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 Monday (9/15) in North and Central CA surf was thigh to waist high and clean with sunny skies. Occasional small long lined sets pulsing out of the south. Down in Santa Cruz surf was near flat and clean with occasional waist high sets. Gorgeous day. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and building with some texture and lump in the mix but not too bad. Down south waves were waist to chest high and texture with cross chop on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some more northerly swell with waves chest high and a bit tattered with northeast cross wind. The South Shore was still solid with waves in the head high to 1 ft overhead range and clean and well lined up. On the East Shore windswell was producing waves to knee high and chopped by light trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific swell from what was Tropical Storm Fengshen is still hitting Hawaii. Remnants of Fengshen redeveloped over the Eastern Aleutians on Sat (9/13) with 23 ft seas producing swell that is radiating mainly towards the Pacific Northwest. No windswell was being produced for California. Trades were suppressed for Hawaii with no rideable windswell being produced. A weak low is to develop just off North CA mid-next week. No swell to result but it suggests that the weather pattern is much different this year compared to the 3 previous. Another gale is forecast for the extreme Northern Gulf on Thurs (9/18) with 19 ft seas aimed east. And more is possible behind that. In the southern hemisphere swell from what was strong but small Storm #4S was in the water and starting to hit California. There are some suggestions that the SPac might start becoming a little more active over a week out.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Monday (9/15) the jetstream over the North Pacific was weakly split with some energy tracking northwest of the Kuril Islands but with most energy in the southern branch pushing off Japan then ridging somewhat north, arching over the dateline (just south of the Aleutians) at up to 140 kts then falling southeast starting to form a trough off the Central CA coast. No clearcut troughs or support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast but with a trough becoming more defined off Central CA into Wed (9/17) offering a little support for low pressure development there and the ridge over the dateline flattening out with winds speeds holding at 130 kts but with no troughs indicated. The trough off Central CA to move inland over Cape Mendocino on Thurs (9/18). Beyond 72 hours a new trough is to start building in the Western Gulf fed by 140 kt winds and getting reinforced into Sun (9/21) by 150 kt winds tracking into it from the Northwestern Pacific and the trough amplifying from there. A nice early season pattern is projected to be setting up with decent support for gale development possible.
Surface Analysis - On Monday (9/15) a weak pressure pattern was in play. Low pressure at 996 mbs was in the extreme North Gulf of Alaska generating no fetch of interest. High pressure at 1024 mbs was over the dateline but displaced south and not blocking the Aleutian Storm Corridor. A second weak low at 1008 mbs was well off the Central CA coast generating no fetch of interest.
Small swell generated from when Fengshen tracked off Japan to the dateline is in the water and fading in Hawaii. Remnants of this system became absorbed in a cold core low in the Bering Sea on Sat (9/13) (see Small Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours weak low pressure 1200 nmiles west of Central CA is to build some Tues (9/16) and forming a weak gradient with high pressure west of it at 1024 mbs resulting in 25 kt north winds aimed somewhat at Hawaii but mainly focused in between Hawaii and California (no mans land). The low is to start tracking east-northeast positioned 400 nmiles west of Cape Mendocino mid-day Wed (9/17) still generating 25 kt north winds and 13 ft seas targeting Central CA then dissipating while pushing inland over the Oregon-CA border on Thurs (9/18). No real swell to result, but there's a reasonable chance for scattered showers (or at least some heavy cloud cover) reaching as far south as the Golden Gate Wed PM (9/17) and better odds for semi-real rain over North CA.
Also low pressure is to start building over the northern dateline region on Tues (9/16) racing east over the top of high pressure on the southern dateline region and moving into the Gulf of Alaska on Wed (9/17) and becoming assimilated into a semi-permanent low in the Gulf. 30 kt west winds forecast over a small area Wed AM covering a broader but still limited area in the evening. Seas 15 ft in the Gulf. A small area of 35 kt west winds to build into Thurs AM (9/18) with seas to 19 ft at 51N 150W (312 degs NCal). In the evening winds are to be fading from 30 kts and turning more southwest targeting only North Canada and Alaska. Low odds for any meaningful swell to reach anywhere in CA.
Small Gulf Gale
On Saturday AM (9/13) 35-40 kt northwest winds were falling south of the Aleutians Sat AM (9/13) getting traction on the oceans surface with seas building to 19 ft at 51S 171W. In the evening the fetch quickly backed off dropping to 30 kts from the west positioned just south of the Eastern Aleutians with 23 ft seas over a modest sized area at 50N 166W (307 degrees NCal) with no fetch aimed at Hawaii. 30 kt west winds tracked east into Sun AM (9/14) generating more 19 ft seas at 52N 160W (310 degs NCal). Winds faded below 30 kts in the evening with seas dropping below 18 ft and of no interest to anyone other than Alaska.
Assuming all this develops as forecast some degree of 14-15 sec period swell could result for British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest and down into Central CA.
NCal: Limited swell energy to start becoming noticeable on Tues (9/16) at sunset with period 15-16 secs. Swell peaking on Wed (9/17) at 9 AM at 3.3 ft @ 14 secs (4.5-5.0 ft faces) from 307 degs
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Hurricane Odile on Mon AM (9/15) was tracking northwest up the immediate coast of Southern Baja maybe 120 nmiles north-northwest of Cabo San Lucas. Winds were 90 kts and the core was effectively inland. This system is to remain inland over Baja for the foreseeable future with depression grade remnants moving into the Northern Gulf of Baja on Wed AM (9/17) while turning northeast bound for maybe South Arizona. No swell production has occurred in the California swell window and none is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday AM (9/15) weak low pressure off the California coast with a generally light wind pattern was in play locally other than 15 kt north winds isolated to the immediate Pt Conception area. High pressure to build a little over Pt Conception on Tuesday (9/17) with north winds there to near 20 kts. But on Wednesday the weak low off the coast is to be tracking east cutting off the high with a weak wind pattern back in control and with something that looks like a front and south winds developing reaching south to maybe Pt Reyes. The low is to move into Cape Mendocino Thursday wit light winds continuing. Beyond high pressure is to build slightly behind the low on Friday setting up 25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino Fri PM-Sat AM (9/20) then quickly fading with light winds if not an eddy flow over Central CA. no change until Mon (9/22) when perhaps light north winds and 15 kt north winds in patches over Central CA, but likely doomed with low pressure taking over the entire Gulf of Alaska late.
Surface Analysis - On Monday AM (9/15) swell from Storm #4S was starting to arrive in California (see Second Strong New Zealand Storm #4S below) with long period showing at nearshore buoys. .
Otherwise high pressure was in control of the Southeast Pacific and a weak pressure pattern was over the Southwest Pacific. No swell production for our forecast area was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast (thru Tues 9/16).
A small gale developed in the South Tasman Sea Sun-Mon (9/15) generating up to 40 kt winds and barely 25 ft seas for 18 hours near 46S 158E Sun PM (9/14) aimed well up the 204 degree path to Fiji. 14 sec period swell is in the water pushing towards that target.
Another small gale is forecast for the South Tasman Sea on Thurs (9/18) generating 35 kt south winds and 24 ft seas near 42S 160E (208 degs Fiji).
Second Strong New Zealand Storm #4S
On Sat PM (9/6) a small storm started forming south of the Tasman Sea generating 55 kt southwest winds with 36 ft seas at 56S 158E pushing flat east. This fetch is to be getting good traction on an already roughed up ocean surface with 18 ft seas courtesy of the Primer Gale that preceded it. Fetch was well into storm force on Sun AM (9/7) with 60-65 kt southwest winds in play just southeast of New Zealand at 55S 173E (195 degs HI, 212 degs NCal and barely unshadowed, 213 degs SCal and shadowed) with seas 51 ft at 55S 172E (196 degs HI, 213 degs NCal and unshadowed, 214 degs SCal and shadowed). Fetch was starting to fade but still respectable in the evening blowing from the southwest at 55 kts with seas peaking at 55 ft at 55S 176W (189 degs HI, 208 degs NCal and shadowed, 210 degs SCal and unshadowed). Most energy aimed a bit east of optimal relative to the great circle tracks to the north. The Jason-2 satellite passed over the southwest quadrant of the storm at 06Z Mon (9/8) reporting average seas 39.3 ft with a peak single reading to 43.7 ft where the model depicted 36-37 ft seas. The model undercalled seas based on this data. By Monday AM (9/8) south-southwest winds were fading from 50 kts and seas from previous fetch fading from 46 ft at 54S 170W kts (184 degs HI, 206 degs NCal and shadowed, 207 degs SCal and unshadowed). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the core of the storm at 14Z and reported average seas at 43.8 ft with a peak single reading at 46.3 ft where the model depicted 46 ft seas. The model was overhyping the seas slightly. By evening fetch was falling from 45 kts but blowing straight to the north with seas from previous fetch decaying from 39 ft at 50S 165W (181 degs HI, 206 degs NCal and shadowed, 207 degs SCal and unshadowed). Tues AM (9/9) winds were fully south and fading from 40 kts with seas 34 ft at 48S 157W (180 degs HI, 203 degs NCal and unshadowed, 205 degs SCal and unshadowed).
This system was a bit too much on an easterly track to be optimal for much of our forecast area, with the preference for the storm to track northeast up and off the eastern coast of New Zealand. But the winds in the storm were blowing well to the northeast (early) and north (later) pushing well up the great circle tracks to California, but less so for Tahiti and Hawaii. And given the sheer force of this system and the height of the seas (51-55 ft for 12+ hours), some decent swell should result (even with the shadow relative to CA). But NCal was unshadowed for the first part of the peak of the seas production where SCal was fully shadowed. Jason-2 data suggested the model did a good job of imaging sea heights, doing the usual job of undercalling it early in it's life and overcalling it later in it's life.
The net effect is that solid long period swell is expected for Hawaii and then into California, but only from Monterey Bay northward. South of there down to 60% down Baja is to be in the shadow, and as a result non-significant class swell to result in that area. This will be an interest case study on the effects of the shadow, assuming Hurricane Odile does not pollute the data set. Swell of 3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs is expected in far North CA (6.5 ft faces), and only 2.4 ft 2 17-18 secs (4.2 ft faces) in Southern CA. An interesting reversal of the normal size trend.
Hawaii: On Tues AM (9/16) swell to be fading from 3.1 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5 ft faces with sets to 5.6 ft and bigger at top breaks). Swell fading Wed (9/17) from 2.5 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 185-194 degrees with most energy from 192 degrees
Southern CA: Swell is to start building solidly by Tues AM (9/16) as period hits 20 secs building to 2.0 ft @ 18.5 secs late (4.0 ft with sets to 5.0 ft). Swell to continue upwards on Wed (9/17) pushing 2.5 ft @ 17-18 secs early (4.4 ft with sets to 5.6 ft - though this is likely understated some). 16 sec energy expected on Thurs (9/18) and then fading on Friday. Peak Swell Direction: 210-215 degrees
North CA: Swell is to start building solidly by Tues AM (9/16) as period hits 20 secs building to 3 ft @ 18.5 secs late (5.5 ft with sets to 7 ft). Swell to continue upwards on Wed (9/17) pushing 3.2 ft @ 17-18 secs early (5.6 ft with sets to 7.0 ft). 16 sec energy expected on Thurs (9/18) fading from 2 ft @ 16 secs early (3.5 ft with sets to 4.0 ft). Peak Swell Direction: 208-213 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours a more active pattern is forecast for the North Pacific. A small gale is forecast for the Eastern Gulf on Mon-Tues (9/23) with up to 40 kt northwest winds and 20 ft sea targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. And perhaps another system is to be building off Northern Japan. It is starting to look like the season is warming up.
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).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Monday (9/15) the daily SOI was up slightly at -13.19. The 30 day average was down to -10.02 and the 90 day average was down some at -7.95. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. Low pressure was tracking east and positioned south of Tahiti holding the SOI negative. But weak high pressure and a slightly rising SOI to follow for the next 7 days with the SOI likely rising some. .
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak west anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading as they moved towards the dateline turning almost neutral there then rebuilding some from the west extending from a point south of Hawaii half way to the Galapagos. A week from now (9/23) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent building lightly from the west over the dateline and holding in the modest category from the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies to extend from there the rest of the way into the Galapagos. This suggests a Active MJO-like pattern was over the Central Pacific. The TOA array was more aggressive indicating moderate plus strength west anomalies near 150E fading some but continuing westerly to a point south of Hawaii. This is a better representation of reality and well supportive of Kelvin Wave development if not indicative of an out-and-out Westerly Wind Burst.
Looking at the trend over the past few months there has not been a extended period of enhanced trades so far this year, and we're over 245 days into the year. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25-7/6, then again 7/11-7/20, building into a WWB and holding through 8/10. Light westerly anomalies developed again 8/20-8/22, 8/29-9/2 and 9/10 west of the dateline. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. Latest data from the TAO array indicates moderate west anomalies from 140E to the dateline on 9/10 holding through 9/12.. Another Kelvin Wave (modest at this point) is in-flight associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August and continues to be fed up to the current date. Compared to La Nina where enhanced trades (20+ kts) would be blowing non-stop, we're in great shape and have been all year. No easterly anomalies of interest have occurred all year. It would be hard to make a case stating some flavor of weak El Nino was not in play at this point.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
Previously a series of WWBs occurred 1/8-4/20 creating a large Kelvin Wave that impacted Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru, May and June. This was very similar situation that led up to the big El Nino's of '82/32 and '97/98. But in those instances the WWBs and Kelvin Wave generation progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months. An article presenting a Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and this 2014 WWB event has been posted here. A second analysis from 5/28 is posted here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 9/14 are generally in sync. They both suggest a very weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the far West Pacific. Per both models it is to hold for the next 10 days, then fading per the Statistic model and building some per the Dynamic model. The ultra long range upper level model run 9/15 has changed completely for 2 days before now depicting a modest Inactive Phase building in the West Pacific and it is to track east pushing into Central America on 10/10. A very weak Active Phase is to follow. Recent experience this year suggests this model is overhyping any projected Inactive Phases and changes radically in it's projection every 4 or so days. The suspicion is this model does not handle El Nino like situations well. We're looking for a very weak MJO pattern biased Active if an El Nino were developing. This is what happened during July, even though the model suggested an Inactive Phase was to develop. And that is what happened in August too (see TAO westerly wind anomaly reports above). This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some impact on the atmosphere above, however slight. 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 (9/15) nothing has changed. A moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, but down some from the peak of the Kelvin Wave eruptions in late June. Still, it's held up way better than expected even through the upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase in July. And if anything a full scale regeneration of warm water is in progress over the NINO 3.4 region with 1.0 deg C anomalies present there and +1.0 deg anomalies near 160E (Kelvin Wave Generation Area). Hi res imagery indicates a string of warm pockets building over the width of the equator between the Galapagos and the dateline. Even though the bulk of the massive Kelvin Wave earlier this year has dispersed, another source of warm water is in play, and a new Kelvin Wave is poised to erupt over the Galapagos.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California as would be expected this time of year. And serious warm water is entrenched along the California coast and building in coverage, the exact opposite of the trend of the past 3+ years. Waters temps in San Francisco are 62 degrees and holding solid. Very rare. But this is expected if El Nino were in play. This is significant in that is suggests the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weakened relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is mostly normal/neutral except for cool water streaming off Southern Chile pushing west reaching up to the equator just south of Hawaii. But even the areal coverage of that pocket is in decline, suggesting a warm regime is getting the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific remains most impressive, while the South Pacific is starting to trend in the same direction.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are on the rebound. As of 9/15 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up with an imbedded pocket of up to +3 deg anomalies are at 125W pushing up towards the Galapagos at . This is great news indicating the pipe is open and a New Kelvin Wave is in flight. The leading edge of this new Kelvin Wave is making quick advances now at 110W. Satellite data from 9/10 depicts a solid and building area of +5 cm anomalies are covering the dateline region and tracking east reaching to 105W, also indicative of a Kelvin Wave pushing east. And the coverage of anomalies is increasing over the dateline, suggesting more warm water is flowing into the pipe. Other models collaborate the presumption of Kelvin Wave genesis. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (9/5) indicates a new modest Kelvin Wave is developing in the west reaching east to 110W, with the cool upwelling Phase of the previous Kelvin Wave gone. It is assumed more light westerly anomalies feed more warm water into this building Kelvin Wave. At this time we are over the proverbial 'hump'. When the Kelvin Wave arrives at the Galapagos (~Sept 30), more warm water will reinforce the existing warm pool theoretically pushing things into minimal El Nino territory. That cannot be declared until it happens, but everything is lining up.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 9/1 suggests an improved pattern. The current is pushing west to east over the entire West and Central Pacific on and north of the equator but focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. Just south of the equator the current was generally pushing east to west. West anomalies were just north of the equator between 130-140E and between 145W-100W. East anomalies were on and south of the equator from 150-170E in the heart of the Kevin Wave Generation Area. This data suggests a mixed picture but slightly better than the last update. But it appears the easterly current is no longer overtaking the westerly component. A slight improvement.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 9/15 have built back and in an interesting way. It suggests water temps building to +0.5 deg C by early Oct peaking at +1.0 deg C in Nov (down from the +1.75 deg C predicted in May and then revised down to +1.55 deg C predicted in early July). But the real interesting part is that water temps are now to hold solid at +1.0 into June 2015. This suggests that perhaps were are moving towards a multi-year warm event. See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: A massive Kelvin Wave was generated by successive Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April and erupted in the Galapagos region late June and is now dispersed. The WWB ended on 5/1 with the last of the warm water from it arriving 3 months later over the Galapagos on 8/1. At one point it looked like neutral water temps would be taking over the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle with no immediate Kelvin Wave reinforcements projected. But instead a persistent warm water temp regime stabilized there, and not much different temperature-wise from what it was at the peak of Kelvin Wave impact. And renewed weak WWB and west anomalies developed in the West Pacific in July and August have produced a new Kelvin Wave with +3 degs C in flight now. We had been thinking the gap between the 2 Kelvin Waves cause water temps to decease in the Nino regions, likely to near neutral. But that did not happened. Instead water temps have held in the Galapagos triangle in the +1.5 degree range. There was some temporary loss of water temps in the Nino3.4 range, but it is now rebounding with some other process at work keeping water temp stable in the Galapagos region. This is good news.
Assuming westerly anomalies continue in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (west of the dateline), more warm water will migrate east. This is a reasonable assumption seeing how there has been virtually no easterly anomalies for the first 8 months of this year. And trades tend to weaken during Fall months in the northern hemi, meaning we're just now starting to reach the point in time where Westerly Wind Bursts should have the best support for development. All data suggests we're at the end of the 'upwelling' Phase of the Kelvin Wave. It's normal after a downwelling Kevin Wave impacts the Ecuador coast, especially a massive one like just experienced, that some period of upwelling (cooling) occurs. And for that to be true, the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle would be facilitated by a lack of westerly winds in the West Pacific (as what occurred during May and June). Most El Nino's do not develop till the Fall, including the Super El Nino of '83/83. Only a few (namely the '97 Super El Nino) developed and survived strong through the summer and over the span of an entire year. A more 'normal' development life cycle would favor the alternating 'downwelling/upwelling' Kelvin Wave cycle. See currently Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here. Notice the alternating eastward migrating 'cool' and 'warm' cycles (upwelling/downwelling Kelvin Waves).
The CFSv2 model depicts exactly this scenario playing out, with water temps in Nino1.2 fading in August then redeveloping in September, exactly filling the 'hole' scenario described above. The redevelopment of westerly winds started in July and is hoped to continue into at least August if not beyond, resulting in a new Kelvin Wave. All evidence at this time suggests this is the case. Monitoring surface wind anomalies in the West Pacific remains critical to determining the future of this years potential El Nino pattern.
And finally, there's the 'feedback loop' consideration. We suspect it might already be in-play. The largest argument in favor of that is the total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of multiple tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline. And the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific is most telling. And then that pulse was followed by another pulse off Mexico (818-8/28) resulting in Lowell and Super Hurricane Marie. The last time this happened was during the '97 El Nino. The only argument against the feedback loop now is the development of a west moving Pacific Counter Current. Previous negative arguments concerning a dissipating Kelvin Wave, degradation of peak water temps in the Ecuador triangle and only a neutral 90 day SOI (rather than a negative one) have all turned in favor of an El Nino like pattern. For the most part they were just symptoms of the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Only once the ocean and atmosphere are coupled on a global level (that is, the ocean has imparted enough heat into the atmosphere to start changing the global jetstream pattern) can one begin to have confidence that a feedback loop is developing and a fully matured El Nino can result. About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. We have passed that threshold. As of 9/2, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in place were fading out except the Pacific Counter Current. Assuming the arguments against coupling were all associated with the upwelling Kelvin Wave phase, then one can conclude the ocean and atmosphere are now linked/teleconnected. Considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, it seem hard to believe that at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had been developing since perhaps as early and Oct of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). Monitoring the number, location and track of tropical systems in the North Pacific over the next few weeks will help to sort things out, as will monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which is now starting to looks much better as of 8/19) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which is nonexistent) is key. But at this time odds continue stacking in favor of a global teleconnection now being established. If that's true, deepening of the ENSO cycle could begin in the next month or so, and perhaps rapidly once it starts.
But for now we'll remain cautious. Overall the immediate outlook remains unchanged, but potentially trending towards something that would be considered warm by Sept 2014. At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Regardless of the WWB's etc, we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern at this time with neither any form of El Nino in-play. But given all current signs, atmospheric transition appears to be underway, and hopefully intensifying into Fall. Still this is a far better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. And it seems apparent we've recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. We've turned the corner, but we'll remain cautious and not say to much yet, especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours yet another gale, this one broad, is forecast developing in the South Tasman Sea on Sat-Sun (9/21) with 32 ft seas over a solid area aimed northeast at 48S 157E. More swell for Fiji possible.
And a solid gale is forecast approaching the entry point to the Southwest Pacific under New Zealand on Mon (9/22) with 36 ft seas. Something to monitor.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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