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.
On Saturday (8/2) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing surf in the waist high range and textured at exposed breaks with some fog in the mix. Down in Santa Cruz surf was mostly flat with occasional thigh high sets and clean with light fog. In Southern California up north windswell was barely hitting the knee high range and clean but fogged in. Down south waves were also very small with sets to waist high and clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean early. The South Shore was still getting tiny southern hemi swell with waves waist high with some bigger sets and trades in effect making for clean conditions. Trade wind generated east windswell was producing waves at waist high and chopped at exposed breaks on the East Shore.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell producing fetch for the North Pacific was limited to local windswell for Central California and East Shores of the Hawaiian Islands plus tropically produced swell for Hawaii. In fact, the tropics are forecast to really ramp up relative to Hawaii. Tropical Depression Genevieve continues tracking east positioned 420 nmiles south of Hawaii serving to enhance trades and east windswell there. And minimal Hurricane Iselle was 1750 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island tracking west with another forecast forming behind it. Super Typhoon Halong was 700 nmiles east of the Northern Philippines with winds 135 kts and building, forecast to turning north. And Tropical Storm Nakri was just off the South Korean coast. In the southern hemisphere a weak gale developed Sun (7/27) east of Northern New Zealand and tracked east through the northern reaches of the Southeast Pacific with 28-30 ft seas. A semi decent pulse of swell to result for California down into South America. Beyond a pair of weak gale are to track southeast under New Zealand on Tues and Thurs (8/7) with 32 ft seas, but not aimed well to the north. Perhaps a better system is to develop southeast of New Zealand on Fri (8/9) with 32 ft seas perhaps offering better odds of swell production (assuming it forms at all).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (8/2) trades were holding in the 15 kt range over and east of the Islands in association with a gradient produced by the remnants of a tropical storm (Genevieve) tracking south of Hawaii and weak high pressure at 1020 mbs northeast of the Islands and ridging off the US West Coast offering minimal support for generation of easterly windswell along east facing shores there. That same weak high pressure system at 1020 mbs was centered in the northeastern Gulf of Alaska ridging into the Pacific Northwest generating a very weak version of the usual summer time pressure gradient over North California producing north winds at 20 kts there resulting in bare minimal north local short period windswell for exposed breaks in Central CA.
Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast relative to the US West Coast with north winds over North CA building at 20 kts pushing 25 kts by Mon (8/4) then back down to 20 kts thereafter offering only marginally better odds for development of short period north windswell for exposed breaks in Central CA. The nearshore eddy (south winds) relative to Central CA is to fade some for the weekend then rebuild starting Monday (8/4). No change is forecast relative to southern CA though.
Discounting any direct impact of tropical weather, easterly trades relative to Hawaii to hold east of and over the Islands at 15 kts through Tues (8/5) fueled by a gradient first between the remnants of Genevieve passing south of Hawaii on Sat (8/2) and then another tropical wave following the same path Sun-Tues (8/5) and weak high pressure to the north. Windswell is looking like a constant for east facing shores.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
As of Sat AM (8/2):
Tropical Depression Genevieve was positioned 420 nmiles south of the Big Island of Hawaii tracking east with winds 30 kts serving only to enhance trade winds some. This motion is to continue into Tues (8/5) with Genevieve pushing south of the Johnson Atoll and building some to 45 kts and perhaps making a turn to the northwest beyond. Some long lead model suggest Genevieve could regroup near the dateline reaching Cat 3 status and making moves to recurve north. Something to monitor.
Hurricane Iselle was tracking east with winds 70 kts positioned 1750 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii producing 19 ft seas and likely generating some small 12-13 sec period swell pushing towards the Big Island and expected to arrive on Tues PM (8/5) near sunset. Iselle to continue on a generally westerly heading with winds in the 70 kts range into Thurs AM (8/7) putting it 400 nmiles southeast of the Big Island with winds then dropping to 45 kts. The long lead models are split with a track generally centered on a path moving directly over the Big Island ranging in strength from tropical storm status to Cat 4 hurricane. And beyond several models suggest a turn to the north and northeast after passing Hawaii. It's way to early to believe any of this, but certainly bears monitoring. Swell possible for east facing shores in the Wed-Thurs (8/7) timeframe.
Tropical Storm Nakri: A broad area of tropical low pressure that was previously circulating northeast of Taiwan on Thurs (7/31) has weakly developed and was positioned 180 nmiles southwest of Korea on Sat AM (8/2) with winds 40 kts. No swell relative to our forecast area is expected. No recurvature to the northeast is forecast.
Super Typhoon Halong was 750 nmiles east of the Northern Philippines with winds 135 kts (155 mph) tracking west-northwest. Additional strengthening is projected into Sun AM (8/30 with winds reaching 140 kts (161 mph) and turning more to the west-northwest. A turn to the northwest and north is forecast through Tues (8/5) with winds falling from 120 kts. This system is to be approaching Southern Japan on Thurs (8/7). all models suggest a track moving over South Japan or into the China Sea with no recurvature to the northeast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (8/2) weak high pressure was positioned off Central and North CA at 1022 mbs producing a modest version of the usual summer time pressure gradient and north winds at 20 kts over a small area off Cape Mendocino, with an eddy flow nearshore to the Central and South CA coast. No change is forecast other than north winds building over Cape Mendocino to near 25 kts on late Sun (8/3), then fluctuating down to 20 kts on Tues-wed (8/6) then back to 25 kts on Thurs and holding into Sat (8/9). Some version of a nearshore eddy flow is to continue for Central and South CA.
Jetstream - On Saturday (8/2) a ridge was pushing southeast from New Zealand at 140 kts tracking into the Ross Ice Shelf and continuing inland over Antarctica. from that point east a total lockdown of the South Pacific Ocean was in effect with no jetstream support for the development of low pressure at lower levels of the atmosphere. But, something that vaguely resembled a trough was trying to organize south of New Zealand through winds feeding up into it from under Australia were only 90 kts, not providing any support for gale development yet. Over the next 72 hours the big ridge is to track east and loose definition while the prot-trough under New Zealand turns into another modest ridge pushing into the Ross Ice Shelf and tracking east. again, no support for gale development is indicated. Beyond 72 hours starting Wed (8/6) the southern branch of the jet is to turn more zonal running more or less flat west to east a weaker ridge to fill in behind southeast of New Zealand but with winds only 100 kts, having a bit less of an influence through Tues (8/5). After that a zonal flow is to set up with the southern branch of the jet running float west to east with a trough supposedly starting to build under New Zealand on Fri (8/8) with 120 kts winds barely feeding up into it and getting somewhat more organized beyond. Some support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere over the Southwest Pacific is possible then.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (8/2) weak and small background swell from a tiny gale under New Zealand last week was still hitting Hawaii pushing towards the US West Coast (see Tiny New Zealand Gale below). Another tiny gale developed Sun (7/27) east of northern New Zealand and built some while tracking east (see South Pacific Gale below). It had effectively traversed the entire South Pacific. Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs was centered just northeast of New Zealand ridging southeast to 52S pushing any fetch trying to track east under New Zealand towards Antarctic Ice. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold east of New Zealand driving a southeast bound storm track. On Mon (8/4) a gale with 45 kt winds is to try and make headway into the Southwest Pacific from under New Zealand but is to get shunted southeast. 36 ft seas are forecast at 55S 165E at 18Z, but are to be shredded and gone by nightfall. Doubtful any swell will result. A second system to follow directly behind on Tues AM (8/5) with a small area of 50 kt southwest winds forecast generating 36 ft seas at 53S 173E, crashing southeast in the evening with 32 ft seas at 58S 171W crashing into the Ross Ice Shelf directly thereafter. Maybe a pulse of background swell to result for HI and the US West Coast.
On Thurs AM (7/31) a gale tracked southeast under New Zealand bound for the Ross Ice Shelf producing 45 kt west winds and seas 36 ft over a tiny area at 56S 165E. But the southeast track and small fetch area is almost guarantees no swell was produced radiating northeast up into our forecast area. A quick fade occurred by evening with remnants of this system impacting the Ross Ice Shelf late. No swell to result.
On Sat (8/2 ) a weak gale was developing in the far Southeast Pacific generating 35-40 kt south winds aimed due north with a tiny area of 26 ft seas expected at 42S 127W targeting California. 35-40 kt south winds to hold into Sun AM (8/3) with 26 ft seas at 38S 115W targeting Southern CA down into South America. Maybe a tiny pulse of 14-15 secs periods well to result for Southern CA with luck. Will monitor.
Tiny New Zealand Gale
On Tues PM (7/22) a small area of 40 kt west winds built under New Zealand resulting in seas of 32 ft over a tiny area at 59S 158E (215 degs NCal and SCal and unshadowed by Tahiti, completely shadowed by New Zealand relative to Hawaii). Winds barely held on at 40 kts Wed AM (7/23) while lifting northeast with seas 28 ft at 53S 167E (barely in the 210 degree path to Hawaii and 218 degs NCal/220 degs SCal and unshadowed). This system was gone by evening.
California: Expect swell arrival on Sun (8/3) with swell 1.2 ft @ 16 secs (2 ft). Swell peaking Mon (8/4) with swell 1.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 215-220
South Pacific Gale
A new gale developed Sun AM (7/27) with a tiny area of 40 kt southwest winds and seas building to 26 ft over a infinitesimal area at 40S 163W. 40 kt south winds held in the evening with 26 ft seas holding at 39S 159W. The Jason-2 satellite passed right over this area and reported seas 24.5 ft with one reading to 28.9 ft. The model appeared a bit overhyped. On Mon AM (7/28) 35-40 kt south winds eased east with 27 ft seas at 40S 154W. The Jason-2 satellite reported average seas at 21.5 ft with a peak reading to 26.4 ft. The model appeared to be overhyping the seas. In the evening the fetch started growing in coverage at 35 kts from the southwest with 26 ft seas at 39S 147W. This system continued east on Tues AM (7/29) with 35-40 kt southwest winds continuing to build in coverage with finally a respectable size and 28 ft seas at 38S 140W (195 degs NCal, 198 degs SCal and unshadowed). In the evening winds built more from the south at 40 kts with seas 28 ft at 38S 135W (197 degs SCal, 192 degs NCal and unshadowed). Winds built to 40 kts more solidly Wed AM (7/30) from the south with seas to 30 ft roughly at 40S 130W (187 degs NCal, 190 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over this fetch at 18Z and reported a 15 reading average of 26.2 ft with one reading to 28.6 ft but overall the pass suggested the model was overhyping the seas. This system held in the evening but with fetch aimed more easterly with more 28-30 ft seas over a broader area at 36S 125W aimed well to the northeast. On Thurs AM (7/31) 35-40 kt southwest winds were in play tracking east with 31 ft seas at 35S 120W (181 degs NCal, 182 degs SCal) then moving east of the CA swell window thereafter. This system developed is one worth monitoring.
Small swell is expected for Hawaii but with modest swell for CA possible. The significant wave heights reported by the hindcast model frames seem suspiciously high. that fact is not accounted for in the below surf forecasts.
Hawaii: Swell to peak Sun (8/3) at 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs early (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft). Residuals fading Mon (8/4) from 2 ft @ 12-13 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction 180-190 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival later Tues (8/5) with pure swell building to 1.5 ft @ 18-19 secs later (2.5 ft), though that might be on the high side. Swell to continue upwards on Wed (8/6) peaking near 2.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 with set to 5.0 ft) later. Thurs (8/7) swell to hold at 3.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (4 ft with sets to 5 ft). Friday (8/8) swell holds near 4.0 ft @ 13 secs (4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 185-195 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (8/6) building to 2.1 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft) later. Thurs (8/7) swell to peak at 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft with sets to near 5 ft). Friday (8/8) swell to hold with lesser period energy intermixing at 3 ft @ 14 secs (4.0 ft). Swell fading Saturday from 2.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 185-195 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 hold off North CA into Fri (8/8) with the normal gradient in play over Cape Mendocino resulting in north winds mainly at 20 kts there but pushing 25 kts on Friday producing limited windswell through the workweek and into the weekend (8/9). And an eddy flow to remain in effect for South and Central CA for the week but then collapsing relative to Central CA on Thurs (8/7) with the high shifting south some. Until that point in time clean conditions are expected with upwelling suppressed and support for development of more warm water continuing along the CA coast. The warm water buildup relative to CA remains most impressive.
For Hawaii, high pressure north of the state is to continue holding with easterly trades at 15 kts through Thursday (8/7) supported by tropical low pressure to the south and east. Perhaps two 6 hour gaps in the tropical lows is to occur Tues and Wed PM (8/6) with east trades falling below 15 kts and windswell dropping some. But by Thurs evening (8/7) the concern might turn to the direct impact of tropical weather over the Hawaiian Islands (see tropical section for details).
And if one is to believe the models, tropical energy associated with TS Nakri is to traverse the North Pacific via the Aleutian Islands on Thurs (8/7) and start developing in Northwest Gulf of Alaska on Fri (8/8) with 25+ kt northwest winds building over the weekend. Something to monitor.
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).
On Saturday (8/2) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to 3.82. The 30 day average was up some to -1.38 and the 90 day average was up some at 0.30. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. Low pressure is forecast to build just south of Tahiti on Sun-Mon (8/4) likely causing the SOI to fall. But high pressure is to be right behind but easing by Fri (8/8).
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak west anomalies over the eastern Maritime Continent moderating to weak westerly over the dateline and reaching east of a point south of Hawaii and on mid-way to the Galapagos. Neutral anomalies were east of there reaching over the Galapagos and Ecuador. Moderate plus strength westerly anomalies were in the InterTropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) near between 2N to 10N extending from 160E the entire width of the Pacific into Mexico. A week from now (8/10) weak easterly anomalies are forecast over the far western equatorial Maritime Continent turning weak westerly on the dateline forecast holding to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are projected east of there to the Galapagos. Westerly anomalies to continue in the ITCZ to a point south of Hawaii. The reality is there has not been a extended period of trades so far this year, and we're over 214 days into the year. If anything the trend is towards westerly anomalies. Since the big westerly winds bursts of Jan-April, there was a neutral period in May to early June. Then the TOA array (surface sensors - the ground truth) indicated westerly anomalies started re-developing on 6/25 west of the dateline holding moderate through 7/6, then turned neutral on 7/7 but were back trending light westerly on 7/11 holding through 7/20. A legitimate Westerly Wind Burst formed on 7/23 and held through 7/30, moderating but still westerly into 8/1. Another Kelvin Wave (weak at this point) is in development. Compared to La Nina where enhanced trades (20+ kts) would be blowing non-stop, we're in great shape.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
Previously a series of WWBs occurred 1/8-4/20 creating a large Kelvin Wave that is now impacting Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru. And weak westerly anomalies continued through the month of May. This was very similar situation that led up to the big El Nino's of '82/32 and '97/98. But in those instances the WWBs and Kelvin Wave generation progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months.
An article presenting a Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and this 2014 WWB event has been posted here.
A second analysis from 5/28 is posted here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 8/1 are generally in sync. They both suggest a weak Inactive MJO signal is in effect in the far West Pacific reaching to 155E. 5 days out it is to build slightly to the east nearly reaching the dateline 8 days out and holding through 15 days per both models. The dynamic model is now a bit more aggressive on this trend. The ultra long range upper level model indicates a weak Inactive Phase is pushing over the West Pacific. It's to track steadily east reaching into Central America by Aug 27. A dead neutral pattern to follow through 9/11. Todays run is actually an upgrade from previous model runs, and those were upgrades from run before that. In short, this model is continually downgrading the strength of the coming Inactive Phase, just like every other predicted Inactive Phase before it so far this year. We suspect further weaken to express itself as we move into August too. We're looking for a very weak MJO pattern biased Active if an El Nino were developing. This is what happened during July, even though the model suggested an Inactive Phase was to develop. This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some impact on the atmosphere above. 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 (7/31), a warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, but is in steep decline. Cool water is depicted along the immediate Peruvian Coast, and then in pockets just west of the Galapagos, most pronounced in the heart of the Nino 3.4 Region between 120W-160W, looking very much like a small La Nina was setting up. +0.5 degs C anomalies were over the dateline, likely the start of a new Kelvin Wave. Hi-res SST data depicts nothing different, but with the one small pocket of +4.0 deg anomalies that was holding off Central Peru now vanished. This confirms that the bulk of the massive Kelvin Wave generated by Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April and that erupted at the surface near Ecuador in late May peaking late June is now dispersing. Reinforcements are needed, but are not coming immediately. Water temps off Peru are the proverbial tail of the dog, while Westerly Wind Bursts are the nose. The issue remains getting more warm water into the pipe to eventually erupt near the Galapagos.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California as would be expected this time of year. And serious warm water is building along the California coast, the exact opposite of the trend of the past 3+ years. Waters temps in San Francisco are 63 degrees. Very rare. But this is expected if El Nino were in play. This is significant in that is suggests the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weakened relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is mostly normal/neutral except for cool water streaming off Southern Chile pushing west reaching up to the equator just south of Hawaii feeding the cool pool developing on the equator there. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific remains impressive, while the South Pacific presents cooler than normal.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are in decline in the east. Residual warm subsurface water from the previous Kelvin Wave dissipated on 7/31. And -1 degs C anomalies are in place just west of the Galapagos at depth. Temps previously peaked at +6 degs C above normal on 6/21. Satellite data from 7/27 depicts no elevated surface water heights in the Galapagos region. But +5 cm anomalies are building over the dateline. Subsurface models as of 7/27 depict -1-2 deg anomalies from 170W extending east to 100W. A building pocket of +1.0 to +2.0 deg anomalies are theoretically in place under the dateline and building while easing east suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave trying to take shape, driven by westerly anomalies west of the dateline. At this point it's what can be classified a weak Kelvin Wave and would not even warm waters above what they already are in the Galapagos region. If westerly anomalies continue, they will feed more warm water into the building Kelvin Wave. A solid Kelvin Wave is required if El Nino is to develop. This means a strong WWB or prolonged westerly anomalies are required. And even at that, it would take 2-3 months before the leading edge of it will arrive at the Galapagos (~Sept 30).
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 8/2 are unchanged suggest water temps building to +1.0 deg C by early Oct peaking at +1.45 deg C (down from the +1.55 deg C predicted in early July and +1.75 in May) holding into Jan 2015, then fading. Interestingly this model actually depicts warm waters dissipating in the Nino1+2 regions in August then redeveloping in the Nino 3.4 regions in Sept and gaining momentum and areal coverage while building back into Nino1.2 into Jan 2015 link.
Analysis: The massive Kelvin Wave that was generated by successive Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April has erupted in the Galapagos region and is now all but dispersed. The WWB ended on 5/1 with all warm water from it arriving 3 months later over the Galapagos, or by 8/1. The immediate future looks like neutral water temps will taking over the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle in the next few weeks with no immediate reinforcements projected. All evidence clearly suggest the warm pool is in rapid decline exactly as projected. But a new weak WWB and west anomalies appear to be developing in the West Pacific (starting 6/28). But even if it were to continue, it would not reach the Galapagos till 9/28. So there's a 8 week 'hole' with no significant warm water to resupply the Ecuador triangle between 8/1 and 9/28. This will likely cause water temps to decease in the Nino1+2 regions, likely to near neutral. That means that even if another weak Kelvin Wave were to arrive in the Galapagos, it will have to warm water temps from dead neutral, rather than acting as reinforcements to already warmed waters. And if no additional Westerly Wind Bursts occur, warm water in all Nino regions will dissipate completely. The good news is that does not appear to be the case, with westerly winds and a new Kelvin Wave currently in development (strength TBD).
Assuming westerly anomalies continue in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (west of the dateline), more warm water will migrate east. This is a reasonable assumption seeing how there has been virtually no easterly anomalies for the first 7 months of this year. And trades tend to weaken during Fall months in the northern hemi, meaning we're just now starting to reach the point in time where Westerly Wind Bursts should have the best support for development. Current thinking is that we just coming out of the 'upwelling' Phase of the Kelvin Wave relative to wind anomalies, and the resulting cooler water is in the pipe pushing east. It's normal after a downwelling Kevin Wave impacts the Ecuador coast, especially a massive one like just experienced, that some period of upwelling (cooling) occurs. And for that to be true, the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle would be facilitated by a lack of westerly winds in the West Pacific (as what occurred during May and June). Most El Nino's do not develop till the Fall, including the Super El Nino of '83/83. Only a few (namely the '97 Super El Nino) developed and survived strong through the summer and over the span of an entire year. A more 'normal' development life cycle would favor the alternating 'downwelling/upwelling' Kelvin Wave cycle. See currently Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here. Notice the alternating eastward migrating 'cool' and 'warm' cycles (upwelling/downwelling Kelvin Waves).
The CFSv2 model depicts exactly this scenario playing out, with water temps in Nino1.2 fading in August then redeveloping in September, exactly filling the 'hole' scenario described above. The redevelopment of westerly winds started in July and is hoped to continue into at least August if not beyond, resulting in a new Kelvin Wave. All evidence at this time suggests this is the case. Monitoring surface wind anomalies in the West Pacific remains critical to determining the future of this years potential El Nino pattern.
And finally, there's the 'feedback loop' consideration. We suspect it might already be in-play. The largest argument in favor of that is the total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of multiple tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline. And now the sudden pulse of tropical activity, in the East, Central and West Pacific, especially the hurricane pattern currently developing near Hawaii, is most telling. The only argument against the feedback loop is the development of a west moving Pacific Counter Current, a dissipating Kelvin Wave and the degradation of peak water temps in the Ecuador triangle. But all these could easily just be symptoms of the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Only once the ocean and atmosphere are coupled on a global level (that is, the ocean has imparted enough heat into the atmosphere to start changing the global jetstream pattern) can one begin to have confidence that a feedback loop is developing and a fully matured El Nino can result. About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. We have reach that threshold. Assuming current cooling of the equatorial Pacific is temporary and associated with the upwelling Kelvin Wave phase, then one can conclude the ocean and atmosphere are now linked/teleconnected. Considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, it seem hard to believe that some global level 'change' is not already well entrenched, and has been developing since perhaps as early and Oct of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). Monitoring the number, location and track of tropical systems in the North Pacific over the next few weeks will help to sort things out, as will monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which remain unimpressive at this time). But at this time odds are stacking in favor of a global telconnection now being established. If that'strue, deepening of the ENSO cycle could begin in the next month or so, and perhaps rapidly once it starts.
But for now we'll remain cautious. Overall the immediate outlook remains unchanged, but potentially trending towards something that would be considered warm by Aug-Sept 2014. At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Regardless of the WWBs etc, we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern at this time with neither any form of El Nino in-play. But given all current signs, atmospheric transition appears to be underway, and hopefully intensifying into Fall. Still this is a far better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. And it seems apparent we've recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. We've turned the corner, but we'll remain cautious and not say to much yet, especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours on Thurs AM (8/7) a broad gale is to build under New Zealand with 40-45 kt southwest winds getting purchase on a broad area of exposed ocean with seas building to 28 ft over a solid area aimed east-northeast with embedded seas to 32 ft at 50S 170E. This system is to fade in the evening with 35-40 kts winds trying to hold on in the evening and 28 ft seas at 50S 180W. this system to fade fast thereafter.
Theoretically a more organized but small storm to develop on Fri (8/8) just southeast of New Zealand tracking east with 55 kt winds and 35 ft seas late building to 36 ft on Sat (8/9) lifting gently east-northeast. Something to monitor.
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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