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.
Monday, June 22, 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 3.3 ft @ 7.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 17.1 secs. Wind southwest 6-8 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.7 ft @ 17.7 secs from 217 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.6 ft @ 16.1 secs from 213 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.1 ft @ 17.5 secs from 215 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 17.0 secs with swell up to 2.1 ft @ 17.7 secs. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temp 54.5 degs.
On Monday (6/22) in North and Central CA locally generated north windswell was producing surf at maybe thigh high and nearly chopped early. Down in Santa Cruz new southern hemi swell was starting to show with surf waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean but very inconsistent. In Southern California up north windswell/southern hemi combo swell was producing waves thigh to waist high and clean. Down south waves were waist to chest high and textured early with defined lines coming from the southwest. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and textured with sideshore lump. The South Shore was still getting small New Zealand swell with waves pushing head high on the sets early though mostly chest high and clean. The East Shore was getting some east windswell with waves knee to 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.cgiay or forecast though the jetstream continued unusually cohesive for the time of year. Regarding windswell, trades from the east were blowing at 15 kts north and south of the Islands, but nothing was in.cgiay at that velocity directly east of the Hawaii, reducing the odds for windswell production. But some minor improvements are forecast later this week. Relative to California, weak high pressure induced north winds were blowing but only in close proximity to shore over North and Central CA producing no real rideable short period north windswell. But some improvements are also forecast here later in the week. For the southern hemisphere, a small gale developed Fri-Sun (6/14) positioned just southeast of New Zealand generating seas at 30-34 ft aimed well to the north. That swell has passed Hawaii and is starting to move into California, offering a few days of something rideable. Another small gale developed further southeast of New Zealand on Tues (6/16) producing 26 ft seas at best aimed mainly east, faded, then started redeveloping Thurs-Fri (6/19) with 26-30 ft seas again aimed east. Minimal background swell possible for Hawaii and CA. Another small gale was south of New Zealand on Mon (6/22) with 28-30 ft seas but aimed barely east. And another is forecast developing just along the New Zealand coast tracking north on Wed (6/24) with 34 ft seas aimed north targeting Hawaii best. Beyond the models keep teasing concerning some storm activity tracking east under New Zealand starting this weekend, but not on every run. The typical 180 hour fake-out. Something to monitor though.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (6/20) no swell producing fetch was occurring over the greater North Pacific. But low pressure was tracking into the Gulf of Alaska supported by a surprisingly cohesive jet stream flow aloft. But it's not till mid-July that we will start monitoring it for signs of a pre-escent Fall pattern. Otherwise generic high pressure at 1020 mbs was stretched from the dateline up to the Central CA coast producing a weak and shallow area of 15 kt north winds nearshore to North and Central CA only serving to make locally poor conditions but not strong enough to produce even rideable north angled short period windswell. Relative to Hawaii, the same high pressure system was generating trades at 15 kts north of the Islands, but nothing targeting them directly. No real support for windswell production was evidenced.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to get better footing off Central CA at 1024 mbs as low pressure moves northward in the Gulf, with north winds building to 20 kts on Tues (6/23) relative to both North and Central CA and pushing 25 kts on Thurs (6/25) with the core of the gradient moving over Cape Mendocino and a eddy flow (south winds) starting to set up over Central CA, setting up rideable short period north windswell at exposed breaks. Relative to Hawaii trades are to start building in patches east of the Islands at 15 kts by Wed-Thurs (6/25) producing limited short period east windswell at exposed breaks.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored in exposed waters of the Pacific.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (6/22) weak high pressure was off the Central CA coast at 1020 mbs generating a weak version of the usual summer time pressure gradient producing north winds at 15 kts nearshore over North and Central CA. North winds to build to near 20 kts on Tuesday (6/23) and up to near 25 kts over Cape Mendocino Wednesday. The gradient is to lift north on Thurs (6/25) with winds holding at 25 kts but with an eddy flow setting up over Central CA. North winds to continue up north with the eddy flow south of it Friday with the gradient fading Saturday and gone Sunday with the eddy flow continuing. Light winds forecast on Monday (6/29).
On Monday AM (6/22) a .cgiit flow continued in control of the Southwest Pacific with the southern branch of the jet tracking flat west to east on the 62S latitude line and the northern branch doing the same up at roughly 25S. The southern branch was lifting slightly northeast over the Central Pacific forming a weak trough with winds 110 kts pushing up into it offering minimal support for gale development there. But east of there no troughs were indicated with the jet falling southeast under South America and offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the Central Pacific trough is to be gone by Tues (6/23) with a zonal flow taking over pushing due east from a point under New Zealand at 62S reaching up to 58S 24 hours later and forming a bit of a trough southeast of New Zealand but with only 90-100 kt winds flowing up into it offering minimal support for gale development just clear (north) of the Ross Ice Shelf and holding into Thursday. If anything, a portion of the northern branch of the jet is to crash south and join the southern branch producing 150 kt winds over the very eastern edge of the Southern CA swell window, possibly starting to supporting gale development there. Beyond 72 hours that new trough is to quickly push east targeting only southern portions of South America, and well east of even the Southern CA swell window. Beyond a zonal flow is to start developing under New Zealand on Sun (6/28) with 130 kt winds pushing flat to the east up at 52S offering a gap between there and the Ross Ice Shelf and providing limited odds to support gale development. A ridge is to take control of the Southeast Pacific eliminating odds for gale development there. The focus continues to be the Southwest Pacific.
On Monday AM (6/22) high pressure at 1028 mbs had a lock on the mid-latitudes driving the storm track further south than hoped for. Swell from a modest gale previously in the New Zealand area was fading out in Hawaii and coming up in California (see 2nd New Zealand below). And a third gale tracked east, previously in close proximity to New Zealand, and marginally productive (see 3rd New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise a gale was tracking south of the New Zealand producing 45 kt northwest winds over a solid area generating 28 ft seas at 60S 165E moving southeast into the Ross Ice Shelf.
Over the next 72 hours that gale is to continue to produce 40 kt northwest winds Tues PM (6/22) again pushing toward the Ross Ice Shelf but also producing a new fetch of 45 kt west winds resulting in 28 ft seas at 61S 175E perhaps tracking better to the east. Tues AM (6/23) a thin area of 45 kt west winds is to push east generating 32 ft seas at 63S 173W tracking east and expected to impact a northward jutting portion of the Ross Ice Shelf. This system is to be gone after that. Given the wind direction and ice configuration, no swell is expected radiating northeast towards our forecast area.
Another small cut-off gale to form just east of Northern New Zealand on Wed AM (6/24) producing 45-50 kt south to southeast winds over a tiny area aimed north with seas building from 28 ft at 40S 174W. 45 kt south winds are to continue pushing north in the evening with 34 ft seas building over a tiny area at 38S 174W. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Thurs AM (6/25) with seas from previous fetch fading over a tiny area from 30 ft at 35S 168W, very far to the north. This system is to be gone after that. Assuming all goes as forecast moderate swell is possible for Tahiti, with small swell for Hawaii up int o the US West Coast. The tiny footprint of this system will be it's limiting factor for everywhere but Tahiti.
Another broader gale is forecast developing on Thurs (6/25) in the extreme Southeast Pacific producing a broad area of 40 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft at 61S 117W, or positioned due south of Southern CA. But given the fact that swell would have to travel 90 degrees off focus to reach Southern CA, no swell is expected to result. This system to continue tracking east through Fri (6/26) producing 30-32 ft seas, targeting primarily Chile.
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.
SCal: Swell peaking Tues AM (6/23) at 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft). Residuals on Wed (6/24) fading from 1.5 ft @ 15 secs early (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 210-215 degrees
NCal: Swell peaking Tues AM (6/23) at 1.9 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading Wed AM (6/24) with swell dropping from 1.7 ft @ 15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 210-214 degrees
3rd New Zealand Gale
A gale developed under New Zealand on Tues AM (6/16) producing 35 kt southwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface resulting in 24 ft seas at 58S 170E. In the evening a small area of 40 kt southwest winds generating 26 ft seas over a tiny area at 58S 176E. Fetch was fading while holding stationary from the southwest at 35 kts Wed AM (6/17) with seas fading from 25 ft at 59S 178E. Fetch was building in coverage at 35 kt in the evening aimed well to the northeast with no seas of interest resulting (24 ft at 58S 178E). Secondary fetch started pushing northeast at 35-40 kts Thurs AM (6/18) generating 26 ft seas at 56S 174W. In the evening 35 kts southwest fetch held while pushing northeast generating 25 ft seas at 50S 162W while a tiny area of 55 kt south fetch built southeast of there. By Fri AM (6/19) the new fetch was fading from 40 kts from the southwest with seas fading 30 ft at 55S 147W. No additional fetch or sea production occurred. Perhaps some small generic 14-15 sec period swell to result, but it's to be shadowed for the most part relative to CA. Maybe slightly better odds for Hawaii and more so for Tahiti. Something to monitor.
Hawaii: Swell Direction: Swell from the first part of the gale to arrive Thurs mid-day (6/25) with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell fading Fri (6/26) from 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 194-198 degrees
SCal: Swell from the first part of this gale to arrive early Sun AM (6/28) with swell 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell fading on Mon (6/29) from 1.6 ft @ 14 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 211 degrees
NCal: Swell from the first part of this gale to arrive Sun AM (6/28) with swell building to 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell fading on Mon (6/29) from 1.6 ft @ 14 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 209 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 high pressure is to start fading off Central CA with the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient fading quickly Sat AM (6/27) and windswell production dropping out, but with the eddy flow still in.cgiay for Central CA offering some hope for warmer water to develop. No return of the gradient is forecast.
Relative to Hawaii trades to start fading some by Fri (6/26) east of the Islands and then holding with 15 kt trades mainly reaching up to 20N by Sat (6/27), but no further north, meaning no real east windswell is to result for Hawaii. No change is forecast thereafter.
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.cgianet. 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 .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).
(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 Monday (6/22) the daily SOI was down at -28.40. The 30 day average was falling from 0.87 and the 90 day average was falling from -6.54. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a building Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a modest Active Phase of the MJO if not a weak El Nino. High pressure at 1028 mbs was exiting Southeast Australia while low pressure was holding just south of Tahiti. Beyond the same pattern is to hold with some form of low pressure south of Tahiti and high pressure over Southeast Australia, building to 1032 mbs by Sat (6/27). Negative daily SOI's are indicated with the longer term average falling too. This is exactly what is needed. A weak high pressure regime is forecast developing over Tahiti beyond through Tues (6/30). High pressure over Australia could help the Southern Hemi Booster Index (a theoretical component of strong El Ninos) and supportive of storm development under New Zealand. 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 modest west anomalies were over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline, with neutral anomalies from there extending south of Hawaii, and light east anomalies from there to the Galapagos Islands. But down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated a slightly better picture with modest west winds (not just anomalies) between 135E-160E with moderate west anomalies starting at 130E in the east Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to 165E and modest west anomalies from there over the dateline to a point almost south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies were east of there to the Galapagos. Th GFS model also indicated west winds at 18 kts in.cgiay this AM over the Eastern KWGA. This is exactly as hoped for to again reinforce warm water movement to the east. The Active Phase of the MJO was getting a foothold and building (good news). A week from now (6/30) building westerly anomalies are forecast at moderate strength again over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area building over the dateline fading to modest strength north of the dateline and reaching a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are forecast east of there into 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 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 into Sept if a 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 6/21 suggests a modest Active MJO signal was building over the far West Pacific. The Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to push steadily east over the next 15 days approaching the dateline at the end of that window while fading, all but gone 15 days out. The Dynamic model depicts a steady state Active Phase in the West Pacific inching east for the next 15 days. This is great news. But, 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 monitor for but we're not seeing it now. The ultra long range upper level model run on 6/22 depicts a moderate Active pattern over the West Pacific and is expected to track east over the equatorial Pacific through 7/15. A moderate Inactive Phase is to follow developing in the west starting 7/15 making it to the East Pacific by 8/1. As of right now, there are no signs of a upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave lifecycle, as developed last year at this time and eventually squashed continued evolution of last years El Nino. Instead this year, it looks like westerly anomalies are on the return. And if that happens robustly, 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 (6/22) first impressions continue indicating a moderate and well defined warm water/El Nino-like regime in.cgiace and building over the entire equatorial Pacific. It depicts a generalized expansion of coverage near the Galapagos over the last 15 days extending west into the edge of the NINO 3.4 region, but not into it yet and also down the Peruvian Coast and up into Central America. Temperatures in the NINO1.2 region do not look to be getting warmer, but are instead fueling expansion of coverage over the entire region. That is not a concern given what's building subsurface (more below). Along the West African Coast, cool water continues holding it's coverage there. In the past we've used this as a sign of impending Inactive Phase upwelling in the Galapagos area. But that does not appear to be the case now. Compared to the '97 Super El Nino on this date, today's image depicts a very similar warm water pattern, both in terms of coverage and absolute temps. If anything this years event is slightly stronger between 100-120W (impressive). The cold water African signature is also present in the '97 image, and similar in coverage. 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 from 105W-125W and building to the west in coverage. A key component of the later phases of El Nino is the migration east not only subsurface waters, but also surface waters forced by continued anomalous westerly winds pushing across the dateline. That is not occurring yet with the western border of +1.5 deg anomalies at 176W.
The most recent hi-res data (6/21) indicates peak temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador are holding while advecting west. More pockets of warmer anomalies are starting to appear off Peru and Ecuador. 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, 4.6 deg above normal readings were reported 6/9, besting the previous peak, and then stair stepped up from there, to +4.95 degs 6/10 peaking at 5.45 degs on 6/14. Temps were fading slightly at +5.0 degs above normal on 6/19 and +4.85 on 6/20. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg with much more warm water pushing east at depth (see below). No expansion of core coverage was indicated on 6/19-6/22 but it wasn't giving up any ground either. The CDAS Nino 1+2 index spiked at +2.3 degs on 5/23, then fell bottoming out at +0.55 degs June 1, and then quickly climbed back to +2.45 degs on 6/14, holding at +2.1 degs on 6/22. 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. As warm water from a stronger Kelvin Wave lurking just under the surface impacts the Galapagos shortly, temps should spike again. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Indexsuggest water temps peaked at +1.3 degs 6/9 dipping to 1.1 degs on 6/14 and appear to be inching up from there to +1.17 degs on 6/22. Effective temps have held in the +1.0-1.3 range since mid-April. 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) are holding at +1-2 degs above normal. Warmer water previously there is tracking east. Still, warm water continues downwelling from the surface, the result of ongoing westerly anomalies on the surface on the dateline and west of there. So the pipe is open. The big story remains very warm anomalies under the equator in the East Pacific, pushing east into the Galapagos and Ecuador. On 6/13 a significant reorganization started with +5 deg anomalies impacting the Galapagos Islands on 6/16. This is the source of the high temps being reported at the surface there. And a large pool of +6 degs anomalies is building centered at 110W with +5 deg anomalies reaching from 126W to Ecuador and 4+ deg anomalies reaching east from 138W. This pocket is a mixture of warm water driven by an extended WWB that occurred Jan-March.cgius water from an additional WWB in early May. This suggests there are not weeks but perhaps 2 months of warm water still in the pipe (into 7/28). And more warm water continues downwelling on the dateline, the result of westerly anomalies that have been in.cgiay since the May WWB in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area to 6/5. A bit of a stall in westerly anomalies occurred 6/5-6/18, but has now restarted. This second Kelvin Wave should peak on Aug 1, with presumably a third getting ready to start building. .
This is exactly how the '97 El Nino.cgiayed 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 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 6/17 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 180W with a small core at +15 cm fading at 120W and 95W. 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 (6/17) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 172W and the Ecuador coast (easing east) with +1.0-1.5 degs from 166W eastward (loosing a little ground by moving east). +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 152W. And +2 deg anomalies are holding between the coast and 148W. 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 6/17 continues solid, though down some from the last update on 6/7. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the far west equatorial Pacific with strongest velocity filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area to the dateline with modest current reaching south of Hawaii only on the north side of the equator eventually hitting the Galapagos. Weak easterly current was 3 degrees south of the equator over the width of the Pacific. Anomaly wise - moderate west anomalies were in control on the equator over the far West Pacific, fading to modest strength and reaching over the dateline and south of Hawaii to the Galapagos both north and south of the equator. East anomalies are now in.cgiay over and just south of the equator from 120-180W. This is not good. And compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 west velocities and anomalies were raging from 130W-170W. Based on this data, unless something huge happens in the next week or two and holds for a month, there is no way this years event will compare to '97 at least from a current perspective. Suspect all this is a function of the strength of westerly anomalies, which are just now on the rebound after a 8 day pause.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model (PDF Corrected) run 6/22 for the Nino 3.4 region have stepped up some. 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 +1.7 degs by Oct peaking at+1.95 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. Peak temps have continued to toggle between +1.85-1.95 degs. This suggests we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to a full blown moderate.cgius 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. That does not appear likely this year, but July is still an unknown. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 5 months for a 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 mult.cgie 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.cgiay for the past 15 years. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in.cgiay 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 si.cgie 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 co.cgiing 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 co.cgied 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 co.cgiing, 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 the chart continue teasing concerning a series of gale tracking east under the southern tip of New Zealand starting Fri (6/26). Details are shifting with every run of the models, some looking solid, and then completely anemic with the next run. So specific details are not worth posting at this early date. But it is worth monitoring the models over the next few days to see what is projected starting next weekend.
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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