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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, September 3, 2015 9:59 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 & 3.0- 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 8/31 thru Sun 9/6

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   

Southern Hemi Swell Pushing Into HI
Equatorial East Pacific Continues Warming

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 Thursday, September 3, 2015 :

  • Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 4.5 ft @ 18.2 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 17.6 secs from 186 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 2.2 ft @ 12.2 secs. Wind calm. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.3 ft @ 11.4 secs from 253 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.1 ft @ 12.8 secs from 215 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.6 ft @ 11.4 secs from 214 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.5 ft @ 11.0 secs with swell 4.8 ft @ 12.3 secs. Wind northwest 18-23 kts. Water temp 63.1 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 Thursday (9/3) in North and Central CA at best breaks windswell was producing surf in the shoulder to head high range and whitecapped by local northwest winds at exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high and blown out by west winds with chop in control. In Southern California up north waves were waist high on the sets and weak with heavy texture developing. Down south Hurricane Jimena swell was producing waves at chest to head high on the sets and generally weak with some heavy texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Jimena swell at 2-3 ft overhead and clean and lined up with heavy clouds offshore. The South Shore was getting the leading edge of southern hemi swell with waves head high at top breaks with some south lump on it. The East Shore was getting hurricane swell with waves 6 ft on the faces and chopped early with 1south-southeast winds in control.  

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. Local north windswell combined with residual Gulf windswell was hitting the US West Coast. The big story continues to be focused on three tropical systems, one west of Hawaii, one north of it and one east of there. Swell is hitting the Islands from the one east of it and is expected to continue for Northeast Shores for the next week. Impressive indeed! Regarding local windswell, local north windswell is forecast relative to California for the foreseeable future with improving conditions developing Sun (9/6). Windswell relative to Hawaii is not an issue given the tropical situation. For the southern hemisphere swell from a gale that tracked east from under New Zealand Thurs (8/27) producing 39 ft seas aimed east is hitting Hawaii. And a broader gale developed directly behind 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 pockets of +5 deg anomalies developing just west of the Galapagos indicative of a new Kelvin Wave starting to erupt. And temps in the Nino3.4 region are on track with '97 and only expected to build from here forward. 


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

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (9/3) high pressure at 1028 mbs was west of British Columbia in the Central Gulf of Alaska starting to ridge into Northern CA generating 20 kt northwest winds down into even Central CA (Monterey Bay) and offering limited local windswell on top of residual windswell from a low previously in the Gulf of Alaska. Otherwise no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific. 

Over the next 72 hours relative to California the Gulf high pressure system is to be oscillating while ridging into the Pacific Northwest forming the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino with north winds there to 25 kts late Thursday, fading to 20 kts on Fri/Sat (9/5) and hugging the Central CA coast, then lifting north and rebuilding after that with 25 kt winds over Cape Mendocino Sun (9/6) with perhaps an eddy flow starting to develop for Central CA. Small north windswell is likely for North and Central CA but raw until Sunday.  And this high is to block the track of the three tropical systems to move into the Gulf, at least for now with Ignacio tracking north towards the Northwestern Gulf. Relative to Hawaii trades to remain light, below the 15 kt threshold to generate windswell with fetch and swell from Jimena of most interest (see Tropical Update below). 

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


Tropical Update (as of 12Z Thurs 9/3)
Hurricane Ignacio: On Thurs AM (9/3) winds were down to 65 kts positioned 450 miles north-northwest of Kauai tracking northwest and no longer producing swell aimed at Hawaii. Ignacio to slowly turn north on Sat AM (9/5 ) and fall to tropical storm strength. It is to continue tracking north along the western flank of high pressure off the US West Coast and eventually into the Northern Gulf, turning northeast and then east on Monday (9/7). See Long term forecast.  

Super Hurricane Jimena: On Thurs (9/3) Jimena was 700 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island with winds down to 95 kts and making a turn more to the northwest. By Sun AM (9/6) Jimena is to be at minimal hurricane force with winds 65 kts 600 nmiles east-northeast of the Big Island.  Swell generation potential fading fast by then but much swell from previous fetch is to be in the water and heading west towards towards exposed East Shores. A turn to the west is forecast on Tues (9/8) with winds 55 kts. The GFS model has this system reversing direction and falling southwest late Tuesday on a direct path for the Big Island and moving to within 120 nmiles of there and Maui late Thurs (9/10) with winds at tropical storm strength. Certainly something to monitor.

Oahu Northeast Shore: Swell continues Fri (9/4) at 4.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.0 ft) continuing Sat (9/5) at 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft). Swell to continue on Sun (6/6) at 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft).  Swell Direction: 80-90 degrees More of the same (unchanged swell size/period) through Wed (9/9) though turning progressively more northeast.  Beyond the forecast to vary depending heavily on Jimena's track.  

Hurricane Kilo: On Thurs AM (9/3) Kilo  was on the dateline at 24.5N with winds 80 kts turning west.  A continued west track is forecast with steady strengthening forecast with winds to 120 kts by Sun AM (9/6) and holding while still tracking steadily west. The GFS model has it tracking west from there and holding together nicely into Thurs PM (9/10) near 27.5N 150E. No recurvature forecast with high pressure off Kamchatka blocking it's escape route to the north.  Japan is a possible target.    

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thurs (9/3) high pressure was off the Pacific Northwest ridging into North CA generating 20 kt north winds from the Golden Gate north to Cape Mendocino. This gradient and north winds to build south Friday at 20-25 kts over all of North and Central CA holding Saturday, then lifting north Sunday     becoming isolated to North CA with an eddy flow (south winds) for Central CA. More of the same is forecast Monday with north winds to 30 kts over Cape Mendocino. the gradient is to become increasingly isolated up north Tuesday and beyond with north winds 25 kts with a well entrenched eddy flow for all of Central CA.

South Pacific

On Thursday AM (9/3) a frail ridge was south of New Zealand in the southern branch of the jetstream pushing it east, rising only slightly to the northeast over the far Southeast Pacific and with winds so weak (80 kts) as to offer no support for gale development.  Over the next 72 hours a new trough is to be forming in the far Southwest Pacific on Fri (9/4) with 140 kts south winds pushing up into it and continuing into Sat (9/5) and Sunday but getting steadily pinched. Some support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere is possible.
Beyond 72 hours the trough is to get cutoff on Monday (9/7)  the jet builds further south on the 75S latitude line tracking across the entire South Pacific and over Antarctic Ice, offering no support for gale development. There's some suggesting that ridge to evaporate 180 hrs out on Fri (9/11) with a trough building southeast of New Zealand.   

Surface Analysis  
On Thurs AM (9/3) 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 high pressure at 1028 mbs was over mid-latitudes of the central South Pacific riding south to 60S and pushing the storm track south. Weak low pressure was trying to organize southeast of New Zealand but offering no fetch.    
Over the next 72 hours a broad low pressure system is to develop southeast of New Zealand producing 30-35 kt south winds late Fri (9/4) and continuing into Sun AM (9/6) producing
22 ft seas but targeting mainly New Zealand.  No swell is to be radiating up into our forecast area.  

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.

A secondary pulse of seas developed tracking northeast Sun-Mon (8/31) generating 28 ft seas targeting mainly Hawaii.  

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) at 2 ft @ 19 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) building to 2.2 ft @ 18 secs late (4.0 ft). Swell continuing on Saturday (9/5) with swell 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell fading Sun (9/6) from 2 ft @ 15 secs 93 ft). Swell Direction: 194 degrees

Secondary swell arriving late Sun (9/6) at 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.5-3.0 ft).  Swell continuing Mon (9/7) pushing 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft) then fading Tues (9/8) from 2.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (3 ft).  Swell Direction: 186-188 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 2.9 ft @ 16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Residuals on Wed AM (9/9) fading from 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 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 holding Wed  (9/9) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Residuals on Thurs (9/10) fading from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) early. 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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no Fall-like swell producing fetch that is not tropical is forecast. High pressure is to hold off the Pacific Northwest but falling south from it's previous position, opening up a track through the extreme northern Gulf of Alaska.  The remnants of Ignacio are to get caught by the jetstream   and track east starting Mon AM (9/7) on the 50N latitude line with 30-35 kt west winds and  26 ft seas at 48N 158W, but fading with winds down to 30 kts Tues AM (9/8) and seas 20 ft at 50N 143W targeting mainly British Columbia.  Some small 13 sec period swell is possible down into Central CA. Otherwise the gradient over Cape Mendocino is to continue producing 25 kt north winds there into Tues AM (9/8) and beyond resulting in more modest north short period windswell for North and Central CA with an eddy flow from Pt Arena southward.  But a new high pressure system is to develop in the far Northwest Pacific late Thurs 99/10) blocking any door to allow tropical energy there to recurve east. Typhoon Kilo looks doomed to impact Japan. 

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a small gale is forecast forming south of Tasmania on Wed PM (9/9) generating 40-45 kts west winds and seas on the increase. This system is to track east with 40 kt west winds under New Zealand on Thurs AM (9/10) generating 34 ft seas there, but fading to 30 ft in the evening while tracking east into the greater Southwest Pacific.  Something to monitor. 

Details to follow...


NINO3.4 Anomalies Beating '97
Very Warm SST Pockets Building 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 Thurs (9/3):
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) from 155E-170W mainly north of the equator to the dateline on the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Anomalies were moderate to strong from the west from 160E to 165W on and north of the equator fading to modest strength from 170W eastward to 150W. The anomalous west wind pattern is like a machine at this point and is locked over the eastern half of the KWGA.  It is normal as El Nino matures for westerly anomalies to start moving east. 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. And west anomalies to start further west by 9/8 beginning at 140E. This is good news. The GFS model depicts steady west winds in the Intertropical Convergence Zone up at 7N in the 8-12 kt range and building in coverage.  By Sat (9/5) a continuous band of 14-18 kt west winds is to be tracking on the 9N latitude line from there build to 20+ kts late Mon (9/7) in association with tropical activity north of there and holding of not building into Thurs (9/10). Though not in the KWGA proper, the thought is this might end up being a legitimate WWB. Could another Kelvin Wave result? 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 and were turning to legit west winds at 9N as of 9/3.  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 9/3: 
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 9/13. 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 an 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 for the most part ignoring this model.        
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb): A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is forecast continuing through 9/26 mainly centered at 120E, much like the 40 day upper level chart we are ignoring above. We will ignore this one too using the same rationale. Some positive enhancement from a Rossby Wave is occurring now and is to continue through 10/1 easing slowly west. A push of the Active Phase of the MJO remains scheduled starting 9/28 in the far West Pacific holding till 11/11 with a solid WWB embedded in that. No easterly anomalies are forecast for the long term. Westerly anomalies are the rule from now forward 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 and it almost seems like one is occurring now at 9N. We'll see. regardless, by 12/1 the CFS model has westerly anomalies on the move to the east centered at 165W (instead of 180W like now) suggesting the peak of El Nino is expected in the Dec timeframe (from a wind perspective). 

Again we are ignoring the supposed Inactive MJO pattern in the far West Pacific depicted by the models. And we're more interested now in forecast constructive interference from a Rossby Wave now i.cgiay 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.  Tropical systems if anything have the best chance of constructively interfering (enhancing) westerly anomalies from here forward. And west anomalies if not out and out west winds, regardless of their source, are all that's required to push warm water to the east. 

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/3) On the equator and under the dateline (160-180W) temperature anomalies remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 158E to 140W (retracting some) with a pocket at 30 degs at 180-160W (retracting). +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 115W (retracting some) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 146W to Ecuador (holding). 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 (8/26) 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 westerly anomalies are building in the ITCZ just north 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 an epic 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.
Satellite Imagery
(9/3) Overall the picture is improving. A tiny cool pocket remains between the Galapagos and Ecuador. Otherwise a warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific. And the pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting a little more concentration compared to the past months data. Still it is not like peak warming on 7/16, but we thing that is just a matter of time. 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 thin cool line running through it. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, but backing off slightly. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and is building 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: (9/3) This is where things get interesting. Water temps continue 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, the best in weeks, and +2.25 deg anomalies building in coverage extending unbroken from Peru over the Galapagos and heading west. This is in stark contrast to the low res image (above). 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 (9/2) depicts an almost continuous stream of very recently warmed warm water building along Peru and west of there up to the equator and over the Galapagos and points west of there. No cool pockets exist anymore. 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: (9/2) 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 in the only small gap left at at 155W, almost fully repaired. And 2 pockets of +4 deg anomalies (measured at 5 deg C above normal and building in coverage) are now present at 98W and 107W, 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. And the third one is just starting to present.

Other Sources
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline. They have actually built in coverage north of the equator in the past week. We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line to see if it's moving east. Today its at 162E (easing east 2 degs). There is an embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 144W (easing east) with +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 156W (building to the west). Overall the warm water signature is holding. We expect more expansion in the next 2-3 months
Nino1.2 Index Temps: (9/3) Temps are rising slowly, at +1.81 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 steady at +1.8. 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. 

Special Analysis (9/3): We performed an analysis of Nino1.2 and Nino3.4 weekly anomalies temps using OISST.v2 data. A very interesting pattern emerged: Nino1.2 temps are averaging lower in this years event to date compared to '97, but the Nino3.4 temps are higher.  Specifically the Nino1.2 anomaly average for the period 4/30-8/26 for 2015 is +2.42 while in '97 is was +3.43. Meanwhile west of there in the Nino3.4 region, the average for 2015 is +1.49 while it was +1.42 in '97.  This suggests the 2015 event is more focused west of the Galapagos as compared to '97.  And a si.cgie view of SST anomaly charts clearly indicates the same thing. There was much more heating in the Galapagos region in '97, while in 2015 the warmth is di.cgiaced more to the west.

If you narrow the focus to just the timeframe July through August the same trend emerges with Nino1.2 anomalies +1.52 degs warmer in '97 compared to 2015 and Nino 3.4 temps almost dead even (-0.03 in 2015). 

Regardless, the pattern is emerging that this is a westward di.cgiaced El Nino, suggesting the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83 (which was westward di.cgiaced in comparison). At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average.       

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 9/3 the current moderate but not overly impressive. The current is pushing strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific north of the equator from 130E to 165E, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 140W before fading out at 120W. A stream of weak to modest east current was over the immediate Galapagos reaching west to 120W and then again near 170E. Anomaly wise - moderate 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 with another pocket at 100W. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated south of the equator at 180W. This is not as impressive as the last update. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 130E to 140W mainly north of the equator.   

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 For the model run 9/3 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures have downgraded slightly. It suggests water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 1.8 degs today) and are to steadily warm continuing to +1.85 degs by Oct peaking at +2.0 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
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. 

(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 (9/3):  
Daily Southern Oscillation Index: Was rising from +1.6. 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 -15.95. 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 rising at -15.16, 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 9/2 at -15.23 (peak low of the year so far). 
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): High pressure is moving into Southeast Australia on Thurs (9/3), is to fade some Sat-Sun (9/6) only to be r.cgiaced by more high pressure Mon-Thurs (Wed 9/10). 
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): High pressure is in this region and forecast to hold for the next week, though weaker early next week.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a neutral to weakly negative SOI through Thurs (9/10) attributable mainly to high pressure over Australia.Low pressure is needed over Tahiti.       
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): South winds are trying to build in and are to 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): (9/3) Today's value was + 2.16. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89. 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 (9/3) A modest flow was running  across the North Pacific roughly centered at 45N but a ridge continued easing east from the dateline, now in the Gulf of Alaska pushing the jet up to the south coast of Alaska. This is not impressive and suggests only weak influence by El Nino is occurring.  But, the forecast suggests a zonal flow building at 46N across the entire North Pacific on Wed (8/9) with a deepening trough forecast for the dateline on Fri (9/11). Perhaps a weak Fall pattern is to try and set up.   

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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