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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 10:14 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
Swell Potential Rating = 2.0 - California & 2.0- Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 9/14 thru Sun 9/20

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   

Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Starting to Impress
Small Southern Hemi Swell Pushing Northeast

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 Tuesday, September 15, 2015 :

  • Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 15.4 secs with swell 2.9 ft @ 14.7 secs from 185 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 11.0 secs with swell 1.3 ft @ 13.9 secs. Wind west 8 kts. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.1 ft @ 9.3 secs from 242 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.2 ft @ 13.6 secs from 200 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.1 ft @ 11.1 secs from 196 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 6.6 ft @ 8.0 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 9.1 secs. Wind northwest 16-20 kts. Water temp 61.9 degs.


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

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (9/15) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing surf in the thigh to waist high range and heavily textured with northwest winds blowing over outer waters and working their way towards the coast. Down in Santa Cruz there was some background swell from the south producing a few waves in the waist high range and relatively clean early. In Southern California up north waves were near flat with a few knee high sets and textured early. Down south southern hemi impulse swell was producing waves in the thigh high range and trashed by southwesterly winds early. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high and lined up and pretty warbled from northeast winds. The South Shore was getting southwest swell with waves head high or so but warbled too from wrap around easterly winds and generally very weak. Alot of run-off at the coming out of the harbor. The East Shore was getting local east-northeast windswell with waves shoulder high and chopped from solid trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific remnants of a gale were fading just west of the dateline, but did not generate any swell aimed at our forecast area.  Instead, all fetch was aimed west at Japan down into the Philippines and points south of there. Low pressure was tracking through the Eastern Gulf of Alaska targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. But only windswell to result.  And the tropics are mostly quiet, with only a Tropical Storm (#20W) being monitored just northeast of Guam. Modest southern hemi swell from a gale previously southeast of New Zealand was hitting Hawaii. Looking at the forecast charts, Tropical Storm #20W is to build and track north and then northeast but fading before reaching the dateline. Another low is forecast for the Eastern Gulf on Fri (9/18) and perhaps another early next week. But overall nothing or interest is indicated. Windswell to persist for Hawaii's East Shores and some limited local north windswell looks likely for North and Central CA by the weekend continuing into early next week. But small is the operative word. Down south swell from a gale that tracked under New Zealand on Sat-Sun (9/13) with 32 ft seas has produced small swell tracking towards Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. But beyond not swell producing weather system are forecast. El Nino continues looking very solid, with Kelvin Wave #3 erupting just west of the Galapagos.  


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

North Pacific

On Tues AM (9/15) a .cgiit flow was over Siberia coming together over Kamchatka then flowing east through the Central Bering Sea at 100 kts before falling southeast into a solid trough in the extreme Northeast Gulf of Alaska with winds 130 kts, then pushing inland over San Francisco. There was some support for gale development in the Gulf trough. Elsewhere remnants of a cutoff trough were still circulating on the dateline at 40N.  Overall the jet was unexpectedly di.cgiaced well north of normal. Over the next 72 hours the trough in the gulf is to eases east and finally moving inland on Thurs AM 99/17) with any support for low pressure development associated with that trough fading out them. The .cgiit flow over Siberia is to migrate east pushing well over the Western North Pacific by Fri (9/18) with the two streams finally merging at 160W in the Central Gulf. Winds from there and east of that point to build to 130 kts offering some modicum of support for low pressure development in the Northern Gulf. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast but with a very weak trough trying to develop jut west of the dateline in the southern branch of the jet Sun (9/20) but getting no decent wind support. A variation on this pattern is to hold but with a new trough carving out in the Northeastern Gulf later Tues (9/22) with 130 kts winds again offering some support for low pressure if not gale development. Overall there is no clear indication of any influence by El Nino yet.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (9/15) low pressure from what was the remnants of Typhoon Kilo was in the Gulf of Alaska, having moved there late Monday (9/14), and was falling southeast around the northeast periphery of high pressure at 1032 mbs locked 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii. The interaction of these two systems was forming a weak pressure gradient  generating 25 kt northwest winds and 12 ft seas at 49N 145W. The aforementioned high was mostly blocking the storm track into the Gulf. But this high was generating enhanced trades at 15-20 kts in the local vicinity of Hawaii, resulting in east windswell along exposed east facing shores.  Low pressure associated with what was the extratropical reformed remnants of Typhoon Jimena was fading out just west of the dateline and at no point offered any swell generation potential to our forecast area (instead targeting land in the far West Pacific).  

Over the next 72 hours the Gulf low to continue falling southeast generating more 25 kt northwest winds Tues PM (9/15) and 13 ft sea at 45N 139W targeting mainly North CA. The low is to start moving into Cape Mendocino and Southern Oregon Wed AM (9/16) with winds fading from 20 kts and seas dropping from 12 ft at 42N 135W, targeting Central CA. Rain moving into North CA Wed AM reaching south to maybe Santa Cruz with luck Wednesday evening. Maybe an inch or so of snow for Mt Shasta. Swell arrival is forecast in the SF Bay Area on Thurs (9/17) building to 4.5 ft @ 10 secs later (4.5. ft faces). 

Another low is to track quickly east through the Northern Gulf on Thurs (9/17) generating 25-30 kt west winds and not getting decent traction on the oceans surface.  

Relative to Hawaii trades to build in coverage east of the Islands Thurs-Fri (9/18) in the 15 kt range courtesy of high pressure previously north of the Islands starting to move east. Local east windswell expected to result. This high is to also start generating north winds at 20 kts over North and Central CA by late Friday (9/18) increasing the odds of raw local north windswell there.

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


Tropical Update 
Tropical Storm #20W: on Tues AM (9/15) a minimal tropical storm was 300 nmiles northeast of Guam with winds 35 kts tracking west-northwest. Slow strengthening is forecast with a more northwesterly track evolving and this system is to reach minimal typhoon status Wed PM.  A turn more to the north is expected with this system tracking over Iwo To (600 nmiles south of Tokyo) while peaking with winds 105 kts. A slow turn to the north-northeast is forecast with winds fading to 80 kts Sun AM (9/20) positioned 400 nmiles east-southeast of Tokyo. Per the GFS model this system is to eventually encounter blocking high pressure and stall on Tues (9/22) 800 nmiles east of North Japan and continuing to weaken over cooler waters there. No swell of interest is forecast to result. 

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues (9/15) low pressure was tracking from the Gulf of Alaska towards the North CA coast, with a 10-15 kt local northwest sea breeze in affect. South winds and a front are to take over Wednesday from San Francisco northward as the leading edge of this low moves down the northern coast, with rain south to maybe Santa Cruz near 11 PM. But the bulk of the rain is to be from the Golden Gate northward during daylight hours. South winds to fade early Thurs with perhaps north winds 15 kt isolated to Pt Conception but slowly building northward and covering all of North and Central CA on Friday at 15-20 kts. By Sat (9/19) northwest winds at 20 kts are to be isolated to North CA continuing Sunday, then building Monday to 30 kts but still isolated to the north. It is unclear if a eddy flow will develop for Central CA, but it seems likely (starting later Sat). More of the same Tuesday (9/22) but northwest winds only 25 kts over North CA. 

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Tuesday AM (9/15) swell from a broad gale that was southeast of New Zealand on Sat-Mon (9/7) generating 23 ft seas was hitting Hawaii but on it's way down. Nothing more than background energy is to result for California starting late Wed (9/16) (see QuikCASTs). Otherwise a strong and broad high pressure system at 1036 mbs off Southern Chile ridging south to 70S locking storm production down over the Southeast Pacific. An ill defined pressure pattern was over the Southwest Pacific offering northing of interest. Over the next 72 hours through Fri (9/18) no swell producing fetch is forecast.  A broad gale is forecast on Fri (9/18) tracking under New Zealand but is to be interacting with high pressure north of it over the Tasman Sea generating a broad fetch of 30-35 kt winds, but all of it is to be aimed southeast targeting only Antarctica and 50% over the Ross Ice Shelf. No swell of interest to result.   

New Zealand Gale
A gale that developed under Tasmania
Fri PM (9/11) pushing east under New Zealand Sat AM (9/12) generating 40-45 kt west winds and seas to 31 ft at 56S 158E aimed east (216 degs CA, shadowed by NZ relative to HI). Fetch was fading from 35 kts in the evening with seas to 29-30 ft at 55S 169E (215 degs CA and unshadowed by Tahiti, 200 degs HI). Fetch to be gone by Sun AM (9/13) with seas from previous fetch fading from 25 ft at 50S 177E.   Some reasonable odds for small swell to result for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast.

Hawaii:  Expect swell arrival on Sat afternoon (9/19) with swell pushing to 1.3 ft @ 18 secs late (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell building on Sun (9/20) to 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (9/21) from 2.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft).  Residuals on Tues (9/22) at 2.2 ft @ 13 secs (2.5-3.0 ft).  Swell Direction: 193-200 degrees      

California:  Expect swell arrival on Tues (9/22) with swell building to 1.3 ft @ 17-18 secs late.  Swell Direction: 215-216 degrees


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




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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to be off the coast of San Francisco Sat (9/19) forming the usual pressure gradient and north winds at 20-25 kts  offering some support for windswell generation down into Central CA into Sunday.  The high to also continue trades relative to Hawaii over the same time period. By Mon (9/21) a new broad high is to set up over the North Dateline region arching through the Gulf of Alaska fueling both the Cape Mendocino gradient and north winds there to nearly 30 kts and continuing trades relative to Hawaii with the commensurate windswell resulting and holding into Tues (9/22). The models suggest a new gale trying to organize into northern Gulf on Wed (9/23) but that is not believable at this time. As of right now, the weather pattern is not impressive, and certainly does not reflect any sort of El Nino enhancement (regardless what all the indices suggest). .      


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours another fetch is to try and develop well south of New Zealand on Sun (9/20) but not getting traction till Tues (9/22) with 40 kts west and northwest winds on the boarder of the Ross Ice Shelf  and open waters to the north. Only 24 ft seas to result offering no odds for swell production. 

Details to follow...


90 Day SOI Average Falls to Critical Threshold
Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Getting Impressive

The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).E.cgianation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric co.cgiing analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.

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

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Tues (9/15):
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 155E-175W 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. A pocket of 15 kt west winds was centered at 8N 145E embedded in a broader area of 10 kt west winds from 135E to 165E aligned on the 9N latitude line. Anomalies were moderate from the west from 160E to 150W on and north of the equator. This pattern has been in control since 9/2 and has remains effectively unchanged. 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. 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 140E to 150W with pockets of stronger anomalies lasting a day here and there. Overall the strength of these anomalies is to be a little weaker than the pattern that has been so steady as of late, minus any WWBs. The GFS model depicts steady west winds in the Intertropical Convergence Zone up at 9N (reaching south to 5N) in the 15 kt range holding into Thurs (9/17) then rebuilding some Fri-Sat (9/19)at 20 kts in one pocket, then dropping back to 12 kts. Overall this is a significant upgrade from previous runs, which had west winds dissipated by Thurs (9/17). 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 9/15: 
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral signal over the far West Pacific typical of a maturing El Nino. The Statistic model suggests a no MJO pattern and that is to hold for for the next 15 days. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing. 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): The ECMF model is depicting a building weak Active Pattern in the West Pacific 12 days out. The GFS does not agree with that forecast, instead indicating a dead MJO signal.   
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a weak 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 10/1 easing slowly west. A weak push of the Active Phase of the MJO is expected to start 9/29 and holding through 11/5 enhanced by a Rossby Wave in the west during that period. We'll believe it when it happens. An Inactive Phase to follow 11/9-12/14. Regardless of those oscillations, we believe the El Nino base state is now the primary driver of 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 in.cgiay in the East Pacific and easing west into early October. 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. If anything, we're on autopilot now, which is a good.cgiace to be.  

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/15) Actual temperatures remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 140E to 138W (easing east some) with a pocket at 30 degs at 170W and holding. Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 149W eastward (expanding), 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 110W (easing east some) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 136W 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. And warm warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline. Warm waters appears to be erupting west of the Galapagos with the hi-res subsurface animation (9/10) depicting very near-surface movement of the warm pool from 120W-->100W.  And the tiny backdraft cool pool east of the Galapagos as returned per the latest image.  This suggests to us that this area is not related to the Upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but is something else. 
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (9/10)  It is holding solid depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 178E (expanding slightly) with a core at +15 cm anomalies from 103-137W (easing east). 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 (9/10) it indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 180W and the Galapagos (expanding). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 158W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 152W. All these sectors are holding or easing east slightly. A pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 145W-->95W (shrinking slightly) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 132W-->102W (easing east). A pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies is again holding between the Galapagos and Ecuador (from 86W-80W). This backdraft pool is not giving up any ground.  

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. A pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, suggestive of a break between successive strong Kelvin Waves. But that gap has not faded and if anything has strengthened some lately (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 (but that might be too early an estimate). 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
(9/14) Overall the picture is improving. A tiny cool pocket previously just east of the Galapagos is gone, though the warmest water is west of there. 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, maybe giving some coolness up. 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, Goni and Atsani are evident off Japan and the Philippines. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.  
Hi-res Nino1.2: (9/14) Temps continue suppressed here but have rebuilt slight the past 2 days, trying to recover from a crash on 9/8. Temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 9/8 were starting to look solid and approaching peaks set during Kelvin Wave #2's eruption. Unfortunately, they back-slid and are now trying to rebuild. There was still 2 patches of +2.25 deg anomalies, and building in coverage some, but not impressive. We're not back where we were in mid-August when the first crash occurred, but were not looking particularly good either. The hi-res chart that depicts temp changes over the past 7 days (9/14) depicts a neutral trend along the Peruvian Coast up to the Galapagos signifying no further loss of temps. All this speaks to the focus of this event being either 1) westward di.cgiaced or 2) just another piece of the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle bleeding through the line. We're becoming more convinced option #1 is the new reality.   

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 from Kelvin Wave #3 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 has retracted. 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:
(9/14) This station has spiked dramatically in the past 3 days with anomalies up to +4.83. A quick look at the Nino1.2 hi-res imagery e.cgiains the situation, with very warm water starting at the Galapagos and expanding west from there. Temps at this station were steady in the +3.1-3.4 deg range 8/31-9/10 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). But the trend seems upwards today. 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: 
(9/14) The latest update image is very impressive, with a solid pool of warm surface water building unbroken from the Galapagos westward with solid +2.25 degs anomalies advecting west from a previous Kelvin Wave that impacted the Galapagos reaching west to at least 160W. Within that, four pockets of +4-5 deg anomalies are present between 90W to 122W, with peaks at 90W, 100W and 110W and a lesser one at 120W all becoming interconnected, and advecting west. The broader image makes it appear that the between 90W and 122W there is a continuous stream of +4 deg anomalies. Kelvin Wave #3 is starting to rage. Total coverage of anomalies continues to build. And a previous cool pocket between 145-155W has filled in. 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. 

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015. Nino3.4 region in blue.

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 173E as of 9/14). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line to see if it's moving east. Today its at 155E (moving west). +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 175W (no change). There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 153W (steady) with +3.0 deg anomalies depicted embedded in it from 105W to 130W (expanding). 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: (9/15) Temps continue falling, at +1.265 degs, down from +1.813 degs on 9/10, and +1.981 on 9/8. This falloff is consistent with what is being indicated in the hi-res Nino1.2 imagery. 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 up slightly at +1.79 degs, falling from +1.859 on 9/10. 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. The recent falloff is a result of falling temps at 150W (discussed in the NIno3.4 hi-res imagery above) but that is now healed and more warm water building at 120W.  We expect these temps to start rising shortly. 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 ('97) and +1.49 (2015). This months data is 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. If that is not the case, then the focus of upwelling for the 3rd Kelvin Wave will be west of the Galapagos. But we're not ready to declare that a fact just yet.          

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 9/14 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have stabalized. Water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 1.8 degs today) and are to fade some to +1.75 degs by Oct peaking at +1.85 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 +2.55 degs. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peak.
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 rising from -24.40. 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 -16.12. 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 -18.40 beating the previous peak low. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and on a steady fall ever since, bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, and has peaked today (9/15) at -18.40 (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): Stronger high pressure is to be building in this area Wed (9/16) and holding for the foreseeable future. 
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A small low pressure cell is to be tracking southeast of Tahiti Tues-Wed (9/16) followed by higher pressure into Mon (9/21). Deeper low pressure to start south of Tahiti on Tues (9/22).    
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of a generally negative SOI values through Tues (9/22) attributable mainly to high pressure over Australia and a generally low pressure pattern trying to set up south of Tahiti.  This is exactly what we want to see, only stronger.      
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 south wind pattern has collapsed some, but is to rebuild by Thurs (9/17) and hold for the foreseeable future. We're seeing better signs of the classic SHBI wind pattern recently in the 850 mb anomaly charts. 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 as much 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): (9/15) Today's value was +1.98, up some from + 1.89 on 9/10, 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 (65). The July MEI was 1.97 SD (65). At this same time in '97 the ranking was 3.00 SD (66) and in '82 it was 1.85 SD (62). So we're between the '82 and '97 events but close to '97, 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. Most impressive.  
North Pacific Jetstream (9/15) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet is not clearly reflecting any influence by El Nino at this time. This is disappointing, considering this is the ultimate determiner of how well El Nino is connected to the atmosphere in terms of influencing winter storm production. We suspect it is just a matter of time before it wakes up and responds.     

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 the west quadrant of 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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