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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, August 23, 2014 9:27 AM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
Swell Potential Rating = 3.0 - California & 2.3 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 8/25 thru Sun 8/31

Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

Small New Zealand Swell Moving Into CA
Another Tropical Swell for CA - Southwest Pacific To Wake Up

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.

 

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Saturday (8/23) 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 and clean at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high plus on the sets and clean. In Southern California up north a mix of southern hemi and tropical storm swell was producing surf in the waist to near chest high range and clean. Down south waves were chest high with head high sets coming from TS Lowell and beautifully clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with sideshore warble from east-northeast trades. The South Shore was getting leftover swell from New Zealand with sets waist high and clean. On the East Shore trade wind generated windswell was knee to maybe thigh high and chopped with some tropical swell underneath.

See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.

Meteorological Overview
Swell producing fetch for the North Pacific was limited to hardly rideable local north windswell. The East Pacific tropics remain active with swell in the water from Hurricane Lowell pushing into all of California but past it's peak in Southern CA.  And small southern hemi swell is in the water well past it's peak in Hawaii and starting to hit California 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. Another weak system followed under New Zealand on Fri (8/15) with 34 ft seas aimed mainly due east. Small swell from that is in the water starting to hit Hawaii and eventually bound for CA.  Beyond a small gale formed southeast of Tahiti on Fri (8/22) with 27 ft seas, but small in coverage targeting only Tahiti and perhaps Hawaii. Beyond a somewhat better pattern is to take hold with a modest gale projected southeast of New Zealand on Mon-Tues (8/27) tracking northeast with 30 ft seas and yet a stronger one directly behind on Wed-Thurs (8/28) with 46 ft seas lifting northeast. Something to monitor.  

SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

Overview 
Surface Analysis  - On Saturday (8/23) a relatively calm pressure and wind pattern continued over the North Pacific. For California a small area of 20 kt north winds were blowing over Cape Mendocino as it has for days now resulting in bare minimal local north windswell at exposed breaks mainly in Central CA. This fetch was associated with high pressure at 1028 mbs ridging into the Pacific Northwest. Relative to Hawaii trades were building some, blowing at 15 kts from the northeast also associated with the high pressure system off the Pacific Northwest. Only minimal windswell was hitting east facing shores there. The tropics were active with the remnants of Karina and Lowell in play southwest of California and minimal hurricane Marie organizing off the Mexican Coast and threatening to become stronger (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 but now focused on Hurricane Marie which is to build while tracking northwest moving into the Southern CA swell window with some strength. Otherwise 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 hold relative to Hawaii coming from the northeast at 15 kts Sun-Tues (8/26) but for the most part pulled away from the Islands. Perhaps some interaction of the remnants of Lowell and Karina with the high pressure system to the north to enhance windswell marginally too. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to continue putting a damper on the West Pacific tropical development for now.  

 

  North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height

Tropical Update (Sat AM 6Z)
Hurricane Karina was nearly stationary 1350 nmiles east-southeast of the Hawaii on the 100 degree great circle track and 1450 nmiles from San Francisco and 1400 nmiles from Los Angeles on the 203 degree track with winds 70 kts tracking northeast at 6 kts producing 18 ft seas. But the areal coverage of her winds were very small. Tiny swell from whatever Karina was producing is pushing back towards California, expected to arrive on Monday PM (8/25) at 9 PM if period is 13 secs. Karina is forecast to continue tracking northeast but losing strength, down to tropical storm status with 60 kt winds Sat (8/23) evening and decaying from there. Perhaps a recurving path to the northwest could occur starting Mon PM (8/25), but winds then are projected at only 35 kts. No swell production of interest is projected relative to Hawaii.

Tropical Storm Lowell - Lowell is now barely a tropical storm with winds down to 40 kts and fading fast. Lowell was positioned 650 nmiles south-southwest of Dana Point CA on the 213 degree great circle path with seas to 11 ft. Lowell was tracking northwest at 9 kts no longer getting any traction on the oceans surface. Lowell to start accelerating to the northwest over the next 3 days with winds holding near 30 kts, then fading out entirely while accelerating yet more to the northwest No swell production was occurring nor expected to occur. Swell already peaked in Southern CA on Fri (8/22) and is peaking on Sat AM (8/23) in Northern CA.  

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. 

Hurricane Marie - Marie was positioned 600 nmiles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas Mexico tracking west-northwest at 10 kts with winds minimal hurricane force (65 kts). Marie is to continue on this heading and strengthening peaking near 125 kts (143 mph) Sun PM (6Z or 11 PM) 1050 nmiles from Dana Point on the 165 degree great circle path and about 6 hours after moving into the Dana Point swell window. Assuming a 15 sec period, swell arrival on the coast there would be Tuesday (8/26) maybe starting an hour before sunset 9though hitting the Channel Islands much earlier due mainly to greater exposure. Much could change between now and then.

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 Nino. 

 

South Pacific

Overview
Jetstream - On Saturday (8/23) the southern branch of the jet was in a 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. 150 kt winds were tracking south of New Zealand and starting to push up into the weak trough already in place in the West Pacific offering some support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Also a cut off trough was east of new Zealand with no real winds pushing up into it offering next to no support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours winds to feed somewhat up into the New Zealand trough for 24 hours offering limited support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere, then it is to moderate by Sun (8/24). still, the trough is to hold now repositioned southeast of New Zealand through Mon (8/25). 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 pocket of wind energy is to start feeding the New Zealand trough on Tues (8/26) with 130 kt winds pushing well to the northeast making decent inroads to the north by Wed (8/27) with more 150 kts winds building under New Zealand on Thurs (8/28) and then pushing to 180 kts late on Friday (8/29) aimed due north positioned in the Central Pacific. Much i
mproved support for gale development indicated if one believes the models. This appears to be the start of a nice pattern.

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 starting to tickle the buoys along the Southwest US Coast (see New Zealand Gale below). Two other tiny fetch areas followed producing nothing of real interest (details below). High pressure at 1036 mbs was locked over the Tasman Sea with low pressure tracking up it's eastern flank getting support from a cutoff upper level trough resulting in 35 kt southerly winds targeting Tahiti (see Small Tahiti Gale below) with much more to follow. 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. By Monday AM (8/25) a new gale is to start forming south of New Zealand producing 40-45 kt southwest winds over a modest sized area and by evening lifting northeast with 30 ft seas building at 58S 179W. By Tuesday AM (8/26) 40-45 kt southwest winds to continue in play over a broader area aimed better to the northeast generating a modest area of 30 ft seas at 55S 165W (184 degs HI, 205 degs SCal and 203 degs NCal and about unshadowed by Tahiti) pushing well to the northeast.  45 kt southwest winds are forecast Tues PM with 27 ft seas lifting northeast at 52S 155W (180 degs HI, 202 degs SCal and 200 degs NCal and east of the shadowed). Secondary fetch is to be fading fast from 40 kts Wed AM (8/27) with seas fading from 28 ft at 48S 158W aimed decently to the north (181 degs HI, 205 degs SCal and 203 degs NCal and barely unshadowed by Tahiti). Perhaps a modest pulse of swell to result for Tahiti, Hawaii, and California. 

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.

Southern CA: 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: 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
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 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.

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.

Small Tahitian Gale
A small
cutoff gale developed 900 nmiles east of the north coast of New Zealand on Fri PM 98/22) with 35 kt south winds over a tiny area aimed north. Seas built to 24 ft at 41S 161W. A broader area of 30-35 kt south winds continued overnight into Sat AM (8/23) with seas building to 26 ft over a larger area near 38S 161W aimed due north. Fetch is to continue in the evening but aimed more east with 26 ft seas at 34S 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).      

 

South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height

 

QuikCAST's

 

LONG-TERM FORECAST
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours high pressure induced fetch off the Pacific Northwest down into Cape Mendocino is to fade out by Wed AM (8/27) with even the tiny north windswell that CEntral CA has been seeing fading away completely. The remnants of Lowell and Karina are to still be interacting with high pressure northeast of Hawaii producing a limited fetch of 20 kt northeast winds targeting the Islands, but fading out by Wed (8/27) afternoon. Maybe some northeast windswell to result for the Islands with luck. the focus is to be on Hurricane Marie through about Thurs (8/28), and then even it's to dissipate leaving the North Pacific in a quiet state.  

So 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. But we're a few weeks out from that possibly happening.  

MJO/ENSO Update
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 Saturday (8/23) the daily SOI was down to -12.50. The 30 day average was down some to -9.25 and the 90 day average was down some at -3.11. 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. Low pressure was taking over the tahiti area and forecast to hold into at least Wed (8/27) 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 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 stronger northward in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Light winds continued to the Galapagos on the equator. A week from now (8/30) light east anomalies are forecast to continue over the Maritime Continent then turning to westerly anomalies on the dateline and building on the equator up into the ITCZ south of Hawaii continuing to 150W Neutral anomalies are forecast east of there to the Galapagos. 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 235 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 and continued into 8/22. 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 8/22 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 weakening slowly and not gone 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run 8/23 suggests a modest Inactive Phase was in play over the West Pacific and it is to ease east and fade over Central America 9/17. A weak Active Phase to follow starting in the West Pacific 9/12 tracking east through through 10/2. 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 west, 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 8/22 suggests things are continuing to improve. 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 130-180W but exceedingly weak, with west anomalies from 150W into the Galapagos and strong west anomalies from 135 though 100W. This is great news and suggests the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave is over. The situation is vastly improved from June and July during the height of the current upwelling phase and continues to improve with each update. As of right now it appears the westerly current is building and overtaking the easterly component. We assume it is all tied to continued westerly winds 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 8/21 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 

 

South Pacific

Beyond 72 another gale to follow directly on the same general path under New Zealand to the northeast starting Wed AM (8/27) with 50 kt west-southwest winds and 38 ft seas building at 61S 168W just off the Ross Ice Shelf. By Wed PM (8/27) a solid area of 55 kt southwest winds are forecast lifting northeast with seas building to 47 ft at 57S 180W (192 degs HI, 210 degrees SCal and 209 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). Winds to be fading from 50-55 kts Thurs AM (8/28) with a solid area of 42 ft seas forecast at 54S 170W (188 degs HI, 207 degs SCal and 206 degs NCal and in the heart of the Tahiti swell shadow). A rapid fade to follow but with secondary winds energy building in the same area and seas rebuilding to 36 ft at 50S 150W on Fri (8/29) moving out of the Hawaiian swell window and well clear of the Tahiti swell shadowed for California (196 degs SCal and 194 degs NCal).  

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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