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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 8:33 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 9/21 thru Sun 9/27

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   

Nino1.2 Region Warms Dramatically
Windswell for Now - But Jetstream to Improve

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 22, 2015 :

  • Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 4.0 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 1.5 ft @ 14.9 secs from 181 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.3 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.3 ft @ 14.3 secs. Wind southwest 4-8 kts. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.4 ft @ 15.8 secs from 237 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.3 ft @ 16.7 secs from 217 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.9 ft @ 15.6 secs from 217 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.5 ft @ 10.0 secs with swell 6.6 ft @ 9.0 secs. Wind northwest 12-16 kts. Water temp 62.4 degs.


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

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (9/22) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing surf in the head high.cgius high range and pretty bumpy from south wind. Down in Santa Cruz minimal southern hemi background swell was producing surf in the waist high range on the sets and clean. In Southern California up north waves were thigh high and clean but with some texture on top and generally weak. Down south southern hemi background swell was producing waves in the waist high range and pretty heavily textured from southerly wind. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean early. The South Shore was getting more southwest swell with waves chest high on the sets and clean but with some cross bump mainly well outside the breaks. The East Shore was getting local east tradewind generated windswell with waves chest high and chopped from trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. Low pressure was trying to organize in the Northern Gulf of Alaska but not doing much yet. High pressure was over the north dateline region riding southeast under the above low, generating 20 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino CA generating some windswell for North and Central CA and also helping to boost trades over Hawaii along east facing shores making for some windswell there. A cutoff low was over the southern dateline region doing nothing of interest. And what was Tropical Storm Krovahn was circulating off North Japan, blocked from tracking east by the aforementioned high pressure system. And yet another tropical system (TS 21W) was trying to develop well east of the Northern Philippines. Swell from a gale that tracked under New Zealand on 9/12-13 with 32 ft seas has produced small swell that has mostly passed Hawaii and is starting to show on the buoys in California. Looking at the forecast charts, the low in the Gulf is only to generate 15 ft seas on Wed (9/23) offering minimal windswell for the US West Coast as best (a downgrade from previous expectations). After that high pressure and windswell is the name of the game for Hawaii and the US West Coast starting Sat (9/26) and getting more pronounced for California by Tues 99/29) while fading from Hawaii. And the developing tropical system in the far West Pacific is to build while track towards Southern Japan and now forecast to impact it without any recurvature to the northeast.  Down south a small gale is forecast tracking east in the Southeast Pacific over the weekend with perhaps a stronger and broader system moving under New Zealand a week out. Otherwise El Nino continues moving forward with the main focus of interest still being the beginning of the eruption of massive Kelvin Wave #3 progressing just west of the Galapagos. The Nino1.2 region is also starting to fell some heat from this eruption.    


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

North Pacific

On Tues AM (9/22) a .cgiit and muddled flow continued over the West Pacific then consolidating while moving east over the Western Gulf with 110 kt winds falling southeast then turning east and moving over Vancouver Island. A decent bit of a trough was now set up in the Gulf offering some potential for low pressure development. Elsewhere the jet was offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast but with the trough in the Gulf falling south some, down to 47N and winds fading to 110 kts pushing directly into Vancouver Island Sun (9/20) and down to Washington by Tues (9/22). Perhaps some increasing support for gale development is possible at that time. Also the southern branch of the jet in the west is to fall southeast, down to 35N on Thurs (9/24) but with winds loosing velocity, down to only 80 kts and not offering any support for anything more than low pressure development there. The trough is to fall south down the Pacific Northwest coast to maybe Cape Mendocino on Fri (9/25) and stalling there, meaning any weather that is to result will be from there northward. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to pinch off and move inland over the Pacific Northwest on Sat (9/26). But of far more interest is the development of a consolidated flow starting over Japan on Saturday and building east, reaching to the dateline if not the Western Gulf on Mon (9/28) with 100 kts winds extending over that entire length with pockets to 130 kts in the Gulf and off Japan by later Tues (9/29).  This is almost starting to looks like the beginning of a transition to Fall. 

Surface Analysis
On Tues AM (9/22) local north windswell from high pressure generating a weak version of the standard pressure gradient over North California was hitting North and Central CA, up some from days previous. The high was also generating a shallow area of trades at 15 kts east and over the Hawaiian Islands generating minimal east windswell at exposed east facing shores there. But the core of the high was up over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians trying to ridge southeast but not making it yet, being held at bay by low pressure circulating in the Gulf of Alaska with pressure a weak 1000 mbs. 25-30 kt northwest winds were being generated by the gradient between the low and the aforementioned high over the dateline, but not strong enough to result in seas of interest.  Remnants of what was Tropical Storm Krovahn were stalled off Northern Japan generating 45 kt northeast winds targeting mainly Japan. And a new  tropical system was brewing in the far West Pacific (see Tropical Update below). 

Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to continue trying to develop in the Central Gulf peaking on Wed AM (9/23) generating barely 30 kt northwest winds covering a tiny area embedded in a broader area of 25 kt northwest winds generating 15 ft seas near 48N 150W then fading some later Wed with winds down to 25 kts and seas fading from barely 14 ft at 48N 145W. This system is to be gone by Thurs (9/24). If this were to happen perhaps some weak windswell to result relative to the Pacific Northwest down into maybe Central CA - arriving there on late Thurs into Fri (9/25) at 3 ft @ 10-11 secs (3 ft faces). . 

The extratropical remnants of Krovahn are theoretically to start tracking southeast on Tues PM (9/22) generating a small fetch of 35 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii resulting in 22 ft seas at 42N 153E.  Fetch is to be fading Wed AM (9/23) from 35 kts with 20 ft seas at 40N 155E then dissipating.  Low odds for minimal 13 secs periods well for Hawaii on Mon afternoon (9/28) from 306 degs. But given the rather extreme travel distance relative to the fetch size, nothing of interest is likely to survive.


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


Tropical Update
Tropical Depression 21W: On Tues AM (9/22) this system was trying to organize 1100 nmiles east of the Northern Philippines with winds 25 kts tracking west-northwest. Steady strengthening is forecast while this system turns more to the northwest, reaching minimal typhoon strength on Thurs AM (9/24). A continued slow turn to the north is forecast on Sat-Mon (9/28) with this system positioned south of the southern most tip of Japan and winds to 110 kts.  Some recurvature to the north-northeast is possible on Tues (9/29) but the core of the system is currently forecast to move extremely close to mainland South Japan. At this time it is unknown if this system will interact with a possible Fall like low forecast developing over the Kuril Islands and being fed by an improved jetstream flow aloft (see Long Term Forecast below). Something to monitor.        

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues (9/22) high pressure was ridging east into North CA setting up the usual pressure gradient and generating north winds at 20-25 kts along and off the North coast. Light winds were from Pt Reyes southward. Wednesday the gradient is to fade some and get depressed south (15 kt north winds over Central CA and north up to Pt Arena) with low pressure in the Gulf pushing south. More of the same Thurs and Fri with 15 kt north winds nearshore along the Central Coast.  The Gulf low is to be gone on Saturday and high pressure and north winds to return with a vengeance at 20-25 kts nearshore late for all of North and Central CA building in coverage Sunday. There's some signs the gradient is to start lifting north a little late Mon (9/28) and finally isolated to Cape Mendocino at 30 kts on Tues (9/29) with an eddy flow finally returning. 60 hours of solid north winds will certainly cause upwelling and dropping water temps.  The front from the above low is not expected to reach anywhere south of Cape Mendocino.  


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Tues AM (9/22) swell from a gale previously south of New Zealand was starting to show in California (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was southeast of New Zealand driving the storm track well to the south. No fetch of interest was occurring. 

Otherwise over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast, though a pair of gales are to be tracking over the Ross Ice Shelf, but with no winds getting traction on ice free waters.       

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.

California:  Swell to peak later on Wed (9/23) at 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell fading Thurs (9/24) from 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). 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 over the north dateline is to start spilling southeast into the Western Gulf Fri (9/25) ridging first towards Hawaii generating east trades at 15 kts there and then in to CA on Sat (9/26) feeding the normal pressure gradient and north winds along the North and Central CA coast at 20-25 kts. Trades at that time relative to Hawaii to build from the northeast at 20 kts over a good sized area forcing larger windswell for exposed east shores of Hawaii and building more on Sunday. For California, the fetch is to be all directly along the nearshore coast making for much chop and forcing water temps down via upwelling (Pt Conception northward). By Mon (9/28) the fetch is to start loosing coverage relative to Hawaii but still at 20 kts over a solid area. 20-25 kt north winds to still be raking the CA coast too. By Tues (9/29) trades to start falling into the more normal range for Hawaii with the normal gradient setting up over Cape Mendocino at 25-30 kts with a far lighter local wind pattern taking hold. regardless, windswell is expected for both CA and Hawaii, but with Hawaii getting the lions share.

There some suggestions of low pressure starting to build over the Kuril Islands on Tues (9/29) driven by an improving jetstream flow aloft. Maybe the first Fall gale will result.  


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a storm is forecast developing in the deep Central Pacific on Fri PM (9/25) over Antarctic Ice with south winds 50 kts. Limited portions of that fetch to start getting exposed north of Antarctic Ice on Sat AM at 45 kts with seas to 32 ft at 60S 137W. 45 kt east winds to continue into the evening with 35 ft seas falling southeast at 35S 123W. This system is to be moving into Antarctica after that. Low odds of any sideband swell pushing north towards CA, assuming this system even forms. 

A far broader gale is projected tracking under New Zealand on  Mon-Tues (9/29) with a decent sized area of 40 kt southwest winds and seas to 33 ft at 54S 167E forecast Tues PM (9/29).  

Details to follow...


Nino1.2 Coming On-Line
Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Continues Focused West of Galapagos

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

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

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Tues (9/22):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds (not anomalies) from 157E-175W on the equator, with greater coverage north of the equator on the Intertropical Convergence Zone. This is unchanged from days past. A pocket of 14 kt west winds was centered at 4N 170E with a second pocket at 22 kt up at 9N 135W. Overall 12 kt west winds were over the area from 6N 135E to 4N 170E mostly north of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Anomalies were moderate to strong from the west from 160E to 170W on and north of the equator. This is a little smaller area than days past. This pattern has been in control in some form since 9/2 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: Moderate west anomalies are forecast from 135E to 170W (and further east than that) with a pocket of stronger anomalies near 175E forecast to hold to 9/27 then fade a little. The GFS model depicts west winds in the Intertropical Convergence Zone up at 6-9N (reaching south to 3N) in the 20-25 kt range fading out Wed 99/23) as tropical activity there moves out of the area. After that a dead wind pattern is forecast, which effectively is just west anomalies.This remains a great situation. 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 up at 9N on 9/3 and held in some fashion up there into 9/22 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper.  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 9/19: 
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral signal over the far West Pacific typical of a maturing El Nino. The Statistic model suggests 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): Both models indicate a dead MJO signal, not unexpected.    
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 9/23 while tracking east and eventually out of the East Pacific. Some positive enhancement from a Rossby Wave is occurring in the far West Pacific and is to move west out of the picture by 9/27. A weak push of the Active Phase of the MJO is expected to start 9/29 and holding through 10/30. We'll believe it when it happens. An Inactive Phase to follow 10/27-12/6 with another Active Phase forecast starting 12/18. All those oscillations are to be weak though.  And regardless whether they develop or not, 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 think probably so. By 12/1 the CFS model has westerly anomalies starting to move east, but not as much as previous runs, just jogging to 180W. Is it possible this El Nino might last longer than previously expected? Too early to tell. At a minimum, at least two more months of west anomalies are forecast. 

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. The question is: How long with it last? 

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/22) Actual temperatures remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 140E to 137W (holding), and a previous pocket at 30 degs that had dissipated is now redeveloping at 155W. Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 154W eastward (holding), the direct effects of the massive June-July WWB. A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal is starting to erupt into the Galapagos. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 107W (holding) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 139W 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 and into this reservoir. Warm waters appears to be erupting west of the Galapagos with the hi-res subsurface animation (9/15) depicting near-surface movement of the warm pool from 110W-->95W.  And the tiny backdraft cool pool east of the Galapagos is gone, with the Kelvin Wave wiping it out. This suggests to us that the Upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle is over. It's about time.  
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (9/15)  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 90-140W (easing east). Peak heights at 20 cm from 125W to 110W are no longer on the image. Anomalies are building into Ecuador now at 5+ cm. This is a good upgrade and indicates 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 (9/15) it indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 178W and the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 155W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 150W. All these sectors are easing east slightly. A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 145W-->90W (expanding slightly) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 132W-->100W (easing east). A previous pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies between the Galapagos and Ecuador (from 86W-80W) has closed off suggesting the Kelvin Wave is finally hitting.  

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 given that the Kelvin Wave is just starting to hit now). 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? Or maybe just a continued r.cgienishment of the warm pool will continue for the next month or more. 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
(9/21) Overall the picture is improving, and dramatically. Warmer waters building up into Central America and south into Peru and filling the Nino1.2 region nicely.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. Compared to '97, 2015 anomalies are warmer in the Nino3.4 region, but have less concentration in Nino1.2.  Surprisingly coverage south of the equator is nearly on par with '97. Overall, the current expansion of water temps is impressive. A huge pool of warm water is covering the entire equatorial Pacific and filling the entire North Pacific Ocean.  Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and is holding and 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: (9/22) Temps have rebounded significantly and are nearly to where they were at peak warming in this region on 7/14. +2.5 anomalies fill the Ecuador-Galapagos region with 2 small pockets to +4.0. This is very good news and suggests previous cooling in this region was not completely due to westward di.cgiacement of this years event, and maybe was just the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, though we are not fully giving up the di.cgiacement theory just yet.  

The hi-res chart that depicts temp changes over the past 7 days (9/21) depicts a very warm pattern developing in the south end of Nino1.2 off Peru. All this speaks to the focus of Kelvin Wave #3 eruption taking it's sweet time getting east of the Galapagos. in a classic El Nino the focus of warming should be in Nino1.2. Still, all we care about is warm waters in Nino3.4. Nino1.2 almost doesn't matter as long as if it's cooler water there, it stays there and doesn't advect west.       

A warm water regime started in this region in late April and built steadily there, peaking between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14 as Kelvin Wave #2 reached it's maximum. Then temps started fading from 7/14-7/30. From 7/31-8/13 temps between Ecuador and the Galapagos stabilized, then crashed heavily starting 8/13 finally bottoming out 8/17, perhaps associated with backdraft from Massive Kelvin Wave #3, (or not). A slow warm up started 8/23 and progressed nicely through 9/6 before falling back some, then started rebuilding again on 9/17, and fast. By 9/22 temps had almost fully rebound to 7/14 levels. 

Galapagos Virtual Station:
(9/22) This station spiked dramatically through 9/16 with anomalies moving from +4.1 (9/12) to +5.3 (9/16), flirting with peak temps received back in 6/14 (+5.5). But a bit of a fade occurred 9/17-18 down to +4.5 and then down to +4.4 on 9/21. A quick look at the Nino1.2 hi-res imagery e.cgiains the situation, with the last little pocket of the upwelling phase cooler waters moving into the East Galapagos. 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.  A dramatic rise started 9/12 pushing up to +5.3 on 9/17. 
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(9/22) The latest update image remains 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, 3 pockets of +4-5 deg anomalies are present between the Galapagos to 112W and advecting west. Kelvin Wave #3 is starting to rage, but the focus still is clearly west of the Galapagos. Total coverage of anomalies continues to build. A previous cool pocket between 145-155W is gone. 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 and what is driving them from below.

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 9/22). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line to see if it's moving east. Today its at 160E (moving east). +1.5 deg anomalies reach to 179W (heading west). There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 160W with +3.0 deg anomalies depicted embedded in it from 105W to 135W (holding). 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: (9/22) Temps are on the rise quickly at +2.1 today. They bottomed out at +1.265 degs on 9/15, This rise 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, down to +1.265 degs on 9/15. They started rising after that as Kelvin Wave #3 started arriving.  
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are holding today at +1.827, having spiked on 9/17 at +2.077. The all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). We are approaching that level again now step at a time. By any normal standard we are in Strong El Nino.  We expect these temps to continue upward for the foreseeable future. In '97 for Aug the monthly anomaly in Nino3.4 was +2.02 (OISST.v2) The data for this months data (Aug) was +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 with a 1 month delay. 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 today's 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 9/16 the current was 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 155W, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 130W before fading out at 90W. A stream of weak to modest east current was just south of the equator from 110W to the dateline. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific, with a strong pocket north of the equator from 170E to 150W, then fading with another pocket at 100W. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated south of the equator from 140W to the dateline. This is not impressive but not unimpressive either. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 130E to 130W mainly north of the equator.   

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 For the model run 9/22 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have stabilized. 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 well on the low side. Uncorrected data has stabalized suggesting a peak to +2.45 degs in Nov. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peak in Oct-Nov but suspect that might be on the low side.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Sept Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak temps between +2.1 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.45. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs and the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 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. It trued to rebuild then fell back on 9/8 and then started rebuilding 9/15. 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 western 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 -15.20. 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 at -15.07. The lowest point in years was achieved -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15.
90 Day Average: Was rising from -17.40. The peak low was obtained on 9/16 at -18.56. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating, providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. But we had hoped it would hold there,  It has not. 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 peaked (9/16) at -18.56 (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): Moderate high pressure was in this area and expected to build through Fri (9/25) then slowly fade, but not out through Tues (9/29). 
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): Weak high pressure was in this area and is expected to start fading as low pressure moves south of Tahiti on Wed (9/23) with a secondary low moving into the area on Sun (9/27) holding well into Tues (Sat 9/29) then giving way to higher pressure.       
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of solidly falling SOI values through at least Tues (9/29). This is exactly what we want to see.      
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): Per the past 5 day 850 mbs anomaly charts, a weak but persistent south flow has been in effect in the East Australia region. Per the charts that flow is to persist into Mon (9/28).   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): (9/22) Today's value was +2.05, up from +1.87 on 9/18 and effectively unchanged since 9/5 (+2.07). 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 (9/22) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet is to start the Fall transition in the coming 4 days perhaps  influenced by El Nino, but nothing remarkable. 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. 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.

Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
Full Sized Chart
(Click to enlarge)

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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