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 Tuesday (8/5) in North and Central CA local local north windswell was producing surf in the thigh to waist high range at top spots and clean. Down in Santa Cruz surf was knee to thigh high with rare waist high sets and clean with only texture outside of the kelp. In Southern California up north windswell was knee to maybe thigh high with textured conditions. Down south waves were small with sets to waist high and nearly chopped later. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean early. The South Shore was continuing to get southern hemi background swell with waves waist high with a few chest high sets. Trades were in effect making for clean conditions. Trade wind generated east windswell was producing waves at chest to shoulder 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 East Shores too. The tropics are quite active relative to Hawaii. Tropical Depression Genevieve continues tracking west positioned 350 nmiles south of the Johnson Atoll but is forecast o build and turning to the northwest. Hurricane Iselle was 1200 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island tracking west producing swell on the 99 degree track to the Big Island and forecast to move very close to Hawaii in the coming days. And Tropical Storm Julio was 2000 nmiles to the east of the Big Island churning west and forecast to intensify some. Typhoon Halong was 600 nmiles south of Southern Japan and tracking north, with winds a shadow of it's former self. 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 later this week. And a small storm was tracking under Southern New Zealand with 40 ft seas, but not aimed well to the north and forecast to fade quickly. Nothing else to follow.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (8/5) trades were holding in the 15-20 kt range over and east of the Islands in association with a gradient produced by weak tropical low pressure south of Hawaii tracking west and weak high pressure at 1024 mbs northeast of the Islands providing support for generation of easterly windswell along east facing shores there. That same weak high pressure system was too far west of California to produce any fetch of interest with no real windswell being produced relative to North and Central CA. No other swell producing fetch of interest was in play.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to build west of North CA resulting in a weak version of the typical Northern California pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino producing north winds at 20 kts by Wed (8/6) increasing in coverage some into Fri (8/8) and building south into the San Francisco area. offering decent 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 by Thursday as the gradient builds to the south, being replaced by a northwesterly flow. 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 at least 15 kts through Friday (8/8) fueled by a gradient between tropical low pressure south and east of the Islands and high pressure to the north. But of far more concern is the approach of both Iselle and Julio. Regardless, at a minimum east windswell is to be in the forecast for east facing shores if not tropical swell (see Tropics below).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
As of Tues AM (8/5):
Tropical Depression Genevieve was positioned 360 nmiles south of the Johnson Atoll (170W) tracking west-northwest with winds 30 kts. Genevieve is to start turning a little more purely to the west-northwest and building with winds to 45 kts Wed PM (7/6) a turning more northwest with winds to 60 kts by Sunday AM (8/10). The GFS model suggest this system to stall just west of the dateline Mon-Tues (8/12). and perhaps making a turn to the northwest beyond. Some long lead model suggest Genevieve could build to Cat 3 status and turning more northeast. Something to monitor.
Hurricane Iselle was tracking east with winds 110 kts (125 mph) positioned 1200 nmiles east-southeast of Hawaii producing 40 ft seas and likely generating 14-15 sec period swell pushing towards the Big Island. Per the forecast models, Iselle has maxed out. Iselle is to continue plodding east-northeast positioned 250 nmiles east-southeast of Oahu on Thurs AM (8/7) with winds down to 65 kts. Swell on the 119 degree track and some north of there. Iselle to track directly over the Big Island Thurs PM and positioned just south of Maui Fri AM (8/12) with winds down to 55 kts, mainly in squalls north of the center. The Big Islands with shred Iselle if all goes according to the forecast track. Iselle to continue on a more easterly track from there with winds fading to 35 kts and fading out. No restrengthening forecast.
Oahu: Expect swell arrival into exposed breaks in Hawaiian waters north of the center on Wed AM (8/6) with pure swell 3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4 ft). Swell to build on Thurs (8/7) pushing 7 ft @ 15 secs late (10 ft) from 90 degrees and heading up from there. Swell peaking at sunrise Fri (8/8) and mainly just pure windswell at 13-14 ft @ 13 secs (13-15 ft) from 90 degrees.
Tropical Storm Julio was 2000 nmiles to the east of the Big Island churning west with winds 50 kts and forecast to intensify some. Julio to continue on an easterly course reaching hurricane status Wed AM (8/6) and peaking on Thurs AM (8/7) with winds building to 75 kts. Julio is forecast to be positioned 130 nmiles east of the north shore of the Big Island on Sun AM (8/10) with winds 65 kts. Best guess has Julio tracking northwest from there missing the Islands but generating larger swell. After that is could stall or recurving north. It's way too early to know.
Typhoon Halong was 650 nmiles south of Southern Japan with winds 85 kts tracking north. Wind speeds to generally hold as Halong approaches the Southern Japan coast, while accelerating, poised to make landfall Friday AM (8/8) with winds 80 kts. A turn to the north-northeast is forecast Sunday (8/10) with Halong in the China Sea with winds down to 40 kts. Halong is forecast to track into North China late Sunday with no recurvature to the northeast into the open Pacific expected.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (8/5) a weak pressure pattern was in play California with no winds of interest occurring. But starting later Wed high pressure at 1026 mbs is to start building off North CA with the usual summer time pressure gradient and north winds building over a small area off Cape Mendocino at 20 kts, with a weak and very limited eddy flow (south winds) nearshore to the Central and South CA coast. No change is forecast till Friday when the gradient fall south some reaching down to near Monterey Bay with no eddy flow in play from there northward. On Sun (8/10) the gradient to build to 25 kts lifting north back to Cape Mendocino with a nearshore eddy flow again setting up from Pt Reyes southward. The gradient to fade to 20 kts on Monday holding into Wednesday with the eddy holding nearshore.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (8/5) a ridge was still pushing southeast over the Central South Pacific reaching down into Antarctica near 155W eliminating support for gale development east of there. A bit of a trough was under New Zealand with 120 kts winds feeding it offering some support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the big ridge in the east is to hold if not build continuing the lockdown in the east. But the trough under New Zealand is to build some pushing well to the north through Wed PM (8/6) pushing over New Zealand and continuing support for gale development there. But that trough it to collapse on Fri (8/8) with gale support gone at that time. Beyond 72 hours a zonal flow to start building Sat (8/9) but turning into a ridge over the South Central Pacific pushing over the Ross Ice Shelf Mon (8/11) continuing the lockdown on the Central and Eastern Pacific. A decent looking trough is forecast building under New Zealand Sun-Mon (8/11) with 150 kt winds building into it later Tues (8/12). Perhaps improved support for gale development is possible if one is to believe the models.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (8/5) swell from another tiny gale that developed Sun (7/27) east of northern New Zealand and built while tracking east was pushing towards California (see South Pacific Gale below). This gale effectively traversed the entire South Pacific. Swell from another gale that developed in the far Southeast Pacific was right behind pushing primarily towards Southern CA. Otherwise high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered east of New Zealand ridging southeast to 56S pushing any fetch trying to track east under New Zealand towards Antarctic Ice. That said, a storm with 55 kt southwest winds developed southwest of New Zealand on Mon PM (8/4) producing 52 ft seas at 51S 155E mostly shadowed by New Zealand relative to California. Perhaps a sliver of 48 ft seas on the south side of the fetch was not shadowed. 50-55 kt southwest fetch pushed east into Tues AM (8/5) generating more 40 ft seas at 52S 167E unshadowed and on the 220 degree path to CA and barely on the 201 degree path to Hawaii. Winds to be fading from 45 kts in the evening with seas fading from 33 ft at 54S 177E (212 degs NCal and not shadowed by Tahiti, 214 degs SCal and shadowed, 195 degs HI). Perhaps a small pulse of background swell to result for all.
Over the next 72 hours a broad gale is to develop in the South Tasman Sea Wed PM (8/6) with 45 kt winds aimed northeast producing 36 ft seas at 50S 154E targeting East New Zealand up into Fiji. The gale is to New Zealand directly Thurs AM (8/7) with 36 ft seas just off the southeast Coast of New Zealand proper. Swell possible for Fiji and east New Zealand. But all swell energy is to be shadowed relative to the US West Coast.
A small gale was building in the far Southeast Pacific on Tues (8/5) with 45 kt south winds mostly encased in Antarctic Ice. By evening 40 kt southwest winds are to be lifting northeast with seas building to 28 ft at 59S 120W targeting Southern CA. Fetch is to turn more towards Chile on Wed AM (8/6) with seas 28 ft at 56S 111W outside the SCal swell window. Maybe a pulse of background swell to result for Southern CA on Wed (8/13) from 175-180 degrees.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
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.
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
Southeast Pacific Gale
On Sat (8/2) a weak gale developed in the far Southeast Pacific generating 35-40 kt south winds aimed due north with a tiny area of 26 ft seas developing in the evening at 42S 128W targeting California. 35-40 kt south wind held into Sun AM (8/3) with 26-28 ft seas at 38S 120W targeting Southern CA down into South America. 26 ft seas continued pushing north into the evening at 38S 112W then faded. A small pulse of 14-15 secs period swell to result for Southern CA.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat (8/9) building to 2 ft @ 17 secs late (3.0 ft). Swell to peak on Sun (8/10) at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell holding Mon (8/11) at 2.5 ft @ 14 secs 93.5 ft) then fading late afternoon. Swell Direction: 180-185 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (8/10) only at exposed breaks pushing 2.3 ft @ 16 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell to continue Tues (8/11) at 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading out fast thereafter. Swell Direction: 175-180 degrees
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.
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 Sat (8/9) generating the normal gradient over Cape Mendocino resulting in north winds mainly at 20 kts there but pushing 25 kts by Sun producing more but limited windswell through the weekend with an eddy flow becoming well established relative to Central CA by Sunday (8/9). The gradient and northerly windswell to start fading Monday and be all but gone later Tues (8/12) as low pressure starts building in the Gulf of Alaska (more below).
For Hawaii by Thurs evening (8/7) the concern is projected to turn to the direct impact of tropical weather over the Hawaiian Islands (see tropical section for details).
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 20-25 kt west winds initially, but fading over the weekend. Additional tropical energy from the far West Pacific to move into the Gulf reinforcing this pattern some early next week to. And two tropical systems (Genevieve and Julio) may or may not play into the situation too. Plenty 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 Tuesday (8/5) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -25.55. The 30 day average was down some to -4.51 and the 90 day average was up some at 0.42. 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 was south of Tahiti on Sun-Tues (8/5) causing the SOI to fall. But high pressure is to be right behind with no immediate end in sight (meaning the SOI will turn positive again).
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak east anomalies over the eastern Maritime Continent turning to moderate westerly anomalies over the dateline and reaching east of a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies continued on to the Galapagos. tropical systems were in control of the Kelvin Wave generation Area, a good thing. A week from now (8/13) modest easterly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to light east anomalies on the dateline turning neutral south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are projected east of there to the Galapagos. There has not been a extended period of trades so far this year, and we're over 218 days into the year. If anything the trend is clearly 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 by 7/11 they were back trending light westerly and holding through 7/20. A legitimate Westerly Wind Burst formed on 7/23 and held through 7/30, moderating but still westerly into 8/5. Another Kelvin Wave (weak at this point) is developing. Compared to La Nina where enhanced trades (20+ kts) would be blowing non-stop, we're in great shape and have been all year.
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 impacted Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru, May and June. 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 8/4 are generally in sync. They both suggest a weak Inactive MJO signal is in effect in the far West Pacific reaching to the dateline. 5 days out it is to hold per the Dynamic Model but start fading per the Statistic model. And 8 days out it is to be gone per the Statistic model, while the Dynamic model has it continuing unchanged for the next 15 days. The ultra long range upper level model now indicates a building Inactive Phase is over the West Pacific. It's to stall and hold through 8/20, then track slowly east and fade over into Central America by 9/4. A dead neutral pattern to follow through 9/14. Todays run is a downgrade from previous model runs, with a stronger Inactive Phase depicted. This model has tended to overhype Inactive Phases so far this year. As such, we suspect further weaken to express itself as we move into August. 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 (8/4), a warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, but is in decline. That said - it is actually looking better with today image compared to the last one on 7/31. Still 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. All this only 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 8/1 depicts one small pocket of elevated surface water heights +5 cm just northwest of the Galapagos region, a recent addition. Otherwise +5 cm anomalies are building over the dateline. Subsurface models as of 8/1 depict -2-3 deg anomalies from 140W extending east to 120W. A building pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies is 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, but 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 8/5 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's true, 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 no swell producing fetch of interest 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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Mavericks Invitational Pieces Featuring Stormsurf:
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
Free Stormsurf Stickers - Get your free stickers! - More details Here
Read all the latest news and happenings on our News Page here
Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table