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 Thursday (8/21) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing surf in the thigh to waist high range with south warble intermixed at exposed breaks. It was clean at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to waist high on the sets and clean but unremarkable. In Southern California up north a mix of southern hemi and tropical storm swell was producing surf in the thigh high range and clean. Down south waves were chest high with near head high sets coming from TS Lowell. A bit of southwest warble was on it though conditions were clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with some sideshore warble with modest east-northeast trades in effect. The South Shore was getting new swell from New Zealand with sets head high or better at top spots and pristine clean. On the East Shore trade wind generated windswell was knee high and chopped with some tropical swell underneath.
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 tiny local north windswell. The East Pacific tropics remained active with swell in the water from Hurricane Lowell pushing towards California with earlier energy from when it was a tropical storm already hitting Southern CA. From the southern hemisphere swell is in the water tracking northeast from a small but decently strong gale that developed under New Zealand on Wed-Thurs (8/14) with a small area of up to 40 ft seas aimed well northeast. This swell peaked in Tahiti on Mon (8/18) and is hitting Hawaii today bound for CA by the weekend. Another weak pulse followed Fri (8/15) with 34 ft seas aimed mainly due east. Small swell from that is in the water too hitting Tahiti today and targeting Hawaii and CA. Beyond a small gale is forecast forming southwest of Tahiti on Fri (8/22) with 24 ft seas, but small in coverage targeting only Tahiti and perhaps Hawaii. Beyond a better pattern is to take hold with a modest gale projected southeast of New Zealand on Mon-Wed (8/28) tracking northeast with 30-32 ft seas and yet a stronger one directly behind on Thurs (8/28) with 44 ft seas lifting northeast. Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (8/21) a calm pressure and wind pattern continued over the North Pacific. Relative to California a small area of 20 kt north winds were blowing over Cape Mendocino resulting in bare minimal local north windswell at exposed breaks mainly in Central CA. Otherwise trades were suppressed blowing at barely 15 kts along the Hawaiian Islands, with most fetch located east of Hawaii and blowing from the northeast, targeting locations south of Hawaii and missing the Islands altogether. No real windswell was hitting east facing shores there. The tropics were active with Karina and Lowell in play south and southwest of California (see Tropical Update section for details below).
Over the next 72 hours no change of any magnitude is expected with the East Pacific tropics continuing to be the focus. A weak pressure gradient is to continue over Cape Mendocino continuing minimal north winds (15-20 kts) and local north windswell for Central CA. Trades are to try and building in pockets relative to Hawaii coming from the northeast at 15 kts on Fri-Sat (8/23) resulting in perhaps minimal windswell there but then fading later Sunday (8/24). And weak low pressure is to track from the dateline northeast into the Eastern Bering Sea with no fetch of interest resulting. A new and large tropical system is suggested developing 600 nmiles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas on Sat (8/23) lifting northwest and possibly becoming something of interest by early next week (8/25). But the models are notably unreliable concerning tropical systems more than a day or two out. Still it's something to monitor. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to continue putting a damper on the West Pacific tropical development for now.
Note: The North Pacific jetstream has actually been looking surprisingly decent and as of today 90-100 winds are down at 40N tracking off Japan and not split, reaching the whole way across the Pacific into the Gulf of Alaska. A bit of a ridge has been locking down the Gulf of Alaska, and is to continue for the next week, but the overall pattern is not bad.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (Thurs 12Z)
Tropical Storm Karina was nearly stationary 1300 nmiles east-southeast of the Hawaii on the 100 degree great circle track with winds 50 kts drifting south at 2 kts producing 16 ft seas. Tiny swell from Karina was hitting exposed east facing shore of Hawaii. Karina is forecast to hold this position and strength for 24 hours then start accelerating off to the northeast, fading below tropical storm strength mid-day Sun (8/24) then racing north at depression status. No swell production of interest is projected for anywhere but maybe the East Shore of the Big Island through Fri AM (8/22), and limited at that.
Hurricane Lowell - Lowell was upgraded to hurricane status Thurs AM (8/21) positioned 825 nmiles south-southwest of Dana Point CA on the 196 degree great circle path and 1080 nmiles south of Santa Cruz CA on the 178 degree path with winds 65 kts covering a decent area and seas to 16 ft. Lowell was drifting northwest at 3 kts getting good traction on the oceans surface. A ragged eye was starting to develop. Lowell to start accelerating to the northwest by afternoon with winds still 65 kts, then fading while accelerating to the northwest and becoming of no interest swell production wise by Fri AM (8/22). Peak swell production was occurring now.
Swell from the peak of the storm (Thurs 12Z-18Z) to reach Southern CA on Fri 17Z (8/22) or 9 AM local time with period 13 secs and holding through the afternoon near 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.5-5.0 ft faces). Swell fading Sat AM (8/23) from 4 ft @ 12 secs (4.5 ft).
Also peak swell to radiate up into the Central CA on the 175-180 degree track hitting Sat 7 AM (8/23) with swell 4 ft @ 14 secs (4.5-5.0 ft) and holding through the day. Swell fading early Sun AM (8/24) from 3.6 ft @ 11-12 secs (4 ft) from 180 degrees. This to be rare swell event for the SF Area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (8/21) weak high pressure at 1026 mbs was positioned off the North CA coast forming a very weak pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino. 15-20 kts north winds were over coastal waters there, but not even reaching south to Pt Arena. A light wind flow was in play for the California coast. On Friday north winds are forecast at 15-20 kts over Cape Mendocino holding through Thurs (8/28). Those winds to not reach any further south than Pt Arena through the period. South and Central CA to remain in a weak eddy flow pattern only serving to build more warm surface water in the area. No real windswell is to be produced. This suppressed wind flow is the result of contraction of the canonical Northeast Pacific High Pressure System. And it's contraction is likely a symptom of a developing El Nin
Jetstream - On Thursday (8/21) the southern branch of the jet was in a modified zonal configuration running more or less flat west to east with a weak trough lifting the jet north some over the West Pacific and a weak ridge pushing the jet south over the Eastern Pacific. 140 kt winds were developing south of Tasmania and starting to push up into the trough in the West Pacific offering some support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to hold while pushing east on Friday (8/22) then moderating late, washing out with support for gale development backing off some. But another blast of 130 kt winds to push east under New Zealand Saturday renewing energy in the trough for 24 hours, then it too is to moderate by Sun (8/24). In all only limited support for gale development is expected. A weak ridge is to continue locking the Southeast Pacific down with no support for gale development expected there. Beyond 72 hours another trough is to start building under New Zealand on Mon (8/25) with 140 kt winds pushing well to the northeast making good inroads to the north by Wed (8/27) with more 140 kts winds building under New Zealand on Thurs (8/28). Improved support for gale development indicated. This appears to be the start of a nice pattern (if it develops).
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (8/21) swell from a small storm that developed under New Zealand on Tues PM (8/12) was pushing northeast and impacting Hawaii, bound for the US West Coast (see New Zealand Gale below). Two other tiny fetch areas followed producing nothing of real interest (details below). High pressure at 1032 mbs was locked over the Tasman Sea with generic low pressure tracking up it's eastern flank producing 30 kt southerly winds targeting Tahiti, but of no real interest yet. But that is to improve some over the next 72 hours. The point being, stationary high pressure over the Tasman Sea tends to open up the Southwest Pacific for storm production relative to Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. Otherwise north winds continued in control over the far Southeast Pacific offering nothing relative to South America and in fact shutting swell production down there.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to remain locked over the Tasman Sea while a series of weak low pressure system track up its eastern flank.
Relative to Tahiti a small cutoff gale is forecast developing 900 nmiles east of the north coast of New Zealand on Fri PM 98/22) with 35-40 kt south winds over a tiny area aimed north. Seas building to 24 ft at 40S 163W. A broader area of 30-35 kt south winds to continue overnight into Sat AM (8/23) with seas building to 24 ft over a larger area near 38S 163W aimed due north. Fetch is to continue in the evening but aimed more east with 26 ft seas at 32S 156W or just 1000 nmiles southwest of Tahiti. Larger but raw swell is possible for Tahiti late in the weekend into early the following week (8/25).
New Zealand Gale
A new gale started building well south of Tasmania on Tues PM (8/12) lifting northeast. By Wed AM (8/13) 50 kt southwest winds were in-play south-southwest of New Zealand generating 32 ft seas at 56S 160E. A small area of 50 kt south winds held into the evening with 40 ft seas covered a tiny area at 51S 169E (218 degs SCal, 217 degs NCal, 201 degs HI). By Thurs AM (8/14) a thin area of 45 kt southwest winds were tucked up against East New Zealand aimed well to the north with 35 ft seas at 46S 175E. Winds were fading from 40 kts off Northeast New Zealand in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 41S 179W (222 degs SCal, 221 degs NCal, 201 degs HI). This system to dissipated after that.
A nice solid shot of swell was been produced relative to Tahiti with solid utility class swell expected for Hawaii, and the standard utility class swell for California. There was no shadowing by Tahiti relative to California and the storm track was decidedly to the northeast which should increase the number of waves per set. But fetch size was limited, which will mitigate set wave numbers some.
Hawaii: Swell fading Fri AM (8/22) from 3.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Residuals on Sat AM (8/23) at 2.6 ft @ 13 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 201 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (8/23) with period 18 secs early and size building to 2.0 ft @ 17 secs late (3.4 ft with sets to 4.3 ft). Swell to peak Sun AM (8/24) at 2.5 ft @ 16-17 secs early (4.1 ft with sets to 5.1 ft). Swell Direction: 218-222 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (8/23) with period 18 secs early and size building to 1.7 ft @ 17 secs late (3.0 ft with sets to 3.7 ft). Swell to peak Sun AM (8/24) at 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs early (3.3 ft with sets to 4.1 ft). Swell Direction: 217-22 degrees
Another New Zealand Fetch
Tahiti: Residuals on Fri (8/22) fading from 4.8 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 205 degrees
On Fri PM (8/15) a fetch of 45 kt west winds built under New Zealand. Seas building to 34 ft at 60S 165E. Fetch fading fast thereafter with seas from previous fetch peaking Sat AM (8/16) at 34 ft at 60S 178E. This system was gone by Sat PM.
Hawaii: Swell expected arriving on Sat AM (8/23) building to 1.7 ft @ 17 secs late (3.0 ft with sets to 3.7 ft). Swell to continue on Sun (8/24) building to 2.1 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.3 ft with sets to 4.1 ft). Residuals fading on Mon (8/25) from 2.0 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 193 degrees
Mini New Zealand Fetch
A small patch of 35-40 kt west winds tracked under New Zealand on Sun PM (8/18) into Mon AM (8/18) resulting in 32 ft seas over a tiny area 00Z Tues (8/19) at 57S 169E, then dissipating. Perhaps some small 16 sec background swell to result for Tahiti and Hawaii , but nowhere else.
Tahiti: Small swell to arrive on Fri (8/22) at 2.5 ft @ 17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft) peaking Sat AM (8/23) at 3 ft @ 16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 210 degrees Additional swell from a local gale possibly overriding this swell beyond.
Hawaii: Small background swell to arrive on Mon (8/25) at sunset at 1.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) continuing Tues AM (8/26) at 1.3 ft @ 16 secs (2.0 ft). Swell fading from there. 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 modest high pressure at 1024-1028 mbs is to be positioned in the Gulf of Alaska but displaced west some resulting in only a minimal pressure gradient off the Pacific Northwest down to Cape Mendocino producing a steady fetch of 15-20 kt north winds and bare minimal north short period local windswell for North and Central CA. The remnants of Lowell and Karina are to eventually drift northwest interacting with the south quadrant of this high Tues-Thurs (8/28) generating a gradient and northeast fetch at 20-25 kts somewhat aimed at Hawaii. Maybe some northeast windswell to result for the Islands with luck.
But for now we continue waiting for El Nino to take root and the West Pacific to get out from under the affects of Inactive Phase of the MJO. The hope is for renewed tropical development in the West Pacific with one of those systems tracking north, getting caught in the North Pacific jet, turning extratropical and blowing up on the dateline. One has to have their fantasies.
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).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Thursday (8/21) the daily SOI was down up barely to -9.17. The 30 day average was down some to -8.53 and the 90 day average was down some at -2.58. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. High pressure is to start fading south of Tahiti on Fri evening (8/22) with low pressure taking over into at least Tues (8/26) and perhaps stronger beyond driving the SOI negative. This is starting to look like the first real signs of El Nino manifesting itself in the SOI.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral to light east anomalies were over the Maritime Continent then turning light westerly over the dateline. Light west anomalies extended from there to a point south of Hawaii building solidly in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Light winds continuing to the Galapagos on the equator but continued at moderate westerly anomalies in the ITCZ to a point south of Cabo. A week from now (8/29) neutral anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent continuing on to the dateline then turning to westerly anomalies there and building on the equator up into the ITCZ south of Hawaii midway to Mexico. For building a Kelvin Wave, west anomalies need to occur west of about 170W, or so the theory goes. This will be an interesting test case. looking back a few months there has not been a extended period of trades so far this year, and we're over 233 days into the year. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25 holding through 7/6, turning neutral on 7/7. But by 7/11 light west anomalies redeveloped holding through 7/20. A legitimate Westerly Wind Burst then formed on 7/23 and held through 8/10, then weakened with neutral anomalies through 8/18. Latest data from the TAO array indicated light west anomalies were redeveloping on 8/20. 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. It would be hard to make a case stating El Nino was not in play at this point.
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 8/19 are generally in sync. They both suggest a moderate Inactive MJO signal is in effect in the far West Pacific reaching to the dateline. 5 days out it is to hold. Then 8 days out it is to start fading per the Statistic model and be gone 15 days out, while the Dynamic model has it holding steady through the end of the model run 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run 8/21 suggests a modest Inactive Phase was in play over the West Pacific and it is to ease east and fade over Central America 9/18. A weak Active Phase to follow starting in the West Pacific 9/13 tracking east through through 9/30. Recent experience this year suggests this model overhypes any Inactive Phase. As such, we suspect further weaken to express itself as we move into Sept, or at least what actually develops at the surface to be much weaker than what the model suggests. In short, the model does not work well in an El Nino situation. 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. And that is what is happening so far in August. 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 (8/21), a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, and looking nearly identical to the peak of the Kelvin Wave eruptions in late June, just a little more ragged. It's actually holding up way better than expected. Some limited cool water is depicted along the immediate Peruvian Coast, but even that has retreated compared to a few days ago. No real cool water remains in the Nino 3.4 region other than one tiny pocket (-0.5 degs below normal) near 122W. Cool pockets that were previously exhibited in the heart of the Nino 3.4 region between 120W-160W are all gone and warm water continues to fill the voids left behind. +0.5-+1.0 deg C anomalies remain over the dateline, the start of a new Kelvin Wave. Even though the bulk of the massive Kelvin Wave earlier this year has dispersed, at least at this moment, another source of warm water is in play. Perhaps trades are dying there, like most everywhere else in the North Pacific, enabling the sun to provide warming to the top most layer. Still, 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 entrenched along the California coast and building in coverage, the exact opposite of the trend of the past 3+ years. Waters temps in San Francisco are 62 degrees and holding solid. 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. But even the areal coverage of that pocket is in decline, suggesting a warm regime is getting the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific remains most impressive, while the South Pacific is starting to trend in the same direction.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are on the rebound. Residual warm subsurface water from the previous Kelvin Wave dissipated on 7/31. Temps from it peaked at +6 degs C above normal on 6/21. As of 8/21 a generic +0.5 C anomaly flow is in place from the West Pacific to the East at depth. This is great news indicating the pipe is open and light warm waters are pushing east. Satellite data from 8/16 depicts one small pocket of elevated surface water heights at 0 to +5 cm just west of the Galapagos region (120W). Otherwise a solid and building area of +5 to +10 cm anomalies are developing on the dateline. Subsurface models depict a building pocket of +1.0-+2.0 deg anomalies in place under the dateline per the TAO array and building in coverage while easing east suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave trying to take shape, driven by non-stop weak westerly anomalies if not an out and out WWB on the dateline. But there are no sensors going through the heart of the Kelvin Wave (at 170W). Some models depict peak temps there at +3 degs nearing +4 degrees. There is no hard data to discern the truth of the situation. But, +3 deg anomalies would not seem unreasonable. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content suggests a new Kelvin Wave is developing in the wast, with the cool Upwelling Phase of the previous Kelvin Wave all but gone except east of 115W. As the last of the cool water anomalies dribble out of the 'pipe' in the east, and westerly anomalies continue, they will feed more warm water into the building Kelvin Wave. One more solid Kelvin Wave is required to warm waters to the El Nino threshold. But even without that, it appears some other process is in-play favoring warm water accumulation in the Galapagos region. If this process holds, We could be over the proverbial 'hump'. And when the developing Kelvin Wave arrives at the Galapagos 2-3 months later (~Sept 30), more warm water will reinforce the existing warm pool theoretically pushing things well into El Nino territory. That cannot be declared until it happens, but everything is starting to line up.
Pacific Counter Current data is again available. Data as of 8/17 suggests the current was pushing west to east over the entire West and Central Pacific north of the equator on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. Easterly current was on the equator from 100-150W. But this current was weaker than normal, with west anomalies depicted over small but decently strong areas on the equator at 145W and then again at 120W into the Galapagos. This is very good news suggesting westerly current anomalies are building, perhaps meaning were coming to the end of the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. The situation is vastly improved from June and July during the height of the current upwelling phase. The question remains, will the westerly current build and overtake the easterly component? Latest data suggests that is in fact occurring now and is all tied to whether westerly winds continue or build in the West Pacific reaching over the dateline over the next 30-45 days. Westerly anomalies are forecast to continue....
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 8/19 are relatively unchanged suggesting water temps building to +1.0 deg C by early Oct peaking at +1.25 deg C in Dec (down from the +1.75 deg C predicted in May and then revised down to +1.55 deg C predicted in early July) holding into May 2015, then presumably 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: A massive Kelvin Wave was generated by successive Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April and erupted in the Galapagos region late June and is now dispersed. The WWB ended on 5/1 with the last of the warm water from it arriving 3 months later over the Galapagos on 8/1. At one point it looked like neutral water temps would be taking over the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle with no immediate Kelvin Wave reinforcements projected. But that has not occurred. Instead a persistent water temp regime has stabilized there, and not much different temperature wise from what it was at the peak of Kelvin Wave impact. And renewed WWB and west anomalies are in-play in the West Pacific (starting 6/28). Still that new Kelvin Wave is not expected to 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. We had been thinking this would cause water temps to decease in the Nino1+2 regions, likely to near neutral. But that has not happened. Instead water temps are holding in the Galapagos triangle in the +1.5 degree range. Some other process is at work keeping water temp stable in the Galapagos region (as of 8/21).
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 8 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 data suggests we're coming out of the 'upwelling' Phase of the Kelvin Wave. 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 the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific 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 and only a neutral 90 day SOI (rather than a negative one). 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. As of 8/19, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in place were fading out. Instead the SOI was steadily trending negative, the Pacific Counter Current is again starting to trend westerly, and a new Kelvin Wave is building with slightly warmer water already priming the subsurface channel. Assuming the arguments against coupling were all 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 at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had 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 is now starting to looks much better as of 8/19) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which is nonexistent) is key. But at this time odds continue stacking in favor of a global teleconnection 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 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 the pattern in the Southwest Pacific is to become more entrenched. By Monday AM (8/25) a new gale is to start forming south of New Zealand producing 40-45 kt southwest winds over a decent sized area by evening lifting northeast with 28 ft seas building at 57S 175E. By Tuesday AM (8/26) 40 kt southwest winds to continue in play generating a broad area of 30 ft seas at 55S 176W (189 degs HI, 209 degs SCal and 207 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti) pushing well to the northeast. 40-45 kt southwest winds are forecast Tues PM with 34 ft seas lifting northeast at 47S 168W (187 degs HI, 210 degs SCal and 208 degs NCal and still shadowed). Fetch is to be fading fast from 35 kts Wed AM (8/27) with seas fading from 31 ft at 43S 160W aimed well to the north (182 degs HI, 209 degs SCal and 207 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). Perhaps a decent pulse of swell to result, especially for Hawaii, but set wave count way down relative to California and anywhere in the shadow.
Another gale to follow directly on the same general path to the northeast Wed PM (8/27) into Thurs PM (8/28) with a solid area of 35-40 kt south winds forecast. And yet a third system to be right behind on Thurs PM (8/28) tracking under New Zealand with up to 50 kt southwest winds.
Certainly something to monitor. It looks like summer might finally be starting.
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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