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.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 16.7 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 16.3 secs from 188 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 16.5 secs. Wind northwest 6-10 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.4 ft @ 16.7 secs from 200 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.2 ft @ 16.5 secs from 189 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.7 ft @ 15.0 secs from 188 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 4.9 ft @ 9.0 secs with swell 1.5 ft @ 16.0 secs. Wind west 10-14 kts. Water temp 62.1 degs.
On Thursday (8/6) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing surf in the thigh to maybe waist high range at best breaks and weak and heavily textured and gray early. Down in Santa Cruz a second small south angled southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist high on the sets and clean but foggy. In Southern California up north windswell was hitting producing waves at knee to maybe thigh high and very weak and heavily textured and foggy. Down south waves were waist high with some bigger ones on the sets and lined up but pretty textured and gray. Hawaii's North Shore was waist to chest high with some bigger set waves and reasonably clean wrapping in from the north and northeast. The South Shore was getting minimal background southern hemi swell with waves thigh to waist high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind and Guillermo generated east windswell with waves head high or better chest high and modestly chopped from northeast trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no large scale swell producing weather systems were in.cgiay or forecast. Regarding windswell, tradewind generated windswell was combining with swell from Guillermo to produce rideable waves on exposed east shores. Relative to California high pressure was starting to ridge into the North Coast with windswell marginally on the increase. For the southern hemisphere swell from the second in a pair of modest gales that produced 29 ft seas in the Southeast Pacific on Wed AM (7/29) was hitting. But beyond a .cgiit upper level flow continues to suppress storm production over the bulk of the South Pacific. Our focus remains of the developing El Nino.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (8/6) no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific. High pressure at 1028 mbs was in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska ridging east into the Pacific Northwest generating a developing pressure gradient over North California producing 25 kt north winds there, and starting to result in windswell along exposed breaks of North and Central CA. For Hawaii the same high pressure system was generating trades at 15 kts east and northeast of the Islands, while the weak remnants of Guillermo (now at nearly Depression status) were 120 nmiles north of the Big Island offering additional windswell into the mix for Northeast Shores.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure and the gradient relative to California is to peak Thursday night and be fading by Fri AM (8/7) with winds dropping from 25 kts, down to barely 20 kts Sat AM and starting to fall south into Central CA. Limited windswell to be fading Friday into Saturday if even rideable then. North winds 15 kts on Sunday for Central CA offering no real windswell production potential. Relative to Hawaii Guillermo's remnants to track to a point 40 nmiles north of Kauai by Fri AM (8/7) with winds 30 kts (Depression status) with windswell from it fading in Oahu along east facing shores (dropping from 5 ft @ 9 secs - 4 ft faces). And trades to hold at 15 kts east of the Islands putting windswell into the mix continuing into early Sunday (8/9) then fading. No other swell source was indicated.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (as of 12Z Thurs 8/6)
Super Typhoon Soudelor peaked at 18Z on Monday (8/3) with winds 155 kts (178 mph) positioned 850 nmiles south of Tokyo Japan still heading west-northwest with seas 50 ft (all aimed west). A slow fade set in thereafter with winds down to 140 kts (161 mph) Tues AM (8/4) still heading the same direction with seas forecast at 48 ft. Soudelor was 700 nmiles east-southeast of Taiwan on Thurs AM (8/6) with winds down to 90 kts and forecast to be 150 nmiles east of Central Taiwan on Fri AM (8/7) with winds rebuilding to 105 kts and then tracking over Central Taiwan in the evening and then into mainland China Sat AM (8/8). Once inland some recuravture to the northeast is expected by Mon AM (8/10), but no wind energy of interest is to be left then.
Tropical Storm Hilda was 1450 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii on Thurs AM (8/6) with winds 35 kts tracking east, forecast to reach hurricane status Sun AM (8/9) with winds 65 kts positioned 600 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island. At turn to the west-northeast to follow with slow weakening setting in. The GFS model has Hilda moving just south of the Big Island on Thurs (8/13).
And yet another tropical system is suggested developing well east of Hilda later this weekend tracking west.
And another tropical system is forecast forming behind Soudelor 1200 nmiles east of mainland China on Fri (8/7) lifting northwest, then stalling off Japan over the weekend before rebuilding some while tracking north-northwest just off the Kurils moving almost over Kamchatka. All fetch is to be in it's east quadrant aimed north targeting the West Aleutians. No swell production relative to our forecast area is indicated.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (8/6) high pressure at 1028 mbs was in the Gulf of Alaska trying to push into the Pacific Northwest generating a pressure gradient and northwest winds at 20-25 kts over North CA. More of the same is forecast early Friday with north winds 25-30 kts over extreme North CA before fading and falling south into Central CA on Saturday producing northwest winds 15-20 kts nearshore fading to 15 kts on Sunday (8/9), then less than 15 kts by Monday. That to hold Tuesday and then 15 kt north winds rebuild nearshore from Monterey Bay to Pt Conception Wed (8/12), rapidly building Thursday with 20 kt north winds from Pt Conception up to Cape Mendocino and 25 kt in the north end of that range driven by high pressure again building off Oregon.
On Thursday AM (8/6) the jetstream continued well .cgiit with the southern branch falling south from New Zealand ridging down to at least 75S over the Southwest Pacific then rebounding some but not till 115W, east of the Southern CA swell window. Also a weak and steep trough was moving through the Tasman Sea with barely 110 kt winds flowing up into it offering a smidgen of hope for gale development there.The northern branch of the jet was tracking east as it has all summer from a point north of Northern New Zealand on the 29S latitude line an embedded pocket of 160 kt winds over the Tasman Sea and then 160 kt winds over the far East Pacific. A broad trough was south of Tahiti supporting a cutoff low there that has been in.cgiace for over a week now. Still, no support for gale formation that could support swell production in lower levels of the atmosphere were indicated. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the ridge in the southern branch of the jet moderating but building east, with the net effect being a flat flow running to the east down at 70S with no troughs forecast. The trough in the Tasman Sea is to quickly be undercut and disappear by Fri AM (8/7). And the trough in the northern branch of the jet positioned south of Tahiti is to hold into Sat AM (8/8) then start fading and falling southeast. Though not contributing to swell production, it could serve to drive the SOI more negative contributing to El Ninos evolution. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with a well .cgiit flow in control. A trough is forecast developing in the extreme Southeast Pacific on Mon (8/10) with 140 kt winds pushing northeast offering decent support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere, but so far east as to target only Chile and maybe Peru. A ridge is to build under Tahiti setting up high pressure there Sun-Wed (8/12) but then a new trough is forecast in that area by Thurs-Fri (8/14) perhaps helping to send the SOI back negative. But there's to be no support for gale development for the South Pacific.
On Thursday AM (8/6) strong pressure at 1028 mbs was positioned east of New Zealand locked between the .cgiit jetstream flow and ridging south to 62S. It was driving the storm track south over Antarctic Ice. A small gale developed Wed PM (8/5) southeast of New Zealand producing 40 kt west winds and seas to 28 ft at 58S 162W aimed east. Those winds started fading Thurs AM (8/6) from 35 kts with seas fading from 26 ft at 57S 150W. Another broad but poorly organized low was over and south of New Zealand producing 21 ft seas in the Tasman Sea targeting Fiji at 44S 158E. And swell from the second in a pair of gales that developed in the Southeast Pacific on Wed AM (7/29) was hitting California (see Second Southeast Pacific Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system east of New Zealand is to continue pushing south to 62S and squashing gale formation. West of it the low over new Zealand is to try and hold, but only result in producing a gradient with the high to it's east resulting in 40 kt south winds targeting Antarctica and sweeping east. No other fetch is to result.
Second Southeast Pacific Gale
Another gale formed in the extreme Southeast Pacific Tues PM (7/28) generating a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds pushing northeast and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Wed AM (7/29) those winds stalled holding at 35 kts over a larger area aimed due north generating 28 ft seas at 52S 126W targeting mainly Southern California. In the evening fetch is to be shrinking and tracking east at 35 kt from the south with 25 ft seas fading at 50S 118W aimed well to the northeast. That fetch is to fade Thurs AM (7/30) and outside of the SCal swell window. Another small pulse of swell is possible for Southern CA down into Mexico and Peru.
SCal: Swell fading on Fri (8/7) from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) Swell Direction: 185 degrees
NCal: Swell fading on Fri (8/7) from 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft). Residuals fading Sat (8/8) from 1.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 183 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 be generally weak along the North CA coast Sun-Wed (8/12) with no gradient and north winds capable of generating northerly windswell forecast. By Thurs (8/130 high pressure is to get a bit more organized perhaps generating 20 kt northwest winds along the North and Central coast perhaps setting up weak windswell but positioned nearshore, with poor conditions in control.
Relative to Hawaii trades to continue at 15 kts from the east covering a good sized area east of the Islands from Sun-Tues (8/11) likely resulting in more east windswell at exposed breaks. After that, tropical swell to be the dominant wave source if all goes as forecast.
Otherwise no large scale swell production is forecast.
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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
Overview: As of Thurs (8/6/2015) a strong El Nino is in development. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since.
The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI): As of Thursday (8/6) the daily SOI was rising some at -25.90 and below -20 for 9 days. The 30 day average was starting to respond falling from -16.74. The 90 day average was stable at -14.10. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July. The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state (no MJO activity was present). The 30 day SOI had rebounded some from it's lowest in years reached on 7/18/15 at -20.49, but is falling again. The longer term pattern was also indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state. High pressure at 1028 mbs was holding over Southeast Australia and forecast to hold through Sat (8/8), fade some while another strong high starts building in the East Indian Ocean tracking east pushing into Western Australia on Wed (8/12). A cutoff low was still south of Tahiti and forecast to hold into Sat (8/8) then give way to higher pressure though Wed (8/12) before a new upper trough and lower pressure takes hold there on Thurs (8/13). The net result is to be a negative but weakening SOI into the weekend (8/8) indicative of a building El Nino, then rising SOI numbers until maybe Thurs (8/13). Of note: South winds are to continue along East Australia Wed-Sun (8/9), likely adding to the Southern Hemi Booster Index (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino). Southeast wind anomalies have been building in this region off and on for weeks now (latest run starting 7/29 and continuing today). Another bound of south winds are forecast starting on Thurs (8/13). The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator (atmospheric co.cgiing signal rather than a driver of oceanic change).
Current Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & 1 Week Forecast: Per 850 mb charts (~4,500 ft up) as of Thurs (8/6) weak west anomalies as in the far west Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) building to moderate.cgius approaching and over the dateline fading to neutral south of Hawaii and holding almost to the Galapagos, where moderate east anomalies were in.cgiay. These west anomalies are purely a function of the El Nino base state enhanced by typhoon Soudelor to the north and and tropical low pressure south of the equator on the dateline. A previous Rossby Wave had dissipated. These anomalies have remained virtually unchanged for the past 17 days (7/18-8/3) and followed a very strong WWB burst that was associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) 6/24-7/17. This was the third WWB this year. Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds (not anomalies) at 170E while the GFS model suggest west winds there at 13 kts. Strong anomalies were from 170E to 170W in the heart of the KWGA, then fading at 150W. This continues impressive. A week from now (8/12) modest west anomalies are to be in the core of the KWGA fading to neutral over the dateline continuing to 120W (south of California) with strong west anomalies from 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 after that through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern (the first such event of the year), then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB, the strongest of the year so far, starting on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 but held nicely through 7/17, the result of another Active Phase of the MJO. A moderate westerly anomaly flow redeveloped thereafter until 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continue through today. The major June-July WWB effectively held for 26 days and is resulting in a strong Kelvin Wave, the third this year. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here
Longer range OLR, MJO, Rossby Wave, El Nino Model Projections: As of 8/5 the OLR models indicate a dead neutral MJO signal over the entire equatorial Pacific. Yes, enhanced precipitation is indicated in the West Pacific, but it is not MJO related. The Statistic model suggests A dead MJO pattern is to hold for the next 15 days. The Dynamic model depicts effectively the same things. In essence no MJO influence is forecast. Phase Diagrams from the ECMF and GEFS suggest the Active Phase of the MJO is trying to redevelop over the West Pacific the next few days, but then is to collapse again. This is likely driven by insufficient filtering in the models and no MJO is expected. The 40 day upper level model depicts a weak non-descript MJO pattern in.cgiay and not expected to change thru Sept 15. The CFS model depicts no MJO influence until Sept 18, when the Active Phase is supposed to start building in the far West Pacific holding till late Oct. Perhaps a weak Rossby Wave is to develop 8/16-25 having little influence. A far larger one is forecast late October. The CFS model does predict steady but weak westerly anomalies from now until the Active Phase returns. No easterly anomalies are forecast.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds and MJO with analysis here
So over the next 6 weeks we are expected to fall into a neutral pattern, with only a pure El Nino base state at.cgiay driving those west anomalies. There is nothing wrong with this situation, as it will help us examine the true strength of the base El Nino state and it's ability to generate continuous steady west anomalies in the KWGA. And westerly anomalies, regardless of their source, are all that's required to push warm water to the east.
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 (8/6) first impressions continue indicating a moderate and well defined El Nino pattern in.cgiace covering the entire equatorial Pacific. But compared to previous imagery (7/16), the pattern remains somewhat more diffuse. If anything, there has been no increase in concentration of warm waters and if anything, the entire pattern looks less defined. Temperatures in the NINO1.2 region as of the latest image appear to be holding, but are not getting any warmer, but neither are they getting cooler. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, building some. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, but possibly attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO.
TAO data indicates +1.5 anomalies are in control over most entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years, presumably advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline except from 150W-165W. This is a new break in the warm pattern and suggests a downgrade is occurring. There is an embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 142W (significant decrease compared to last image) with +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 152W (shrinking) with a solo pocket at 170W. . Overall the warm water signature is starting to shrink.
The most recent hi-res data (8/5) indicates we are past the peak temps experienced between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14. Peak warm temps faded some between Ecuador and the Galapagos between 7/14-7/30 (and is reflected in the low res imagery too - see above). Since 7/31 temps between Ecuador and the Galapagos appear to have stabilized, with warm anomalies holding along the immediate coast of Peru and the coverage of pockets of +2.25 degs anomalies out to the Galapagos are holding steady now. The Galapagos virtual station reported temps at +3.3 degs today (8/5). A peak reading occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had maxed out, then built to +5.45 degs on 6/14. Temps faded from that high peak down to +4.1 degs in late June then rebuilt up to +4.94 on 7/17. Then a fade set in, down to +3.1 degs as of 7/31. Temps have been bouncing from +3.1-3.5 ever since. Much more warm water is poised at depth just off Ecuador (see below). The CDAS Nino 1.2 Index is falling again today at 2.0 degs. It was hovered at +2.1 degrees since late May then spiked reaching +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again on 7/22. It fell to +1.9 degrees on 7/27 and is stabilizing. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index has rebounded some today, up to +1.57 degrees. Water temps there had held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April, then started building pushing +1.5 degs on 6/30 and generally held there while creeping up, peaking at +1.75 degs on 7/19 and +1.7 degs on 7/29. Hi-res satellite images clearly depict unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies have encroached westward from the Galapagos to 133W as of 7/16 and then 138W (7/31) and have not changed today (8/5).
If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on water temp alone, there is no comparison. '97 imagery leaves this years event in the dust. This is not unexpected given the freight train consistency of WWBs leading up to the '97 event. Comparatively '15 is building, but at a slower pace and in fit's and starts, but with an underlying deliberateness just the same. Total coverage of warm waters in the current imagery still remains respectable, but the depth of concentration is not in the league of '97. And of late, the data suggests a bit of a downgrade compared to previous imagery, as evidenced by the apparent drop-off of NINO 1.2 water temps. This is likely the result of a pause in upwelling of warm water in that region. Not a true Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle per se, just a pause. There appears to be.cgienty of water poised in the subsurface reservoir about ready to upwell. Still our suspicions are that weaknesses in this years event are to continue over the short term compared to '97, mainly due to the comparative duration of the WWBs earlier this year compared to 97. But with the impressive strength and duration of the most recent WWB (late June), maybe some of that ground will be made up in October (peak temps in Nino 1.2 expected 10/4) when the resulting Kelvin Wave hits. Given the current pause in warming near the Galapagos, no additional expansion of the warm pool is expected in the short term. That is, the temporary cooling in the NINO1.2 region is expected to eventually advect west and negatively impact NINO 3.4, at least temporarily. This is the opposite of what would be expected if one were trying to compare 2015 to '97. Still, this pause is temporary, with much warming, the biggest yet of this event, still in the pipe. Is comparing 2105 to '97 pointless? We think probably so, because each ENSO event has it own unique character. And those differences this year might actually.cgiay in our favor (more below).
Subsurface Waters Temps per the TAO Array on the equator and under the dateline (160-180W) have rebuilt with +2.0 degs anomalies fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies taking root from 150W eastward (holding), the direct effects of the July massive WWB. Warmer water is also tracking east reinforcing a large warm reservoir at +5-6 deg above normal poised to erupt into Ecuador. So the pipe is open with more warm water rushing in and very warm water poised to erupt into the Galapagos. The reservoir is holding coverage with +5 degs anomalies centered at 110W and +5 deg anomalies pushing east from 142W to Ecuador (an expansion today), continuing a significant expansion over the past few weeks. 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.
Satellite Sea Surface height Anomalies (SSHA) data from 8/1 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 175E with a core at +10 cm from 170W eastward and a building pocket of +15 cm anomalies at 110-150W (expanding). This is most impressive. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight in the mid-Pacific poised to merge with a subsurface reservoir poised off Ecuador. This is a classic major El Nino setup, not a standard El Nino.
Upper Ocean Heat Content (8/1) analysis only drives the point further home. It indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 178W and the Ecuador coast (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 172W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 167W. All these sectors are sliding east slightly (suggesting the downwelling warm water falling into the developing Kelvin Wave have peaked). A pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 155W-->117W (holding) with a new pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 148W-->138W. A pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies is holding between the Galapagos and Ecuador (from 91W-80W). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. And now a third is setting up, the strongest of all. The pause in warming near Ecuador is evident in the subsurface data too, suggestive of nothing more than a break between successive strong Kelvin Waves. And even at that it still has 0.5-1.0 deg anomalies in it. We're beginning to be disposed to say that a weak Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is occurring and that it could be caused by the 8 day pause in westerly anomalies in mid-June (see above). But no 'cooler than normal' waters are expected to result, just a pause in the steady incremental increase in surface warming. But that could have an affect on the overall heat signature at the surface longer term. There were no upwelling periods in the '97 event. Regardless, the subsurface configuration suggests there are 2.5 months of warm water in this reservoir (till Nov 1) and some of that water is extremely warm. And more warm water continues downwelling on the dateline. This is a great setup.
North Pacific Jetstream: As of Thurs (8/6) a weak flow was continuous across the North Pacific at 70 kts with a pocket to 90 kts approaching the dateline and generally centered at 45N. This is not impressive but suggests some weak influence by El Nino is occurring. More of the same is forecast over the coming week but with a ridge building in the Gulf of Alaska pushing the jet there up to 55N on Sun (8/9) but also a.cgiifying winds to 120 kts in one pocket briefly, falling into a developing steep trough off the Pacific Northwest early next week and moving onshore over Oregon by Wed (8/12). Back to the west the jet is to continue as it is today and generally unremarkable.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 8/1 continues solid but not super impressive. The current is pushing strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area reaching to 160W with modest current continuing east from there to 135W then fading to weak. A pocket of strong east anomalies were over the immediate Galapagos. Most of this energy was on and north of the equator. Anomaly wise - moderate to strong west anomalies pockets were spread on the equator over the West Pacific with the strongest reaching east to 140W then dissipating. Easterly anomalies were in one pocket over the Galapagos. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 west velocities were strong in the far West Pacific from 150W-130E with anomalies strong from 150E to 150W on both sides of the equator. Suspect all this data is heavily influenced by local wind, and therefore WWBs. Still, the data suggests there was more and larger WWBs in '97.
SST Anomaly projections (CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected): For the model run 8/6 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures have stabalized. It suggests water temps are at +1.5 deg C (verified at 1.6 degs today) and are to steadily warm continuing to +1.85 degs by Oct peaking at +2.0 degs by Nov, then dropping off. Previous weakness in the latest 8 members of the ensemble have now been integrated into the forecast with no change projected. Still much more warm water is needed to be transported east over the coming 3.5 months for this forecast to become real. The mid-July consensus Plume suggests development of a strong El Nino with peak temps (depending on model type) spread between 1.5-2.0 degs above normal. See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 the Active Phase of the MJO and successive Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific and primed the atmosphere out of a 15 year La Nina biased pattern that had been in.cgiay since the demise of the '97-98 Super El Nino. It is assumed some greater force was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern, (the PDO). This warming and teleconnection continued building in 2015 with two Kelvin Waves arriving in Ecuador warming surface waters well into El Nino territory and a third, the strongest so far, in flight now. Preceding this Kelvin Wave is a pocket of less warm water. But with a large warm reservoir lodged just west of the Galapagos and the third Kelvin Wave directly behind, warming is expected to resume shortly. At this time we believe the classic El Nino feedback/teleconnection loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean are well co.cgied.
A si.cgie glance at the SST Anomaly charts suggest a well developed El Nino pattern is in.cgiay. The big question then becomes: How strong will this El Nino become? That is purely a function of the strength and duration of westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. And the frequency of those events is dictated by the character of the El Nino. All El Nino events are different. The pace of the WWBs and Kelvin Waves, their duration, depth and speed all help to define any given ENSO event. The '97 event was fast paced and furious, with no breaks, transitioning from La Nina to the strongest El Nino ever (by some measures) in a quick 7 month window starting 4/23 peaking on 11/26 (+2.69 deg). The '82 El Nino took longer to build starting in May and peaking in late Jan of '83 (+2.8 degs) (data OISSTv2). Other strong events in '72, '86, and '91 had dissimilar profiles. The point being, there is no exact te.cgiate for a strong El Nino other than they tend to form in the Spring and peak during the following Winter. And regarding the exact micro-details of each WWB, the resulting Kelvin Wave speed and arrival time in Ecuador etc, all vary though fall into the general guidelines established above. Given the false start of this El Nino in 2014 (and for that matter the other false start in 2012), this event has taken it's sweet time getting organized. But it's been struggling against an atmospheric bias towards La Nina driven by the cool phase of the PDO. We believe the atmosphere is trying to transition to the warm phase of the PDO, but is still fighting momentum from the cool phase, hence elongating this El Nino's lifecycle. And regarding the 'warm blob' off the Pacific Northwest, we believe that is more a symptom of the developing warm PDO, and will get punctured by incoming storms once El Nino gets traction and the jetstream energizes in the late Jan/early Feb 2016 timeframe. Winds from storms cause mixing and upwelling, which in turn cool surface waters. Of course that assumes this El Nino event develops into at least Strong if not Super status.
The longer it takes El Nino to develop, the thought is it will take proportionally longer to dissipate. That is, once El Nino atmospheric momentum takes hold, and if it takes longer to make that transition, it will be more stubborn and take longer to dislodge. There is no scientific data to support that thesis, it's just an opinion. But if the Active Phase of the MJO does develop in the Sept/Oct timeframe as predicted by the CFS model, and if a significant Kelvin Wave results, it would not arrive in Ecuador till ~Jan 1, 2016, and not disburse till a month later (Feb). That said, the character of this event is not at all like '97, but is starting to show signs of developing slower, like '82. And that would not be a bad thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107.
Finally the discussion of 'atmospheric co.cgiing' needs to be considered. How much affect is El Nino having on the atmosphere? That is ultimately what impacts the jetstream and fuels winter storm development. The SOI is one such indicator. Changes in surface wind in the equatorial West Pacific another. But it is the total effect of El Nino on a wide variety of indicators, and the weighting of those indicators into a single number that can be used to track this event against others. This approach provides a clearer picture, where tracking an individual condition in the absence of others leads to a less comprehensive view. NOAA has developed just such an index, the Multivariate ENSO Index. It is used for research purposes, but is useful for our need too. It is conservative, has a pedigree, and has been hindcast tested against previous ENSO events. Per the MEI, the top 5 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. The current ranking (July) for 2015 is 1.97 SD (65). At this same time in '97 the ranking was 2.85 SD (66) and in '82 it was 1.7 SD (61). So we're slightly above the '82 event but well below '97, or comfortably on track for this time of year to move into Super El Nino territory. And even more interesting, the MEI for July actually went down (0.09 SD) from last month. Suffice it to say were are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric co.cgiing.
So where does it go from here? Having a MEI that today is equivalent to two other Super El Nino events is no guarantee that this years event will eventually evolve into a super El Nino. We still have 1.0 SDs to go. Though looking at the record back to 1950 for other events that have similar values in July, the odds favor that outcome. Still, the argument goes back to monitoring WWB and Kelvin Waves. That ultimately is the best leading indicator of what's to come. The more west anomalies, the more warm water gets pushed down into the pipe and the rest turns into an assembly line process with a more or less fixed outcome. Said another way, it appears an evolving El Nino base state is in control and building which in turn should dampen any future Inactive Phases of the MJO cycle and/or potential for easterly anomalies. This is required for a major El Nino to develop. So the current concern is focused on the pause in warming in the Nino 1.2 region and it's eventual impact as it advects into the Nino3.4 region. But again, with a very vigorous Kelvin Wave locked and loaded in the pipe, and a large warm reservoir preceding it poised to erupt near Ecuador in the next few weeks, it seems the nearterm outcome is certain. The future concerning more and stronger WWBs is unknown, but we are betting on the CFSv2 being largely on the right track with the EL Nino base state slowly having greater influence over time and being enhanced by the MJO and Rossby Waves at times. And that doesn't count the change of seasons scheduled to start in early Sept, again favoring enhancement of the El Nino base state and the MJO.
So for now we're somewhere between the 82' and '97 event, with very good atmospheric momentum in.cgiay, and that's a good.cgiace to be. We'll continue monitoring the North Pacific jetstream and will be looking for tropical activity in the West Pacific to recurve northeast moving towards the Gulf of Alaska, and for swell to result from such systems in later August and Sept. To us, those are the sure signs of deep changes in the atmosphere influenced by El Nino. Until then, continue on your training routines and complete.cgians to procure additional boards. And if you own beachfront property in California, pay your insurance premiums.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
Beyond 72 hours the model are teasing concerning development of a gale in the far Southeast Pacific on Sun PM (8/9) generating 40-45 kt southwest winds at 120W 62S barely in the SCal swell window wit seas building. By Mon AM (8/10) the gale is to rapidly build to storm status with 50 kt southwest winds building 32 ft seas at 60S 108W all targeting Chile and not in the SCal swell window. Winds to hold at nearly 50 kt tracking east in the evening with seas building to 40 ft at 58S 98W all targeting Chile and maybe Peru. A quick fade to follow. But no fetch is forecast for the South Pacific in the HI or CA swell windows.
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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