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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Sunday, August 23, 2015 10:13 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
Swell Potential Rating = 2.0 - California & 2.0- Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 8/24 thru Sun 8/30

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

Typhoon Atsani Recurving Northeast
Nino3.4 Temperature Anomalies Impressive

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- 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).
- 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.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.


On Sunday, August 23, 2015 :

  • Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 3.7 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 1.5 ft @ 14.3 secs from 238 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.3 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 1.1 ft @ 12.7 secs. Wind south 4-6 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.5 ft @ 13.8 secs from 230 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.0 ft @ 14.4 secs from 218 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.5 ft @ 14.1 secs from 213 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 9.0 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 9.9 secs. Wind southwest 2-8 kts. Water temp 61.5 degs.


    The hi-res Pt Reyes Buoy has been defunded.  Funding comes from the CA Parks Dept.  We're working to obtain info to e.cgiore ways to reactive this buoy. 
    Buoy 46059 is scheduled to come back on-line in October.  

Current Conditions
On Sunday (8/23) in North and Central CA at best breaks local north windswell was producing surf at thigh to waist high and warbled from southerly winds expect at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high on the sets and inconsistent and weak but clean. In Southern California up north no real swell was hitting with waves knee to thigh high and lightly textured. Down south waves were knee to thigh high and clean but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting background swell with waves waist to maybe chest high and clean early. The South Shore was getting some occasional sets in the waist high.cgius range and clean early. The East Shore was getting east tradewind swell at waist to almost chest high and semi-chopped from southeast trades. 

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific no large scale non-tropical swell producing weather systems were occurring. Typhoon Atsani was recurving to the northeast positioned off Central Japan and expected to regroup some while trying to push towards the dateline, but not making it that far, sending generally small but longer period swell towards Hawaii and the US West Coast.  Previous concerns about Kilo relative to Hawaii have eased, with that system expected to pose no direct threat to the Islands and offer no swell generation potential of interest now either. A solid low pressure system remains forecast for the Northern Gulf of Alaska next weekend perhaps generating 19-20 ft seas aimed at the US West Coast with a front pushing south to Cape Mendocino. But that seems more like a fantasy than reality. Regarding windswell, relative to California high pressure is projected to remain away from the coast with no windswell generation potential forecast. For Hawaii, no trades reaching the 15 kt minimal threshold are forecast therefore offering no windswell potential. For the southern hemisphere an improving pattern is forecast with background swell in the water tracking northeast from a small gale that developed south of New Zealand on Wed (8/19) producing 28-30 ft seas. A cutoff low south of Tahiti generated 26 ft seas aimed north Thurs-Fri (8/21). And better yet, a storm is forecast tracking under New Zealand on Wed (8/26) producing 36 ft seas aimed east with another on it's tail Thurs-Sun (8/30) generating 38 ft seas initially then moderating while tracking across the South Pacific. Something to monitor. A the El Nino base state continues to evolve with water temps in the Nino3.4 region already at strong El Nino status and not looking to back off any time soon. Things continue looking more positive than they have in years.      


Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Sunday (8/23) no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific. But the tropics in the far West Pacific were looking promising (see Tropical Update section below for details). High pressure at 1032 mbs was in the Western Gulf of Alaska and nowhere near being able to ridge into the US West Coast offering no potential to generate windswell. For Hawaii the same high pressure system was positioned too far north to generate trades, with no direct windswell resulting. But a gradient between the high and the remnants of Tropical Storm Kilo to the south were generating east winds at 15 kts resulting in some easterly windswell.   

Over the next 72 hours relative to California the Gulf high pressure system is to remain di.cgiaced well west offering no opportunity to ridge into the coast nor produce a pressure gradient, resulting in a relatively light local wind pattern and no opportunity to generate local windswell. Relative to Hawaii trades to remain light too, below the requisite 15 kt threshold to generate windswell. No east windswell expected.


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


Tropical Update (as of 12Z Sun 8/23)
Typhoon Goni: This system was 100 nmiles east of Northern Taiwan tracking north-northeast with winds 100 kts and building. Goni is expected to build to 110 kts Monday AM (8/24) tracking towards extreme southern Japan,making landfall in the evening there, then moving into the Sea of Japan on Tuesday eventually tracking into North Korea. No recurvature into the Pacific is forecast. Small sideband swell from earlier in Goni's life is in the water tracking towards Hawaii (see QuikCASTs for details).

Typhoon Atsani: This is the system we are focused on. As of Sun AM (8/23) it was start to turn northeast positioned 350 nmiles southeast of Tokyo Japan with winds 75 kts and seas 24 ft per hurricane guidance by 36 ft per the model at 30.5N 148E. This system is to continue on a northeast heading in the evening with winds 75 kts and seas 40 ft at 32N 150E. Monday AM (8/24) the northeast heading is to hold with winds 75 kts and seas 43 ft at 33N 153E. In the evening (8/24) winds are to rebuild to 71 kts with seas 49 ft at 35N 157E (298 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). By Tues AM (8/25) more of the same is forecast with 79 kts winds and seas 60 ft at 39N 161E (306 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). A quick fade is forecast thereafter with Atsani starting to turn more northerly with winds down to 55 kts and seas 50 ft at 41N 165E. This system is to be fading fast Wed AM (8/26) while stalling well east of the dateline with 48 kt winds and 31 ft seas at 45N 166E. Still the fetch area is to be pretty small with no extratropical development forecast and no track to or over the dateline expected. The net result is to be some small longer period swell for Hawaii (swell energy not aimed well down the great circle tracks there) and the US West Coast (aimed well down the GC tracks, but much further away). Still, any recurving tropical system that results in swell for US interests in August is a solid sign of co.cgiing of El Nino and the atmosphere, and bodes well for the coming Fall and Winter.

Tropical Depression Kilo: It was positioned 450 nmiles southwest of Kauai with winds 30 kts. A steady turn to the north is forecast with slow strengthening forecast reaching hurricane strength by Wed (8/26) with winds 65 kts and then to 85 kts Fri AM (8/28) positioned 250 nmiles west-southwest of Kauai making tracks towards that Island. The GFS model has Kilo heading west and never recurving. Something to monitor but at this time any swell generation relative to Hawaii is remote.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (8/23) high pressure at 1032 mbs was well retrograded from the coast with a light wind pattern in.cgiay over nearshore California waters. No change is forecast until Tues (8/25) when perhaps a small fetch of 20 kts north winds to set up over Cape Mendocino fading from 15 kts on Wednesday then gone. Perhaps some 15-20 kt north winds to develop over Pt Conception on Friday and holding if not expanding overage up into Central CA into Sun (8/30).


South Pacific

On Sunday AM (8/23) the southern branch of the jetstream was running flat east down at 65S over the West Pacific falling into Antarctica over the Southeast Pacific. No troughs were present and at no point was the jet escaping Antarctic Ice. The northern branch of the jet was tracking east as it has all summer from a point north of Northern New Zealand on the 27S latitude line with winds building to 150 kts in one pocket extending from south of Tahiti almost to the Chilean Coast. There was no support for gale formation by the jet in lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast until Tues (8/25) when a trough starts developing under New Zealand with a pocket of 140 kts winds start developing there. That trough is to make little northerly headway holding at 60S while pushing east into Wed (8/26) offering limited support for gale formation. Beyond 72 hours another pocket of wind energy is to start building southwest of New Zealand late Thurs (8/27) at 150 kts making decent northeastward progress into Sat Am (8/29) offering good support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. That trough is to hold while easing east with additional 140 kts winds feeding the trough late Sunday (8/30) offering more fuel for gale development.

Surface Analysis  
On Sunday AM (8/23) a weak cutoff low was developing south of Tahiti offering no fetch of interest and doing nothing for the SOI. A previous gale in this area (Thurs 8/20) has generated swell (see Cutoff Low below). Otherwise generic low pressure over a large area was off Southern Chile while high pressure at 1028 mbs held control east of New Zealand ridging southeast to 55S and holding a lock on storm development there. No other fetch of interest was occurring. Previously a gale was south of New Zealand but likely has not produced much swell of interest (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise no fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours a weak gale is forecast forming southwest of New Zealand on Mon PM (8/24) producing 45 kt west winds and 35 ft seas over a small area at 57S 148E (219 degs CA and shadowed by New Zealand relative to Hawaii). The gale to be fading Tues AM (8/2) with fetch dropping from 40 kts and seas fading from 30 ft at 55S 159E (220 degs CA). Minimal background swell is possible relative to California. Another fetch of 40 kt west-southwest winds is forecast on Wed AM (8/26) starting to get traction on the oceans surface easing east and holding into the evening with 28 ft seas at 57S 176W. But the pure east heading of the winds will not be conducive to swell travel well to the northeast.

Cutoff Low
A cutoff low developed south of Tahiti on Wed PM (8/19) generating a small fetch of 45 kt south winds and a sliver of 26 ft seas at 43S 140W aimed at Hawaii and the US West Coast. The low mellowed some Thurs AM (8/20) with 40 kt south winds pushing better to the north generating barely 26 ft seas at 42S 141W. 40 kt southwest winds to hold into the evening with seas 27 ft at 38S 138W. 40 kt southwest winds to hold into Fri AM (8/21) generating 28 ft seas at 37S 133W aimed mainly at Chile with sideband swell pushing north. This system to be fading after that. Possible 15 sec period south angled swell to result for California with a tiny pulse possible for Hawaii.

Hawaii: expect swell arrival on Thurs (8/27) building to 2 ft @ 13-14 secs late (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell to fade Fri (8/28) from 1.6 ft @ 13 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 167 degrees

SCal: Swell arrival expected late Thurs (8/27) with swell building to 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3 ft). Swell to continue up on Fri (8/28) peaking at 2.8 ft @ 15 secs late (4 ft). Residuals fading on Sat (8/29) from 2.8 ft @ 14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction 195 degrees

NCal: Swell arrival expected Fri (8/28) building to 2 ft @ 16 secs late (3 ft). Swell to continue up on Sat (8/29) peaking at 2.3 ft @ 15 secs late (3.5 ft). Residuals fading on Sun (8/30) from 2.2 ft @ 14 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction 190 degrees

New Zealand Gale
A gale low developed south of Tasmania Tues AM (8/18) with 40 kt west winds producing 28 ft seas at 59S 140E (219 degs CA) and tracking east offering some hope near term. The Tasmania gale tracked east with 40 kt west-southwest winds Tues PM (8/18) generating a tiny area of 30 ft seas at 60S 150E (216 degs NCal unshadowed by Tahiti, but becoming shadowed relative to SCal) and totally shadowed by New Zealand relative to HI. Winds were fading from 35 kts Wed AM (8/19) with 29 ft seas fading at 56.5S 162E (shadowed by NZ for HI, 216 NCal and unshadowed, 216 degs SCal and barely unshadowed). This system is to be gone by the evening.  Small swell is possible but it was 7,000 nmiles from CA.

Rough data suggests swell arrival with period 17 secs on Sat (8/29) at about 9 PM. Swell to peak on Sun (8/30) at 1 ft @ 16-17 secs (1.5-2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 216 degrees


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




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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to be locked over the Western Gulf providing a virtual barricade preventing the migration eastward of recurving tropical low pressure in the West Pacific over the dateline. But low pressure is to form in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska on Fri AM (8/28) with northwest winds 30 kts and the low falling southeast into the evening generating 18 ft seas at 53N 147W. More of the same is forecast into Sat AM (8/29) with 20 ft seas at 51N 144W (317 degs NCal). A quick fade to follow with 19 ft seas from previous fetch falling to 48N 144W (310 degs NCal).

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a new gale is to start forming south of New Zealand on Fri (8/28) generating 45-50 kts southwest winds and 35 ft seas at 58S 175E. By the evening 45 kt southwest winds to be covering a large area aimed decently to the north and east with seas building to 41 ft @ 54S 173W. Fetch to fade to 40 kts over a solid area Sat AM (8/29) with 39 ft seas at 54S 169W. Fetch and seas to fade from there. If this comes to pass solid swell to result for Hawaii and California, but mostly shadowed by tahiti relative to the US West Coast.

Details to follow...


Kelvin Wave #3 Starting to Present Around Galapagos - IRI Consensus Forecast Upgrades Significantly
West Anomalies Forecast to Rebuild in KWGA Shortly

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).

Overview: A strong El Nino is developing. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.      

1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated only as required.

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change): As of Sun (8/23):  
Daily Southern Oscillation Index: Was rising from -2.60. We've just completed a roughly 25 day run of values below -10 with 16 days of that below -20 (7/23-8/17).  Of note: the 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30/31st.
30 Day Average: Was rising from -20.53, responding to the negative run above. The lowest point in years was achieved -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15.
90 Day Average: Was falling slightly at -12.77. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and bottomed out at it's lowest reading in year on 8/5 at -14.17. 
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state. The Active Phase of the MJO is no longer required, but welcome if it comes to help supercharge the evolving situation.  
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A weak pressure pattern is forecast over East Aus into Tues (8/25). Then weak high pressure is to be moving into the picture Wed-Sat (8/29).   
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A small low pressure system was south of Tahiti Sun-Mon (8/24). A the same time a semi tropical low to start building west of and moving directly over Tahiti Tues-Thurs (8/27) then falling south affecting the SOI into Sun (8/30).  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a falling SOI for the bulk of the coming week (8/24-8/30).     
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied. Current numbers suggest good but not great co.cgiing and that trend to continue for the immediate future. That will likely change for the better as the El Nino base state builds as we move into Fall. A consistent 90 day average of -18 is our target, indicative of a strong El Nino.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino): No south winds were in.cgiay nor forecast for the next week (thru 8/30). It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the southerly surface flow. South and southeast wind anomalies have been building in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18). The SHBI appears to positively influencing El Nino development, but we have no hard numbers to confirm. 
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (8/23) Today's value was +2.02 falling from +2.42 on (8/18) and had been steady in the +2.5 range on 8/10.  Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is already very well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (July) The current ranking is 1.97 SD (65). The MEI for July actually went down (0.09 SD) from last month. At this same time in '97 the ranking was 2.85 SD (66) and in '82 it was 1.7 SD (61). So we're slightly above the '82 event but well below '97, or comfortably on track for this time of year to move into Super El Nino territory. The top 5 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. Suffice it to say were are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric co.cgiing per this index.  

Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Sun (8/23):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated no actual west winds any more in the KWGA proper. If anything southeast winds were in control and fairly strong. Modest to moderate west anomalies extend from 180W to 140W on the equator but building to strong north of and including 5N. Neutral anomalies winds continued east of there. The anomalous west wind pattern has vanished in the heart of the KWGA. This is not unexpected and pretty typical of mature phase of the El Nino cycle, as both west anomalies and winds and warm surface water start moving east. The assumption is the core of the KWGA starts moving east with it. Previously west anomalies were steady for a 29 day window (7/19-8/19) and followed directly behind a very strong WWB burst (third of the year) that was associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) 6/24-7/17 (nearly 2 months of west anomalies or stronger). But now we're in a bit of a weak phase.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies faded west of the dateline on 8/18 and are to hold for maybe 1-2 more days (8/25). This is in sync with previous forecasts and is courtesy of an Inactive Rossby Wave moving through the area. The GFS model depicts southeast winds fading out of the south KWGA by late Tues (8/25). And all the while west winds (not just anomalies) started building from 155E on Sat (8/22) and points east of there at 14 kts and are to drift west into Fri (8/28) with a dead wind pattern following. At this point, no east anomalies are forecast in the KWGA.

A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May with weaker but still solid west anomalies continuing after that through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern (the first such event of the year), then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB, the strongest of the year so far, starting on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 but held nicely through 7/17 (22 days), the result of a historically strong Active Phase of the MJO which produced a strong and large Kelvin Wave, the third this year and the strongest by far. Moderate westerly anomalies redeveloped 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continued through 8/19). That is nearly 2 months of non-stop anomalies if not out and out west winds (6/26-8/19). But from 8/19-8/25 we will have to deal with lesser westerly anomalies di.cgiaced mainly east of the KWGA, the weakest of the west winds pattern so far this year. In reality it a non-issue assuming it is limited to that small window. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production.  

Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections: As of 8/22: 
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral MJO signal over the West Pacific. The Statistic model suggests a weak Inactive MJO pattern is over the far West Pacific and is to hold if not build for the next 15 days making little eastward progress. The Dynamic model depicts the same but with it fading rather than building. In essence no MJO influence is forecast. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): They suggest the Active Phase of the MJO is dead and collapsed and is to not return.  
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a modest Active MJO pattern fading while tracking east over Central America through 9/2. A moderate Inactive Phase is developing in the far West Pacific 8/23 tracking east through 9/22. The weak east anomaly pattern currently occurring in the far west KWGA is likely part of this larger cycle. It is suspected a little bit of destructive interference is occurring regarding surface west anomalies west of the dateline from this weak Inactive Phase and a Inactive Rossby Wave. The stronger El Nino base state starts it's influence from the dateline heading east though, with the Inactive MJO having no impact there.       
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb): A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is forecast 8/20-9/22. Some positive enhancement from Rossby waves are forecast 8/28-9/22, with a major push of the Active Phase of the MJO remaining scheduled starting Sept 24 in the far West Pacific holding till 11/11. No easterly anomalies are forecast for the long term. Westerly anomalies are to rule from 8/28 over the entire KWGA and holding well into mid-Nov. The question is, will another Kelvin Wave result?

The general consensus by the models is that we are to hold in a neutral to slightly Inactive MJO pattern for the next 4 weeks. But that is to be negated by positive support from a Rossby Wave starting by the end of this week and holding till the Active Phase moves in.  In reality, a pure El Nino base state is at.cgiay driving current west anomalies and not expected to change much. Westerly anomalies, regardless of their source, are all that's required to push warm water to the east. And that situation is not in question.

CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc

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.
Satellite Imagery
On (8/20) first impressions indicating a warm water signal covering the entire equatorial Pacific. But the pattern is ill defined and less concentrated compared to peak warming on 7/16. Some of this might be attributable to color scaling between the low-res images and hi-res images. Comparing the 8/20 image to anything post 1997, it's obvious the equatorial East Pacific is way warmer than anything other than 97 (at this time). A huge pool of warm water is covering the entire equatorial Pacific and filling the entire North Pacific Ocean. Temperatures in the NINO1.2 region as of the latest image appear to be stabilizing. No cool waters are present, just no markedly warm concentrated waters are depicted. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, but not building. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and holding while extending west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, but possibly attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Slightly cool water is over Australia. Slightly warm water continues near Madagascar. 
Hi-res Nino1.2: (8/22) Some positive change is indicated nearshore to Ecuador with warmer water at +2.25 degs slowly building. And a very warm pocket continues just east of the Galapagos at 95W and has been building since 8/17. And other pockets are starting to appear west of there to 120W. The hi-res chart that depict temp changes over the part 7 days drives this point home. We're thinking that the Big Kelvin Wave is starting to get some exposure on the surface west of the Galapagos in the exact same area the cooler upwelling pool is advecting over. The arrival of the new Kelvin wave is not unexpected and is highly anticipated, but most of it's eruption is still forecast between the Galapagos and Ecuador rather than west of the Galapagos. A rapid decline started 8/13 and then crashed on 8/15 east of 100W with only limited pockets of +2.5 deg or greater anomalies present. This cooler pocket started working it's way west over the Galapagos and tracking west from there, but also warmer pockets are appearing in the same area. The upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is here, or at a minimum a heavy backdraft from a huge Kelvin Wave building just east of the Galapagos is occurring. Peak temps occurred between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14, then faded between 7/14-7/30 (and is reflected in the low res imagery too - see above). From 7/31-8/13 temps between Ecuador and the Galapagos stabilized then crashed starting 8/13 finally bottoming out 8/17. A slow warm has been trying to set in since.
Hi-res NINO 3.4:
 (8/22) Unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies continue advecting west from a previous Kelvin Wave that impacted the Galapagos, and are rebuilding from 145-155W where they retracted a bit between (8/15-8/22). in general, total coverage of anomalies continues to build. Previously +2.25 anomalies reached to 133W on 7/16 and then 138W (7/31) pushing to 149W on 8/10 and 158W on 8/15. This is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of the 1st and 2nd Kelvin Waves earlier this year.
Galapagos Virtual Station:
This station reported temps at +2.8 degs today, building the past 3 days and up from when the bottom fell out around 8/15. Previously a solid reading occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had arrived, then built to +5.45 degs on 6/14. Temps faded from that high peak down to +4.1 degs in late June then rebuilt up to +4.94 on 7/17. Then a fade set in, down to +3.1 degs as of 7/31 and bouncing from +3.1-3.5 through 8/7, then falling dramatically to +2.0 on 8/10 and holding at +2.1-2.3 degrees 8/14-8/19. Much more warm water is poised at depth just off Ecuador (see below) and required immediately.  
Other Sources
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over most entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline. There's some solid evidence that the large surface warm pool is pushing east, at least north of the equator with the +1 degree anomaly periphery at 165W. A previous pool of +1.5 deg anomalies on the dateline has vanished and the extent of +1.0 deg anomalies is shrinking moving to the east. There is an embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 145W (expanding west) with +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 150W (holding). Overall the warm water signature is holding and migrating west slowly. This is likely the peak for a few months.
Nino1.2 Index Temps: (8/23) Temps are starting to rebuild up to +1.3 degs, compared to the bottom temp of +1.0 degs on 8/20 presumably the result of the backdraft occurring off Ecuador. Previously temps hovered at +2.1 degrees early June then spiked reaching +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again at +3.0 degs on 7/22. Temps fell to +1.9 degrees on 7/27 and bottomed out at +1.0 degs on 8/20.
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are unbelievably still building, pushing +2.24 degs today. By any normal standard we are in Strong to a Super El Nino now. In '97 for Aug the monthly anomaly in Nino3.4 was +2.0. Our guess for this months monthly anomaly so far is ~+1.8. Regardless, today's reading just beat the previous all time peak (so far) for this year event on 8/10 at 1.8 degrees. This is well into the major El Nino category. We had thought this would be a short lived peak based on what is happening in the Nino 1.2 region. But with that too starting to warm and the 3rd Kelvin Wave apparently starting to erupt west and east of the Galapagos now, the thought is additional warming is possible. Water temps previously held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April, then started building pushing +1.5 degs on 6/30, held then crept up, peaking at +1.75 degs on 7/19 and +1.7 degs on 7/29, pushing +1.8 of 8/10 and now +2.24 on 8/23.

(8/23) If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on the areal coverage of water temps, there is no comparison. '97 imagery leaves this years event in the dust and whatever comparison there was is fading out quickly. The '97 event built non-stop from this point forward (in terms of areal coverage). Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable anomalies in Nino3.4, is weak in Nino1.2 and the coverage of warm waters is a worm in comparison to '97s mammoth coverage. Total coverage of warm waters in the current imagery still remains respectable, but the depth of concentration is weak. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 and was likely the result of a pause in upwelling of warm water in that region, a break between the first and second Kelvin wave eruptions and the third poised just off Ecuador. Concerns about these cooler waters advecting west and eventually negatively impacting temps in the Nino3.4 region are at least for now being moderated by pockets of warm water from the third Kelvin Wave starting to upwell west of the Galapagos. There appears to be.cgienty of water poised in the subsurface reservoir, and if anything, is building driven by the strength and duration of the most recent WWB (late June) when the resulting Kelvin Wave hits (peak temps in Nino 1.2 expected 10/4).

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (8/23) On the equator and under the dateline (160-180W) temperature anomalies remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 155E to 135W (expanding) with a pocket of 30 deg temps building at 145-162W, 70 meters down. +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 150W eastward (holding), the direct effects of the massive June-July WWB. A large warm reservoir at +5-6 deg above normal is poised to erupt into Ecuador. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +6 degs anomalies centered at 110W (holding) and +5 deg anomalies extending east from 137W to Ecuador (shrinking slightly). This pocket is a mixture of warm water from a WWB in early May merging with water from the most recent strong WWB in late June-July. The pipe is open with more warm water rushing in and very warm water poised to erupt into the Galapagos.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  Data from 8/16 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 175E with a core at +15 cm from 110-150W (shrinking slightly). No anomalies were from the Galapagos to Ecuador indicative of the Pause mentioned above. This is most impressive. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight in the mid-Pacific poised to merge with a subsurface reservoir poised off Ecuador. This is a classic major El Nino setup, not a standard El Nino.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: As of (8/16) this data drives the point home. It indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 180W and the Galapagos (holding). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 173W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 155W. All these sectors are holding. A pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 150W-->106W (holding) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 140W-->118W (shrinking some). A pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies is holding between the Galapagos and Ecuador (from 91W-80W) and not moving east. This is the backdraft pool that we hoped would be shrinking by now.  

A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. And now a third is poised, the strongest of all an getting stronger with each update. A pause in warming near Ecuador occurred, suggestive of a break between successive strong Kelvin Waves. But that gap appears at least for now to not be growing, and if anything might be getting moderated by warm water starting to show in pockets east and west of the Galapagos, presumably the leading edge of this 3rd Kelvin Wave. The subsurface configuration suggests there are 2.5 months of warm water in this reservoir (till Nov 1) and some of that water is extremely warm. Currently there is a pause in westerly anomalies over most of the KWGA. So the question becomes, is this third Kelvin Wave the final one, or will another follow? We all hope the answer is more is on the way. but that is entirely dependent upon how strong the El Nino base state really is. Historically this is a great setup if we can just get through the short term 'pause' and then get another WWB behind that.  

North Pacific Jetstream:  As of Sun (8/23) a modest flow was trying to run across the North Pacific roughly centered at 48N but a hug ridge was just east of the dateline pushing the jet up into the Bering Sea. This is not impressive and suggests only weak influence by El Nino is occurring by virtue of the jet being present at all south of the Aleutians. More of the same is forecast over the coming week until the end when the ridge over the dateline finally breaks down. But as of right now, the jet remains unremarkable and does not reflect a strong El Nino influenced pattern.

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 8/17 the current continues solid and building. The current is pushing strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area mainly north of the equator and still solid but fading while pushing west from 160W to 120W before fading out. A pocket of modest east anomalies was over the immediate Galapagos. Anomaly wise - Strong west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific to the dateline, with a strong pocket north of the equator from the dateline to 140W, then fading in pockets continuing to 100W. No east anomalies were indicated. This is fairly impressive, suggesting this event is getting legs. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, today's image actually is fairly similar, if just a hair less strong. This is a significant improvement.  

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 For the model run 8/23 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures have upgraded slightly again. It suggests water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 2.24 degs today) and are to steadily warm continuing to +2.0 degs by Oct peaking at +2.1 degs by Nov, then dropping off. Even given the current pause occurring in Nino1.2, and considering the size of the new Kelvin Wave forming subsurface, we suspect this projection is on the low side. Uncorrected data suggests peaks to +3.1 degs
onsensus Plume: The mid-Aug Plume has upgraded significantly, suggesting peak temps between +2.0 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.3. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs. See chart here - link. 

Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 the Active Phase of the MJO and successive Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific and primed the atmosphere out of a 15 year La Nina biased pattern that had been in.cgiay since the demise of the '97-98 Super El Nino. It is assumed some greater force was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern, (the PDO). This warming and teleconnection continued building in 2015 with two Kelvin Waves arriving in Ecuador warming surface waters well into El Nino territory and a third, the strongest so far, in flight now. Preceding this Kelvin Wave is a pocket of less warm water. But with a large warm reservoir lodged just west of the Galapagos and the third Kelvin Wave moving into it, warming is expected to resume shortly. At this time we believe the classic El Nino feedback/teleconnection loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean are well co.cgied.   

The 2015 El Nino pattern is not quite as impressive as it was in late July and certainly not compared to the '97 at this time of year. But it has found a way to move forward regardless. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today are a testament to that (+2.24 as of 8/23). So the big question then becomes: How strong will this El Nino become? In the end, strength is a function of the temperatures in the Nino3.4 region. The warmer the core temps and the larger their areal coverage, the higher the resulting number. And for the most part obtaining high Nino3.4 temps is a function of the strength and duration of westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. And the frequency of those events is dictated by the 'character' of the El Nino.  All El Nino events are different. The '97 event started early, developed out of a previous cold La Nina water state, and never looked back. Other strong events in '72, '86, and '91 had dissimilar profiles. The point being, there is no exact te.cgiate for a strong El Nino other than they tend to form in the Spring and peak during the following Winter. Regarding the exact micro-details of each event (WWB, Kelvin Wave speed, arrival time etc) all generally follow a similar pattern. Given the false start of this El Nino in 2014 (and for that matter the other false start in 2012), this event has taken it's sweet time getting organized. But it's been struggling against an atmospheric bias towards La Nina driven by  the cool phase of the PDO. We believe the atmosphere is trying to transition to the warm phase of the PDO, but is still fighting momentum from the cool phase, hence elongating this El Nino's lifecycle. Regardless, a large and strong Kelvin Wave, the largest of this event is poised to erupt now. It will take at least 3 months for the tail end to erupt over the Galapagos and advects through the Nino 3.4 region. So that covers us till November. And regarding the 'warm blob' off the Pacific Northwest, we believe that is more a symptom of the developing warm PDO, and will get punctured by incoming storms once El Nino gets traction and the jetstream energizes in the late Jan/early Feb 2016 timeframe. Winds from storms cause mixing and upwelling, which in turn cool surface waters.

The longer El Nino threshold temperatures persist, the thought is the longer it will take proportionally to dissipate. That is, the sooner warm water temps develop, the sooner they will have an effect on the atmosphere and the more momentum El Nino will have on the atmosphere, and will therefore take longer to dislodge. The atmosphere responds very slowly to change. but once changed, it doesn't turn back to it's previous configuration quick either. An official El Nino was declared in late 2014 and has only gotten stronger since then. If the Active Phase of the MJO does develop in the Sept-Oct timeframe as predicted by the CFS model, and if a significant Kelvin Wave results, it would not arrive in Ecuador till ~Jan 1, 2016, and not disburse till a month later (Feb). that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 16 months. That said, the character of this event is not at all like '97 (which was brisked paced and steady), but not at all like '82 either (which developed even later and faster). This one is a slow moving train wreck. That would not be a bad thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107.

So where does it go from here? Having a MEI that today is equivalent to two other Super El Nino events is no guarantee that this years event will eventually evolve into a Super El Nino. We still have 1.0 SDs to go. Though looking at the record back to 1950 for other events that have similar values in July, the odds favor that outcome. Still, the argument goes back moving warm water east and then advecting it west. That is acco.cgiished through WWBs and Kelvin Waves. With an evolving El Nino base state in control and building, it seem more warm water transport east is inevitable. And we haven't even hit the Fall season switchover, which tends to supercharge westerly anomalies during El Nino years. The future concerning more and stronger WWBs is unknown, but we are betting on the CFSv2 being largely on the right track with the El Nino base state slowly having greater influence over time and being enhanced by the MJO and Rossby Waves at times.        

So for now we're tracking towards an El Nino that will end up somewhere between the 82' and '97 event, with very good atmospheric momentum in.cgiay.  We'll continue monitoring the North Pacific jetstream and will be looking for tropical activity in the West Pacific to recurve northeast moving towards the Gulf of Alaska, and for swell to result from such systems in later August and Sept. To us, those are the sure signs of deep changes in the atmosphere influenced by El Nino. With Typhoon Atsani on the chart and forecast to co.cgiy, that is yet one more log on the proverbial fire, and we suspect just the first of more to come. Until then, continue strength, endurance, flexibility and balance training. Don't forget breath holding either. Co.cgiete build out of your quivers. And if you own beachfront property in California, or even well inland, pay your insurance premiums. Life insurance isn't a bad idea either.

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool


External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave

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