Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
Sunday, October 11, 2015
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.7 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 3.8 ft @ 13.1 secs from 344 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 14.0 secs with swell 3.7 ft @ 14.5 secs. Wind west 6-8 kts. Water temperature 75.2 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.9 ft @ 13.4 secs from 249 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.9 ft @ 15.1 secs from 218 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 4.0 ft @ 15.0 secs from 216 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 8.3 ft @ 12.8 secs with swell 5.4 ft @ 12.7 secs from 245 degrees. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temp 64.8 degs.
Buoy 46059 is scheduled to come back on-line in October.
Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.
On Saturday (10/10) in North and Central CA hurricane Oho swell was in the 2 ft overhead range at most breaks with northwest winds on it, but not horribly so in the later afternoon. New Zealand swell was lurking under neath to in the head high.cgius range. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 3 ft overhead with some bigger peaks and cleaning up after blowing hard southeast in the morning. In Southern California up north southern hemi swell and limited Oho swell was producing surf in the waist to chest high range with set head high but pretty ruffled by north winds. Down south surf was head high with bigger sets and textured conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some decent Gulf swell with waves 1-2 ft overhead at top spots on the sets and a bit ragged due to east-northeast trades. The East Shore was getting east tradewind generated windswell with waves thigh high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific swell generated in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast starting Sun (10/11). Nothing huge, but a start. Southern hemi swell from the Second New Zealand Gale (details below) was buried underneath the Oho swell with yet a third tiny southern hemi background swell tracking northeast. Remnant swell energy from Oho is to rapidly be fading overnight Saturday, all but gone and buried Sunday AM. And a solid Westerly Wind Burst was still in control of the equatorial West and Central Pacific.
Looking at the forecast charts there are suggestions of weak low pressure activity in the Gulf of Alaska later in the workweek, but nothing noteworthy yet. Long term the models keep hinting at more tropical activity in the East and West Pacific but nothing believable just yet. But overall we continue waiting for the North Pacific to really come online. Down south another gale tracked under New Zealand Thurs-Fri (10/9) generating 40 ft seas aimed east with a pair of small ones following a similar course Wed (10/14) at 34 ft and then Thurs (10/15) at 42 ft. So more southern hemi swell looks likely. A nice diversion to Fall starts in earnest. And El Nino remains our focus with slowly erupting Kelvin Wave #3 mainly west of the Galapagos, and what appears to be the start of Kelvin Wave #4 taking shape. What a great setup.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sat AM (10/10) the jet was solid though not perfect, with a weakly .cgiit flow pushing off the Southern Kuril Islands with 140 kts winds in the southern branch consolidating on the dateline fueling a nice trough in the Gulf of Alaska with winds to 120 kts offering some support for low pressure development there, then ridging up and pushing inland over Vancouver Island. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to slowly weaken while winds build over the dateline forming a ridge there Tues (10/13) falling into a new but pinched trough over the Gulf. No support for gale development is forecast from this trough but it is to not fully pinch off. All the while a cutoff upper level low is to be circulating over Baja then slowly retrograding west and tracking north off the coast there, positioned 600 nmiles southwest of Southern CA on Tues (10/13). Beyond 72 hours the pinched trough in the Gulf is to start getting better coverage and broadening into Thurs (10/15) with 140 kts winds falling into it, offering some support for gale development. And the cutoff low off Southern CA is to finally track northeast and move into Central CA late Wed (10/14) offering maybe a shot of some very light precipitation there. The Gulf trough is to eventually pinch off late on Sat (10/17) moving onshore just over San Francisco then. On the dateline a new patch of 150 kts winds to be building where the .cgiit flow consolidates down at 37N, with a flat flow pushing directly from there east towards Central CA. It almost looks like winter in what feels like the dead of summer.
On Saturday AM (10/10) swell from what previously was Hurricane Oho was hitting California with some size early in the day, but rapidly decreasing as the afternoon wore on. Another swell from a gale in the Eastern Gulf was also in the water moving towards the California and Pacific Northwest coasts (see Gulf Gale below). Otherwise low pressure continued circulating in the Gulf of Alaska with a fetch of 35 kt southwest winds building 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii.
Over the next 72 hours that low is to build into Sun AM (10/11) with a tiny area of 50 kts west winds and 30 ft seas at 50N 144W or 1200 nmiles northwest of North CA on the 315 degree track. Small sideband swell possible for NCal. This system is to continue building into the evening with 33 ft seas just off the Central Canada, well outside the CA swell window and moving onshore there. After that no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
On Thurs AM (10/8) a broad area of low pressure was trying to develop in the Gulf of Alaska producing a small fetch of 35 kt northwest winds 1200 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii and building to 40 kts in the evening aimed due east 1400 nmiles off the Central CA coast generating a small area of 20 ft seas at 38N 158W. By Fri AM (10/9) 40-45 kt west to southwest winds were off the North CA coast with 26 ft seas at 40N 147W targeting all of California (287 degs NCal, 296 degs SCal). Fetch started fading in coverage and turning more to the northeast in the evening down to 35-40 kts with seas to 28 ft at 43N 138W targeting mainly Vancouver Island though sideband energy to still be targeting Central California (down the 300 degree path) northward. Decent odds for swell to result late in the weekend.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (10/11) near 1 AM with period 15 secs and size on the increase quick. Swell to peak around 10 AM Sun at 6.0-6.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (8.5 ft). Swell Direction: 284-292 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
A solid Westerly Wind Burst continued over the equatorial West Pacific supporting tropical storm formation. The WWB started in earnest on Thurs (10/1).
Tropical Storm Nora was 600 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii on Sat AM (10/10) with winds 45 kts tracking east. Slow strengthening is expected into Mon (10/12) with winds reaching minimal hurricane force (65 kts) before this system turns hard north and then northeast into Thurs (10/15) and dissipates. No swell production of interest is forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sat (10/10) high pressure was barely protecting the US West Coast with low pressure building in the Gulf of Alaska. A steady north winds flow was in effect at 10-15 kts over nearshore waters from Pt Conception northward. More of the same is forecast Sun (10/11) at 10-15 kts early slowly lifting north while fading over the SF Bay Area Monday and finally fading over Cape Mendocino later Tuesday. Light winds to be in control everywhere at this time holding through Fri (10/16) with a chance of light rain for Central CA on Wed (10/14) as an upper low moves over the area. On Sat (10/17) low pressure in the Gulf is to move into California with south winds and rain from Pt Conception northward continuing into Sunday (10/18). A Fall pattern is forecast starting to build.
On Sat AM (10/10) swell from a stronger storm that tracked across the deep Southwest Pacific generating seas of interest was hitting California (see Southwest Pacific Gale - Second Swell below) but swamped under swell from Hurricane Oho. And yet a third swell was in the water from a stronger system that tracked under New Zealand on Sat AM (10/3) but much further away (see New Zealand Storm - Third Swell below).
Over the next 72 hours a series of weak low pressure systems are forecast flowing under New Zealand to the east but none to produce swell of interest.
Southwest Pacific Gale (Second Swell)
Another small but stronger system developed in the deep Southwest Pacific on Wed AM (9/30) producing a tiny area of 55 kt west winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Wed PM 50 kt west winds were tracking flat east generating 40 ft seas over a tiny area at 61S 174W on the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf (189 degs HI, 205 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti, 206 degs SCal and not shadowed). This system tracked east Thurs AM (10/1) with 40-45 kt southwest winds starting to fade resulting in 39 ft seas at 59S 162W (182 degs HI, 201 degs NCal, 202 degs SCal). Winds to be fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 31 ft at 57S 150W. Better odds for swell from this one targeting mainly Chile and Peru with sideband energy up into California and far less size for Hawaii.
South California: Swell fading Sun AM (10/11) from 2.8 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft). Residuals Monday (10/12) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 201-206 degrees.
North California: Swell fading Sun AM (10/11) with swell 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Residuals Monday (10/12) fading from 1.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 200-205 degrees.
New Zealand Storm (Third Swell)
A stronger but small storm developed south of Tasmania on Fri AM (10/2) producing 55 kt west winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. This system moved southwest of New Zealand on Fri PM (10/2) with 60-65 kt west winds over a small area generating a tiny area of 55 ft seas at 54.5S 154E (221 degs CA, shadowed by NZ relative to HI). By Sat AM (10/3) 50 kt southwest winds were positioned directly south of New Zealand generating 49 ft seas at 54.5S 166E (200 degs HI, 217 degs CA - shadowed by Tahiti in SCal). Fetch was fading from 40 kts over a decent sized area Sat PM with seas fading from 43 ft at 56S 177E (192 degs HI, 211 degs CA and shadowed by Tahiti for SCal). This system to be gone by Sun AM (10/4) with seas fading from 35 ft at 57S 172W. Some decent long period swell should result for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast.
California: Expect swell arrival on Mon (10/12) before sunrise with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell pushing 1.3-1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell continuing sunrise on Tues (10/13) with period 18 secs. Swell 1.4-1.8 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell starting to fade Wed AM at sunrise (10/14) with swell dropping from 1.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 220 degrees SCal to see the larger end of the above size range and NCal the smaller.
Another New Zealand Storm (4th Swell)
On Fri AM (10/9) another gale generated a small area of 50 kt west winds and seas to 37 ft at 56S 162E (214 degs and not shadowed in NCal, but shadowed in SCal, barely in the 201 deg window for HI). Fetch faded from 40 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 36 ft at 55S 175E (193 degs HI, 213 degs and not shadowed in NCal, but shadowed in SCal). 35 kt west winds held on into Sat AM (10/10) producing 30 ft seas at 54S 175W (190 degs HI, 208 degs SCal and unshadowed but shadowed in NCal). This system was gone after that. Yet one more small swell might result but at a very oblique angle relative to HI.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri (10/16) building to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs later (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell holding Sat (10/17) at 1.8 ft @ 16 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell fading from there. Swell Direction: 195-200 degs.
California: Expect swell arrival Mon AM (10/19) with period 18 secs.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours a new low pressure system is to start organizing in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska on Wed (10/14) falling southeast and generating a tiny fetch of 30 kt northwest winds. More of the same is forecast into Fri (10/16) with the low moving to a point just off the North CA coast, the fading while lifting north up into the Canadian Maritimes. Peak seas to reach maybe 18 ft. No swell of interest to result.
Another low pressure system is to be in the Bering Sea on Sat (10/17) with some 20-25 kts west fetch extending south of the Aleutians but not generating seas of interest. In all a good pattern, but it just needs some strength.
Beyond 72 hours another gale is forecast forming under New Zealand on Thurs AM (10/15) producing 55 kt west winds over a tiny area aimed east generating 32 ft seas over a small area. A broad fetch of 45 kts west winds is forecast into the evening with seas building to 37 ft at 57S 180W. Fetch to fade from 40-45 kts Fri AM (10/16) with seas fading from 38 ft at 54S 172W. This system to be gone after that. Another pulse of swell is possible for California and Hawaii.
Details to follow...
Strong WWB Occurring - Rivaling That of late June/July
Kelvin Wave #4 Developing as SubSurface Reservoir Expands
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:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Sat (10/10) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds (not anomalies) from 165E-165W mostly north of the equator but with limited modest west winds on the equator. West winds at 22-24 kts were at 5 N between 153E-166E with lesser winds over the entirety of the north KWGA. Anomalies continued strong from the west from 160E to 160W on and north of the equator with some anomalies just south of it. This Westerly Wind Burst started on Thurs (10/1) and continues today in full effect. Comparing this one to the massive WWB in late June-early July, this one appears to be exceeding it. Impressive. This pattern has been in control in some form since 9/2, intensified some 9/17 and holding, and then intensified again on 10/1 (to WWB status). This pattern has been 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). Starting 9/2 a steady Westerly Wind anomaly pattern set up from 160E over the dateline intensifying some 9/17 and is holding through today. Most impressive.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies and west winds are forecast to hold at least to 10/16 aided by the interaction of a Rossby Wave positively reinforcing the El Nino base state. The GFS model depicts that west winds at 22 kts to hold at 5N near 160E through Mon (10/12), with lesser winds at 18 kts into Thurs (10/15) in the far West KWGA then dissipating. In short this situation looks like a full-on WWB though limited some in terms of coverage to the northern KWGA. But it is to be clearly in the required area if all goes as forecast. Elsewhere in the KWGA a slack wind pattern is to continue (which is effectively west anomalies). This remains a great and improving situation. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast. The thought is these anomalies are continuing to push warm water from the West Pacific to depth and possibly setting up a new distinct Kelvin Wave (#4), moving into the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos.
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 then 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 9/29 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper. And now strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. We certainly have had a lot of that so far this year.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here
Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)
On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections: As of 10/8:
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral signal over the equatorial dateline region typical of a maturing El Nino. Both the Statistic and Dynamic model suggests an Inactive pattern over the far West Pacific with no MJO pattern over the dateline and east of there and that is to hold for for the next 15 days. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of weak 'MJO-like' signal building over Africa with the GEFS the stronger of the pair of models. In reality, this is likely not the MJO, but likely an enhanced El Nino base state westerly wind burst starting now.
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. Clearly that is not the case. We are ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): After the current WWB dissipates a week out, the supposed Active Phase of the MJO is to still be in.cgiay easing east into 10/20. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is to take over 1021-11/24 but another Rossby Wave is to pass through it near 11/4. The net result is to still be westerly anomalies, just weaker. And then the Active Phase of the MJO is forecast again 11/24-12/4 with another Rossby Wave positively reinforcing it with another WWB forecast holding into into late Dec. That seems a bit far fetched, but this ENOS event has been unpredictable. Beyond solid westerly anomalies are forecast after the WWB till Jan 6 but never reaching WWB status while slowly easing east centered near 165W by 12/30, suggesting the coming end of El Nino generation. The El Nino base state is now the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are entering the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec) It is assumed this current WWB will produce one more defined Kelvin Wave with anomalies behind that continuing to fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into Dec. Is it possible this El Nino might last longer than previously expected? Too early to tell but we think not. The core westerly anomalies to start collapsing east of the KWGA by Jan 1, meaning the warm water conveyor will shut down at that time, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay. At a minimum, 3-4 more months of west anomalies are forecast (per the model). Tropical systems have the best chance of constructively interfering (enhancing) westerly anomalies from here forward. We're on autopilot now. It doesn't get any better than this unless you're back in 1997.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (10/10) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 135W continuing to make limited head way daily. The 28 deg Isotherm reaches east to 125W (easing east). Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from 180W eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 158W eastward (slight retreating east after a major expansion last report), the direct effect of the massive June-July WWB and non-stop westerly anomalies ever since. A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal temps is starting to erupt into the Galapagos. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 106W (easing east) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 147W to Ecuador (retreating east slightly after building hard west last report). This pocket is a mixture of warm water from Kelvin Wave #2 merging with water from strong Kelvin Wave #3 and more warm water moving in from the dateline (Kelvin Wave #4). The pipe is wide open and warm warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline and into this reservoir. This is a best case scenario. Warm waters appears to be erupting west of the Galapagos per the hi-res subsurface animation (10/5) at primarily 105W at +4C with +3 deg C surface movement of the warm pool from 145W to 95W (steady).
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (10/5) It is holding if not building depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170E (expanding). Peak anomalies were +15 cm extending from 110W to 150W (expanding majorly). +5 cm anomalies are pushing into Ecuador. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight. This is a classic major El Nino setup.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: As of (10/5) it indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady between 178E and the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies have expanded significantly easing east from 178W eastward (a major expansion west) attributable to the current WWB and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are holding at 150W. A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 139W-->103W (loosing ground in the east). +2.5 deg anomalies are no longer in the picture. 1.5-2.0 anomalies continue pushing cleanly into Ecuador. Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #3 is underway. This is very good news.
A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. The third and strongest of all is erupting, but somewhat westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, but now appears to be picking up momentum. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggests there were 2.5+ months of warm water in this reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal), and now a new Kelvin wave is developing, extending the life of the reservoir. The peak was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4 in the Nino 1.2 region but we are revising that to 11/4 now given stalling effect the Upwelling Phase had. And westerly anomalies continue in the KWGA pushing more warm water to depth. That Kelvin Wave should peak 2.5 months from now, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month or more after that. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, though slow, is marked and historically strong. And with the current WWB/Kelvin Wave in development, a more aggressive face of this El Nino is now appearing.
Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean.
Low-res: (10/8) Overall the picture is solid and unchanged in the past week or so. Warmer waters are building up into Central America and south into Peru and filling the Nino3.4 region nicely. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water now depicted from Ecuador to 130W (wave-like pulses). And the pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting more concentration compared to previous days data. The overall signature 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 and coverage in Nino1.2. Surprisingly coverage south of the equator is growing and trying to build south down the Peruvian coast, not quite on par with '97 but favorably building. Overall, the current expansion of water temps is impressive. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there but continues to loose some ground in the past month. This is not a worry at this point in the cycle. 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, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Slightly cool water is over North Australia extending north of New Guinea to the dateline (Maritime Continent), typical of a strong El Nino. The cool wake of previous tropical systems have all but faded off Japan and the Philippines. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (10/10) things remain steady. Temps have not built in coverage the past 5 days, but have not faded any either. +2.5 anomalies fill the Ecuador-Galapagos region with a pocket of +4.0 anomalies between Ecuador and the Galapagos. A tiny cool pocket north of the Galapagos is still in.cgiay, but very tiny now. We're starting to see warming here similar to the area west of the Galapagos, a good sign and suggests that the Kelvin Wave eruption area, though westward di.cgiaced, is continuing to backfill to the east. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since. Given its been 2.5 months, and warming has not redeveloped to previous levels, di.cgiacement still remains the operative e.cgianation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (10/10) Anomalies are steady the past 4 days, rebounding from a low of +3.1 degrees on 10/1 to 3.85 degrees today (10/10). A recent crash in temps here was attributable to the tiny cool pocket just east of the Galapagos. But that is fading fast. 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 9/16 flirting with peak temps received back in 6/14 (+5.5). But a bit of a fade occurred 9/17 down to +4.5 falling to 3.8 degs on 9/23 then anomalies stabilized at +4.0 degs. 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.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (10/10): A little cooling has occurred in 2 small pockets either side of the Galapagos, but not of concern. This is the usual ebb and flow of El Nino. Modest warming continues over the remaining stretch from west of the Galapagos to the dateline.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (10/10) The latest image remains very impressive but has backtracked slightly. We are in a good.cgiace, similar to where we were weeks ago with a solid pool of warm surface water unbroken, advecting west from from the Galapagos with +2.25 degs anomalies from a previous Kelvin Wave reaching west to at least 160W. Within that, 2 pockets of +4 deg anomalies are present west of the Galapagos at 102W and 107W but loosing some coverage. This is attributable to the normal ebb and flow of Kelvin Wave eruption. These pockets are the leading edge/breach point of Kelvin Wave #3. (see previous image here 9/28 and 9/30), and now a similar to the peak when Kevin Wave #3 first started breaching on 9/19 especially in the western portion of this area. Impressive. Previously +2.25 anomalies reached west 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 8/30 solidly. But a breakup started on 9/5 at 155W, regrouped 9/15 and held to 9/23, faded some, but has now rebuilt and exceeded the original peak as of 10/2. 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 now underway having already refilled the area west of 150W, with much more to come.
Hi-res Overview: (10/10) Like the low-res image, the El Nino signal is unmistakable and the strongest since 1997, and stronger than anything in the satellite age prior to that. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos has stabilized since 9/28 and is building east of the Galapagos. A total of 7 pockets at 4+ degrees are now strung from Ecuador to the west (up from 6 last report and 5 the report before that), the vent ports for Kelvin Wave #3. Temps between 160W-180W have lost a little ground in the past few days. Nothing significant though. So we're still trying to regain the peak levels from 9/16. They are more concentrated (at +2.25 C) but extend only to 170W and with thinner coverage where before they were robust to 178W. With building westerly anomalies and a WWB in the West Pacific, that seems to be helping the situation. Given the subsurface situation, surface water temps should be raging. They were in a holding pattern if not backsliding from 9/20-9/28, but are finally improving. This is good.
Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
(Based on Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp Anomalies)
Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & OISSTv4 (right) This years data valid through Sept.
Left image suggests 2015 is already the third strongest El Nino in recorded history (beat only by '82 and '97). The right image suggests it's the 6th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the strongest or 2nd strongest for this time of year.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
(Click to enlarge)
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 (holding at 175E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its at 155E (steady). +1.5 deg anomalies are steady in the west with the core unbroken temps at 180W. There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 172W with a previous pocket to +3.0 deg redeveloping over a broad area at 137W to 108W. Overall the warm water signature is building and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily Index Temps: (10/10) Temps have fallen the past few days, at 2.25 today, down from +2.581 on 10/8. They bottomed out at +1.265 degs on 9/15, and have been slowly rebuilding ever since. This 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, and are solid today.
Nino 3.4 Daily Index Temps: Temps are rebuilding at +2.091 today, up from +1.824 on 10/8, but still down from the all time peak of +2.44 on 10/3. Previously temps were up from +2.037 on 10/1 and +2.077 on 9/17. The previous all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). That was crushed on 10/3. By any standard we are at a Strong El Nino levels. We expect these temps to continue upward for the foreseeable future. (Note: These temps are ERSSTv.4 - biased low compared to OISSTv.2).
SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(Click to enlarge)
working theory is this years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat
the '82/83 super El Nino event. The main evidence for this is the
eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos. This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 120W. 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.
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 10/10 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have upgraded slightly. Water temps per the model are at +1.85 deg C (verified at 2.1 degs today) and are now to peak at +1.95 degs in the late Nov timeframe, then dropping off. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the Kelvin Wave #3 below and developing Kelvin Wave #4, we suspect this projection is well on the low side. Uncorrected data suggests a peak to +2.55 degs in Nov. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3+2.4 degs for a one month peak in Dec.
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 finally looks like Kelvin Wave #3 is having a good impact in this area now (10/3) but it has hurt the overall coverage compared to '97. but compared to the other super El Nino in '82, this years event crushes it. We continue solidly.cgiaced between '97 and '82. There could be no better.cgiace to be.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (10/10): Was steady at -24.30. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. The peak reading in the 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3/4.
30 Day Average: Was steady at -22.52. The peak low was recorded yesterday (10/9) at -22.72, beating the previous peak low of -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. This is exactly where we want to be.
90 Day Average: Was falling from -18.80 beating the previous record low of -18.56 on 9/16. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -18.80 on 10/10.
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): High pressure was exiting the area on Sat (10/10) but a new high pressure system is to be building over Southeast Aust on Mon-Wed (10/14), fading some with more high pressure in.cgiay by Sat (10/17).
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A new local low was positioned southwest of Tahiti on Sat (10/10) and is to be tracking east through Thurs (10/15) likely helping to push the SOI negative. This is exactly the pattern one wants to see if a Super El Nino is in development. Continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. But high pressure is forecast in the are by Sat (10/17).
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of steady negative SOI values through the coming week with minor variations.
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 co.cgiing though not great, 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 2 day 850 mbs anomaly charts, the south flow has faded. It was strong into 10/4. Per the GFS model the southerly flow is being suppressed by high pressure existing over New Zealand. No clear signs of south winds are forecast for the next week in the Tasman Sea. It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the required southerly surface flow in the Tasman Sea. 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), then returning consistently 9/18 and in.cgiay up to today. 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): (10/8) today's value strengthen some to +2.17. It has been holding in this range for weeks now with only minor fluctuation (+1.95-2.20). 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 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 2.02 on 9/29. 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) (Sept) The current ranking is up again, rising from +2.37 (Aug) to +2.53 (Sept) or up 0.16 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 continue between the '82 and '97 events but closer 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 (10/10) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet has started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, but nothing remarkable yet. Previously the jet has not at all looked like it is influenced by El Nino, so this is an upgrade. Given the slow nature of this El Nino, the slow response by the jetstream should not be unexpected.
Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
(Click to enlarge)
Conclusion: 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 the PDO was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern. 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 the classic El Nino feedback loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean well co.cgied and reinforcing and feeding the El Nino pattern at a global scale.
The 2015 El Nino pattern continues to build in fits and starts, most recently hampered by 'The Pause/Upwelling Phase of the Kevin Wave cycle ' that occurred in August and continued in Nino1.2 through Sept. Even in spite of that, El Nino continued to evolve. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today have surpassed their previous peak and expected to only build as massive Kelvin Wave #3 continues erupting focused mainly west of the Galapagos but showing signs of building east of there. The big question remains concerning how strong will this El Nino become. That is a function of anomalies 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 has taken it's sweet time getting organized, in fit's and starts, but is on a roll recently. We expect peak warming in Nino1.2 to occur on 11/4 with peak warmth reaching Nino3.4 a month later. That would.cgiace this event as a late bloomer, more in line with the '82 than '97. Either way, they were both Super El Ninos, and we're well on track to reach that status.
The longer El Nino threshold temperatures persist, the longer it will take proportionally to dissipate. The atmosphere responds very slowly to change. but once changed, it doesn't turn back to it's previous configuration quickly. 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 with a peak in mid-Oct, and another Kelvin Wave results, it would not arrive in Ecuador till mid-Jan, 2016, and not reach NIno 3.4 till mid-Feb that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 16 months. The character of this even is slow and steady but persistent. That is a good thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107. And all data suggest this one is in the same league as both '97 and '82, just different in it's evolution. There no guarantee of this outcome, but all data suggests this is the trajectory we are on.
With the jetstream starting to come online, the final transition in the atmosphere appears to be underway. Still any direct influence from El Nino will probably occur later in the Fall rather than earlier. Continue preparations. 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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