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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, September 10, 2015 8:03 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 = 3.0 - 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 9/7 thru Sun 9/13

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   

North Pacific Trying to Come On-Line
Small Southern Hemi Gale Scheduled Too

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 10, 2015 :

  • Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 2.8 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 11.2 secs from 175 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 2.6 ft @ 14.6 secs. Wind southeast 1-6 kts. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.2 ft @ 13.7 secs from 188 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.6 ft @ 15.0 secs from 202 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.6 ft @ 15.7 secs from 203 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 5.2 ft @ 16.0 secs with swell 2.5 ft @ 15.8 secs. Wind northwest 8-10 kts. Water temp 59.4 degs.

Buoy 46059 is scheduled to come back on-line in October.  

Current Conditions
On Thursday (9/10) in North and Central CA a mix of small local north windswell and southern hemi swell was producing surf in the shoulder high range and clean and lined up but very foggy early. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing surf still up to 1 ft overhead through mostly head high and clean and lined up and looking quite nice. In Southern California up north waves were waist to chest high on the sets and soft but clean. Down south southern hemi swell and swell from Tropical Storm Linda was producing waves in the shoulder to head high range and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was pretty much flat with sets thigh high and clean. The South Shore had some waist high sets and heavily textured with south winds in effect. The East Shore was getting the last dribbles of hurricane Jimena swell with waves thigh high and reasonably clean with light south wind early.  

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. Minimal local north windswell was hitting exposed breaks on the US West Coast. And tropical systems, which have been the main source of swell for Hawaii and recently Southern CA thanks to Linda, are fading out. Minimal swell from Jimena continues hitting the northeast shores of the Islands with larger swell from Linda and more so from continued southern hemi swell hitting Southern CA on up to Northern CA. Regarding local windswell, for California no windswell of interest is forecast until Sun (9/13) holding into Tues (9/15). Windswell relative to Hawaii from the east is expected starting Fri (9/11) and continuing for the foreseeable future. And a gale is forecast for the Northeast Pacific mid-next week. For the southern hemisphere, swell that has been hitting for days is to be fading out with only background energy expected. The models hint at a new gale tracking under New Zealand over the weekend with 32 ft seas. So some swell could result. And El Nino continues to mature with the arrival of the third and most powerful Kelvin Wave of this event, but di.cgiaced west of the Galapagos.  


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

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (9/10) weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was 600 nmiles west of Oregon and tracking into British Columbia generating a limited fetch of 20-25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino generating small local north angled short period windswell relative to North and Central CA. Otherwise no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific. 

Over the next 72 hours relative to California a new broad high pressure system is forecast setting up from the dateline over the Eastern Aleutians into the Gulf of Alaska by Sun (9/13) resulting in a return of the usual pressure gradient along the Pacific Northwest down to Cape Mendocino generating 20-25 kt north winds resulting in production of local north short period windswell. Relative to Hawaii trades to build some starting Fri (9/11) driven by the interaction of fading low pressure off the US West Coast and building low pressure 700 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii (the remnants of Jimena) and trapped south of the building high pressure systems mentioned above. A shallow southeasterly flow at 15 kts is forecast pushing into the Hawaiian Island but likely not doing much in terms of windswell production. By Sun (9/13) that low is to be building producing a fetch of 35 kt northeast winds well northwest of Hawaii as it forms a gradient with the blocking high to the north, but aimed only at open ocean well west of Hawaii.   

Ignacio:  What was Hurricane Ignacio got caught by the jetstream and started track east through the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Mon AM (9/7) on the 48N latitude line with 30-35 kt west winds and 19 ft seas at 46N 159W (298 degs NCal), holding in the evening with 19 ft seas at 47.5N 152W, the fading with winds down to 30 kts Tues AM (9/8) and seas 18 ft over a tiny area at 47N 149W (309 degs NCal) targeting mainly British Columbia. This system to dissipate from there. Some small 13 sec period swell is possible down into Central CA starting late Thurs (9/10) with swell 2 ft @ 13 secs (2.5 ft) building to 3 ft @ 10 secs (3 ft) on Fri (9/11), then fading late.  Swell Direction: 300-310 degrees

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


Tropical Update (as of 12Z Thurs 9/10)
Tropical Storm Jimena: On Thurs AM (9/10) Jimena was down to depression status with winds barely 30 kts and positioned 240 nmiles north of Kauai tracking west and having no more swell production potential relative to the Islands. 

Tropical Storm Kilo: On Thurs AM (9/10) Kilo was fading while tracking north-northwest from a point 450 nmiles east of Tokyo with winds 50 kts. Kilo is projected to track through the Kuril Islands and west of Kamchatka on Fri-Sat (9/11) with no exposure to open waters of the North Pacific. Kilo's remnants are forecast to eventually track east through the Bering Sea and fall into the Gulf of Alaska on Tues (9/15) see Long Term Forecast. 
Tropical Storm Linda: On Tues AM (9/8) winds peaked at 100 kts centered 225 nmiles west southwest of Cabo San Lucas heading north-northwest. Seas were estimated at 38 kts at 20.7N 113.6W or 800 nmiles out on the 166 deg path to Dana Point. Swell arrived late Wed (9/8) at 3.8 ft @ 14 secs (5 ft faces). Linda was west of the NCal swell window. Swell to continue into Thurs (9/9) with swell 4.7 ft @ 12 secs (5.5 ft faces).  Swell Direction: 166 degrees By Thurs AM 99/10  Linda was down to near Tropical Depression status with winds 35 kts and fading positioned 420 nmiles south, southwest of San Diego tracking northwest. A quick fade is to follow.  No additional swell production is forecast.  Swell from previous fetch is to be fading in SCal on Fri (9/11) from 3.8 ft @ 10 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) from 170 degrees    

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thur (9/10) high pressure was off North CA ridging into British Columbia generating a pressure gradient along the coast and producing 20-25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino. The gradient is to weaken Friday but still produce a generic area of up to 20 kt north winds holding into Saturday. High pressure is to return on Sun (9/13) again generating 25-30 kts north winds isolated to North CA then falling south some on Monday continuing Tuesday and reaching down to Monterey Bay. This fetch is to be fading Wednesday as low pressure moves south through the Gulf and into Oregon. Weak north winds to follow Thurs (9/18) but isolated south over the Big Sur area. 


South Pacific

On Thursday AM (9/10) a trough continued south of New Zealand with south winds 140 kts pushing up into South New Zealand offering some support for gale development. East of there a ridge was pushing steadily southeast to nearly Antarctica over the Southeast Pacific generally shutting down potential for gale development anywhere east of the aforementioned trough. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to be getting cut off early Fri (9/11) by a new ridge developing under New Zealand down at 65S tracking east fast and running over the width of the South Pacific pushing hard south into Antarctica by late Sat (9/12) and eliminating support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere.
But a short lived trough is forecast redeveloping under New Zealand Sat AM (9/12) with 120 kts winds pushing northeast for 24 hours offering a small window to support gale development. Beyond 72 hours another ridge is to develop under New Zealand on Sun (9/13) cutting off the previous trough and running east fast again suppressing gale development. By Tues (9/15) the southern branch of the jet is to lift north some under New Zealand with wind 110 kts followed by another burst of 140 kt winds Thurs (9/17) perhaps offering some support for gale development.

Surface Analysis  
On Thurs AM (9/10) swell from a broad gale that developed under New Zealand previously was still hitting California but on it's last legs (see 2nd New Zealand Gale below). Also swell from a broad gale that was southeast of New Zealand on Sat-Mon (9/7) generating 23 ft seas was targeting Tahiti and Hawaii (See Tahiti Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1020 mbs just northeast of New Zealand was ridging south to 55 S driving the storm track southeast and then another stronger high at 1048 mbs was off Southern Chile pushing the track further south, down into Antarctica. No swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. 

Over the next 72 hours a broad gale is forecast trying to develop while tracking east under New Zealand on Fri PM (9/11) continuing into Sat AM (9/12) generating 40 kt west winds and seas to 31 ft at 57S 158E in the AM aimed east, then fading in the evening with the coverage of 40 kts winds diminishing. Seas to 33 ft at 58S 166E. Fetch to be gone by Sun AM (9/13)  Some odds of swell production possible. 

Tahiti Gale
On Sat AM (9/5) a broad gale was developing south of New Zealand with 35 kts south winds targeting New Zealand directly and getting some limited traction with seas 22 ft at 53S 164E.
Seas built to 24 ft  in th evening at 52S 167E. The gale eased east into Sun PM (9/6) with a broad area of 30-35 kt south winds moving a bit clearer east of New Zealand generating 23 ft seas at 45S 178E. The low held while easing Monday (9/7) AM with 30-35 kt south winds generating 23 ft seas at 45S 179W. In the evening fetch was fading from 30 kts generating 23 ft seas at 43S 172W aimed north. Fetch was almost gone Tues AM (9/8) generating a tiny area of 22 ft seas at 44S 170W. 

Some decent southwest swell is possible for Tahiti and up into Hawaii with tiny swell for the US West Coast if all goes as forecast.

Tahiti:  Swell continuing on Fri (9/11) at 6.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (9.5 ft) starting to fade late. Residuals on Sat (9/12) fading from at 5.0 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 216 degrees

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Sun (9/13) at 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell building through the day Mon (9/14) to 2.5 ft @ 15-16 secs early (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell fading slowly Tues (9/15) from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft).  Swell Direction: 195 degrees   


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.  

NCal: Swell fading from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) early Fri (9/11). 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 the low pressure system forecast north of Hawaii is to build some while tracking west Sun-Mon (9/14) capped from moving north by high pressure in the West Pacific bridging east into the Gulf. Seas are forecast Sun PM at 23 ft at 40N 178W and then Mon AM to 23 ft at 38N 179E, then fading. Swell is expected to radiate mainly southwest towards the Philippines, bypassing Hawaii. 

And high pressure in the Gulf is to continue to generate the standard pressure gradient over North California Mon-Tues (9/15)  with north winds there 25-30 kts generating north local windswell relative to North and Central CA, then fading as low pressure builds in the Gulf (see below).     

Also on Tues (9/15) a gale is forecast developing in the far Northeast Gulf Tues AM (9/15) from the remnants of what was Typhoon Kilo generating 30-35 kt northwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface and continuing into the evening. The gale is to stall off British Columbia with winds building to 35 kts generating 20 ft seas at 50N 137W and just east of the 319 degree track to Northern CA but pushing swell down into the Pacific Northwest. More of the same is forecast in the evening with 20 ft seas at 49N 135W, then fading. Perhaps some swell to result down into Central CA. And a front from it  to reach as far south as San Francisco Thurs (9/17).   

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a broad fetch of 30 kt west winds is to develop south of Tasmania extending to a point south of New Zealand Mon-Wed (9/16).  Winds are to not be strong enough to result in meaningful seas, at only 23 ft. Maybe some swell to result for Tahiti, but nowhere beyond that window.  

Details to follow...


Nino1.2 Temps Unexpectedly Retreat
Kelvin Wave #3 Continues to Push East

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 (9/10):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated modest west winds (not anomalies) from 160E-180W just north of the equator, and moderate in strength over that region further north of the equator on the Intertropical Convergence Zone
reaching to 160W. Anomalies were moderate to strong from the west from 160E to 120W on and north of the equator. This pattern has been in control since 9/2. The anomalous west wind pattern is like a machine at this point and is locked over the eastern half of the KWGA, which is a normal configuration as El Nino matures, with westerly anomalies starting to migrate slowly east. 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). Since 9/2 this steady Westerly Wind anomaly pattern has been in.cgiay from 160E over the dateline and beyond. 
1 Week Forecast: Modest west anomalies are forecast from 160E to 120W with pockets of stronger anomalies lasting a day here and there. Overall the strength of these anomalies is to be about similar to the pattern that has persisted for months now, just minus any WWBs. The GFS model depicts steady west winds building in the Intertropical Convergence Zone up at 9N (reaching south to 5N) in the 16-20 kt range with pockets to 24 kts Thurs (9/10) covering from 135E to at least 180W then slowly backing down in velocity and coverage into Mon (9/14) (fading to 12-16 kts) in association with tropical activity in that vicinity and then gone by Wed (9/16). Though not in the KWGA proper, the thought is this might end up being a legitimate WWB. Could another Kelvin Wave result? The answer is unknown at this time but for the most part Kelvin Wave development is limited by the Coriolis Effect to a few degrees either side of the equator. 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, and none are forecast.

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 turned to legit west winds at 9N on 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 9/10: 
OLR Models: Indicate a Modest Inactive signal over the far West Pacific typical of a maturing El Nino. 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 a weaker version of 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 moderate Inactive Phase 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 wind): A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is forecast continuing through 9/26 centered at 130E, much like the 40 day upper level chart we are ignoring above. We will ignore this one too. Some positive enhancement from a Rossby Wave is occurring now and is to continue through 9/22 easing slowly west. A push of the Active Phase of the MJO has faded significantly from the charts. Basically the El Nino base state is the primary fuel to continue Westerly Anomalies from here forward into early Dec. No easterly anomalies are forecast. The question is, will another Kelvin Wave result or will the anomalies at least continue to fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into Dec? 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 constructive interference from a Rossby Wave now i.cgiay in the East Pacific and easing west into early October. 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 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: (9/10) Actual temperatures remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 155E to 147W (retracting some) with a pocket at 30 degs at 170W and fading. Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 145W eastward (shrinking), 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 137W to Ecuador (easing east). 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. And warm warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline. Warm waters appears to be erupting in the east with the hi-res subsurface animation (9/5) depicting a complete disappearance of a tiny backdraft cool pool (east of) the Galapagos.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (9/5)  It is holding solid depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 179W (holding) with a core at +15 cm anomalies from 105-140W (shrinking). Anomalies are holding into Ecuador (0-+5 cm) with 10 cm anomalies pushing to the Galapagos indicative of the arrival of the 3rd Kelvin wave. 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.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: As of (9/5) this data drives the point home. It indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 1757 and the Galapagos (expanding). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 159W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 154W. All these sectors are holding or easing east slightly. A pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 148W-->95W (building) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 140W-->105W (expanding some). A pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies is fading fast between the Galapagos and Ecuador (from 86W-80W). The backdraft pool has not completely given up but is fading.  

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 and 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 (8 degs above normal). The peak is forecast to occur roughly on 10/4 in the Nino 1.2 region. 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
(9/10) Overall the picture is improving. A tiny cool pocket previously just east of the Galapagos is gone. Otherwise a warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward. And the pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting more concentration compared to previous months data. The overall signatures is the strongest of any point so far this year and of any time since mid-July 1997. 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 continue to be of concern (see below). Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, but not growing any. 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 extending north of New Guinea to the dateline. The cool wake of Kilo is evident off Japan. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.  
Hi-res Nino1.2: (9/9) Things have crashed again here. Water temps have dramatically faded between the Galapagos and Ecuador where just 3 days ago the warm pattern was looking very solid. There were still patches of +2.25 deg anomalies, but with greatly diminished coverage. Warm water is still hugging the Peruvian Coast, but again with diminished coverage. We're not back where we were in mid-August, but not looking particularly good either. The hi-res chart that depicts temp changes over the past 7 days (9/9) depicts a cooling trend along the Peruvian Coast up to the Galapagos as well. 

Previously a rapid decline in anomalies started 8/13, reaching it's worst 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 built solidly into 9/8, negated any affect previous cooling might have had. But now that warming ha retracted again. The upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is apparently not over. Peak temps occurred between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14, then faded between 7/14-7/30. 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 and progressed nicely through 9/8 before falling back some.
Galapagos Virtual Station:
(9/9) This station reported temp anomalies at +3.2 degs. This is down some from 3.4 degs on 9/6 but up from +3.2 degs on 9/3 and 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). The trend is steady for now. 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 and up to +3.5 on 9/5 then down to +3.2 degs on 9/9.   
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (9/9)
Unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies continue advecting west from a previous Kelvin Wave that impacted the Galapagos. 2 pockets of +4 deg anomalies (measured at 5 deg C above normal and building in coverage) are present at 100W and 109W, advecting west. Total coverage of anomalies continues to build except between 145-155W, where anomalies have fallen below +2.25 degs.  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 and filling the area to 160W on 8/18. 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 East Pacific, the warmest in years, advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline and beyond (expanding to 175E as of 9/10). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line to see if it's moving east. Today its at 160E (no change). +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 177W (no change). There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 163W (steady) with +3.0 deg anomalies now depicted embedded in it from 107W to 124W. Overall the warm water signature is building, and very impressive at this time. We expect more expansion in the next 2-3 months
Nino1.2 Index Temps: (9/9) Temps are falling at +1.813 degs, from +1.981 on 9/8. 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 at the height of the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle. Then temps started building to +1.3 on 8/26 and +1.7 by 8/29 and to +2.0 by 9/8 before falling recently.
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are steady at +1.859. 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 +2.02 (OISST.v2) The data for this months data (Aug) just posted at +2.06.They are even. For OISSTv.4 its +1.74 and +1.49 respectively. with this months data just a bit behind '97. 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 looking at the Nino4 region, the same pattern emerges. 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 like the 82/83 super El Nino event. This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.  

The biggest issue is we need to get past the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. We thought we were there, but with todays readings in the Nino1.2 region, it's apparent a little more cool water needs to bleed out of the line.          

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 9/10 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures have stabilized. Water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 1.9 degs today) and are to fade some then rewarm to +1.75 degs by Oct peaking at +1.9 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 +2.7 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. 

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. The '97 event built non-stop from this point forward (in terms of areal coverage). Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable to stronger anomalies in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2 and the coverage of warm waters is a worm in this area compared to '97s mammoth coverage. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 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. The good news is concerns about these cooler waters advecting west and impacting temps in the Nino3.4 region are gone, with regent warming from the 3rd Kelvin Wave already eliminating those cool pockets. And things are just getting started. Peak temps in Nino 1.2 expected 10/4 then advecting to Nino 3.4 on 11/4.

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change): As of (9/7):  
Daily Southern Oscillation Index: Was falling from -30.30. 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 falling from -15.51. 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 from -16.51 beating the previous peak low, 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 beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, and then again on 9/10 at -16.51 (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 was over Southeast Australia on Thurs (9/10), is to fade some Sat (9/12) only to be r.cgiaced by more high pressure Tues (9/15) and holding for the foreseeable future. 
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A small low pressure cell was south of the Tahiti today (9/10) but is to be r.cgiaced by high pressure by Fri-Sat (9/12) only to be r.cgiaced by low pressure through Wed (9/16) followed again by higher pressure. 
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of a generally negative SOI values through Thurs (9/17) attributable mainly to high pressure over Australia and a generally low pressure pattern trying to set up south of 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): A steady south wind pattern is in control and forecast to hold into Mon (9/14), then rebuilding perhaps by Fri (9/18). 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): (9/10) Today's value was + 1.89, down from +2.07 on 9/5 and down from +2.16 on 9/3. 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) (Aug) The current ranking is up hard at +2.37 or up 0.39 standard deviations. The July MEI was 1.97 SD (65). At this same time in '97 the ranking was 3.00 SD and in '82 it was 1.85 SD. So we're in the middle between the '82 and '97 events, in strong El Nino territory presumably moving towards the Super El Nino range. 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. We've already beat all those. Suffice it to say we are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric co.cgiing per this index.  
North Pacific Jetstream (9/10) A trough was building over the dateline reaching down to 38N with 140 kt winds flowing northeast from that up into the North Canada. This is mildly interesting. The trough is to deepen on the dateline into Sat (9/12) pushing south to 30N but nearly pinched off, then getting fully cut off and circulating on it's own before dissipating on Tues (9/15). A .cgiit flow is to evolve in the west beyond merging over the Gulf  later next week. Perhaps a weak Fall pattern is to try and set up, but it is not impressive at all.    

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, starting to erupt in the Galapagos region. At this time we believe the classic El Nino feedback/teleconnection loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean well co.cgied.   

The 2015 El Nino pattern continues to build in fits and starts, but is hampered by 'The Pause' that occurred in August and continues in Nino1.2 today (9/10). In spite of that, El Nino continues to move forward. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today are solid and expected to only build as the leading edge of massive Kelvin Wave starts erupt over the Galapagos. Still the focus of that eruption right now is west of the Galapagos.  The big question remains concerning 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 more influence on the jetstream. 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. The '97 event was a bulldozer, developing out of a previous cold La Nina water state, and never looked back. Contrasting that was the '82-83 event, which didn't even start presenting until the Fall. The 2015 event presented originally with a false start in 2014 (and for that matter another false start in 2012), and has taken it's sweet time getting organized since then, in fit's and starts. We suspect it is struggling against an atmospheric biased towards La Nina forced by a 15 year run of the cool phase of the PDO. But we believe the atmosphere is now transitioning 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 starting to erupt now. It will take at least 3 months for the tail end to erupt over the Galapagos and advect through the Nino 3.4 region. So assuming peak heating in Nino1.2 occurs on 10/4, it will be 11/4 till that peak warmth reaches Nino3.4. And that might even be optimistic.

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 westerly anomalies continue as predicted by the CFS model, and another Kelvin Wave results (starting say 11/1), it would not arrive in Ecuador till ~Feb 1, 2016, and not disburse till a month later (March) that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 17 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 & Aug) that is equivalent to two other El Nino that eventually turned into Super El Ninos is no guarantee that this years event will eventually evolve into a Super El Nino. We still have 0.63 SDs to go. But given the current warming in Nino1.2 now, that seems like a pretty easily obtainable goal. And looking at the record back to 1950 for other events that have similar values in July & Aug, the odds favor that outcome. 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 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 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. And Kilo is not going to do it either. And the jetstream charts are not impressive. All data to date regarding the character of this years event, depict it as a slow mover. As such, any direct influence from El Nino will probably occur alter in the Fall rather than earlier. Regardless, continue your training routine.Once the storm cycle starts, we expect it to only build in momentum, consistency, and intensity, peaking in the Feb timeframe.      

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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