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, June 14, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 13.8 secs from 178 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.0 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 1.2 ft @ 12.6 secs. Wind south 2-6 kts. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.8 ft @ 12.7 secs from 242 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.4 ft @ 12.8 secs from 239 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.3 ft @ 13.5 secs from 260 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 9.5 ft @ 11.0 secs with swell 7.5 ft @ 12.0 secs. Wind northwest 8-10 kts. Water temp 58.1 degs.
On Sunday (6/14) in North and Central CA windswell was producing surf at shoulder to near head high at top spots on the sets but with winds now northwest and conditions nearly white capped early. Down in Santa Cruz windswell was producing weak but rideable surf in the waist to chest high range and clean. In Southern California up north windswell was barely showing at knee to thigh high with clean conditions early but weak and barely breaking. Down south waves were dead flat and unrideable with sheet glass conditions early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore had a few waist high sets on occasion with clean conditions. The East Shore was getting no real east 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 no swell producing weather systems were in play or forecast. Small swell from a gale that tracked over the Eastern Aleutians on Tues (6/9) generating small swell that was hitting Central CA and mixing with locally generated north windswell. Regarding windswell, trades were generally suppressed relative to Hawaii offering no windswell generation potential but that situation is forecast to improve slightly starting Wed (6/16). Relative to California, high pressure generated north winds were blowing over Cape Mendocino producing some local short period north windswell down into Central CA. Those winds to fall south on Mon (6/15) and continue centered over Central CA through the workweek generating more but raw north local windswell. For the southern hemisphere, a gale tracked southeast under New Zealand on Tues (6/9) with up to 38 ft seas, but all aimed southeast with little energy tracking northeast towards our forecast area. Another small gale developed in the same area Fri-Sun (6/14) but positioned just southeast of New Zealand generating seas at 30-34 ft. Possible small southern hemi swell to result. Another small gael is forecast further southeast of New Zealand on Wed (6/17) producing 34-36 ft seas aimed east. So some sort of a weak pattern is trying to redevelop.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (6/14) no swell producing fetch was occurring over the greater North Pacific. But high pressure at 1036 mbs was located in the Gulf of Alaska ridging into the Pacific Northwest producing the usual summertime pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino generating a modest but shrinking sized area of north winds at 25 kts there resulting in production of north angled short period windswell at exposed breaks from North CA down into Central CA. Relative to Hawaii, trades were suppressed with high pressure light over and near the Islands offering no support for windswell production.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to weaken to 1024 mbs by Tues (6/16) repositioned just off North CA while weak low pressure starts developing over the Central North Pacific producing a weaker version of the California gradient with winds fading to the 20 kt range from the north with perhaps an embedded area to 25 kts centered near Pt Arena with north winds 15 kts reaching down to Pt Conception producing modest north windswell with short period and poor conditions reaching down into exposed breaks of North and Central CA through Friday (6/19). No eddy flow is expected with local northwest winds in control resulting in falling water temperatures. Relative to Hawaii trades are to start developing at 15 kts from the east limited to close proximity east of and over the Islands later Wed (6/17) resulting in minimal east windswell being generated for exposed breaks on the East Shores of Hawaii.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Hurricane Carlos was 80 nmiles south of Acapulco Mexico Sun AM (6/14) with winds 65 kts. Carlos is forecast to build slightly while taking a more determined track to the northwest into Tues AM (6/160 with winds building to 75 kts before turning more towards the north-northwest and moving inland over Manzanillo Mexico in the evening. At not time is Carlos to be anywhere near the Southern CA swell window.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (6/14) high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska was generating the usual summer time pressure gradient and north winds at 25 kts over North CA with a decaying eddy flow (south winds) in control over Central CA. But by the evening the gradient is to start fall south with north winds taking over Central and North CA waters at 15-20 kts Monday AM continuing if not building to 20 kts by Thurs (6/18), with water temps taking the commensurate hit. No real change is forecast through Sun PM (6/21).
On Sunday AM (6/14) the southern branch of the jet was forming a bit of a trough under and just east of New Zealand but with winds only 70 kts pushing up into that trough, offering minimal support for gale development there. East of there the southern branch fell southeast over the Central Pacific then tracked east way down at 65S offering no support for gale development. The northern branch was running flat west to east up at 25S, eventually pushing into Chile. Over the next 72 hours the New Zealand trough is to hold into Mon PM (6/15) then wash out with a more defined split flow taking over with the northern branch running flat east up at 25S and the southern branch down at 55S. Beyond 72 hours a new small trough is forecast developing in the southern branch well southeast of New Zealand on Thurs (6/18) with winds 130 kts at it's apex up at 50S slowly moderating in strength but gaining in definition as the trough pushes east into Fri AM (6/19). Some support for gale development possible. But after that a strong ridge is forecast developing under New Zealand by Sun (6/21) ending any obvious hope for upper level support for gale development beyond.
On Sunday (6/14) remnants of a gale were fading southeast of New Zealand, having previously produced some swell that was pushing northeast (see 2nd New Zealand below). Before that a gale tracked under New Zealand on Tues (6/9) but fell southeast through it's life likely offering no support for swell development. Details provided below (see 1st New Zealand Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a new gale is forecast developing under New Zealand on Tues AM (6/16) producing 45 kt southwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface resulting in 30 ft seas at 60S 168E. In the evening solid 40 kt west winds to hold generating 33 ft seas over a tiny area at 60S 175E. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Wed AM (6/17) with seas fading from 29 ft at 59S 177W. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kt in the evening with no seas of interest resulting. The models suggest secondary fetch building at 40 kts just east of there Thurs AM (6/18) generating nearly 30 ft seas at 53S 162W. In the evening additional 40 ft west fetch to generate 27 ft seas at 51S 158W with 55 kt southwest winds south of there, pushing east into Fri AM (6/19) and fading from 45 kts from the west. Something to monitor.
1st New Zealand Gale
A gale develop under Tasmania on Mon (6/8) falling southeast and was clearing the New Zealand shadow Tues AM (6/9) producing 45 kt west-northwest winds and 39 ft seas over a tiny area at 53S 168E (200 degs HI and barely unshadowed by NZ, 217 degs NCal & SCal). The fetch continued falling southeast in the evening with 45 kt west to west-northwest winds remaining and seas fading some from 36 ft at 56S 179E (192 degs HI, 211 degs SCal and shadowed and barely shadowed relative to NCal). 40 kt west winds held into Wed AM (6/10) resulting in 33 ft seas at 58S 172W before crashing into the Ross Ice Shelf in the evening. Low odds of any swell resulting seeing how the fetch in this system was all aimed east to southeast and the core of the gale falling in that direction too. Minimal odds of sideband swell radiating northeast towards the US West Coast and even less odds for Hawaii.
2nd New Zealand Gale
A gale developed south of New Zealand on Thurs PM (6/11) generating 50-55 kt south winds over a small area with seas on the increase. By Fri AM (6/12) a decent sized fetch of 45-50 kt south winds were holding while easing east generating 32 ft seas at 60S 169E (195 degs HI, 210 degs SCal and shadowed by Tahiti and 210 degs NCal and barely unshadowed). In the evening 40 kt southwest winds were lifting northeast and loosing coverage generating 32 ft seas over a small area at 56S 170E (198 degs HI, 213 degs SCal and shadowed, but unshadowed for NCal). 40-45 kt southwest winds were pushing hard northeast Sat AM (6/13) with 32 ft seas at 52S 175E (195 degs HI, 214 degs SCal and shadowed but unshadowed for NCal). 40-45 kt southwest winds were holding in pockets in the evening with 32 ft seas at 48S 174W aimed mainly east (190 degs HI, 212 degs Scal and shadowed, 212 degs NCal and barely not shadowed). Residual 40 kt west fetch was holding Sun AM (6/14) with 31 ft seas at 50S 173W (190 degs HI, 210 degs SCal and Ncal and shadowed for both). This system is to be gone after that. Some modest swell should result for Hawaii and less so for the US West Coast, better in NCal than SCal doe to shadowing.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Fri (6/19) with swell pushing 1.3 ft @ 18-19 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). That is a little optimistic. Swell to arrive in earnest Sat AM (6/20) pushing maybe 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs at sunset (4.0-4.5 ft). swell to start fading Sun AM (6/21) but still decent holding at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
SCal: Expect swell arrival on Mon 2 AM (6/22) with period 18 secs and size small but building. Swell peaking as period hits 17 secs near 8 PM and holding into Tues AM (6/23) 1.9-2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading Wed AM (6/24) with period dropping from 15 secs. Swell Direction: 210-215 degrees
NCal: Expect swell arrival on Mon first light (6/22) with period 18 secs and size small but building. Swell peaking as period hits 17 secs near 11 PM and holding into Tues AM (6/23) 1.9-2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading Wed AM (6/24) with period dropping from 15 secs. Swell Direction: 210-214 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 the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient is forecast fading by Sat (6/20) but not completely gone with north winds 15 kts over Central CA and not producing windswell, but still producing poor local conditions. The weakening of the gradient is to be attributable to two low pressure cells that are to be tracking east through the Eastern Pacific, one just east of the dateline and the second 900 nmiles west of Oregon by Saturday. No swell producing fetch from these systems is expected. the gradient is to be all but gone by Sun (6/21) though as the first low starts to impact the Pacific Northwest.
Relative to Hawaii 15 kt east trades are forecast becoming more solid in coverage by Thurs (6/18) but mainly just over the Islands (not too far east of them) and holding into Sun (6/21). Limited odds for small short period east windswell resulting at exposed breaks.
Note: 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 planet. 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. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split 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).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) As of Sunday (6/14) the daily SOI had not updated. On Thurs (6/11) it was falling from -3.20. The 30 day average was rising from -4.22 and the 90 day average was rising from -7.67. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of fading Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a slowly fading Active Phase of the MJO or a building weak El Nino. High pressure was fading over Southeast Australia while a new high was building from 1032 mbs under Tahiti likely resulting in rising SOI numbers. Beyond no low pressure of interest is forecast in the proximity of Tahiti till Sat (6/20).At that time high pressure at 1032 mbs is forecast over Tasmania with falling SOI numbers suggested. This also could help the Southern Hemi Booster Index (a possible component of strong El Ninos) and supportive of storm development in the New Zealand area. That is, anomalous high pressure locks down the area roughly over Tasmania/Southeast Australia driving south surface winds up the East Australia coast then redirected to the east in the Kelvin Wave generation Area feeding continuous Westerly Wind Bursts. The theory suggests it is high pressure over this area that 'boosts' a regular El Nino into Super El Nino status. This high pressure boost occurs 3-5 months ahead of the the peak of a super El Nino (June-Aug) and has been evidenced in the 72, '82 and '97 Super El Ninos. Anecdotally this would be the connection between Super El Ninos and wildfires/drought in Eastern Australia and also the link to increased storm production under New Zealand typical of the N Hemi summer after said El Ninos.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis per 850 mb charts (4,500 ft up) indicated neutral to weak westerly anomalies were in play over the Maritime Continent to the dateline with weak easterly anomalies starting just east of the dateline reaching south of Hawaii on into the Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated weak westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area - KWGA extending to a point south of Hawaii, with neutral anomalies from there to the Galapagos. The Inactive Phase of the MJO has appeared to have no impact on the Kelvin Wave Generation area and is now rapidly moving east centered roughly south of Hawaii. This is good news. A week from now (6/22) building westerly anomalies are forecast at modest strength again over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area building over the dateline at moderate strength then fading to neutral east of there into the Galapagos. These westerly anomalies to start in earnest Fri PM (6/19). This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO, at least from a wind anomaly perspective, is already having a fading influence over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area and is to be moving east. The sooner the better. The GFS model (surface) suggests winds in general 7 kts or less over the whole of the KWGA and with no clear direction indicated and this situation is to only become more widespread as the week progresses with actual west winds at 5 kts building over the whole KWGA by Sat (6/20). This is exactly as hoped for to again reinforce warm water movement to the east. 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 into late May while easing east out of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. West anomalies held through 6/10 (per TAO data) with zero easterly anomalies reported so far this year. But more westerly anomalies are needed if a moderate to strong El Nino is to develop, as is projected by the long term models and based on evolving atmospheric signals.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/13 suggest a modest Inactive MJO signal was tracking east and fading fast, centered over the East Pacific pushing into Central America. The Statistic model suggests this Inactive Phase is to fade out over the next 5 days with an Active state building in the West Pacific 5-10 days from now and taking over 15 days out. The Dynamic model depicts the exact same thing in regards to the Inactive Phase dissipating 5 days from now, but instead of an Active Phase taking over, a dead neutral pattern is to be in place 8 days out and holding 15 days out. The presence of regular pulses of the MJO is not an indication of El Nino. Rather a steady state Weak Active Phase would be more in line with what is believed to be a building El Nino. Something to consider. . For now that could mean the atmosphere is not as coupled from a ENSO perspective as some might think, at least from the perspective of development of a major El Nino event. The truth at the surface will be known in the coming days through 6/20, but right now the models are optimistic. The ultra long range upper level model run on 6/14 depicts a modest Inactive Phase fading over the East equatorial Pacific tracking east and all but gone by 6/19, much quicker than event the last model run. A modest Active pattern is already developing over the West Pacific and is expected to track east over the equatorial Pacific through 7/14 with a weak Inactive Phase developing in the west starting 7/9 making it to the Central Pacific by 7/24, We're looking for early signs of development of an upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave lifecycle, which is due per a normal Kelvin Wave Cycle and was evidenced in last years Modoki El Nino (which ultimately stalled it) and could theoretically do the same this year. But we're not seeing it (a good thing). Instead it looks like westerly anomalies are on track for a return. And if that happens, it adds fuel to the speculation that a strong El Nino might be in development. A well entrenched westerly wind anomaly pattern is required during the June/July timeframe if something that wants to rival the '97 El Nino is to develop. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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.
As of the most recent low-res imagery (6/11) first impressions continue indicating a moderate and well defined warm water/El Nino-like regime in-place and building over the entire equatorial Pacific.The most recent image depicts a slowly building broader coverage near the Galapagos over the last 15 days, but not warmer, just broader. But warmer water is building steadily west of there in the Nino 3.4 region from south of California to the dateline 2-3 degree north and south of the equator, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos area. Warm water continues in place along the Peruvian coast. Cool water continues building it's coverage along and west of West Africa. In the past we've used this as a sign of impending Inactive Phase upwelling in the Galapagos area. But that approach works only during normal MJO Phases. Compared to the '97 Super El Nino, today's image indicates the warm water temps pattern is very similar, though slightly stronger over the Nino 3.4 region (impressive). The cold water African signature is also present in the '97 image, though stronger, though 2015 appears to be rapidly catching up. We believe this reverse signal in the Atlantic this year is a good sign, suggesting a global scale atmospheric component to this years event, something not present last year. It is the permanent set up of a Inactive like Phase over West Africa and a semi permanent Active State over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area tracking slowly east, and high pressure locked over Southeast Australia that we are looking for.
TAO data indicates +1.5 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline. There is an embedded area of +2 deg anomalies at 120W and another trying to form south of Hawaii. Even more interesting is that the broad pocket of warm water that have been camped out on the dateline for a year now is starting to migrate east, currently centered at 160W. This is a key component of El Nino, The migration east not only subsurface waters, but also surface waters forced by continued anomalous westerly winds pushing across the dateline.
The most recent hi-res data (6/13) indicates peak temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador are rebuilding, and markedly lately, all the while advecting west. A peak station reading at the Galapagos occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had maxed out. But since then, 4.65 deg above normal readings were reported on both 6/4 and 6/7, besting the previous peak, and then stair stepped up from there, at +4.95 degs 6/10 and up to +5.3 degs on 6/12. Something far larger is at play. The hi-res satellite data tells the broader story, specifically the coverage of those waters. See the coverage on May 24 versus June 3 and June 11. A that coverage only is increasing today (6/13) and not limited to the Galapagos area but building down into Peru. The CDAS Nino 1+2 index reflects this well also, peaking at +2.3 degs on 5/23 bottoming out at +0.55 degs June 1, and now climbing back quickly to +2.2 degs on 6/11 and +2.45 degs on 6/14. The Nino 1.2 area is not of prime concern, and is very volatile and noisy. Though it is the source of much warm water (erupting Kelvin Waves), it is the Nino 3.4 region that is the hallmark indicator of El Nino, covering far more area and therefore having a greater impact on the atmosphere. Think of Nino1.2 as an early indicator only. And as warm water from the second Kelvin Wave impacts the Galapagos, temps should spike again. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are actually falling, down from a peak of +1.3 degs 6/9 but dipping to 1.1 degs today. One would expect this area to start warming as warming water from Nino 1.2 starts advecting west into the Nino3.4 area.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator under the dateline (160-180W) have cooled a little, or at least tracked east some (as one would expect), still up to +2-3 degs C, the result of a WWB in early May. And more warm water is downwelling from the surface, the result of ongoing westerly anomalies. So the pipe is open. But the big story remains very warm anomalies under the equator in the East Pacific pushing up and east into the Galapagos and Ecuador. As of 6/13 a significant reorganization is in-flight now with +5 deg anomalies impacting the Galapagos Islands, up from a week ago. And a large pool of +6 degs anomalies is building centered at 120W with +5 deg anomalies reaching from 140W to Ecuador. The core increased from +5 -+6 in just the past 2 days. Most impressive. This pocket is a mixture of warm water driven by an extended WWB that occurred Jan-March plus water from an additional WWB in early May. The first Kelvin Wave was expected to peak over the Galapagos anywhere from 5/28-6/10. We believe that peak occurred on 5/24 (see surface analysis above) but recent station data suggest that might be happening now. Peak subsurface water temps (anomalies > 4 degs C) have actually expanded their coverage to the west (western extent moving from 137W to 152W - not trivial). This suggests there are not weeks but perhaps 2 months of warm water still in the pipe (into 7/28). This expansion of the subsurface warm pool is the result of the second WWB in May now starting to merge with the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-March. And more warm water continues downwelling on the dateline, the result of westerly anomalies that have been in play since the May WWB in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area to 6/5. This second Kelvin Wave should peak on Aug 1.
This is exactly how the '97 El Nino played out, with not individual Kelvin Waves impacting the coast, but a huge pool of warm water developing at this time of year in the East Pacific creating a continuous upwelling of warm water off Ecuador, with continuous westerly anomalies in the KWGA feeding yet more warm water into that subsurface pool for 6+months. This is a significant development.
Satellite data from 6/7 has upgraded significantly. It depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E with a core now to +15 cm between 115-145W. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with embedded and merging Kelvin Waves forming into a large subsurface reservoir. This is a classic major El Nino setup, not a standard El Nino.
The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (6/7) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175E and the Ecuador coast (holding) with +1.0-1.5 degs from 175W eastward (loosing a little ground). But +1.5 deg anomalies are expanding significantly from 120W now to 162W. And +2 deg anomalies are holding between 120-150W. The first Kelvin Wave has impacted the Ecuador Coast and the next wave of warming is building behind looking every bit as strong. This is a very good sign. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 6/7 continues to improve. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific with strongest velocity filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area over the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. Weaker velocities extended from Hawaii to the Galapagos. This is an expansion from the last update. No easterly current of interest is present. Anomaly wise - moderate west anomalies were in control on the equator over the far West Pacific, reaching over the dateline and south of Hawaii to a point just east of the Galapagos both north and south of the equator. This continues to look like a significant El Nino is setting up but does not compare to west velocities and anomalies that were raging near 170W in the '97 El Nino at this time. In '97 the anomalies and current were more concentrated, suggesting stronger westerly wind anomalies. Looking 30 days ahead (7/5), if any similarities to '97 are to be maintained, strong to massive west to east velocities and anomalies will need to start developing in the next 2 weeks. We're starting to think that is actually possible. This data suggests a defined west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model (PDF Corrected) run 6/14 for the Nino 3.4 region has dropped and little but mostly unchanged. It suggests water temps are at +1.2 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm into July reaching +1.3 degs C, and continuing to +1.6 degs by Oct peaking at+1.8 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. This is down from the 1.9 deg peak projected a week ago. This suggests we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to a full blown moderate plus El Nino, maybe bordering on the strong side. But it is too early to believe just yet. The model overhyped it last year, then the atmospheric picture collapsed in June. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 5 months for a moderate to strong El Nino to develop (including surface warm water currently locked over the dateline), especially of the magnitude projected by the model. The mid-May consensus Plume suggests development of a moderate El Nino with peak temps 1.2-1.5 degs above normal. See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 multiple downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino until Feb 2015, and then very weak at that. Those were in effect primers to help move the atmosphere out of a perpetual La Nina biased pattern that had been in play for the past 15 years. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in play with some greater force dictating the pattern (likely the PDO). The focus now becomes whether this warming and teleconnection will persist if not strengthen in 2015. We are now out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier (March-May). June will reveal what is to come, be it a weak El Nino or something stronger. Water temps in the Nino 1.2 region warming solidly and advecting warmer waters west over the entire equatorial Pacific due to the arrival of the first of two Kelvin Wave (see details above). If that warming is sufficient to start the classic El Nino feedback loop, which we suspect is already the case given cooling temps off Africa, then continued westerly anomalies and WWBs should continue through July-Sept and beyond, with a full scale El Nino developing. But if the cool upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The real interesting thing is westerly anomalies and a certified WWB developed in early to mid May over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area creating another Kelvin Wave, much different than what occurred last year. And westerly anomalies, though stalled the past few days, are forecast to resume date. The latest subsurface anomaly charts have pretty much confirmed that too as of 6/2 data with a large reservoir of warm water now lodged just west of the Galapagos and continuously erupting. Per the models the Inactive Phase of the MJO is all but gone over the West Pacific, and surface data from TAO does not indicate any significant impact wind-wise (no east anomalies). And the models are now suggesting a building area of no trades if not light west winds in the equatorial West Pacific in the next 5 days. All this is very positive. But we will remain cautious.
It is do or die time. Either the ocean temps will warm significantly enough to kick off some degree of real El Nino, or it's more Modoki El Nino. But as of right now the scales are tipped much in favor of El Nino. A simple glance a the SST Anomaly charts can tell that. Peak warming from the first big Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-March has hit. Westerly anomalies are holding over the dateline at the surface (regardless what the 850 mb charts and OLR models suggest), complete with previous tropical development north of the equator, suggestive perhaps of developing coupling between the ocean and the atmosphere (in the classic El Nino sense). And east anomalies previously forecast at 850 mbs this week have not developed. Two tropical system in the West Pacific (Noul and Dolphin) have recurved northeast, and early in the season. And two early season hurricanes formed in the East Pacific with Andres topping out at 125 kts (145 mph) and Blanca at 115 kts (133 mph). And Carlos developed behind but weak, not supported by the Active Phase of the MJO. But these are symptoms of previous warm water in that area coupled with westerly anomalies over the equator in that area, and not a signal of anything new developing. All the other signals (recurving early forming tropical systems, warm water along the US West Coast, falling SOI etc) all mean nothing unless there are solid WWBs to continuously build sub surface temp anomalies over the Galapagos feeding the Nino3.4 region into November. In other words, the WWB are what drive El Nino. Everything else is symptoms. The focus continues to be the Kelvin Wave Generation Area and the presence of surface westerly anomalies and whether the 1st and 2nd Kelvin Waves targeting Ecuador actual manifest themselves by expanding the area and magnitude of warming surface waters in the Nino 3.4 Area. The real good news the second Kelvin Wave is expanding and organizing better than hoped for, not only starting to fill the East Pacific subsurface reservoir again, but expanding it significantly. The bigger, and warmer the better. This is required for a major El Nino to develop. and we will continue monitoring pressure over East Australia, to assess it's connection to the larger picture.
We are out of the Spring Unpredictability Barrier and the Nino regions have emerged stronger and with much warm water in the subsurface pipe. We are supposedly past the peak of an Inactive MJO phase, and so far there is no surface data to suggest a cessation of westerly anomalies, or at least the development of easterly anomalies. It seems we should be able to make a reasonably confident call by June 15 for the coming Fall, assuming the Inactive Phase of the MJO does not come to fruition. But if it does, and the cool water off Africa is really a signal of something more ominous rather than a symptom of atmospheric coupling, then much of the ground gained so far this year will be lost and we'll be back where we were last year, in Modoki territory. But, given all the data, the odds of that are looking more and more remote. And at this time we're not just thinking about this being a El Nino event, but an upgrade to a major El Nino.
We continue monitoring Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming of East Pacific equatorial waters for Sept-Dec 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
Details to follow...
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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