Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 4.0 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 13.1 secs from 185 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 14.0 secs with swell 1.5 ft @ 14.3 secs. Wind southwest 4-6 kts early. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.7 ft @ 15.8 secs from 187 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.4 ft @ 15.1 secs from 199 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.2 ft @ 13.5 secs from 180 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 4.9 ft @ 9.0 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 16.5 secs. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temp 62.4 degs.
On Saturday (8/8) 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 from southerly wind and gray early. Down in Santa Cruz surf was maybe thigh high on the sets and clean but gray. In Southern California up north there was no real waves with a few stray sets at knee high and clean early. Down south waves were waist high with some bigger sets and lined up and clean, but inconsistent. Hawaii's North Shore was thigh high and clean but not really rideable. The South Shore was near flat with occasional waist high sets and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated east windswell with waves chest to shoulder high and chopped from east 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 producing rideable waves on exposed east shores. Relative to California high pressure was producing no gradient nor windswell of interest. For the southern hemisphere a .cgiit upper level flow continues to suppress storm production over the bulk of the South Pacific with no swell in the waters and none forecast. Our focus remains on a developing El Nino which should positively affect the Fall and Winter seasons in the North Pacific.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (8/8) no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific. High pressure at 1024 mbs was filling the East Pacific to California but a bit too far west to have any real swell producing impact along the US West Coast. It was generating a minimal gradient over North California producing 20 kt north winds there, resulting in bare minimal windswell along exposed breaks of North and Central CA. For Hawaii the same high pressure system was generating trades at 15-20 kts east and northeast of the Islands, while hurricane Hilda was tracking west positioned well east-southeast of the Big Island (see Tropical Update below).
Over the next 72 hours high pressure and the gradient relative to California is to fade even more with weak low pressure developing and falling south along the Pacific northwest Coast reaching North California on Tues (8/11). It is to have no fetch associated with it. Relative to Hawaii trades to hold at 15 kts east of and over the Islands through Monday (8/10) producing more east windswell, then faltering but theoretically being r.cgiaced by fetch and the interaction of the remnants of Hilda with the weak high to the north. Also the remnants of tropical storm Molave are to be tracking north-northeast off the coast of Japan and the Kuril Islands but most fetch is to be aimed north towards the West Aleutians, with no real fetch aimed east. No other swell source was indicated.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (as of 12Z Sat 8/8)
Typhoon Soudelor had moved over Taiwan and was poised to push into mainland China in the next few hours with winds 65 kts. It is to dissipate after that. No recurvature to the northeast is forecast.
Hurricane Hilda was 800 nmiles east-southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii on Sat AM (8/8) with winds 90 kts tracking east-northeast. It is forecast to peak Sunday night (8/9) into Monday AM with winds 105 kts positioned 600 nmiles south-southeast of the Big Island. assuming a 15 sec period swell resulting, swell arrival on the Big Island would be late Monday evening into Tuesday AM (8/11). Hilda is to continue on this track while steadily fading, positioned 150 nmiles northeast of the Big Island on Wed PM (8/12).
Tropical Storm Molave was positioned 500 nmiles south of Tokyo Japan tracking northwest with winds 35 kts and forecast to make a turn to the north in the next 24 hours while slowly building, then recurving northeast Mon AM (8/10) while still building. Winds to reach 55 kts on Tues AM (8/11) producing a tiny area of 23 ft seas at 33N 152E then turning north and moving to a point just off the North Kuril Islands on Thurs (8/13) with seas there maybe 18 ft at 43N 159E. A rapid fade in the storm is forecast thereafter. There's some bare minimal odds of tiny 13 sec period swell to result targeting mainly the US West Coast. Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (8/8) high pressure at 1026 mbs was in the Western Gulf of Alaska trying to push towards the Pacific Northwest but being held at bay by weak low pressure just along the British Columbia coast. Winds were generally light along the CA coast. More of the same is forecast Sunday (8/9) with northwest winds 10-15 kts, then less than 15 kts by Monday. That to hold Tuesday as the weak surface low falls south, positioned off North CA into Wednesday. Then 15-20 kt north winds are to rebuild nearshore from Monterey Bay to Pt Conception on Thurs (8/13) as the surface low dissipates, with northwest winds rapidly building northward on Friday at 15-20 kts and then moving up to Cape Mendocino at 25 kts later Saturday driven by high pressure again building off Oregon.
On Saturday AM (8/8) the jetstream continued well .cgiit with the southern branch tracking from a position down at 68S under Tasmania running flat east the whole way effectively under South America. No troughs were present offering no support for gale development. 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 with an embedded pocket of 160 kt winds north of New Zealand.And a trough was tracking east from a point southeast of Tahiti still supporting a cutoff low there that has been in.cgiace for over a week now and helping to drive the SOI negative. 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 track of the southern branch of the jet remaining unchanged running east from a point well to the south down at at 70S with no troughs forecast. If anything the .cgiit is to get more pronounced, not less. And in the northern branch a ridge is to start r.cgiacing the trough formally south of Tahiti into Tues (8/11) driving the SOI positive (in the wrong direction relative to El Nino). Beyond 72 hours still no change is forecast relative to the southern branch of the jet. And in the northern branch the ridge south of Tahiti is to moderate with perhaps a weak trough developing south of Tahiti by Thurs (8/13) again helping to push the SOI negative. But there's to be no support for gale development for the South Pacific.
On Saturday AM (8/8) high pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned between the .cgiit jetstream flow in the Central South Pacific ridging south to 60S driving the storm track south over Antarctic Ice. There was only one area of winds at 35 kts or grater, and it was in the deep South Central Pacific aimed south at Antarctica. No swell production relative to our forecast area was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system is to moderate some, but a new one is to set up southeast of New Zealand ridging south to 62S again continuing the lockdown on storm production.
Small South Pacific Gale
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.
Hawaii: Very low odds of background swell appearing on Fri AM (8/14) with period 15 secs Swell Direction: 182 degrees
California: Low odds of swell arrival on Sun mid-day (8/16) with period 15 secs. Swell Direction: 200 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 a weak local low pressure regime to to hold off North CA through Thurs (8/13) with no gradient induced fetch forecast. But on Thurs (8/13) high pressure is to get a toe in the door along Pt Conception generating 20 kt north winds there, then expanding north into Friday and low pressure dissipates with the usual summer time pressure gradient taking shape by Sat AM 98/15) producing 25 kt north winds and some small local north windswell. Relative to Hawaii trades to continue suppressed courtesy of Hilda, with it's remnants tracking northwest and positioned north of the Islands through Sat (8/15). Fading swell from Hilda is possible. Otherwise no tradewind generated windswell is forecast. Otherwise no large scale swell production is forecast.
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 Saturday (8/8) 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 Sat (8/8):
Daily SOI: Was rising from -16.00, ending a run of numbers below -20 for 10 days.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -18.18, responding to the 10 day negative dip. It was it's lowest point in years on 7/18/15 at -20.49
90 Day Average: Was stable at -13.48. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July.
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state (no MJO activity was present). The longer term pattern was also indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state.
SOI Analysis: Darwin (looking for high pressure here): High pressure was exiting the area at 1020 mbs today. No return is forecast until another strong high currently building in the East Indian Ocean tracks east pushing into Western Australia on Wed (8/12) peaking in Southeast Australia on Sat (8/150 at 1032 mbs.
Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A cutoff low was exiting the area with high pressure starting to build behind though Wed (8/12), then relenting as a new upper trough and lower pressure takes south of Tahiti for a few days, but starting to fade on Sun (8/16).
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a rising SOI for the next few days, then falling SOI numbers by Thurs (8/13) holding for a few days, then loosing ground again. No clear solid El Nino trend is forecast immediately.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis: South winds are to continue along East Australia through Sun (8/9), likely adding to the SHBI (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). The next bout of south winds are forecast starting on Thurs (8/13) continuing into the weekend.
The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator (atmospheric co.cgiing signal rather than a driver of oceanic change).
Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: Per 850 mb charts (~4,500 ft up) as of Sat (8/8):
Analysis (from Model): Has not updated since 8/4 - Weak west anomalies are 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.
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated modest west winds (not anomalies) at 170E while the GFS model suggest southwest winds there to near 20 kts in one small patch. Strong anomalies continued from 160E to 170W in the heart of the KWGA, then fading at 155W. This continues impressive.
1 Week Forecast: 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 has produced 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 MJO/WWB Projections: As of 8/7:
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral MJO signal over the entire equatorial Pacific. Enhanced precipitation is indicated in the West Pacific, but it is believed to not be MJO related. The Statistic model suggests A dead MJO pattern is to hold for the next 10 days with a weak Inactive signal 15 days out. The Dynamic model depicts effectively the same thing, less the Inactive signal 15 days out. In essence no MJO influence is forecast.
Phase Diagrams (ECMF and GEFS): They 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 quickly. This is likely driven by insufficient filtering in the models and not any indication of development of a real Active MJO phase.
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a weak nondescript MJO pattern in.cgiay. It is starting to suggest a weak Inactive MJO building 8/18 tracking east across the Pacific through 9/12. no active signal is indicted.
CFS Model (850 mb): Depicts a weak Inactive MJO influence today, but is to fade in 4 days. A weak Active pulse is forecast on 8/26 with some enhancement from a small Rossby Wave perhaps setting up stronger west anomalies 8/15-8/26, but all that is to fade by 9/7. Another pulse of the Inactive Phase is forecast behind followed directly by a major push of the Active Phase of the MJO on Sept 24 in the far West Pacific holding till early Nov. The CFS model does predict steady but weak westerly anomalies from now until the Active Phase returns. No easterly anomalies are forecast.
So over the next 6 weeks we are expected to hold in a neutral MJO 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.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
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.
Low-res imagery: On (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: +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 for a small break rising to +1.0-1.5 degs from 150W-165W. That break suggests a downgrade is occurring. There is an embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 145W with +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 155W with a solo pocket at 170W. Overall the warm water signature is holding and migrating west.
Hi-res Imagery: (8/7) Warm anomalies are holding steady along the immediate coast of Peru and the coverage of pockets of +2.25 degs anomalies out to the Galapagos are unchanged. But temperature anomalies are less that what they were, peaking between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14. Temps faded 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.
Galapagos Virtual Station: This station reported temps at +3.1 degs today (8/7). A solid reading occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had arrived, 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).
Nino1.2 Index Temps: Temps are falling again today at 1.9 degs. Temps have 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. Temps fell to +1.9 degrees on 7/27 and have more or less stabilized now.
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are up more again today, up to +1.75 degrees, meeting peak temps set earlier. Water temps had held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April, then started building pushing +1.5 degs on 6/30, held then crept 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 (8/7).
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. This years event 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, a break between the first Kelvin wave eruption and the second poised just off Ecuador. 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. Still our suspicions are that weaknesses in this years event are to continue over the short term 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. Still 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 into Nthe NINo3.4 area and negatively impact temps there, 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
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.
TAO Array: (8/8) On the equator and under the dateline (160-180W) temperature anomalies 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. That reservoir is holding coverage with +5 degs anomalies centered at 110W and extending east from 135W to Ecuador (a contraction today). This pocket is a mixture of warm water from a WWB in early May merging with water from the most recent WWB in late June-July. So the pipe is open with more warm water rushing in and very warm water poised to erupt into the Galapagos.
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: As of (8/1) this data drives the point 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).
North Pacific Jetstream: As of Sat (8/8) a weak flow was continuous across the North Pacific. 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 Mon (8/10) then, falling into a developing steep trough off the Pacific Northwest early next week and becoming cutoff off North CA by Wed (8/12). Beyond a steady weak flow is to continue roughly centered at 50N. Overall it's unremarkable.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 8/1 the current 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 8/8 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures have stabilized. It suggests water temps are at +1.5 deg C (verified at 1.75 degs today) and are to steadily warm continuing to +1.85 degs by Oct peaking at barely +2.0 degs by Nov, then dropping off. 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 virtually no gale formation is forecast in the Hawaii or California swell window. The jetstream is not helping us at all.
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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