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.
Next forecast update will be on 7/26. We're taking a little summer break.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 3.7 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 2.3 ft @ 13.1 secs from 211 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 2.7 ft @ 12.5 secs. Wind southwest 6-8 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.4 ft @ 10.2 secs from 241 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.3 ft @ 14.8 secs from 209 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.8 ft @ 11.4 secs from 203 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 5.2 ft @ 9.0 secs with swell 3.6 ft @ 8.3 secs. Wind southeast 13-18 kts. Water temp 60.8 degs.
On Thursday (7/16) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing surf in the thigh to waist high range at exposed breaks and chopped from south winds. Down in Santa Cruz mixed swell was producing surf at thigh high and clean but weak. In Southern California up north tropical swell was producing waist high waves and clean early. Down south tropical swell was producing surf in the waist high range with up to a few chest high sets and bumpy from southerly winds. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean though a few thigh high sets were coming through. The South Shore was getting background southern hemi swell with set waves at thigh high or so and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell with waves thigh to waist high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no swell producing weather systems were in.cgiay or forecast. A typhoon was moving into Japan while minimal tropical storm (Enrique) was fading mid-way between Hawaii and Mexico and Hurricane (Dolores) was peaking in the eastern edge of the Southern CA swell window south-southwest of Cabo and move better into it over the next 2 days while fading. Regarding windswell, trades were in control over and east of Hawaii and producing some windswell and expected to hold into Fri (7/17) then fade some locally but not further out at sea. Relative to California high pressure was in control with north winds and locally generated windswell in effect and expected to hold into early Sat (7/18) then fade. For the southern hemisphere no swell was in the water and none was being generated. A decent gale has been on and off the charts just east of New Zealand on Sun-Mon (7/19) generating up to 40 ft seas aimed north. Possible swell to result. Also a gale is starting to develop on the eastern edge of the Southern CA swell window. Most energy to be targeting Chile.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (7/16) no swell producing fetch was occurring over the greater North Pacific. Relative to Hawaii high pressure was centered 900 nmiles west of Northern California ridging south some and generating trades at 15 kts resulting in some easterly windswell at exposed breaks. Bare minimal Tropical Storm Enrique was fading while tracking east 1000 nmiles east of Hawaii forming a gradient with the high and offering bare minimal background east swell generation potential for exposed breaks in Hawaii. Typhoon Nangka was moving into Southern Japan and offering nothing for our forecast area. Relative to California the high pressure system off the north end of the coast was ridging into British Columbia generating the usual summer time pressure gradient over extreme North CA producing north winds at 30 kts, generating limited northerly short period windswell at exposed breaks.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure north of Hawaii is to hold into Sat (7/18) and relative to Hawaii producing 15-20+ kt northeast winds and windswell from the northeast into early Sunday, then dissipate. The remnants of Enrique to be all but gone by Sat (7/18) 900 nmiles east of the Island with only very limited east windswell resulting imbedded in shorter period northeast windswell (above). By late Mon (7/20) trades are to falter. For California the high pressure induced pressure gradient is to peak Fri AM (7/17) producing up to 35 kt north-northeast winds then starting to fade into Sat (7/18). North windswell building and radiating down into Central CA commensurate with winds speeds in the gradient. Slack winds to be in control next week (7/24).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (as of 12Z Thurs 7/16)
Typhoon Nangka was 100 nmiles south of South Japan with winds 65 kts and tracking north. It is to be inland by evening then making it into the Sea of Japan, getting caught by the jetstream and sheared with it's remnants being redirected east over the greater North Pacific and possibly becoming absorbed by a cold core low off Kamchatka. No development is forecast.
Hurricane Dolores peaked at 105 kts on Wed PM (7/15) just north of the island of Socorro or 150 nmiles south of Cabo San Lucas. Doloroes continued on a west-northwest track moving into the Dana Point swell window at 12Z Thurs (7/16) and 900 nmiles away. Swell arrival in SCal assuming a 13 secs period to be at Saturday at 1 AM. Swell building through the day possibly reaching 3.0 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.5 ft) later Sat afternoon (7/18). Dolores to continue on this heading through Fri PM (7/17) with winds fading to 70 kts. Swell generation to continue with swell building Sun (7/19) to near 5 ft @ 12 secs late (6 ft), the fading on Sunday from 4.5 ft @ 11 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). The GFS model has this system fading away completely on Tues (7/21) positioned 400 nmiles southwest of the CA/Baja boarder. No US landfall expected.
Tropical Storm Enrique was fading 1200 nmiles east of Hawaii with winds dropping from barely 35 kts. No swell of real interest to result.
Former Typhoon Halola was down to tropical storm status, 1200 nmiles east-northeast of Guam with winds 55kts tracking west. Slow strengthening is forecast with Halola rebuilding to 95 kts on Sun (7/19) 550 nmiles north-northeast of Guam and turning on a more northwest track. The GFS model has this system stalling just off mid-Japan. Something to monitor. But for now there are no immediate signs of swell generation potential projected relative to our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (7/16) high pressure at 1030 mbs was ridging northeast into British Columbia from a point north 900 nmiles west of North CA and generating northwest winds at 30 kts over extreme North CA waters. An eddy flow was becoming established for Central CA. More of the same is forecast Friday then the gradient is to start fading by early Saturday with a light wind pattern holding for all nearshore waters of the state through Monday. Tuesday (7/21) high pressure is to be in the Gulf of Alaska with northeast winds 15 kts just off Cape Mendocino down into Central CA and continuing for the workweek.
On Thursday AM (7/16) the southern branch of the jet depicted some signs of a trough trying to build southwest of New Zealand with 110 kts winds pushing northwest, but then quickly reversing direction and heading southeast under New Zealand and building to 120 kts on the 65S latitude line continuing east over the width of the South Pacific and mostly over Antarctic Ice. The jet lifted some in extreme Southeast Pacific just off the tip of South America forming a modest trough with 110 kt winds pushing up into it and offering only limited support for gale development targeting Southern Chile. The northern branch of the jet was tracking east just north of Northern New Zealand on the 30S latitude line at 150 kts weakening and continuing on that heading the whole way to Chile. Over the next 72 hours the small trough south of the Tasman Sea is to develop more with 130 kts winds pushing northeast late Fri (7/17) reaching almost to the southern tip of New Zealand, then moderating and washing out late Sat (7/18). Some decent support for gale development is possible. Also on Thurs PM (7/16) in the extreme Southeast Pacific another modest trough is forecast developing pushing east with winds 125 kts offering support for gale development but only targeting Chile then collapsing as it move inland on Sat (7/18). Beyond 72 hours the ridging pattern is to set back up taking over the whole South Pacific with no troughs and no support for gale development indicated. But a cutoff trough is to be forming over New Zealand on Sun PM (7/19) with north winds building to 110 kts Mon-Tues (7/21) offering limited support for gale development. Typically these troughs present stronger on the forecast charts than they end up being in reality. After that a fully .cgiit and weak jet is forecast through Thurs (7/23).
On Thursday AM (7/16) high pressure was just east of New Zealand at 1020 mbs while a small gale was in the extreme Southeast Pacific generating a small area of 45 kt southwest winds producing 32 ft seas at 53S 110W targeting only Chile up into Peru. That fetch is to be lifting northeast into the evening and fading with no additional sea production of interest. Swell likely for Chile. But for the greater South Pacific no real fetch of interest was in.cgiay. That said there was a gale was south of Tasmania with winds 45 kts from the west generating 36 ft seas at 60S 158W (barely in the Hawaii swell window at 201 degrees and inching clear of NZ), the second southeast of New Zealand with 50 kt west winds and mostly over ice with 32 ft seas at 61S 160W (185 degrees HI). All this is to be gone by nightfall. background swell possible for Hawaii with luck.
Over the next 72 hours starting Thurs evening (7/16) a new gale is to be building in the Southeast Pacific producing 45 kt southwest winds and seas to 32 ft at 60S 130W targeting South America but with sideband energy possibly for California. By Fri AM (7/17) this system is to be east of the CA swell window with no seas targeting US interests. But it is to have a broad area of 45 kts southwest winds producing 36 ft seas at 58S 118W. 40-45 kt southwest winds to push east in the evening with 36 ft seas at 50S 99w targeting only Chile and Peru. Maybe tiny swell to result for Southern CA.
Also on Friday PM (7/17) a broad gale is to be building south and over New Zealand with south winds 30-35 kts all shadowed and impacting New Zealand. That gale is to continue building in areal coverage Sat (7/18) and slowly becoming unobscured by New Zealand in the evening with winds building to 40-45 kts in 2 pockets east and southeast of New Zealand aimed north with seas building. By Sun AM (7/19) 40-45 kt south winds are forecast free and clear aimed due north with 27 ft seas developing at 39S 175W. 45 kt south fetch is to be covering a solid area in the evening aimed due north with 36 ft seas at 41S 170W. Fetch is to build to 45-50 kts Mon AM (7/20) with 41 ft seas at 38S 164W aimed northeast at Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts and turning more westerly in the evening with seas fading from 39 ft at 38S 155W. Solid mid-to-longer period swell could be radiating north targeting all locations if this were to come to pass. The charts appears to be stabilizing too, adding more credence that this will develop as forecast. Something to monitor.
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 modest low is to try and start developing on the dateline Thurs (7/23) but be blocked by a broad high pressure system at 1032 mbs in the Gulf of Alaska. Even without the high, no swell production is expected. Just the same, we are monitoring this region for any signs of early El Nino induced gale formation. The expectation is nothing will happen before August 15 (the early historical benchmark for swell producing tropical system originating from the West Pacific).
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.cgianet. 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 .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).
(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 Thursday (7/16) the daily SOI was falling at -31.40. The 30 day average was falling from -19.61 and the 90 day average was falling from -10.93. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of steady state Active Phase of the MJO. This is the lowest the 30 day SOI has been since the last El Nino. The longer term pattern was indicative of a modest Active Phase of the MJO or a building El Nino base state. High pressure at 1032 mbs was building over South Central Australia ridging northeast and forecast tracking to Southeast Australia over the weekend (7/19) then moving over the Tasman Sea while a gale low was developing south of Tahiti expected to hold into Fri (7/17) then fade only to be r.cgiaced by a stronger gale on Wed (7/22). The SOI is expected to stabilize in a decently negative state for the next week. We continue watching high pressure over Australia and it's possible contribution to building the Southern Hemi Booster Index (a component of strong El Ninos) and supportive of storm development under New Zealand. We want to see the 90 day SOI get down into the -15 range and hold there (typical El Nino). The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis per 850 mb charts (~4,500 ft up) indicated light east wind anomalies over the extreme western Kelvin Wave Generation Area switching to westerly anomalies over the middle and eastern section of that region continuing over the dateline building to moderate strength and continuing south of Hawaii, before fading to neutral midway to the Galapagos (130W) and holding over the Galapagos. These west anomalies are part of a very strong WWB burst associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) that is moving east through the tropical Pacific while fading. Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated a similar picture with moderate west winds (not just anomalies) between 150E-170W in the core of the KWGA. West anomalies remained strong south of Hawaii and were building in strength to a point south of California (120W). This is very solid WWB with good duration and coverage, best in years. A week from now (7/24) weak east anomalies are to be in the west Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) then turning to light westerly anomalies in the eastern region building to modest strength south of Hawaii and up to moderate strength continuing to 120W, then fading and light westerly anomalies continuing into 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 through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern, then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB, the strongest of the year so far, starting on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 but holding nicely through 7/17. A weak westerly flow to redevelop thereafter on the dateline with weak easterly anomalies in the far west KWGA. This WWB effectively held for 26 days and is to result in a strong Kelvin Wave. 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. The CFS v2 model calls for non-stop westerly anomalies for the next 3 months, the likely result of a developing El Nino base state.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 7/15 indicate a dad neutral pattern over the equatorial Pacific. But the Inactive Phase is developing over Indonesia. The Statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to move into the West Pacific 5 days out and is to continue moving east taking weak control over the West Pacific over the next 15 days at modest strength. The Dynamic model now has caught up and depicts much the same thing but with a bit stronger strength 15 days out. The Active Phase of the MJO is to start setting up in the Indian Ocean 15 days out. Phase diagrams from the ECMF and GEFS suggest the MJO has collapsed entirely and is to maybe start waking up while reemerging over Africa 2 weeks from now. The ultra long range upper level model run on 7/16 depicts a weak Active pattern exiting over the extreme East Pacific. A moderate Inactive Phase is already over the West Pacific pushing east, scheduled to be moving over the dateline by 7/26 making it to the East Pacific by 8/20 with a minimal Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean and reaching into the West Pacific by 8/25. As of right now, there are no signs of the 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. Just such an Inactive Phase is now poised to track over the equatorial Pacific with easterly anomalies from it moving over the KWGA roughly starting 7/27 holding through 8/11. But at the same time major amounts of warm water are already in motion and falling to depth on the equator and will continue for the next few weeks courtesy of the large WWB that started late June and is still in flight. It seem highly unlikely any of that momentum will be reversed by this developing Inactive Phase resulting in an upwelling Kelvin Wave Event. Just the same, a well entrenched westerly wind anomaly pattern is required during the June-August timeframe if something that wants to rival the '97 El Nino is to develop. If easterly anomalies develop for any length of time, hopes for a Super El Nino will be severely impeded. The models are .cgiit between a continuation of westerly anomalies and neutral anomalies (CFSv2 suggests continued westerly anomalies - The 2 week experimental hi-res FIM model suggests no winds or light west winds turning east but not exceeding 10 kts through 7/26, which is effectively westerly anomalies). No easterly anomalies are forecast. Still, we'll remain cautious. 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 (7/16) first impressions continue indicating a moderate and well defined El Nino pattern in.cgiace and building over the entire equatorial Pacific. Impressive for mid-July. It depicts a generalized expansion of coverage near the Galapagos over the last 15 days extending west and building into the NINO 3.4 region, making more progress while simultaneously backfilling down the Peruvian Coast and up into Central America. Temperatures in the NINO1.2 region do not appear to be getting warmer, but are building in coverage some while fueling expansion of coverage into Western areas (NINO 3 and 4). Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, though loosing some of it's intensity nearshore. Compared to the '97 Super El Nino on this date, this years event isn't quite as strong concerning absolute temperature and coverage, but is indeed quite comparable overall. This is an upgrade. And with a solid Kelvin Wave impacting the Ecuador coast, additional strengthening of NINO 1.2 water temps are possible (if not occurring), helping to keep this years event somewhat on track with '97. Still our suspicions are that weaknesses in this years event are to continue over time compared to '97, mainly due to the comparative weakness in terms of duration of the WWBs earlier this year compared to 97. But with the strength of the most recent WWB, maybe some of that ground will be made up in October when the resulting Kelvin wave hits. The fact that we're even comparing this years event to '97, and not finding huge differences, is a testament to the strength and magnitude of the oceanic change in.cgiay.
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 +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies expanding from the Galapagos to 140W but clear signs of nearly +2.0 deg anomalies reach to 170W. This depicts significant growth in coverage west over the past week. 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 (not expected yet) with the western border of +1.5 deg anomalies holding at 180W.
The most recent hi-res data (7/16) indicates peak temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador are holding while advecting west. Warm anomalies are no longer building along the immediate coast of Northern Chile up into Peru and the Galapagos but rather are at a steady state, with a near continuous core of 4-5 degs anomalies streaming from Southern Peru pushing off Ecuador and over the Galapagos reaching well west of there with imbedded pockets of +5 degree anomalies. 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 down to +4.1 degs in late June but are now back to +-4.5-4.7 degs today, warming over the past week. And much more warm water is pushing east at depth from the dateline (see below). Given the building of warm waters along Peru and increases of surface warm water, an expansion of coverage is occurring, just as would be expected if a significant El Nino were in.cgiay. The CDAS Nino 1+2 index hovered at +2.1 degrees since late May then spiked reaching +3.0 degs on 7/3, retreated to +2.0 degs, then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs, and currently at 2.5. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index indicates water temps held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April, then started building pushing +1.5 degs on 6/30 and generally holding there (+1.55 degs today). Hi-res satellite images clearly depict unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies have encroached westward from the Galapagos to 134W as of 7/16 but are building in pockets west to 160W. One would expect NINO 3.4 to start warming as warm water from the 1.2 region starts advecting west, and that is happening in fits and starts. With NINO3.4 already at ~1.5 degrees, we're solidly in El Nino territory, and it's only July.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator under the dateline (160-180W) are rebuilding extremely fast with +2.0 degs anomalies fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +3 deg anomalies now taking root, the direct effects of the massive WWB fading there now. Warmer water is also tracking east reinforcing a large warm reservoir that is starting to erupt into Ecuador. So the pipe is open with more warm water rushing into. The reservoir is holding coverage with +5-6 degs anomalies centered at 108W with +5 deg anomalies pushing east from 118W to Ecuador and 4+ deg anomalies reaching east from 135W. This pocket is a mixture of warm water driven by an extended WWB that occurred Jan-March.cgius water from an additional WWB in early May. This suggests there are perhaps 2 months of warm water in this reservoir (till Sept 10). And more warm water continues downwelling on the dateline. The Kelvin Wave impacting the East Pacific should peak on Aug 1, with a third starting to build now, possibly impacting the Galapagos on 10/2. This is a great setup.
This is exactly how the '97 El Nino.cgiayed 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 7/12 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 160E (major westward expansion from last image) with a core at +10 cm at 135W eastward. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with embedded and merging Kelvin Waves combining 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 (7/12) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 168E and the Ecuador coast (easing east). This is a major expansion to the west and all but eliminates and chance for the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to develop. +1.0-1.5 degs are from 160W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 145W. All theses sectors are increasing in size. A Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June and the second one is impact the coast now looking every bit as strong. This is a very good sign with yet more westerly anomalies and a third Kelvin Wave starting to build on and west of the dateline. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 7/12 continues solid. The current is pushing moderately strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area reaching to 160W with modest current reaching south of Hawaii only on the north side of the equator and fading out at 130W. Modest easterly current was on the equator from the Galapagos reaching a point south of Hawaii. Anomaly wise - moderate to strong west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific to 160W, then dissipating. Easterly anomalies were in 2 pockets, one south of Hawaii and the other over the Galapagos. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is not much of a comparison. In '97 west velocities were strong in the far West Pacific with strong anomalies at 120W-160W. Suspect all this data is heavily influenced by local wind, and therefore WWBs. Still, the data suggests there was more and larger WWBs in '97.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model (PDF Corrected) run 7/16 for the Nino 3.4 region have inched up. It suggests water temps are at +1.5 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm continuing to +2.00 degs by Oct (previously +1.75 degs 6/28) peaking at +2.1 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. Peak temps have stabilized in the +2.0 deg range. This suggests we are now firmly moving towards a full blown moderate.cgius 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 an expected Inactive Phase of the MJO in late July/early August 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.
Also see the CFS 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds and MJO with analysis here
Recirculation Theory here New! (7/15/15)
Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 mult.cgie 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.cgiay for the past 15 years. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in.cgiay 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 at WWB strength and forecast to hold for another few days enhanced by 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 in late June. 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 is erupting on track with projections starting 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 Australia 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 si.cgie 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. We survived the June Inactive Phase of the MJO with no easterly anomalies developing (and in reality, no trades at all). And it appears an evolving base El Nino state is building. which should dampen any future Inactive Phases of the MJO cycle. This is required for a major El Nino to develop. On queue a major WWB developed late June/early July which should only enhance the base El Nino state more. At the same time we are monitoring the impact of the second large Kelvin Wave erupting over the Galapagos. At this time that eruption is having the desired effect - expansion in Nino 1.2 and expansion west of anomalously warm waters into Nino 3.4. 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) should 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.
As things currently stand, we appear to be close to crossing over a threshold. But we must get through the next possible choke point, the projected Inactive Phase of the MJO in 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. But the odds of shutting down the Kelvin Wave cycle seem remote, given the rapid expansion of subsurface warm waters currently occurring now under the dateline. Assuming that does not happen, how will this years event be 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). But the latest WWB could help nudge this years event towards a stronger status. 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.cgiay 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 (and likely some atmospheric bias in favor of El Nino), 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.cgiay, and that's a good.cgiace 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
Beyond 72 hours another gale is forecast tracking east under New Zealand on Thurs (7/23) with 50 kt west winds and seas building to 39 ft at 59S 177E. Too early to believe but worth monitoring.
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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Updated - Stormsurf Video Surf Forecast for the week starting Sunday (7/12): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEul2kt5dKU&feature=youtu.be&hd=1
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table