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 (8/28) in North and Central CA a mix of local north windswell and wrapping southeast swell was producing surf in the waist high range and clean but weak. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high and pretty windy, with heavily textured conditions inside the kelp. In Southern California up north Marie swell was still in effect with surf head high to 1 ft overhead and lightly chopped with northwest winds in effect. Down south waves were 3 ft overhead and still pushing sideways up the coast, and a bit warbled with northwest winds on it. Cleaner further south and better lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with sideshore warble from east-northeast trades. The South Shore was getting new southern hemi swell with waves almost chest high with a few bigger sets and clean. On the East Shore trade wind generated windswell was waist high and chopped.
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 energy in the water from Hurricane Marie. For the future a tiny gale formed southeast of Tahiti on Fri (8/22) with 27 ft seas targeting Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. Swell is hitting Hawaii now and bound for CA for the weekend. A primer gale developed southeast of New Zealand on Tues (8/27) tracking northeast with 32 ft seas, but swell from that one will be quickly overtaken by a stronger one that tracked through the South Central Pacific on Wed-Thurs (8/28) with up to 48 ft seas lifting northeast. And perhaps some limited secondary fetch to persist in the Central and Southeast Pacific through mid-next week, but minimal in terms of it's swell production capacity.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (8/28) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered in the Western Gulf of Alaska ridging east to almost Oregon and west to almost Japan, but generating no swell producing fetch of interest. A pair of weak low pressure systems were tracking from Kamchatka east over the Aleutians with the first in the Northern Gulf of Alaska with 25 kt west winds and the second just east of Kamchatka with barely 25 kt west winds in it's south quadrant. Both to fade by Friday with no swell resulting. Locally no north winds of interest were blowing over North or Central CA and trades were light over Hawaii. As a result no real windswell was in evidence for Central CA. There was some modest windswell along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands attributable to previous northeast fetch. The remnants of Hurricane Marie, now barely tropical storm strength, continued pushing northwest through the open East Pacific offering no swell producing capacity.
Over the next 72 hours Marie is expected to dissipate. Otherwise high pressure is to rebuild some along the North CA coast setting up the usual pressure gradient and north winds over the North and Central CA coast on Sat-Sun (8/31) at 20-25 kts making for minimal northerly windswell at exposed breaks. Trades relative to Hawaii are to remain suppressed with no meaningful windswell resulting along east facing shores.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (Thurs AM 12z 8/28)
Tropical Storm Marie - Marie was fading steadily while tracking northwest from a point 800 nmiles southwest of Pt Conception. Marie had winds of 40 kts with seas fading from 15 ft. Marie is to be down to tropical depression status by Friday AM (8/29) and dissipating from there. Perhaps remnant low pressure to reach a point 350 nmiles northeast of Hawaii on Fri (9/5). Swell from earlier in Marie's life is pushing towards exposed breaks on east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands (below). No more swell production is anticipated. But between Lowell and Marie, it was an epic run. Many thanks to the suppression of the Northeast Pacific High and the resulting warm waters that developed, indirectly linked to a developing El Nino.
Hawaii: Expect Marie swell arriving early Fri AM (8/29) at 4.2 ft @ 17 secs (7 ft) holding decently through the day. Swell fading fast Sat AM (8/30) from 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft faces). Residuals on Sun AM (8/31) fading from 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 260-265 degrees
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (8/28) weak high pressure at 1022 mbs was positioned well off the North CA coast with no pressure gradient nor north winds over Cape Mendocino. A light wind flow was in place over all of California. But by Friday (8/29) that high is to start ridging east with north winds building at 15-20 kts over the entire North and Central coast late. On Saturday high pressure is to hold in the Gulf of Alaska impacting North CA as the remnants of hurricane Marie ease west and out of the picture. North winds to continue at 15-20 kts over North and Central CA pushing to 20+ kts Sunday reaching down over the Channel Islands. On Mon AM (9/1) winds to start fading over Central waters and wind consolidating over Northern CA at 25 kts. By Tues (9/2) those 25 kt winds to rapidly retreat to the north isolated to Cape Mendocino with an eddy flow back in control of all of Central and South CA. And then even the limited gradient is to fade to 20 kts on Wed PM holding Thursday with an eddy flow in control of Central CA. The hope is this short lived north wind event will not cause significant upwelling, keep water temps at near record levels.
Jetstream - On Thursday (8/28) a solid trough was bowing northward filling the Central South Pacific with 140 kts winds flowing up into it offering decent support for gale development there. A ridge was still in control of the far Southeast Pacific and another was under New Zealand. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to hold in the Central Pacific while easing east with additional wind energy building under New Zealand feeding into the trough, continuing support for gale development over the Central and East South Pacific. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast as the trough continues slowly tracking east, with the apex of the trough moving to 125W by Thurs (9/4). A ridge is to be locking down the area under New Zealand. Support for gale development to be limited to the Southeast Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (8/28) swell from a gale that formed southwest of Tahiti last weekend is starting to hit Hawaii and pushing towards the US West Coast (see Small Tahiti Gale below). A primer swell is behind that pushing towards the same targets (see Primer Gale below). And far stronger swell is in the water being generated by a small but strong storm that pushed through the South Central Pacific Wed-Thurs (8/28) (see Strong Small Tahitian Storm below).
Strong high pressure was stationary over New Zealand at 1036 mbs with the Southwest Pacific open for storm production. A broad gale was still circulating in the Central Pacific (see Strong Small Tahitian Storm below). Over the next 72 hours the core of this gale is to fade, but then secondary wind energy is to develop Fri AM (8/29) in it's west quadrant with winds to nearly 45 kts with seas starting to rebuild. By evening a decent sized fetch of 40-45 kt southerly winds to be in play 1800 nmiles south of Tahiti aimed well to the northeast with 30-31 ft seas forecast at 48S 150W targeting Tahiti with sideband energy and mainly targeting the Southwest US Coast (198-199 degs CA and unshadowed by Tahiti). This fetch is to hold and lift northeast into Sat AM (8/30) with 32 ft seas at 44S 142W (195-196 degs CA) with a tiny core of embedded 36 ft seas within it. The fetch is to be fading fast in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft over a small area at 41S 136W (190 degs CA), positioned well north of normal. Perhaps a decent pulse of secondary swell to result for CA following right on the heels of bigger swell expected for the area.
Small Tahitian Gale
A small cutoff gale developed 900 nmiles east of the north coast of New Zealand on Fri PM (8/22) 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 continued in the evening but aimed more east with 26 ft seas at 34S 151W or just 1000 nmiles southwest of Tahiti. Additional fetch held into Sun AM with 27 ft seas near 34S 144W (199 depress CA). Swell hit Tahiti on Mon (8/25) and is working its way towards Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Swell holding Fri AM (8/29) at 3.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell fading on Sat (8/30) from 3.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 191 degrees
Southern CA: Swell arrival expected starting Fri (8/29) building to 1.6 ft @ 16 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell continuing on Sat (8/30) near 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3 ft) with secondary energy building late. Sun (8/31) swell to peak at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs early (3.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (9/1) from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 210-220 degrees
North CA: Swell arrival expected starting Sat (8/30) pushing 2 ft @ 16 secs late (3 ft). Sun (8/31) swell to peak at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs early (3.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (9/1) from 2.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 215 degrees
On Monday PM (8/25) a new gale formed and tracked northeast from a point south of New Zealand producing 40 kt southwest winds over a modest sized area with seas on the increase. By Tuesday AM (8/26) 40-45 kt southwest winds continued in play over a reasonably broad area aimed better to the northeast generating a small area of 30 ft seas at 59S 171W (187 degs HI, 205 degs SCal and 204 degs NCal and barely shadowed by Tahiti) pushing well to the northeast. 40 kt southwest winds were over a broad area Tues PM with 32 ft seas lifting northeast at 57S 160W (181 degs HI, 202 degs SCal and 200 degs NCal and east of the shadow). Fetch was fading fast from 30-35 kts Wed AM (8/27) with seas fading from 26 ft at 53S 145W aimed decently to the north (199 degs SCal and 198 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti).
A modest pulse of swell to result for Tahiti, Hawaii, and California.
Hawaii: Swell arrival expected Sun (8/31) with swell 1.6 ft @ 16 secs (2.5 ft) in the morning and holding. Swell holding Mon (9/1) at 2.1 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) then fading late. Residuals on Tues (9/2) with swell 2 ft @ 12-13 sec (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 181-187 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) with period 18 secs building to 1.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (3.0 ft) at sunset and getting overrun by stronger swell (below).
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) with period 18 secs building to 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) at sunset and getting overrun by stronger swell (below). Swell Direction: 200-204 degrees
Strong Small Tahitian Storm
A storm developed directly on the same path as the previous system under New Zealand getting traction on already roughed up sea surface tracking to the northeast starting Wed AM (8/27) with 55 kt west-southwest winds and 34 ft seas building at 61S 173E just off the Ross Ice Shelf (198 degs HI, 209 degs SCal, 208 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). By Wed PM (8/27) a solid area of 50-55 kt southwest winds were blowing while lifting northeast with seas building to 48 ft at 58.5S 174W (188 degs HI, 207 degrees SCal and 205 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). Winds were fading from 45 kts Thurs AM (8/28) with a solid area of 41 ft seas at 55S 162W (182 degs HI, 203 degs SCal and 202 degs NCal and east of the Tahiti swell shadow). A rapid fade to follow with winds down to 35 kts in the evening and seas fading fast from 32 ft at 50S 151W (199 degs SCal, 198 degs NCal and unshadowed).
Solid swell to result for all locations though less than expected size for Hawaii given the fact the fetch was tracking well east of the great circle paths up into the Islands. Conversely the fetch was aimed almost right up the great circle paths to California (though shadowed at the peak of the storm by Tahiti).
Tahiti: Expect swell arrival on Sat (8/30) at 8 PM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building steadily. Swell to start peaking near 7 AM Sun (8/31) and holding through 2 PM with pure swell 8.7-9.7 ft @ 18-19 secs (15.7-18.4 ft with some bigger sets). Swell to hold as period drops to 17 secs at sunset. Residuals on Mon (9/1). Swell Direction: 192-198 degrees
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tues late afternoon (9/2) with period 22 secs. Swell building to 2 ft @ 21-22 secs late (4.0-4.5 ft with bigger sets). Swell peaking on Wed (9/3) at 2.6 ft @ 19 secs mid-day (5.0 ft with sets to 6.2 ft). Period down to 18 secs at sunset. Inconsistent. Swell holding on Thurs (9/4) at 2.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.6 ft with sets to near 6 ft). Swell fading from 15 secs on Fri (9/5). Swell Direction: 182-188 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) near 5 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building pushing 1.7 ft @ 20-21 secs late (3.5 ft with sets to 4.5 ft) . Period turning to 19-20 secs Fri AM (9/5) and swell getting solid near mid-day as period turns 19 secs. Solid swell expected Sat (9/6) at 4.2 ft @ 17 secs (7 ft with sets to 9 ft). Swell fading Sun (9/7) with period at 16 secs. Swell Direction: 204-207 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (9/4) near 8 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building pushing 1.3 ft @ 21-22 secs late (2.5-3.0 ft). Period turning to 19-20 secs Fri AM (9/5) and swell getting solid near mid-day as period turns 19 secs. Solid swell expected Sat (9/6) at 4 ft @ 17-18 secs (7 ft with sets to 9 ft). Swell fading Sun (9/7) with period at 16 secs. Swell Direction: 201-205 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours high pressure is to continue ridging into the Pacific Northwest during the coming workweek (9/1-9/4) resulting in north winds at 25 kts over Cape Mendocino into Wed AM (9/3) then fading to 20 kts before dissipating early Fri (9/5). Some degree of semi normal north windswell is expected to result for exposed breaks in North and Central CA. For Hawaii trades are to remain suppressed with no windswell of interest forecast along east facing shores.
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 (8/28) the daily SOI was up to -5.52. The 30 day average was holding at -8.21 and the 90 day average was down some at -4.38. 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. A series of weak low pressure systems are forecast developing near Tahiti through Thurs (9/4) and falling southeast likely holding the SOI somewhat 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 anomalies were over the Maritime Continent continuing to the dateline. Neutral anomalies extended from there to a point south of Hawaii then turning light westerly mid-way to the Galapagos, but fading over the Galapagos. Solid westerly anomalies continued in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) from Hawaii eastward to 120W. A week from now (9/5) light to modest east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading near the dateline, then turning neutral on the dateline continuing to the Galapagos. Neutral winds to take hold of the ITCZ too. likely shutting down tropical development there. Looking back a few months there has not been a extended period of trades so far this year, and we're over 241 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. But by 7/11 light west anomalies redeveloped holding through 7/20. A legitimate Westerly Wind Burst then formed and held through 8/10, then weakened with neutral anomalies through 8/18, turning light westerly 8/20-8/22. Latest data from the TAO array indicates neutral anomalies in control. 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 8/27 are generally in sync. They both suggest a modest Inactive MJO signal is in effect in the far West Pacific reaching to the dateline. 5 days out it is to start fading and be gone 8 days out per the Statistic model with a weak Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean and pushing into the far West Pacific 15 days out. The Dynamic model has the Inactive Phase holding steady in the modest state for the next 15 days. The ultra long range upper level model run 8/28 suggests a weak Inactive Phase was in play over the Central Pacific and it is to ease east and fade over Central America 9/7. A weak Active Phase is to be building in the West Pacific starting 9/10 tracking east through through 10/7 with a weak Inactive Phase behind it. Recent experience this year suggests this model overhypes any Inactive Phase. As such, we suspect the Inactive Phase to fade out 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 (8/28), 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. TOA data suggest neutral water temps are building from 100W to 150W, but the satellite data and hi res data does not depict it. No real cool water remains in the Nino 3.4 region with warm anomalies over the entire area. +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 preferred, 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 8/28 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 8/21 depicts a solid and building area of +5 cm anomalies are covering the dateline region and starting to track east reaching to 115W. Subsurface models depict a building pocket of solid +2 deg anomalies in place under the dateline per the TAO array and building in coverage while easing east suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave is in play and pushing east. Some models depict peak temps there at +3 degs. Regardless, they all suggest the Kelvin wave is pushing east, as is the satellite height anomaly data. 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 (as is suggested by the latest TAO surface anomaly chart), 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 8/27 suggests things are continuing to improve. The current is 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. A patch of strong west current was on the equator between 135E-160E in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Easterly current was on the equator from 130-150W but exceedingly weak and loosing ground, with strong west anomalies from 135W into the Galapagos. 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 8/28 have stabilized suggesting water temps building to +0.6 deg C by early Oct peaking at +1.0 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-Feb 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 instead a persistent warm water temp regime 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 developed in the West Pacific (starting 6/28) with a new Kelvin wave at +2 degs C in flight now. But that 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 8/28).
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. All data suggests we're at the end 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. And then that pulse was followed by another pulse off Mexico (818-8/28). 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 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 8/28, 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 another small fetch of 45 kt west-southwest winds are forecast for the Southeast Pacific associated with the same upper trough and surface low currently in play. Perhaps a tiny area of 30-32 ft seas to result near 56S 134W on Tues (9/2).
After that things are to calm down.
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
Add a STORMSURF Buoy Forecast to your Google Homepage. Click Here:
Then open your Google homepage, hit 'edit' button (top right near graph), and select your location
Updated - Stormsurf Video Surf Forecast for the week starting Sunday (8/24) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwosSuCfMIg&feature=youtu.be&hd=1
For automatic notification of forecast updates, subscribe to the Stormsurf001 YouTube channel - just click the 'Subscribe' button below the video.
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Mavericks Invitational Pieces Featuring Stormsurf:
Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.
Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's simple and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet Explorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way!
Free Stormsurf Stickers - Get your free stickers! - More details Here
Read all the latest news and happenings on our News Page here
Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table