days out with the Inactive Phase starting to move in from the Indian Ocean 15 days out. The Dynamic model depicts a steady state strong Active Phase in the West Pacific inching east for the next 15 days slowly giving up strength, but still in control. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is set up in the Indian Ocean and is to be making no east headway. There is a huge disparity between the two models. But, the presence of regular pulses of the MJO is not an indication of super El Nino status per past experience. Rather a steady state Weak Active Phase or a building El Nino base state with a fading MJO signal would be more in-line with past experience (at least that's the way it played out in '97). But each El Nino has it own peculiarities. Phase diagrams from the ECMF and GEFS suggest this active phase to peak on 7/5 at a strength off the carts then rapidly collapsing and hold in place in the West Pacific for the next 2 weeks (these are both dynamic models). The ultra long range upper level model run on 7/4 depicts a strong Active pattern over the East Pacific and is expected to track east and into Central America by 7/14. A moderate Inactive Phase is to follow developing in the West Pacific starting 7/17 making it to the East Pacific by 8/8 with a strong Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean behind that. As of right now, there are no signs of a upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave lifecycle, as developed last year at this time and eventually squashed continued evolution of last years El Nino. That upwelling phase was heralded by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Instead this year, westerly anomalies are back in the picture with the Inactive Phase between 6/10-6/18 being all but non-existent anomaly wise. With the current WWB developing strong, it adds fuel to speculation that a strong El Nino might be in development. But the forecast development of the Inactive Phase in mid to late July could be where the upwelling phase materializes.  A well entrenched westerly wind anomaly pattern is required during the June/July timeframe if something that wants to rival the '97 El Nino is to develop. If a real Inactive Phase develops, hopes for a Super El Nino will be severely impeded. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.    

Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean.  

As of the most recent low-res imagery (7/2) first impressions continue indicating a moderate and well defined warm water/El Nino-like regime in-place and building over the entire equatorial Pacific. It depicts a generalized expansion of coverage near the Galapagos over the last 15 days extending west into the edge of the NINO 3.4 region, and making more progress into it and also down the Peruvian Coast and up into Central America.  Temperatures in the NINO1.2 region do not look to be getting warmer, but are instead fueling expansion of coverage over the entire region. That is not a concern given what's building subsurface (more below). Along the West African Coast, cool water continues holding it's coverage there, no loosing anything. Compared to the '97 Super El Nino on this date, there is beginning to be no comparison. And this was not unexpected as the '97 Event really starting supercharging water temps in the Nino 1.2 region in this timeframe. The cold water African signature is also present in the '97 image, though stronger in coverage. It is the permanent set up of a Inactive like Phase over West Africa and a semi permanent Active State over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area tracking slowly east, and high pressure locked over Southeast Australia that we are looking for. Still our suspicions are that all the weaknesses above in this years event are to only compound some over time compared to '97.  

TAO data indicates +1.5 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline. There is an embedded area of now +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies expanding from the Galapagos to 130W and continuing to build west of there a new pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies at 140W. This is a significant upgrade from 6/29. A key component of the later phases of El Nino is the migration east not only subsurface waters, but also surface waters forced by continued anomalous westerly winds pushing across the dateline. That is not occurring yet with the western border of +1.5 deg anomalies holding at 180W.  

The most recent hi-res data (7/2) indicates peak temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador are building while advecting west. In the past 5 days a broader area of warm anomalies built along the immediate coast of Northern Chile up into Peru and the Galapagos with 5-6 pockets at +4-5 degs above normal embedded in that now starting to merge, with an almost continuous core of 4-5 degs anomalies streaming from Southern Peru pushing off Ecuador and over the Galapagos reaching well west of there. A peak station reading at the Galapagos occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had maxed out, then built to +5.45 degs on 6/14. Temps faded slightly since down to +4.1 degs but now back to +4.5 degs today. And much more warm water is pushing east at depth (see below). Given the building of warm waters along Peru we're beginning to think an expansion of core coverage was starting to occur. The CDAS Nino 1+2 index has been hovering at +2.1 degrees since late May then spiked reaching +3.0 degs on 7/3, now down to +2.8 degs today. But the Nino 1.2 area is very volatile and noisy. Still, warm water from a stronger Kelvin Wave lurking just under the surface has been expected to impact the Galapagos, with temps spiking. That is definitely happening now. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggests water temps have held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April. But starting 6/23 were on the increase pushing +1.5 degs as of 6/30 and generally holding there (+1.4 degs today). Unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies have encroached westward from the Galapagos to 131W as of 6/30 (moving from 123W on 6/25) and a are backfilling growing in areal coverage. One would expect NINO 3.4 to start warming as warming water from the 1.2 region starts advecting west, and that is happening now.  

Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator under the dateline (160-180W) are starting to rebuild some with +2.0 degs anomalies developing at 170W, presumably the immediate effects of a WWB occurring just west of there. Warmer water previously there is tracking east reinforcing a large warm reservoir moving into Ecuador. So the pipe is open with more warm water falling into. In parallel the reservoir in the east is pushing into the Galapagos and Ecuador. A large pool of +5-6 degs anomalies is holding there centered at 110W with +5 deg anomalies pushing east from 120W to Ecuador and 4+ deg anomalies reaching east from 130W (significant eastward movement this report). This pocket is a mixture of warm water driven by an extended WWB that occurred Jan-March plus water from an additional WWB in early May. This suggests there are perhaps 2 months of warm water in this reservoir. And more warm water continues downwelling on the dateline. A bit of a stall in westerly anomalies occurred 6/10-6/18, but has now restarted and with much vigor, and is expected to rapidly deepen. The Kelvin Wave impacting the East Pacific should peak on Aug 1, with presumably a third starting to build now, possibly impacting the Galapagos on 10/2. Let the good times roll.  

This is exactly how the '97 El Nino played out, with not individual Kelvin Waves impacting the coast, but a huge pool of warm water developing at this time of year in the East Pacific creating continuous upwelling of warm water off Ecuador, with continuous westerly anomalies in the KWGA feeding yet more warm water into that subsurface pool for 6+months. This is a significant development.

Satellite data from 6/27 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170W with a core at +15 cm at 90W and +10 cm anomalies expanding west from 130W eastward. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with embedded and merging Kelvin Waves forming into a large subsurface reservoir. This is a classic major El Nino setup, not a standard El Nino. 

The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (6/27) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 161W and the Ecuador coast (easing east) with +1.0-1.5 degs from 153W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 145W. And +2 deg anomalies are holding between the coast and 130W with a new peak at 2.5 degs at 98W  The first Kelvin Wave has impacted the Ecuador Coast and the next wave of warming is building behind looking every bit as strong. This is a very good sign with yet more westerly anomalies and a new Kelvin Wave starting to build behind that. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here

Pacific Counter Current data as of 6/27 continues solid, though down some from the last update on 6/17 in some respects. The current is pushing moderately strongly west to east over the far west equatorial Pacific filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area to about the dateline with modest current reaching south of Hawaii only on the north side of the equator and eventually hitting the Galapagos. Weak to modest easterly current was 3 degrees was on the equator from the Galapagos to a point south of Hawaii. Anomaly wise - moderate to strong west anomalies were in control on the equator over the far West Pacific, fading to modest strength and reaching over the dateline and all but gone south of Hawaii. East anomalies are now in play and strong between 130W-160W. This is not good. And compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 west velocities and anomalies were raging from 120W-180W.  Based on this data, unless something huge happens in the next week or two and holds for a month, there is no way this years event will compare to '97 at least from a current perspective. Suspect all this is a function of the strength of westerly anomalies, which are just now on the rebound after a 8 day pause.  But they still have a long ways to go.

Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model (PDF Corrected) run 7/4 for the Nino 3.4 region are holding. It suggests water temps are at +1.25 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm continuing to +1.9 degs by Oct (previously +1.75 degs 6/28) peaking at +2.0-+2.05 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. Peak temps have stabilized in the +2.0 deg range. This suggests we have passed the likelihood of a Modoki event and are now firmly moving towards a full blown moderate plus El Nino, maybe bordering on the strong side. But it is too early to believe just yet. The model overhyped it last year, then the atmospheric picture collapsed in June. That does not appear likely this year, but and expected Inactive Phase of the MJO in July could still have unknown affects. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 5 months for a strong El Nino to develop (including surface warm water currently locked over the dateline), especially of the magnitude projected by the model. The mid-May consensus Plume suggests development of a moderate El Nino with peak temps 1.2-1.5 degs above normal. See the chart based version here - link. 

Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 multiple downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino until Feb 2015, and then very weak at that. Those were in effect primers to help move the atmosphere out of a perpetual La Nina biased pattern that had been in play for the past 15 years. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in play with some greater force dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern (likely the PDO). The focus now becomes whether this warming and teleconnection will persist if not strengthen in 2015. Water temps in the Nino 1.2 region have been warming solidly through June due to the arrival of the first of two Kelvin Wave (see details above) and advecting west over the entire equatorial Pacific into the Nino 3.4 region. Water temp anomalies there are well within El Nino parameters.  Westerly anomalies, which stalled for 8 days in mid-June due to the passage of the Inactive Phase of the MJO, have resumed and are building, now at WWB strength and forecast to hold into early July aided by the return of the Active Phase of the MJO interacting with an El Nino base state, eliminating previous concerns about a possible appearance of the cool upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Westerly anomalies and a certified WWB that developed in early May over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area have generated a second Kelvin Wave which merged with remnants of the first Kelvin Wave, creating a large warm reservoir lodged just west of the Galapagos and appears to be starting to erupting on track with projections for the first week of July. At this point we believe warming in the equatorial Pacific is sufficient to start the classic El Nino feedback loop, evidenced by cooling temps off Africa and a solid North Pacific jetstream pattern (when there should be none).  If so, then westerly anomalies/WWBs should continue through July-Sept and beyond, modulated by the MJO with at least full scale El Nino developing. All this is very positive. But we will remain cautious.    

Previous concerns about a possible fall-back to a Modoki El Nino pattern have passed. A simple glance a the SST Anomaly charts can tell that. The hot topic then becomes how strong this developing El Nino will become. And that is purely a function of the strength and duration of westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. If we survived this most recent Inactive Phase of the MJO with no easterly anomalies developing (and in reality, no trades at all), as we move deeper into the year with an evolving base El Nino state, then any future Inactive Phases of the MJO cycle should have even less impact. This is required for a major El Nino to develop. And this is what we are considering to be a very real possibility. The first milestone in moving towards that goal is monitoring the strength of westerly anomalies in the KWGA for the next 2-3 weeks as the Active Phase of the MJO tracks over that area. Part 2 is monitoring the impact of the large Kelvin Wave poised to erupt over the Galapagos. Two significant events occurring simultaneously, both with the capacity to significant enhance our developing El Nino. The effects of Kelvin Wave eruption (warming ocean surface more) will help to reinforce the atmospheric teleconnection, modifying the Walker Circulation and feeding the northern hemi jetstream, which in turn will reinforce the base El Nino state, which in turn will support more westerly anomalies over the KWGA. In essence, the system will move into a mode of reinforcing itself, a self perpetuating feedback loop. If sufficiently strong, that should also fuel the supposed Southern Hemi Booster Index, which in turn could supercharge the feedback loop.

Of course all this is speculation. Regardless what the models declare, it isn't real till it actually occurs. Models and theories are fallible (as was evidenced last year).  But, as things currently stand, we appear to be close to crossing over a threshold. The next possible choke point would be the projected Inactive Phase of the MJO in mid-to-late July. If that is a non-event, much like the mid-June one, then a significant El Nino event would become more likely. If it somehow shuts down westerly anomalies, and a upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle develops, all bets are off. Assuming that does not happen, how will this years event compare to '97 or '82?  A wild guess says somewhere between the two. We're not seeing the strength and duration of westerly anomalies this year as compared to '97 (see analysis here). Conversely the '82 event didn't even really get going till the June-July timeframe. We're way ahead of that, but not quite seeing the vigor of '97 at this point in time. Interestingly, the amount of warm water in play on the equator at the start of this year (the results of 2014's failed El Nino bid) actually gave us a starting base state well ahead of '97, somewhat negating concerns about weaker WWBs this year. Still we're guessing we're somewhere between the 82' and '97 event, with very good atmospheric momentum in play, and that's a good place to be unless you own beach front property in California.          

We continue monitoring Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming of East Pacific equatorial waters for Sept-Dec 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the  El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13 

 

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather system are forecast with a strong ridging pattern in control of the upper atmosphere pushing all eastward migrating gales over Antarctica proper. 3 cutoff low are forecast though, one southeast of Tahiti on Sun (7/5) with 27 ft seas over a tiny area at 33S 136W aimed north and gone 12 hours later. The second is to be east of New Zealand on Thurs (7/9) producing 30 ft seas aimed north at 47S 168W for 12 hours, and one more south of California on Sat (7/11) with 31 ft seas at 30S 121W aimed north. Small swell possible from all these.

Details to follow...

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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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