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.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 3.1 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 2.2 ft @ 10.1 secs from 196 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 8.0 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 14.6 secs. Wind west 4-8 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.6 ft @ 15.2 secs from 252 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.3 ft @ 13.2 secs from 219 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.1 ft @ 13.4 secs from 209 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.5 ft @ 11.0 secs with swell 4.8 ft @ 12.5 secs. Wind northwest 16-19 kts. Water temp 63.5 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.
On Tuesday (9/1) in North and Central CA at best breaks Gulf windswell was producing surf in the head high to 1 ft overhead range and trashed by south winds at exposed breaks but clean at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high and warbled by tide with northwest texture on top. In Southern California up north waves were waist high.cgius on the sets and weak mainly due to tide but relatively clean. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves at chest high but with too much tide and southerly texture on top of that. Hawaii's North Shore was getting local hurricane wrap around windswell at chest to head high but nearly chopped with northerly winds on it. The South Shore was getting background southerly swell with waves waist to chest high at top breaks and clean. The East Shore was getting hurricane swell with waves 8-9 ft on the faces and lightly chopped early with 10 kt northeast winds on it.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no large scale non-tropical swell producing weather systems were occurring. Swell from a low pressure system previously in the Northern Gulf of Alaska was fading generating 15 ft seas and expected to be gone by the evening. Windswell is currently hitting the US West Coast and should hold in Central CA for 1 more day, then heading down. Three tropical systems continue in.cgiay, one west of Hawaii, on north of it and one east of there. Swell is hitting the Islands and is expected to continue for Northeast Shores for a good long while, but smaller than what is currently hitting. Regarding local windswell, nothing of interest is forecast relative to California until the weekend, then holding will into mid-next week. Windswell relative to Hawaii is not an issue given the tropical situation. For the southern hemisphere a gale tracked east from under New Zealand Thurs (8/27) producing 39 ft seas aimed east with a broader one on it's tail Fri-Sun (8/30) generating up to 40 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast, with remnants tracking across the South Pacific. Swell is in the water targeting Hawaii and California. And El Nino continues to evolve solidly with water temps in the Nino3.4 region locked in the strong El Nino category and expected to go up from there.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday (8/29) remnant low pressure was moving inland over Central Canada from the Northeast Gulf of Alaska still generating 30 kt northwest winds and offering limited windswell pushing towards the US West Coast (see Gulf Low below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific. High pressure at 1028 mbs was in the Gulf of Alaska blocking the storm track into the Gulf but too far west to be able to ridge into the US West Coast and too far north relative to Hawaii to offer windswell generation potential of it's own.
Over the next 72 hours relative to California the Gulf high pressure system is to be fading while easing southeast starting to ridge into Cape Mendocino on Thurs (9/3) forming a weak pressure gradient and north winds there to 20 kts pushing 25 kts late. fading to 20 kts on Friday and then rebuilding after that. Small north windswell is likely for North and Central CA. And this high, as it eases east, is to block the track for the three tropical systems to move into the Gulf, at least for now. Relative to Hawaii trades to remain light, below the 15 kt threshold to generate windswell with fetch from two tropical systems of far more interest, but not concern (see Tropical Update below).
Low pressure formed in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska on Fri AM (8/28) with northwest winds 30-35 kts with the low falling southeast into the evening but winds dropped to 30 kts generating 17 ft seas at 53N 143W. Fetch faded to barely 25 kts Sat AM (8/29) with no seas of interest forecast (< 16 ft). A secondary fetch developed in the same area on Sat AM into Sun AM (8/30) producing 25-30 kt west winds and seas on the increase (15 ft). By evening 25-30 kt west winds and 15 ft seas were at 54N 140W (outside/northeast of the NCal swell window). Additional 30 kt northwest fetch developed in the NCal swell window Mon AM (8/31) continuing into the evening but seas were only 15-16 ft at 52N 143W. This system was fading out Tues AM (9/1). Small north angled windswell has hit North CA and is to continue Wed (9/2) (4.5 ft @ 11 secs - 5 ft) and larger up into Oregon, but nothing more. See QuikCASTs for details.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (as of 12Z Tues 9/1)
Hurricane Ignacio: On Tues AM (9/1) winds were down to 70 kts positioned 200 miles north-northeast of the Big Island heading northwest. A northwest track to continue putting Ignacio 300 nmiles north of Oahu Wed PM (9/2) with winds down to 65 kts, then fading to tropical storm status. continued weakening is forecast with and eventual turn to the north-northwest scheduled on Sat AM (9/5) 900 nmiles north-northwest of Kauai. The GFS model has Ignacio stalling at 42N 170W Mon PM (9/7) then starting to track east on Tues (9/8). But high pressure is to be blocking it's path into the Gulf a turn towards Alaska is expected.
Oahu Northeast Shore: A slow fade in swell is to set in Wed AM (9/2) but still 5.5 ft @ 11 secs (6.0 ft) early. Swell fading from 3.5 ft @ 10 secs (3.5 ft) early Thurs (9/3).
Super Hurricane Jimena: On Saturday AM (8/29) Jimena was 1700 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island with winds 125 kts (144 mph) and slowly building while tracking west-northwest. Jimena peaked late Sun PM (8/30) with winds 130 kts (150 mph) at 14.9N 131.8W with seas 40 ft 1600 nmiles from the Big Island on the 97 degree path (106 deg path Oahu). Swell arrival estimated in Oahu on Wed sunrise (9/2) with period 17 secs. Jimena then slowly started fading while tracking west-northwest. On Tues AM (9/1) Jimena was 900 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island with winds 105 kts and seas 38 ft. More of the same is forecast with Jimena reaching a point 725 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island late Wed (9/2) with winds down to 90 kts and making a turn more to the northwest. By Sun AM (9/6) Jimena is to be at tropical storm status 550 nmiles northeast of the Big Island with winds 55 kts. Swell generation potential fading fast by then. Still much swell from prior fetch is to be in the water heading towards exposed East Shores. The GFS model has this system continuing on the northwest heading into late Tues (9/8) with high pressure blocking it's path up into the Gulf. Something to monitor.
Oahu Northeast Shore: Swell arrival expected Wed AM (9/2) at 4.5 ft @ 17 secs (7.5 ft) and holding. Swell holding solid on Thurs (9/3) at 5.0 ft @ 15 secs (7.0-7.5 ft). Swell continues Fri (9/4) at 4.8 ft @ 14 secs (6.5 ft) continuing Sat (9/5) at 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft). More swell to follow. Swell Direction: 80-90 degrees.
Hurricane Kilo: On Sat AM (8/29) Kilo was positioned 300 nmiles west-northwest of the Johnson Atoll with winds 80 kts and started making a more northwesterly track moving somewhat towards Midway and the dateline. By Tues AM 99/1) it was on the dateline at 23.4N with winds 100 kts. A slow turn to the west is forecast with steady strengthening forecast with winds to 125 kts by Fri AM (9/4) and holding while still tracking steadily west. The GFS model has it tracking west from there and holding together nicely into Tues PM (9/8) near 23.5N 163E. No recurvature forecast yet.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues (9/1) low pressure was moving into Canada with a generally weak wind pattern for Central CA, though north winds were 15-20 kts near Pt Arena. By Thursday northwest winds to start rebuilding along all the North and Central Coast at 15-20 kts migrating slowly north and taking up shop over Cape Mendocino at 20+ kts late on Sat (9/5) and continuing there through the weekend and through Tues (9/8).
On Tuesday AM (9/1) the southern branch of the jetstream was further north than weeks past running more or less flat to the east along the 60S latitude line, only starting to ridge south starting at a point south of California (120W). No real troughs were indicated and winds were generally 110-120 kts across it's length. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to weaken substantially with a very frail ridge starting to build south of New Zealand sweeping east late Thurs (9/3) reducing the odds to support gale development. Beyond 72 hrs a new trough is to be forming in the far Southwest Pacific on Fri (9/4) with 120 kts south winds pushing up into it and continuing into Sat (9/5) before collapsing Sunday. Some support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere is possible. Beyond the jet is to start settling further south with no significant wind energy not troughs forecast.
On Tues AM (9/1) swell from a primer New Zealand gale was in the water pushing northeast but inconsequential (see 2nd New Zealand Gale below). Directly behind was a swell from a small gale that developed under New Zealand (see 1st Real New Zealand Gale below). And another swell (the biggest of the three) was right behind that (see 2nd New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise remnant energy from the 3rd Gale was fading over the south Central Pacific.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
New Zealand Gale #2 (Primer)
A weak gale formed southwest of New Zealand on Mon PM (8/24) producing 45 kt west winds and 34 ft seas over a small area at 58S 146E (216 degs CA and shadowed by New Zealand relative to Hawaii). The gale was fading Tues AM (8/2) with fetch dropping from 40 kts and seas fading from 32 ft at 55S 159E (220 degs CA). Minimal background swell is possible relative to California starting Fri PM (9/4) at 1.4 ft @ 17 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) being 7,400 nmiles out but this system served mainly to rough up the oceans surface to provide traction for what is behind.
1st Real New Zealand Gale
A stronger gale pushed under New Zealand Wed AM (8/26) generating 45 kt west winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By evening winds built to 50 kts from the west with seas to 38 ft at 62S 176E. On Thurs AM (8/27) 45 kt west winds continued tracking east with 38 ft seas at 61S 172W (188 degs HI, 202 degs NCal/204 degs SCal and unshadowed). Fetch was fading from 45 kts in the evening with 38 ft seas at 62S 159W (180 degs HI, 197 degs NCal, 198 degs SCal). A quick fade followed. Some small but decent length period swell could result for California with smaller sideband swell for HI. But size to be small with most energy running flat west to east.
Hawaii: Swell arrival expected on Wed PM (9/2) with period 20 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Swell building as period hits 18 secs Thurs AM (9/3) peaking later in the day at 1.5 ft @ 17 secs (2.5 ft). Swell starting to get overrun by the next swell (see below) late. Swell Direction: 189 degrees
SCal: Swell arrival with period 20 secs starting Fri sunset (9/4) at 1.3 ft @ 20 secs (2.5 ft). Swell peaking roughly Sat (9/5) sunset at 1.5 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft). Swell still holding Sun AM (9/6) with swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) but getting overtaken by the next swell. Swell Direction: 198-206 degs
NCal: Swell arrival with period 20 secs starting Fri sunset (9/4) and not really noticeable (1 ft @ 20 secs). Swell peaking roughly Sat (9/5) sunset at 1.5 ft @ 18 secs (2.5 ft). Swell still holding Sun AM (9/6) with swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) but getting overtaken by the next swell. Swell Direction: 197-205 degs
2nd New Zealand Gale
A solid storm started building due south of New Zealand Thurs PM (8/27) with 50 kt west winds over a decent sized area. Seas on the increase. 45-50 kt west-southwest winds held into Fri AM (8/28) generating 41 ft seas at 59S 177E (193 degs HI, 209 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti, 210 degs SCal and barely shadowed on the east Tahiti swell shadow). Fetch was fading in the evening from 45 kts over a larger area with 40 ft seas at 57S 172W (188 degs HI, 206 degs NCal and shadowed, 205 degs SCal and unshadowed). 40 kt west-southwest winds were fading while continuing east on Sat AM (8/29) with seas fading from 37 ft at 56S 165W (182 degs HI, 204 degs NCal and barely unshadowed, 205 degs SCal and clear). Fetch is to be gone by the evening tracking east fast from 35-40 kts with 33 ft seas fading at 55S 150W. A solid long period swell is expected to result for SCal and unshadowed, but shadowed up into NCal and sideband energy for HI.
Hawaii: Swell arrival starting Thurs (9/3) at sunset with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell getting solid by sunrise Fri (9/4) with period 18 secs peaking late as period hits 17 secs. Swell 3 ft @ 17 secs (5.0 ft). Swell continuing on Saturday with swell fading from 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 194 degrees
SCal: Expect swell arrival 5 PM Sat (9/5) with period 20-21 secs and size 1.5 ft @ 20-21 secs (3 ft). Swell building Sun (9/6) pushing 3.0 ft @ 18 secs late (5.0-5.5 ft). Swell holding Mon AM (9/7) at 3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.0-5.5 ft). Swell fading starting Tues AM (9/8) from 3.0 ft @ 16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 202-209 degrees
NCal: Expect swell arrival 11 PM Sat (9/5) with period 20 secs and size 1.5 ft @ 20 secs (3 ft). Swell building Sun (9/6) pushing 2.3 ft @ 19 secs late (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell peaking Mon (9/7) at 3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.0-5.5 ft). Swell fading starting Tues AM (9/8) from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 201-208 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours no Fall-like swell producing fetch that is not tropical is forecast. High pressure is to hold off the Pacific Northwest continuing the weak gradient over Cape Mendocino producing 25 kt north winds there into Tues AM (9/8) resulting in more modest north short period windswell for North and Central CA. But high pressure in the West Pacific is to be gone by later Tues (9/8) opening the door for tropical energy west of the dateline to start recurving east. Something to monitor relative to all three tropical systems, still forecast to be in.cgiay a week out. That in and of itself is impressive.
Beyond 72 hours a small gale is forecast forming south of New Zealand on Mon (9/7) generating 45 kts west winds and seas on the increase just barely north of the Ross Ice Shelf. Fetch is to be fading to 40 kts in the evening with seas 30 ft over a small area at 60S 178E. This system is to be gone after that. Will monitor.
Details to follow...
90 Day SOI Continues Marching Negative
Waters Still Warming Around Ecuador and More So West of Galapagos
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 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.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Tues (9/1):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds (not anomalies) at 160E mainly north of the equator to the dateline. Anomalies were moderate to strong from the west from 160E to 170W on and north of the equator fading to modest strength from 170W eastward to 160W and weaker to 140W. The anomalous west wind pattern has started to rebuild in the eastern half of the KWGA, normal considering the developing maturity of this event. This is good news. 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).
1 Week Forecast: Moderate west anomalies are forecast from 150E to 150W with pockets of stronger anomalies if not out and out west winds. This is good news. The GFS model depicts steady west winds in the Intertropical Convergence Zone up at 6N in the 10-14 kts range through Sat (9/5) then build to 20+ kts up at 9N in association with tropical activity north of there into Tues (9/8). Regardless, west winds are west winds and all push warm water to the east. A dead wind pattern is to continue forward in the heart of the KWGA. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day.
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). 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 forward. 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 9/1:
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral MJO signal over the West Pacific. The Statistic model suggests a weak Inactive MJO pattern is to hold over the far West Pacific for the next 15 days. The Dynamic model depicts the same. 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 weak Active MJO pattern over the Central Pacific tracking east over Central America through 9/18. A moderate Inactive Phase is supposedly developing in the far West Pacific tracking east. In reality, this pattern has been on the charts for weeks now and consistently fails to materialize. It is suspected the stronger El Nino base state is in control, but exhibits like a Inactive like MJO pattern over the far West Pacific, with an Active like pattern over the dateline and points east of there, but not moving. The model thinks it's a real Inactive Phase in a normal year in the West Pacific and tries to move it east. We are ignoring this model from here forward.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb): A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is forecast continuing through 9/26 easing east. Some positive enhancement from a Rossby Wave is occurring now through 9/4 then again 9/6-10/1, with a push of the Active Phase of the MJO remaining scheduled starting 9/28 in the far West Pacific holding till 11/11 with a solid WWB imbedded in that. No easterly anomalies are forecast for the long term. Westerly anomalies are to rule from 8/25 over the entire KWGA and holding well into mid-Nov. The question is, will another Kelvin Wave result? A solid WWB is forecast in the middle of the Active Phase centered on 10/13. We'll see.
The general consensus by the models has updated now with the slightly Inactive MJO pattern having a lesser role from now through the next 4 weeks. And that is to be negated by constructive interference from a Rossby Wave starting now in the East Pacific and easing west into early October. And the Active Phase is still on the charts. In reality, a pure El Nino base state is at.cgiay driving current west anomalies and not expected to change much anytime soon, or if anything, build. 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
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/1) On the equator and under the dateline (160-180W) temperature anomalies remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 155E to 132W (holding) with a pocket at 30 degs building extending from 175E to 137W (expanding) and 70 meters down. +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 155W eastward (holding), the direct effects of the massive June-July WWB. A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal is poised to erupt into Ecuador (leading edge erupting now just west of the Galapagos). That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 120W (expanding) and +5 deg anomalies extending east from 147W to Ecuador (expanding). 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 starting to erupt into the Galapagos. But, the hi-res subsurface animation clearly depicts the backdraft cool pool has redeveloped behind the Galapagos. That almost doesn't seem to matter anymore.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): Data from 8/26 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 178W (moving east some) with a core at +15 cm from 120-140W (shrinking some). Anomalies are building into Ecuador (0-+5 cm) indicative of the arrival of the 3rd Kelvin wave. 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 (8/26) this data drives the point home. It indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175W and the Galapagos (easing east slightly). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 164W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 156W. All these sectors are holding. A pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 150W-->104W (holding) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 142W-->115W (expanding 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 but the satellite data above contradicts that suggesting eastward movement. Regardless, the backdraft pool has not completely given up.
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 with it's leading edge starting to present over and west of the Galapagos, the strongest of all an getting stronger with each update. A pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, suggestive of a break between successive strong Kelvin Waves. But that gap is fading fast now (see below). 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. The peak is forecast to occur roughly on 10/4. And a pause in westerly anomalies over most of the KWGA is now fading, with westerly anomalies starting to rebuild. 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.
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.
Low-res: (8/31) Some negative change is displaying with a cool pocket indicated between the Galapagos and Ecuador. Otherwise 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 todays 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 have a thing cool line running through it. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, but fading some. 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 north Australia up to New Guinea. the cool wake of Typhoons Goni and Atsani are evident off the Philippines and Japan. Slightly warm water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.
Hi-res Nino1.2: (8/31) Water temps are building today along both sides of the Galapagos on into Ecuador and Peru. There is no sign of cooler waters with 2 pockets of +4 degs anomalies in the region, then best in weeks. We're not sure why the low res image is so far off base. +2.25 anomalies extend almost unbroken from Ecuador west past the Galapagos. And other very warm pockets are west of the Galapagos to 120W. We want to see this area building dramatically, as the new erupting Kelvin Wave builds momentum, and we're thinking that is happening now. Will give it 2-3 more days before declaring it a fact. The hi-res chart that depicts temp changes over the past 7 days depicts an almost continuous stream of very recently warmed warm water on the north side of the equator from just of Ecuador to well west of the Galapagos. One cool pocket is at 85W. We continue to believe the 3rd Kelvin Wave is starting to erupt around the Galapagos and now into Peru and Ecuador in the exact same area that previous cooler water was covering, and this warmer water is warming cooler pockets that developed in late August here (a good thing). The arrival of this Kelvin wave is highly anticipated. Previously a rapid decline in anomalies 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, but warming started just in time, on 8/23 and appears to be negating any cooling affect. The upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle appears to be over, and quickly. 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 up started 8/23.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (8/31) This station reported temp anomalies at +3.2 degs up from 2.6 degs (8/28), and back in line with previous readings in the +2.7-3.2 range (8/20-8/26). Regardless, the trend is upward. 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 held at +2.1-2.3 degrees 8/14-8/19. Temps built to +2.7-3.2 8/22-8/27. Much more warm water is poised at depth just off Ecuador (see below).
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (8/31) Unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies continue advecting west from a previous Kelvin Wave that impacted the Galapagos, and are rebuilding at 152W, almost fully repaired today. They retracted a bit between (8/15-8/22). And a pocket of +4 degs anomalies is holding at 105W advecting west. 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.
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. We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line to see if it's moving east. Today its at 160E (unchanged). There is an embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 148W (unchanged) with +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 152W (no change west). Overall the warm water signature is holding. The peak may hold, rather than loose some ground as recently thought.
Nino1.2 Index Temps: (9/1) Temps are steady at +1.7 degs, up from +1.3 on 8/26, and up compared to the bottom temp of +1.0 degs on 8/20 (peak of the upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase). 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, then started building to +1.7 by 8/29.
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are down 0.1 at +1.88. The all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). By any normal standard we are in Strong 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. Based on what is happening in the Nino 1.2 region, with the 3rd Kelvin Wave apparently starting to erupt there, the thought is additional warming is poised to occur in NIno3.4. 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 +2.24 on 8/23.
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 9/1 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures are stable. It suggests water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 1.7 degs today) and are to steadily warm continuing to +1.95 degs by Oct peaking at +2.1 degs by Nov, then dropping off. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the new Kelvin Wave forming subsurface, we suspect this projection is on the low side. Uncorrected data suggests peaks to +3.15 degs
IRI Consensus 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.
(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 around the Galapagos and into Ecuador. 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).
Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change): As of Sun (8/23):
Daily Southern Oscillation Index: Was rising from -13.40. We continue in the -10-to -20 range. 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 -18.37. 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 at -15.16, beating the past record for this year. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then was beat on 8/29 at -14.25.
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.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A weak pressure pattern is in control today (9/1). But high pressure is to be moving in on Thurs (9/3) and holding for the next 7 days (Wed 9/9).
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): High pressure is forecast for this region Wed-Thurs (9/3) with weaker high pressure following for the next week (Wed 9/9).
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a weakly negative SOI through Tues (9/9) attributable mainly to high pressure over Australia.
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, but getting better footing slowly but steadily (notice the 90 day average trend). This pattern is to only 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): Sounds winds are to return on Thurs (9/3) and hold for the next week courtesy of building high pressure over eastern Australia. It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the southerly surface flow. South and southeast wind anomalies have been in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18), but not lately. The SHBI appears to only be slightly influencing El Nino development, but we have no hard numbers to confirm.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (9/1) Today's value was + 2.07. Last update (8/29) was +1.89 and building. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and +1.78 on 8/26. 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.
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.
North Pacific Jetstream (9/1) A modest flow was running across the North Pacific roughly centered at 40N but a ridge continued 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. More of the same is forecast for the coming week but with the ridge moderating some, but the whole jet lifting north to 47N.
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 some previous 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 brisk 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 (July) that 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. Typhoon Atsani did not live up to the hype, but still should result in minimal swell, and we suspect is 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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