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.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Thursday, January 21, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 11.6 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 8.7 ft @ 13.3 secs from 319 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.2 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 13.5 secs from 251 degrees. Wind east 4-8 kts. Water temperature 60.1 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.4 ft @ 13.0 secs from 263 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.8 ft @ 13.2 secs from 262 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.7 ft @ 13.7 secs from 267 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 7.4 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 4.8 ft @ 13.1 secs from 284 degrees. Wind southeast 8-10 kts. Water temp 57.0 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (1/21) in North and Central CA swell was finally settling down with waves 1-2 ft overhead and clean with light offshore's and just a hint of warble in the water. Down in Santa Cruz surf was shoulder to head high at top breaks and clean but swamped by tide. In Southern California up north surf was waist to chest high on the sets and clean and lined up. Down south waves were in the chest high range on the sets and clean but pretty slow. Hawaii's North Shore was settling down with West Gulf swell still hitting but fading, in the 10 ft range Hawaiian early but a little hacked by north-northeast sideshore winds adding some bump into the mix. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the West Gulf swell with waves head high and chopped from north winds.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
The El Nino fueled storm track is productive and forecast to continue in machine-like consistency for at least the next week if one is to believe the models. Another gale developed Tues (1/19) northwest of Hawaii tracking east like previous storms peaking in the evening with seas to 36 ft aimed east then veering to the northeast and fading into Thurs (1/21). Swell has already hit Hawaii and is tracking towards the US West Coast. Another gale developed off Japan Tues (1/19) with seas in the 28 ft range and was tracking due east, expected to peak Fri AM (1/22) on the dateline with 36 ft seas then falling southeast still generating 28 ft seas Sun (1/24) 700 nmiles northwest of Hawaii and targeting the Islands well. And yet a stronger storm is to develop on the dateline Mon (1/25) pushing east with seas ranging from 44-50 ft on Tuesday (1/26) depending on which run of the model one inspects. And more energy is to be developing behind that.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (1/21) the jet was well consolidated flowing east off Japan with winds 150-160 kts forming a weak trough mid-way to the dateline, then pushing over dateline and falling into another trough mid-way between Hawaii and the California, consolidated and with winds at least 140 kts over the entire distance. There was support for gale development in both aforementioned troughs. Over the next 72 hours winds are to be building off Japan to 220 kts by Sun (1/24) then falling into a developing trough moving from the dateline into the Western Gulf offering great support for storm development with the .cgiit hold just off California. Beyond 72 hours winds to fade some to 190 kts by Tues (1/26) tracking over the dateline and turn more zonal running flat to the east but with another trough developing in the Gulf Tues-Wed (1/27) offering good support for gale development. And by Thurs (1/28) winds to be back to 210 kts off Japan falling into a broad trough developing on the dateline. More support for gale if not storm development. What a great upper level pattern. Hold this in your memory cause you likely won't see it again for a long time.
On Thursday (1/21) smaller residual swell from what was weeks of storms in the Gulf was finally starting to settle down in California. Swell from the next Gulf Gale has already hit Hawaii and is starting to fade some but is on the way to California (see Gulf Gale - Swell #6 below). Another broad gale was tracking from Japan to the dateline (see Japan-Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours yet another gale is to form 600 nmiles west of San Francisco California on Fri AM (1/22) generating 35-40 kt northwest winds and getting good traction on the oceans surface. by evening it is to be producing 45 kts west winds just off Pt Reyes with seas to 26 ft at 39N 130W. The gale is to be moving onshore over North CA on Sat AM (1/23) with winds 30 kts and seas fading from 22 ft at 40N 125W impacting Cape Mendocino directly. Raw swell to be hitting North CA/SF at sunrise Sat (1/23) pushing 13 ft @ 14 secs (18 ft Hawaiian) and trashed there by 20+ kts southwest winds. Swell Direction: 275 degrees
Gulf Gale (Swell #6)
A gale developed Mon PM (1/18) over the southern dateline region falling southeast towards Hawaii generating 40 kt northwest winds and 34 ft seas near 36N 175W. The gale tracked east-southeast Tues AM (1/19) with 45 kts northwest fetch over a modest area with 34 ft seas at 35N 166 targeting Hawaii. This system tracked east into the Southern Gulf in the evening producing a small area of 50 kt west winds and seas building from 35 ft at 37N 159W now targeting the US West Coast. By Wed AM (1/20) 45 kt west winds were in the Gulf pushing east with seas holding at 35 ft at 37.5N 149W targeting the US West Coast. The gale started lifting north in the evening and fading with fetch dropping from 45 kts and seas 30 ft at 42N 145W. Fetch is to be fading Thurs AM (1/21) from 40 kts with seas dropping from 27 ft at 45N 139W. More solid but somewhat smaller swell to result if all goes as forecast.
North CA: Swell to arrive starting early Fri AM (1/22) before sunrise with period 18 secs and building, peaking near sunrise with pure swell 9.6 ft @ 17 secs (16 ft Hawaiian) then slowly trickling down through the day. Residuals fading on Sat (1/23) from 7 ft @ 14 secs (10 ft) but being overridden by raw swell from a local gale.
Another gale formed tracking off Japan on Tues-Wed (1/20). On Wed AM (1/20) a fragmented fetch of 30-35 kt westerly winds is to be in.cgiace off the coast generating 29 ft seas at 31N 154E targeting Hawaii. In the evening fetch was tracking east at 35 kts generating 26 ft seas at 35N 164E. 35-40 kt west winds were building Thurs AM (1/21) as the gale tracked east with 28 ft seas building up at 39N 162E. 40 kt west winds held in the evening tracking east with seas building to 32 ft at 39N 168E. Fetch to hold in coverage Fri AM (1/22) building to 45 kts while easing east with seas building to 36 ft at 42N 173E. Fetch to fade from 30 kts on the dateline in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 41N 180W. A secondary fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds to develop south of the original core Sat AM (1/23) pushing over the dateline targeting Hawaii well with new seas developing and 27 ft seas from the original fetch fading at 42N 174W targeting Hawaii and now the US West Coast. More of the same is forecast in the evening with 35 kt northwest winds in the secondary fetch producing 25 ft seas at 34N 173W. On Sun AM (1/24) 30+ kt northwesterly fetch to continue tracking east with 28 ft seas at 33N 169W targeting primarily Hawaii. Residual 35 kts northwest fetch to track just 400 nmiles north of Hawaii in the evening with 28 ft seas at 30N 161W. This system to fade out after that.
If all this comes to pass a good pulse of 16 sec period energy could result for Hawaii and lesser size for the US West Coast. Some thing to monitor.
Hawaii: 17 secs period forerunners to arrive starting at sunset Sun (1/24) pushing 7 ft @ 16-17 secs at sunset (11.5 ft Hawaiian). Swell possibly building through Mon (1/25) pushing 11.2 ft @ 15 secs late (17 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 310-320 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Typhoon Victor formed in the South Pacific in the eastern KWGA on 2/14 falling south with winds building to 105 mph. As of Thurs AM (1/21) victor was 450 nmiles south of Pago Pago with winds down to 65 kts tracking west and expected to rapidly weaken while tracking south from there. This system is of interest because it was generated by a west wind burst still occurring over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Typhoon Pali also resulted earlier from this WWB.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thurs AM (1/21) a front was over extreme North CA generating 30 kts south winds there and making slow southward progress with south winds expected down to Monterey Bay at 15 kts late afternoon with rain reaching San Francisco near 10 PM. The front is to pass into Central CA Fri 5 AM with south winds at 20 kts expected and rain from Morro Bay northward after sunrise. Light rain or snow for higher elevations possible for Tahoe in the afternoon. A secondary low to pass over Central and North CA waters late afternoon into the evening generating southwest winds 15+ kts from Monterey Bay northward turning south Sat AM 20 kts again from Monterey Bay northward. Rain overnight then clearing out early Sat morning. Snow for Tahoe starting 10 PM Friday continuing through the day Sat with accumulation to 1 ft at 8,000 ft and up to 22 inches at 9.000 ft ending 4 AM Sunday. Sunday high pressure and northwest winds forecast at 10 kts but up to 15 kts near Pt Conception. Light winds on Monday with a gale low trying to organize well off the coast but getting shunted north by high pressure locked over CA. More of the same expected Tuesday through Thursday with a light wind regime in control.
No swell producing weather systems were occurring in the South Pacific.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 the models suggest a broad a strong storm is to develop on the dateline tracking west Mon-Wed (1/27). On Mon PM (1/25) 50-55 kt west winds are to be over the dateline tracking east-southeast with seas and seas building from 40 ft at 39N 175E. On Tues AM (1/26) a broad area of 45-50 kt west winds are to be racing through the Southwest Gulf generating 40-44 ft seas at 36N 170W. In the evening winds are to be fading from 45-50 kts over a small area lifting northeast in the Central Gulf with seas up to 43 ft at 40N 156W with 39 ft seas trailing behind. The gale is to be fading from 35-40 kts Wed AM (1/27) with 35 ft seas at 42N 150W with 30 ft seas filling the Gulf. Earlier runs of the models suggested seas as high as 50 ft. The models are very unstable with a different outcome with each run. Still this is something to monitor.
Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
More details to follow...
Kelvin Wave #5 Developing
Westerly Winds All But Gone - Inactive MJO Phase Building In
The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet, 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 .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).E.cgianation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric co.cgiing analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.
Overview: A strong El Nino has developed. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Wed (1/20) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds over a small area south of the equator from 180W to 160W. Otherwise east winds prevail and strong over the entire zone north of the equator. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, no real west winds remained in the KWGA. Anomalies per the TAO array were strong from the west from 180W to 155W on and south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued robustly expressing itself. Fairly impressive but down a bit from a few days and a week ago.
1 Week Forecast: Actual winds per the GFS model are to generally be calm mainly in the central and south KWGA but with west winds near 150E Mon-Wed (1/27). East winds to continue in the North KWGA for the foreseeable future. A somewhat muted El Nino pattern is in effect now. The only east anomalies that occurred this year in the KWGA were from 12/7-12/17, thanks to the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Fortunately that short bout ended quickly.
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 (#3), the strongest of the year, started on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 then held nicely through 7/17 (22 days), the result of a historically strong Active Phase of the MJO which produced a strong and large Kelvin Wave #3, the third this year and the strongest by far. Moderate westerly anomalies redeveloped 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continued through 8/19. That is nearly 2 months of non-stop anomalies if not out and out west winds (6/26-8/19). From 8/19-8/25 lesser westerly anomalies occurred and those were mainly east of the KWGA, with dead neutral anomalies in the West KWGA. West anomalies started rebuilding on 8/26 and turned to legit west winds up at 9N on 9/3 and held in some fashion up there into 9/29 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper. And then strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1 and held through 10/18, resulting in a yet another defined WWB event (#4) rivaling WWB #3 in June-July. And another small WWB started further east on 10/22 through 10/30. But by 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared with west anomalies dead through (11/23). This slackening of the anomalies will likely usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle after Kelvin Wave #4 terminates its eventual eruption in the vicinity of the Galapagos starting 2.5 months later or near 1/15/16. Starting 11/20 a weak west anomaly pattern set up near the dateline and held to 12/7, then fading with weak east anomalies taking hold till 12/17 courtesy of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. West anomalies started redeveloping on 12/17 and built to strong WWB status 12/29-1/15, then fading out. 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 wind monitoring model: West and East
Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)
On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of Wed (1/20) a moderate Active Phase of the MJO signal was over Indonesia with a weak Inactive Phase signal over the dateline. The Statistic model forecasts the Inactive MJO slowly easing east while building some moving to a point south of Hawaii 15 days from now with a broad Active Phase of the MJO moving over the West Pacific. The dynamic model has the Inactive Phase locked steady over the dateline and building 15 days from now, with the Active Phase locked over Indonesia and building. The starting point for these models certainly doesn't fit with what is occurring now with west winds on the dateline.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal over the central Indian Ocean. It is to stall and hold there for the next 2 weeks. The GEFS depicts the Active Phase moving east over the Maritime Continent 2 weeks from at modest strength. This all suggest that the supposed active pattern over the dateline is really just pure El Nino.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts an Inactive MJO over the West Pacific easing east but still south of Hawaii by 2/26. We are ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is now all but gone, easing east and out of the KWGA by 1/24. West wind anomalies are to be fading to weak status by then. The Inactive Phase to set up 1/25 holding into 2/16, with west anomalies weakening but not gone thanks to support from a Rossby Wave forecast moving over the area. The Active Phase is to return 2/23 with west anomalies again in control but weaker and holding through 4/10 but di.cgiaced east near 160W having minimal Kelvin Wave generation potential, typical of the mature phase of El Nino. That is, westerly anomalies slow track east until they migrate to the East Equatorial Pacific and the El Nino collapses.
It is obvious that the MJO is not dead, regardless of theories which suggest it should be during strong El Ninos. That evidence is the presence of the Inactive Phase that destructively interfered with the El Nino base state (12/7-12/17) and now the Active Phase that enhanced it starting 12/27.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (1/20) Actual temperatures remain decent (all sensors on-line). A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 138W easing east with the 28 deg isotherm line back at 119W No 30 deg anomalies are present. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are steady at 175W and points eastward. +4 deg anomalies have rebuilt and are from 158W eastward and delineated the core of the rebuilding subsurface reservoir. +5 deg anomalies are in one small pocket at 145W. Cool subsurface waters previous down 150m to 120W have retreated to 165W. This is good news. Core regions are rebuilding for now. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 1/13 the reservoir is rebuilding with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a small core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 88W-105W. This is a respectable scenario but no longer great, with the core of the warm pool trying to rebuild, but the real super warm temps have all discharged. This is typical of the mature phase of El Nino. No +4 deg anomalies were erupting west of the Galapagos. The end has been put on hold for now. .
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (1/13) Heights are generally steady, still at moderate levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies have rebuilt west covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 177W (building some). Peak anomalies at +15 and +20 cm are gone. +10 cm anomalies have rebuilt between 95W-165W and steady. The subsurface warm pool is trying to rebuild.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (1/13) Temps are rebuilding. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies have rebuilt west previously at 141W and now to 173W, an early effect of the current WWB and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are now moving west previously at 133W now at 169W, attributable to WWB #5. +1.5 deg anomalies have rebuilt to 130W in pockets. The formally large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are gone now as are +2.5 deg anomalies. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is over but the Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is beginning. Temps have dropped some near Ecuador to 1.0-1.5 degs, hopefully the extent of the Upwelling Phase. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced.The Downwelling Phase should not reach the reservoir for 2 months or about March 1. This might only extend the life of El Nino, or slow it's demise, but not add substantially to it. The peak of El Nino from a subsurface warming perspective has already passed.
A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. The third and strongest so far is erupting, but somewhat westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. In fact, a careful analysis indicates it has peaked. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). And now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4. We revised it a few times since then, but looking back we've determined it was correct if not a little late (more below). But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. But it appeared to start erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 peaking 11/17. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, is marked and historically strong. With the WWB/Kelvin Wave #4, a more aggressive face of this El Nino appeared during the Oct-Nov timeframe. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over on 10/31, and with it the subsurface warm pool started discharging, with no significant westerly anomalies nor warm surface water left in the West Pacific to be driven to the east in the form of a Kelvin Wave. With the building Active Phase of the MJO on 12/27 -1/15 another weak Kelvin Wave might result, but it's almost meaningless at this point in the year.
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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Hi-res Nino1.2: (1/20) The latest image indicates +2.25 temps were all but gone east of 90W except in patches and shrinking in coverage. Most heat was north of the equator up into Central America. This continues to indicate the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward di.cgiaced, with occasional pockets of warmer water sneaking in, but not steadily. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (1/20) The latest image depicts a growing balloon of +2.25 anomalies between 130W to 160W. But from 130W and points east of there the footprint is shrinking steadily, but is still present over the equator and 2-3 degs north and south of there to the Galapagos, but now only in patches. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive, but is showing signs of a slow decline from it's peak. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. Temps between 160W-180W are steady and are no longer loosing coverage. +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to 165W, though they previously were to the dateline on 12/14. No +4 deg anomalies are present. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #3 and #4.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (1/20): No warming is indicated. Instead cooling is taking over from the Galapagos to 120W over a thin stream on the equator. Otherwise a steady state pattern was depicted.
Hi-res Overview: (1/18) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building. The main focal point which has been the eruption ports west of the Galapagos, but they are gone now with no +4.0 degree anomalies depicted. Those ports peaked first on 9/19, then more broadly on 11/19, then faded with no +4 deg anomalies remaining on 1/4, only to continue reappear 1/15, then dissipate 4 days later. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area contains only +3 deg anomalies.
Kevin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, then redeveloped and increased significantly starting 10/28 and peaked on 11/23 attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. A slow fade is occurring now as Kelvin Wave #4 dissipates.
Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through November.
Both images/datasets suggest this is the warmest the NINO3.4 region has ever been. Now the question becomes: Will that translate in weather and swell? If the theory that temps in this area translate in stormier weather, then the answer is obvious.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
(Click to enlarge)
Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
(click to enlarge)
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific, the warmest in years, advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline and beyond (retracting to 172E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its off the charts though previously was at 140E. +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 178W. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 171W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is holding at 135-158W (fading). No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is steady and impressive but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (1/21) Temps crashed hard but are not stabilizing, today at +0.933, down from +1.835, down from +2.001 (1/7), up from +1.608 degs on 1/7, up from +1.314 on 1/5, down hard from +1.836 on 12/27, down from +1.950 (12/22). Previously temps peaked for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously spiked at +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.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (1/21) temps jumped and today have stabilized at +2.784 compared to +2.438 on 1/14, up from +2.248 (1/11), down from +2.397 on 1/7. The all time peak was reached at +3.041 on 12z 11/19. This temp beat the previous all time high of +3.028 degs (12Z 11/17), up from + 2.986 as of (12Z 11/15) Nov 15. Overall temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21. and are right at +2.9 or greater since 11/13. Very Impressive.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: (1/21) Today's value was down some at +2.756, down from +2.913 (1/19), up some from 1/14 when it was +2.894, up from +2.609 (1/11), down from +2.858 (1/2), down from +2.732 (12/31), compared to +2.697 on 12/27, down from +2.753 (12/22), up from +2.671 (12/19), up barely from +2.655 (12/15), down from +2.882 (12/12), steady since (12/10) when it was +2.942, down some from (12/8) when it was +2.988 and stead compared to the 12/6 value of +2.989, up slightly form +2.919 (12/3), up from +2.905 (12/1), down slightly from +2.990 (11/28) up from +2.855 (11/23), up some from + 2.799 on 11/21, and down from +2.957 on 11/19. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97 in this region.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 1/13 temps were falling as follows: Nino4: +1.3, Nino34: +2.6, Nino3 +2.8. On 1/6 temps were falling as follows: Nino4: +1.4, Nino34: +2.6, Nino3 +2.7. On 12/30 temps were falling in Nino4: +1.5, Nino34: +2.7 (steady), and falling in Nino3: +2.6. On 12/23 temps were falling in all regions: Nino4: +1.6, Nino3.4: +2.7 and Nino3: +2.7 degs. On 12/16, temps were steady at +2.9 degs in both Nino3 and 3.4 and +1.7 in Nino 4. 12/9 was down slightly at +2.8 (Nino3.4) and +2.9 (Nino3). On 12/2 they were +2.9 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), down from 11/25 when they were +3.0 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), and down from the peak of +3.1 on 11/18, up from 11/11 when temps in Nino3 and 3.4 were both +3.0 degs. On 11/4 they were both +2.8. In '97 (11/26) peak temps in Nino3.4 reached +2.8. So we have beat that mark. But Nino3 temps in '97 reached +3.6-3.7 degs. We still have +0.6 degs to go. Insert Subsurface/Surface image here This years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event, but not as strongly so. The main evidence for this is the continued eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos with weakened warming east of there. This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 110W. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.
Nino3.4 Monthly Temps (December) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of December was +2.37. November was adjusted up to +2.36 degs, beating the highest temp recorded in '97 (Nov - +2.32 degs) and beating the peak of the '82 El Nino (Dec +2.21 degs). And this years Oct temps were adjusted upwards to +2.03 degs. See updated graphs above. As of right now for a one month average, this put this years El Nino stronger than '97 and therefore the strongest ever (based on a one month SST reading). The ONI uses a 3 month running average. That is the final determiner. Very interesting.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct and Nov the values are: +1.8, +2.0. +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.
SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(Click to enlarge)
Given the westward di.cgiacement in this years El Nino, we are interested in the relative effect on the jetstream as compared to previous strong ENSO events. That's is, how does one compare eastward versus westward di.cgiaced El Nino events. This years El Nino has relatively weak Nino1.2 anomalies compared to '82 and '97, but much warmer in Nino4. Do Nino3.4 temps accurately take that difference into account? We decided to find out. First we made an assumption: It is the total volume of warm water in the equatorial East Pacific, not just in Nino3.4 that defines the magnitude of the resulting El Nino atmospheric response. Whether that water is eastward or westward di.cgiaced, it makes no difference, as long as one can measure the total heating footprint, the bulk atmospheric response should be the same, just the center of core storm production would be either more east or west di.cgiaced.Next we needed to determine how to measure total heating footprint. There is a good historical record for anomalies in Nino1.2 (spanning 10 degrees longitude - 80W-90W), Nino3 (spanning 60 degrees - 90W-150W) and Nino4 (50 degrees - 150W to 150E). If one performs a weighted average of the SST anomalies for the 3 zones, a composite anomaly can be obtained. So we did that for recent strong El Nino events. The results indicate a pattern very similar to si.cgie Nino3.4 analysis, that this years event is in the top 2 for this time of year and the top 3 of all time (discounting the more historically correct 'centered' data). Here's the data:
Note: ERSSTv4 'centered' data is not available for Nino1, 3 and 4 regions, only Nino3.4.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 12/6 the current was strong from the west north of the equator from 125E to 130W with solid pockets on the equator at 130-160E and 170W. Anomaly wise - One pocket of solid west anomalies were between the dateline to 160W on the equator. Otherwise everything was normal. There were no pocket of east anomalies indicated. This is somewhat impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was solidly east from 170E to 130W mostly north of the equator with anomalies very strong from 165E to 120W on the equator.
SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data depicts peak temps to +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then fading slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Jan1, then steadily from there to +2.5 on Feb1, then a steady decline from there falling and stabilizing at +0.0 degs in Sept.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Dec Plume depicts temps peaked in early Nov, at +2.9 degs. the consensus suggests temps to fall steadily from here forward, down to 0.0 by August and then going slightly negative from there.
See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (1/21): Was steady at -24.00. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14 and -47.50 on 12/3. Another peak of -38.50 occurred on 1/2.
30 Day Average: Was falling at -19.32. The peak low was recorded on 10/9 at -22.72, beating the previous peak low of -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. This is exactly where we want to be (at -20 or lower).
90 Day Average: Was falling some at -12.50 and is expected to continue falling. A record low of -19.28 occurred on 10/16 and was matched on 10/20. The previous record low was -18.56 on 9/16. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -19.28 on 10/16.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A neutral pressure pattern was near Darwin on 1/21 and is to hold for the next week. It is relative high pressure over Australia in NHemi winter months that is the preferred pattern for El Nino development in the Pacific.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 1/21 weak but broad low pressure was over Tahiti with Typhoon Victor falling south at 170W. This pattern is to hold through Sat (1/23), then a neutral pressure pattern is to set up, with no high pressure immediately indicated. The SOI should stay negative based on the Tahiti contribution. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're seeing perhaps a start of that pattern.
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a steady state negative SOI attributable mainly to low pressure over Tahiti.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (1/21) Today's value was +2.24, down from it's recent peak at +2.33 on 1/14. Previously it was up from +2.07 on 1/7 up from +1.67 12/27, and has been on a steady rise for 4 weeks now. This is a good sign. On 12/15 it was at +1.17, down from +1.25 (12/10), after rising through 12/8 to +1.37, up from +0.89 (12/1), up from +0.57 (11/23), down from +0.97 (11/15). This is a good trend suggesting that perhaps we're recouping from the lowest we've seen it on 12/1. Maybe the Inactive MJO in the Pacific is fading. But it is also typical for the ESPI to start falling as we move into Winter. This is primarily a summer and early Fall index during El Nino years. The most recent high value was +2.40 on Sat (10/17). It had been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) with only minor fluctuation. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 2.02 on 9/29. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate. Monthly ESPI values are as follows: July 3.76, Aug 2.34, Sept 2.1, Oct 2.3. '97 had two peak values at +2.99 in Aug and +3.06 in Sept. 2015 had +3.7 in July followed by +2.33 and +2.20 in Aug and Sept and 2.3 in Oct. to complete with '97.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Dec) These numbers were released Jan 5th and indicate the index dropped by 0.19 to +2.12, putting it the third highest since 1950 behind the '82/83 and '97/98 El Ninos. Since it has not reached the +3.0 standard deviation level, it is NOT considered a Super El Nino, nor is it expected to reach that status. The Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. The top 6 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '15, '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.
North Pacific Jetstream (1/21) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks very good and is forecast to hold.
Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
(Click to enlarge)
Conclusion: WWB #3 peaked on July 4, with the resulting Kelvin Wave peaking on Sept 19 west of the Galapagos, or a roughly 2.5 month travel time. Likewise those warm waters advected into Nino3.4, peaking about one month later, or 10/19. Peak atmospheric influence should occur approximately 2 months later or 12/20. Then WWB #4 developed of near equal strength, peaking on 10/15, which resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. Using the same te.cgiate, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 12/30/2015 (westward di.cgiaced), and advecting into Nino3.4 and peaking roughly 1/30/2016 with peak atmospheric influence on approx 3/30/2016. This suggests peak atmospheric perturbation will occur in the window from 12/2/2015-4/2/2016, or well di.cgiaced later in the Winter as compared to the '97/98 event, and somewhat like the '82/83 event. The Inactive Phase of the MJO took control 10/31, and is expected to usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin wave Cycle starting 1/31/16. The resultant slackening of peak water temps won't reach Nino3.4 till 3/1, and won't hit the atmosphere till 5/1. By then, the effective lifecycle of El Nino for the Winter of 2015-2016 will be over. And any westerly anomalies projected for the KWGA in the Dec-Jan 2016 timeframe will contribute nothing to Kelvin Wave production and jetstream a.cgiification just due to the time it will take for a resulting Kelvin Wave to migrate east. But those anomalies could help the atmosphere like the Active Phase of the MJO does, fueling jetstream energy. That is the primary contribution of westerly anomalies from here forward.
In terms of comparative strength based on Nino3.4 temps, 2015 is in the same ballpark based on OISSTv2 weekly data. Based on ERSSTv4 data (a more conservative data source) '97 peaked at +2.32 degs with 4 months of +2.0 degs anomalies and '82 at +2.21 degs with 2 months temps greater than +2.0 degs. 2015 is looking to produce a +2.1 degree one month average based on very rough data today, with a huge reservoir of anomalies still venting to the surface and Kevin Wave #4 still migrating east. But, coverage of warmer than normal water and it's affect on the atmosphere is not limited to just the Nino3.4 area. Nino3 and Nino1.2.cgiay a role. It's is the total areal coverage of the warm water footprint that defines the impact on the atmosphere. Temps in Nino3 in this years event are at +3.0 degs, but peaked at +3.7 degs in '97. Conversely temps in Nino 4 in this years event beats temps in '97. All graphed out, one gets the sense that '97 and 2015 are very different events, but similar in total atmospheric effect. It's not just magnitude of the peak temps that make a difference atmospherically, but also the duration of those anomalies. The longer and stronger the anomalies, the greater the atmospheric response. At this time the expected atmospheric affects should be significant, though di.cgiaced somewhat later in the season.
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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