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 18, 2015
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 6.4 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 4.0 ft @ 12.3 secs from 345 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 14.0 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 14.5 secs. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temperature 73.2 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.3 ft @ 13.7 secs from 256 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.2 ft @ 14.9 secs from 223 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.2 ft @ 13.9 secs from 223 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 4.5 ft @ 12.8 secs with swell 2.7 ft @ 13.4 secs from 216 degrees. Wind southwest 4 kts. Water temp 64.0 degs.
Buoy 46059 has been reactivated.
Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.
On Saturday (10/17) in North and Central CA Gulf windswell was producing surf in the chest high range at top spots on the sets with some southerly textured on it. Down in Santa Cruz occasional southern hemi swell was producing surf in the chest high range on the sets at better breaks and clean. In Southern California up north Gulf windswell was producing surf in the thigh to maybe waist high range and clean but very weak. Down south southern hemi swell swell was producing waves in the waist to chest high range and clean but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northerly windswell in the 1 ft overhead range at top breaks and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was getting new southern hemi swell and bigger than expected with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and clean lining up well. The East Shore was getting wrap around north swell with waves head high.cgius and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific small sideband swell generated by a gale previously in the Gulf of Alaska was hitting Hawaii with more direct energy moving towards the US West Coast on Sun-Mon (10/19). Also sideband southern hemi swell from a small but reasonably strong storm previously under New Zealand was peaking in Hawaii and moving towards the US West Coast for early in the workweek.
Looking at the forecast charts a modest gale is forecast for the North Gulf Tues (10/20) generating 24-25 ft seas aimed east, with perhaps a somewhat more energetic pattern a week out, including tropical swell from a system between Hawaii and the US West Coast in the if one is to believe the models. Down south another small but strong storm developed Thurs-Fri (10/16) under New Zealand producing 48 ft seas aimed east. So more southern hemi swell looks likely. El Nino remains stable with slowly erupting Kelvin Wave #3 mainly west of the Galapagos, but the big Westerly Wind Burst that has been in-flight since 10/1 is finally fading out. But not before producing yet another large Kelvin Wave (#4) that is taking shape under and just east of the dateline.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sat AM (10/17) the jet was weakly .cgiit over Asia then consolidating as it pushed off Japan with winds building to 180 kts over the dateline running flat east down on the 40N latitude line, then weakening and fragmenting some well off the US West Coast but trying to reconsolidate into a weak trough just pushing over North CA. In all there was not real support in the jetstream for gale formation down at the surface. Over the next 72 hours the wind energy on the dateline is to weaken to 140 kts on Sun (10/18) but help form a broad trough on the dateline with 130 kt winds pushing into the Eastern Gulf perhaps helping to support low pressure development in lower levels of the atmosphere. A .cgiit flow is to be pushing over the US West Coast. The trough is to move slowly into the Gulf and weaken into Tues (10/20), with winds in it's west quadrant only 90 kts and a ridge east of it pushing into the US West Coast. limited support for gale development possible in the trough. Also of note is the possible formation of a backdoor trough over Southern CA Mon PM (10/19) holding stationary into Tues (10/20) perhaps contributing to more rainfall there. Beyond 72 hours the backdoor trough is to ease into Baja and Northern Mexico into Wed (10/21) while to the west a flat and broad but generally weak jetstream flow tracks flat east on the 40N latitude line from Japan into Oregon. Winds are to be building in one pocket on the dateline to 160 kts later Thurs (10/23) but weakening as it moves to the Gulf in Sat (10/24) while a far broader and more consolidated pocket of 130 kt winds start building just off Japan. The overall configuration and position of the jet looks encouraging for the time of year. We're just waiting for it to really activate and become productive.
On Saturday AM (10/17) a broad area of low pressure was over the Northern Dateline region with some of it extending east into the Northern Gulf. But winds in this low were only 20-25 kts offering no real swell production capability. Swell from a gale that previously tracked through the Gulf of Alaska was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Gulf Gale below). 2 tropical systems of interest were being tracked, one east of the Philippines and another midway between Hawaii and the Mexico (see Tropical Update below).
Over the next 72 hours the broad low pressure system is to continue tracking from the dateline towards the Gulf with winds building, but still only in the 25-30 kt range Sun (10/18) with seas never exceeding 16 ft. Maybe some windswell to result for Hawaii mid-week.
Then on Monday AM (10/19) a gale is to develop in the Northern Gulf with winds 35 kts in it's south and west quadrants and starting to get traction on the oceans surface with seas on the increase. By evening a solid fetch of 40 kt west and northwest winds are forecast generating a small area of 24 ft seas up at 49N 154W but targeting mainly Alaska. By Tues AM (10/20) 40 kt northwest winds to hold with 24-25 ft seas taking root at 48N 152W aimed due east towards the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy down into Central CA. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Tues PM with seas fading from 24 ft up at 50N 148W. Possible swell to result for British Columbia down into the Pacific Northwest and decent size even for Central CA if all comes to pass. Something to monitor.
Low pressure was falling southeast into the Gulf on Wed AM (10/14) producing a decent sized fetch of 30 kt northwest winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface with seas building some. By evening 30-35 kts northwest winds were easing east in the Gulf with seas building to 19 ft over a small area at 42N 162W targeting mainly Hawaii (356 degs HI, 288 degs NCal). Fetch held into Thurs AM (10/15) with a modest sized area of 20 ft seas building at 39N 157W again targeting Hawaii (360 degs) but starting to swing more east targeting the US West Coast (285 degs NCal, 292 SCal). Fetch is to fade to 30 kts in the evening with sea dropping to 18 ft up at 44N 152W. One last pulse of 30 kt northwest winds are forecast Fri AM (10/16) generating 19 ft seas at 44N 147W targeting only CA (295 degs NCal, 302 degs SCal) then gone by the evening. If all goes as forecast a small pulse of sideband energy to result for Hawaii and better size for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Swell still decent sunrise Sat (10/17) at 4.5 ft @ 12 secs (5.5. ft) then slowly fading. Swell Direction: 345 degrees
NCal: Expect swell arrival near 11 PM Sat (10/17) building early Sat (10/18) peaking mid AM at 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft) with local chop on top. Swell fading Mon (10/19) from 4.5 ft @ 11 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction 285 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).
Super Typhoon Koppu was 100 nmiles east of the Northern Philippines on Sat AM (10/17) with winds 125 kts (144 mph) and tracking west. More strengthening is forecast and building to 135 kts (155 mph) in the evening while making landfall over the North Philippines. Koppu to remain inland over the Northern Philippines Sun AM (10/18) while slowly loosing strength and turning north, finally exiting while tracking north off the Northern Philippines Tues AM (10/20) with winds 50 kts. Koppu to rebuild to typhoon status Thurs AM (10/22) off Southern Taiwan while hading north-northeast The GFS model has this system fading there while the official track seems to suggest something more. Something to monitor.
Typhoon Champi was east of Koppu or 450 nmiles northwest of Guam on Sat AM (10/17) with winds 90 kts tracking northwest. A trend of turning more to the north is forecast Sun AM (10/18) with winds 115 kts positioned 850 nmiles south of Tokyo Japan then peaking at 120 kts in the evening. This system is to turn to the northeast into Tues AM (10/20) with winds falling to 90 kts positioned 600 nmiles southeast of Central Japan, then taking an almost easterly track from there pushing into the open North Pacific by Thurs AM (10/22) with winds down to 50 kts. The GFS model has this system tracking east into Sat (10/24) over the dateline with winds down to 35 kts and becoming non-productive from a swell generation perspective. Something to monitor.
Tropical Storm Olaf was 1650 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii on Sat AM (10/17) generating 50 kts winds and heading west. Slow strengthening is forecast with a slow turn to the northwest forecast putting Olaf 750 nmiles east of the Big Island on Thurs (10/22) with winds 100 kts and well into hurricane force. The GFS model depicts accelerating to the north and northeast into Sat AM (10/24) perhaps loosing a little strength and positioned midway between Hawaii and the California. Again, something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sat (10/17) high pressure was well offshore with a weak front and low pressure system over nearshore waters mainly from Ncal up into the Pacific Northwest resulting in a weak local wind flow. Sunday north winds to start developing later has high pressure builds in behind the front covering all of North and Central CA at 15 kts and building to 20 kts on Mon (10/19). Local winds to fade to 10 kts on Tuesday as the gradient moves towards Cape Mendocino. The gradient to hold there into Wed (10/21) and building strong on Thurs-Fri as high pressure moves closer ridging into the Pacific Northwest with north winds 30 kts over a solid area up at Cape Mendocino. A light local flow is forecast. More of the same is forecast on Sat (10/24).
On Sat AM (10/17) swell from a small storm previously south of New Zealand was hitting Hawaii better than expected and expected to reach California by Mon (10/19) (see Another New Zealand Storm below).
Over the next 72 hours another storm is to be forming under New Zealand Thurs AM (10/15) generating 50 kts west winds over a small area aimed east and seas building from 29 ft at 57S 156E. In the evening winds are to build to 55 kts from the west winds over a decent sized area but aimed due east with seas building from 44 ft at 57S 167E (200 degs HI, 215 degs CA and shadowed by Tahiti relative to SCal). 50 kt west winds to continue Fri AM (10/16) pushing a little more northeast generating 48 ft seas at 56S 178E (195 degs HI, 210 degs CA and shadowed relative to SCal but NCal is to be barely clear). Fetch is to fade from 45 kts lifting slightly east-northeast in the evening with seas fading from 43 ft at 53S 170W (188 degs HI, 207 CA and shadowed in NCal, but clear in SCal). This system to be gone after that with winds fading from 35 kts and seas from previous fetch fading from 35 ft at 52S 1621W (182 degs HI, 203 degs NCal and unshadowed, 204 degs SCal and unshadowed). Limited swell tracking northeast given the storms mostly easterly trajectory.
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: Swell fading Sun AM (10/18) from 1.4 ft @ 15 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195-200 degs.
California: Expect swell arrival Mon AM (10/19) with period 18 secs pushing 1.5 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell continuing Tues AM (10/20) at 1.8 ft @ 16-17 secs early (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell peaking Wed AM (10/21) at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft) Swell Direction: 214 degrees
New Zealand Storm (5th Swell)
Another storm started forming under New Zealand Thurs AM (10/15) generating 50 kts west winds over a small area aimed east and seas building from 29 ft at 57S 156E. In the evening winds built to 55 kts from the west over a decent sized area but aimed due east with seas building from 45 ft at 57S 167E (200 degs HI, 215 degs CA and shadowed by Tahiti relative to SCal). 50 kt west winds continued Fri AM (10/16) pushing a little more northeast generating 47 ft seas at 56S 178E (195 degs HI, 210 degs CA and shadowed relative to SCal but NCal is to be barely clear). Fetch faded from 45 kts lifting slightly east-northeast in the evening with seas fading from 42 ft at 53S 170W (188 degs HI, 207 CA and shadowed in NCal, but clear in SCal). This system was gone after that with winds fading from 35 kts and seas from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 52S 1621W (182 degs HI, 203 degs NCal and unshadowed, 204 degs SCal and unshadowed). Limited swell tracking northeast given the storms mostly easterly trajectory.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (10/22) building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell to peak on Fri (10/23) later at 2.5 ft @ 17 secs (4.0 ft). Swell to continue on Sat (10/24) at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
California: Expect swell arrival on Sat (10/24) pushing 1.3 ft @ 20 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 207-210 degrees
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 gale is forecast building in the Western Gulf over the Eastern Aleutians producing 40 kt west winds in pockets Fri PM (10/23) getting better traction overnight with winds to 45 kts Sat AM (10/24) and seas building over a solid area to 23 ft and heading up from there. Seeing how it's 180 hrs out on the charts, it is not believable yet. Still it's something to monitor.
And the tropics to be active as well (see Tropical Update)
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
More details to follow...
WWB #4 Fading - Forecast to Rebuild
IRI/CPC Nino3.4 Consensus Forecast Upgrades Again
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 (10/17) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated strong west winds (not anomalies) from 165E-180W north and south of the equator. A small pocket of west winds at 13 kts was in the north KWGA at 170E but fading. No other west winds were in the KWGA. Anomalies continued very strong from the west from 165E to 170W in the heart of the KWGA. This massive Westerly Wind Burst started on Thurs (10/1) and continues today, but appears to be on it's last legs. 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 to WWB status and held, and then intensified again on 10/1 (to stronger 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 while lifting north out of the KWGA on Sun AM (10/18) aided by the interaction of a Rossby Wave positively reinforcing the El Nino base state. After that west winds are to cease and be r.cgiaced with a generally light flow (no easterlies, just westerly anomalies) continuing through Fri (10/23). But the models are starting to suggest westerly winds developing on the dateline on Sat (10/24) at 10-12 kts, a step again in the right direction. In short, the WWB is to end on Sun (10/18) but possible restart weaker next weekend. It's been a great run. 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 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 (#3), the strongest of the year, started 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 #3, 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 then strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1 and held through 10/17, resulting in a yet another defined WWB event (#4) rivaling WWB #3 in June-July. 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 10/15:
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 building 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 building 'MJO-like' active signal building over Africa and the West Indian Ocean over the next 2 weeks. 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): The current WWB is dissipating. But the CFS model indicates some form of Active MJO signal holding from the dateline eastward for the next 2 weeks through 10/31 with moderate west anomalies projected in the east KWGA area. Beyond the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to take over 11/6-11/24 but with a Rossby Wave passing through it near 11/4 and yet another starting 11/16 resulting in stronger west anomalies. The net result is to still be westerly anomalies driven by the El Nino base state, just weaker than what is occurring today. The Active Phase of the MJO is forecast again starting 12/1 driving stronger west anomalies aided by a Rossby Wave most of December with another WWB possible 12/15-1/5 and holding as the Active Phase builds in through early January. That seems a bit far fetched, but this ENSO event has been unpredictable. The El Nino base state is now the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec). WWB #4 is producing Kelvin Wave #4 with anomalies behind that continuing to fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into Dec. As of this run of the model core westerly anomalies are to remain strong, but start easing east in the early Jan timeframe. This would shut down the warm water conveyor once anomalies start becoming centered at 170W, 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. This even clearly exceeds the '82 event.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (10/17) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 133W and continuing to make limited daily east headway. The 28 deg Isotherm reaches east to 124W (easing east). Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from 180W eastward and expanding in areal coverage significantly. +4 deg anomalies cover from 160W eastward (building west some), the direct effect of non-stop westerly anomalies in the Sept-Oct timeframe (WWB #4). A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal temps continue erupting into the Galapagos. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 110W (building) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 148W to Ecuador (steady). 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 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 (10/10) at primarily 105W at +4C with +3 deg C surface movement of the warm pool from 145W to 97W (steady). Slightly cooler water was building in coverage between the Galapagos and Ecuador, evidence of the westward di.cgiacement of this ENSO event.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (10/10) It is building depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170E (holding). Peak anomalies were +20 cm at 140-125W in pockets and +15 cm anomalies extending from 95W to 155W and reaching from 5N to 5S (expanding significantly again since 10/5). +5 cm anomalies are pushing into Ecuador but +1- cm anomalies were isolated from the Galapagos westward evidence of the westward di.cgiacement of this El Nino event. 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 (10/10) 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 177W eastward (a major expansion west) attributable to the current WWB and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are building to 155W (expanding). A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 145W-->103W (retreating in the east). No +2.5 deg anomalies are present (yet). 1.5-2.0 anomalies continue pushing into Ecuador but with a few pixels of 1.0-1.5 anomalies encroaching at 88W. Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway. This is very good news. But the focus remains westward di.cgiaced (bit nowhere near as much as '82).
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, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. 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 suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). A now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4 in the Nino 1.2 region but that was revised to 11/4 (due to the Upwelling Phase materializing) and then expected to advect west into NINo3.4 one month later to 12/4. But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. 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, 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: (10/15) Overall the picture is solid and unchanged in the past 2 weeks. Warmer waters are building up into Central America and holding 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 from Ecuador to 140W. The pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting more concentration compared to previous weeks. 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. Coverage south of the equator is not growing any down the Peruvian coast, and cannot complete with '97 in that regard. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there but is steadily loosing ground. This is not a worry at this point in the cycle and the same thing happened during the '97 event. 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) and getting cooler, typical of a strong El Nino. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (10/16) things are holding steady. Over the past 5 days temps have not lost ground in the core area between the Galapagos and Ecuador and if anything have built with a new pocket of +4 deg anomalies depicted. But around the edges to the south temps have retreated. A tiny cool pocket north of the Galapagos is effectively gone. All this suggests the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward di.cgiaced, with the Nino 1.2 region being just a collateral pocket of warming. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since. Given its been 3.0 months, and warming has not redeveloped to previous levels, di.cgiacement still remains the operative e.cgianation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (10/16) Anomalies have been steady since 10/2, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal. Today's reading was +3.65 degs. For the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is west of the 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 9/16 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. Temps dipped to 3.1 degs on 10/1, then rebuilt to the +3.4-3.8 degs by 10/3 and has held through today.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (10/15): A little warming has occurred in 2 small pockets either side of the Galapagos, with additional small warm pockets from there to the dateline. A small weak cooling pocket was developing off Ecuador. This is the usual ebb and flow of El Nino.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (10/16) The latest image remains impressive and has improved in the past 5 days with a wider coverage of warm anomalies in the west end of this area. We are back 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 at +2.25 degs reaching west to at least 160W. Temps between 160W-180W are rebuilding now but we're still trying to regain the peak levels from 9/16. With westerly anomalies and a WWB in the West Pacific, that seems to be helping the situation. Within the large warm pool, no pocket of +4 deg anomalies are present west of the Galapagos (see previous image here 9/28 and 9/30). 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: (10/15) 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 weakened since 9/28 and continues to fluctuate east of the Galapagos. About 2 pockets of 3 degree anomalies are strung from Ecuador to the west (down from 4 last report), the vent ports for Kelvin Wave #3. Given the subsurface situation, one would expect surface water temps to be raging. They are solid and steady, but not impressive. This suggests the character of this event makes it a slow burner rather than fast. That actually 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 (expanding west to 165E). 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 177W. There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 170W. A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies has faded out again. Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily Index Temps: (10/17) Temps though down today at +2.078, have been steady the past week near 2.1 degs, down from a 5 day peak at +2.581 near 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 climbing here at +2.269 today, up from +1.824 on 10/8, but still down from the all time peak of +2.44 on 10/3. If today's temps held for a month, that would be equivalent to the '82 and '97 events at their peak. 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)
This years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event, but not as strongly so. The main evidence for this is the continued eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos with weakened warming east of there. 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 10/11 the current was moderate but not overtly impressive. The current is pushing modestly west to east only north of the equator from 125E to 140W, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 120W then fading out. A stream of weak to modest east current was in pockets over and just south of the equator from 90W to 140W. 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 165E to 150W, then fading. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated on the equator at 140W. But weak west anomalies were mainly in control on the equator from 130W to 110W. This is reasonably impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 150E to 130W on and north of the equator.
SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected: For the model run 10/17 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have supposedly already occurred on 10/1 at +2.08 degrees. +1.95 degs anomalies to hold till Dec 1, then a big crash is to occur. 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 on Nov 10, then starting a fast fall. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peaking in Dec, later than what the model suggests.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Oct Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak temps between +2.3 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.45 occurring during Dec. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs, the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs and the mid-Sept between +2.1-2.5 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 (10/17): Was rising fast at -3.80. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14.
30 Day Average: Was steady at -22.61. The peak low was recorded on 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 rising from -19.22. A new record low of -19.28 occurred on 10/16. The previous record low was -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 -19.28 on 10/16.
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 building over Southeast Aust on Sat (10/17), expected to fade some then more high pressure building by Wed (10/21), then fading again by Sat (10/24).
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A weak local high pressure pattern was in control south of Tahiti and expected to hold into Tues (10/20). a short bout of weaker low pressure then more high pressure is expected by Thurs (10/22 and beyond. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti.
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of slightly negative SOI values, similar to today.
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 5 day 850 mbs anomaly charts 10/11-10/15, the south flow was still in.cgiay, but weak. Per the GFS model a weak southerly flow was in.cgiay and is to build some by Sun (10/18) holding for a few days, fading then returning on Thurs (10/22) and holding into the weekend. 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): (10/17) today's value strengthened some to +2.40, exceeding the average as of late. It has been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) with only minor fluctuation. 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 (10/17) 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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