Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
Sunday, September 6, 2015
- Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 4.2 ft @ 15.4 secs with swell 2.6 ft @ 17.4 secs from 182 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 19.0 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 18.4 secs. Wind northwest 4-6 kts. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.9 ft @ 10.2 secs from 250 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.6 ft @ 20.0 secs from 217 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.9 ft @ 19.4 secs from 206 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 8.2 ft @ 8.0 secs with swell 4.8 ft @ 8.3 secs. Wind northwest 18-25 kts. Water temp 59.5 degs.
Buoy 46059 is scheduled to come back on-line in October.
On Saturday (9/5) in North and Central CA at best breaks local north windswell was producing surf in the shoulder high range and clean early. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high on the sets and clean and lined up but very slow. In Southern California up north waves were waist to almost chest high on the sets and weak with heavy but clean and well lined up when they came with windswell intermixed. Down south rare southern hemi sets were producing waves in the chest high range and clean early. Best breaks had head high sets. Hawaii's North Shore was getting minimal Jimena swell at waist high or so and clean. The South Shore was getting solid swell from the southern hemi with set waves 1 ft overhead and lined up and clean. The East Shore was getting hurricane Jimena swell with waves 7-8 ft on the faces and chopped early with southeast winds in control.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no large scale non-tropical swell producing weather systems were occurring. Local north windswell was hitting the US West Coast. But the main focus continues to be on three tropical systems, one in the far West Pacific (Kilo), one tracking well north from Hawaii (Ignacio), and one east of there (Jimena). Swell is hitting the east shores of the Islands from Jimena and is expected to continue while turning from more of a northeasterly direction into next week. Regarding local windswell, local north windswell is forecast relative to California for the foreseeable future with improving conditions developing by Sun (9/6). Windswell relative to Hawaii is not expected with Jimena being the major swell source. For the southern hemisphere swell from a gale that tracked east from under New Zealand Thurs (8/27) producing 39 ft seas aimed east was hitting California. And a broader gale developed directly behind Fri-Sun (8/30) generating up to 40 ft seas aimed decently to the northeast, with remnants tracking across the South Pacific. Swell from that one is hitting Hawaii nicely and bound for California later in the holiday weekend. And regarding El Nino, the third and most powerful of the Kelvin Waves that have been generated this years is just starting to materialize at the surface mainly west of the Galapagos. Very warm pockets are developing at the surface from Ecuador to points west of the Galapagos, but best focused on the westerly locations. And temps in the Nino3.4 region are on track with '97 for the moment and are actually warmer west of there. It's looking like this years event will be a more west focused one (like '82/83).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday (9/5) high pressure at 1024 mbs was 900 nmiles west of Oregon ridging into Northern CA generating 20-25 kt north winds from North CA down well into Central CA and generating local north angled short period windswell. Otherwise no swell producing fetch that wasn't tropical was occurring over the greater North Pacific.
Over the next 72 hours relative to California the same Gulf high pressure system is to be locked in.cgiace ridging into the Pacific Northwest continuing the pressure gradient but focused on Cape Mendocino with north winds there at 25 kts into Wed (9/9) with an eddy flow in.cgiace for Central CA up to at least Pt Reyes (starting Sun 9/6). Small north windswell is likely for North and Central CA with decent conditions. This high is already far south enough to open the storm track into the Northern Gulf of Alaska, with the remnants of Ignacio tracking north and then forecast northeast into it (see below). Relative to Hawaii trades to remain light, below the 15 kt threshold to generate windswell with fetch and swell from Jimena of most interest (see Tropical Update below).
Ignacio: The remnants of Ignacio were 1900 nmiles west of North CA on Sat AM (9/5) tracking north generating south winds at 50-55 kts aimed at Alaska while riding up the west flank of blocking high pressure off the Pacific Northwest. That high is just about south enough now to open a track through the Northern Gulf of Alaska. Ignacio is to get caught by the jetstream and track through that opening heading east on Mon AM (9/7) on the 48N latitude line with 30-35 kt west winds and 26 ft seas at 46N 161W (298 degs NCal), but fading with winds down to 30 kts Tues AM (9/8) and seas barely 20 ft over a tiny area at 48N 150W (308 degs NCal) targeting mainly British Columbia. This system to dissipate from there. Some small 13 sec period swell is possible down into Central CA late in the workweek (3 ft @ 11 secs or 3 ft faces on Fri 9/11).
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Update (as of 12Z Sat 9/5)
Oahu Northeast Shore: Swell to continue on Sun (6/6) at 5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 80 degrees More of the same (unchanged swell size/period) through Tues (9/8) though turning progressively more northeast (55 degs on Tues). Swell to start fading on Wed (9/9) from 5 ft @ 11-12 secs (5.5 ft) from 40 degrees. Swell gone after that.
Jimena: On Sat AM (9/3) Jimena was 550 nmiles east-northeast of the Big Island with winds down to 70 kts and tracking to the northwest. By Sun AM (9/6) Jimena is to be down to tropical storm strength with winds 60 kts 450 nmiles east-northeast of the Big Island. Swell generation potential fading but much swell from previous fetch is to be in the water and heading west towards towards exposed East Shores. A turn to the west is forecast on Mon (9/7) with winds 50 kts. Jimena is to continue on a westerly track while slowly fading located 175 nmiles north of Kauai on Thurs (9/10) with winds 30 kts and fading out. Continued swell production forecast, but size and period steadily dropping.
Hurricane Kilo: On Sat AM (9/5) Kilo was tracking west from a point a bit west of the dateline at 23.6N 171.9E with winds 80 kts. A continued west track is forecast with steady strengthening forecast with winds to 120 kts by Mon AM (9/7). Strength is to fade some after that with a slow turn to the west northwest and northwest forecast putting Kilo 500 nmiles east-southeast of Tokyo Japan on Thurs (9/100 with winds 80 kts. The GFS model has it making an abrupt turn to the north late Thursday then losing wind energy while turning north-northeast on Sat (9/12) off the Southern Kuril Islands. Recurature to the northeast is possible.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sat (9/5) high pressure was off the Pacific Northwest ridging into North CA generating a pressure gradient along the coast 20-25 kt north winds from Cape Mendocino down to Pt Conception. The gradient is to lift north Sunday becoming isolated over North CA with an eddy flow (south winds) for Central CA. More of the same is forecast Monday with north winds to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino. No real change is forecast through Thurs (9/10) with north winds over the Cape Mendocino area at 25 kts and an eddy flow over Central CA. On Fri (9/11) winds in the gradient to build to 30 kts then the gradient is to start rapidly collapsing on Sat (9/12). A well entrenched eddy flow to persist for Central CA.
On Saturday AM (9/5) a trough was developing under New Zealand with south winds 130 kts pushing up into offering good support for gale development. Otherwise a big ridge was over the Central Pacific pushing down to the Antarctic Coast and never really recovering east of there. Support for gale development was happening in the trough. Over the next 72 hours the trough is expected to reach up to the southern tip of New Zealand late Saturday and continue Sunday but getting steadily pinched finally getting cut off later Mon (9/7). More support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere is expected. the ridge in the east is to continue. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to rebuild further south on the 70S latitude line by Fri (9/11) tracking across the entire South Pacific and over Antarctic Ice, offering no support for gale development.
On Sat AM (9/5) swell from a small gale that developed under New Zealand was hitting California (see 1st Real New Zealand Gale below). And another swell was right behind that hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see 2nd New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise a broad gale was developing south of New Zealand on Sat (9/5) with 35 kts south winds targeting New Zealand directly and getting some limited traction with seas 22 ft at 53S 164E. Also a gale was trying to organize in the far Southeast Pacific with 40 kts southwest winds getting traction generating 27 ft seas at 60S 118W barely in the Southern CA swell window.
Over the next 72 hours the gale south of New Zealand is to east east with 35 kt south winds moving a bit clearer east of New Zealand into Sun PM (9/6) generating 23 ft seas at 47S 177E. The low is to hold while easing Monday (9/7) AM with 23 ft seas at 46S 179W. A small fetch of 45 kt south winds is to develop embedded in the main fetch lifting north in to the evening generating 28 ft seas at 58S 173W aimed north. 40-45 kt south winds to lift north Tues AM (9/8) generating a tiny area of 30 ft seas at 51S 169W. Fetch is to be fading into the evening with seas 28 ft at 47S 164W and fading from there. Some decent southwest swell is possible for Tahiti and up into Hawaii with tiny swell for the US West Coast if all goes as forecast.
1st Real New Zealand Gale
A stronger gale pushed under New Zealand Wed AM (8/26) generating 45 kt west winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By evening winds built to 50 kts from the west with seas to 38 ft at 62S 176E. On Thurs AM (8/27) 45 kt west winds continued tracking east with 38 ft seas at 61S 172W (188 degs HI, 202 degs NCal/204 degs SCal and unshadowed). Fetch was fading from 45 kts in the evening with 38 ft seas at 62S 159W (180 degs HI, 197 degs NCal, 198 degs SCal). A quick fade followed. Some small but decent length period swell could result for California with smaller sideband swell for HI. But size to be small with most energy running flat west to east.
SCal: Swell holding Sun AM (9/6) with swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) but getting overtaken by the next swell. Swell Direction: 198-206 degs
NCal: Swell holding Sun AM (9/6) with swell 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) but getting overtaken by the next swell. Swell Direction: 197-205 degs
2nd New Zealand Gale
A solid storm started building due south of New Zealand Thurs PM (8/27) with 50 kt west winds over a decent sized area. Seas on the increase. 45-50 kt west-southwest winds held into Fri AM (8/28) generating 41 ft seas at 59S 177E (193 degs HI, 209 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti, 210 degs SCal and barely shadowed on the east Tahiti swell shadow). Fetch was fading in the evening from 45 kts over a larger area with 40 ft seas at 57S 172W (188 degs HI, 206 degs NCal and shadowed, 205 degs SCal and unshadowed). 40 kt west-southwest winds were fading while continuing east on Sat AM (8/29) with seas fading from 37 ft at 56S 165W (182 degs HI, 204 degs NCal and barely unshadowed, 205 degs SCal and clear). Fetch is to be gone by the evening tracking east fast from 35-40 kts with 33 ft seas fading at 55S 150W. A solid long period swell is expected to result for SCal and unshadowed, but shadowed up into NCal and sideband energy for HI.
A secondary pulse of seas developed tracking northeast Sun-Mon (8/31) generating 28 ft seas targeting mainly Hawaii.
Hawaii: Swell fading Sun (9/6) from 2 ft @ 15 secs 93 ft). Swell Direction: 194 degrees
Secondary swell arriving late Sun (9/6) at 1.6 ft @ 17 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell continuing Mon (9/7) pushing 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft) then fading Tues (9/8) from 2.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 186-188 degrees
SCal: Swell building Sun (9/6) pushing 3.0 ft @ 18 secs late (5.0-5.5 ft). Swell holding Mon AM (9/7) at 3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.0-5.5 ft). Swell fading starting Tues AM (9/8) from 2.9 ft @ 16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Residuals on Wed AM (9/9) fading from 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 202-209 degrees
NCal: Expect swell arrival 11 PM Sat (9/5) with period 20 secs and size 1.5 ft @ 20 secs (3 ft). Swell building Sun (9/6) pushing 2.3 ft @ 19 secs late (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell peaking Mon (9/7) at 3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.0-5.5 ft). Swell fading starting Tues AM (9/8) from 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Swell holding Wed (9/9) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Residuals on Thurs (9/10) fading from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) early. Swell Direction: 201-208 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 no Fall-like swell producing fetch that is not tropical is forecast. High pressure is to hold off the Pacific Northwest di.cgiaced south with a storm track still open through the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska. Low pressure is to move from the Bering Sea is to move into the Northern Gulf on Wed-Thurs (9/10) but is not forecast to develop enough to result in meaningful swell. Otherwise the gradient over Cape Mendocino is to continue producing 25 kt north winds there into Fri AM (9/11) resulting in more modest north short period windswell for North and Central CA with an eddy flow from Pt Arena southward. After that the gradient is to dissipate. A new high pressure system is to develop in the far Northwest Pacific late Thurs (9/10) but even that is now not forecast to block the remnants of Kilo from moving towards the dateline. This is good news.
Beyond 72 hours no swell production of interest is forecast.
Details to follow...
Multvariable ENSO Index Spikes Upward
Kelvin Wave #3 Blooms West of Galapagos
The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
E.cgianation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric co.cgiing analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.
Overview: A strong El Nino is developing. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Sat (9/5):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated modest west winds (not anomalies) from 155E-175W mainly north of the equator to the dateline on the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Anomalies were moderate building to near strong from the west from 155E to 165W on and north of the equator fading to modest strength from 155W eastward to 135W. The anomalous west wind pattern is like a machine at this point and is locked over the eastern half of the KWGA which is normal as El Nino matures, with westerly anomalies starting to migrate slowly east. Previously west anomalies were steady for a 29 day window (7/19-8/19) and followed directly behind a very strong WWB burst (third of the year) that was associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) 6/24-7/17 (nearly 2 months of west anomalies or stronger).
1 Week Forecast: Modest west anomalies are forecast from 160E to 120W with pockets of stronger anomalies. But overall the strength of these anomalies is down some from previous forecasts. The GFS model depicts steady west winds in the Intertropical Convergence Zone up at 9N in the 10-12 kt range over the entire KWGA. By Sun (9/6) this band is to build to to near 18 kts in pockets build to 20 kts late Mon (9/7) in association with tropical activity north of there. This band is to hold into Sat (9/12) and dipping south of 6N. Though not in the KWGA proper, the thought is this might end up being a legitimate WWB. Could another Kelvin Wave result? The answer is unknown at this time but for the most part Kelvin Wave development is limited by the Coriolis Effect to a few degrees either side of the equator. A dead wind pattern is to continue forward in the heart of the KWGA. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day.
A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May with weaker but still solid west anomalies continuing after that through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern (the first such event of the year), then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB, the strongest of the year so far, starting on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 but held nicely through 7/17 (22 days), the result of a historically strong Active Phase of the MJO which produced a strong and large Kelvin Wave, the third this year and the strongest by far. Moderate westerly anomalies redeveloped 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continued through 8/19. That is nearly 2 months of non-stop anomalies if not out and out west winds (6/26-8/19). From 8/19-8/25 lesser westerly anomalies occurred and those were mainly east of the KWGA, with dead neutral anomalies in the West KWGA. West anomalies started rebuilding on 8/26 and turned to legit west winds at 9N on 9/3. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections: As of 9/3:
OLR Models: Indicate a Modest Inactive signal over the far West Pacific typical of a maturing El Nino. The Statistic model suggests a weak Inactive MJO pattern is to hold over the far West Pacific for the next 15 days. The Dynamic model depicts a weaker version of the same. In essence no MJO influence is forecast. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): They suggest the Active Phase of the MJO is dead and collapsed and is to not return.
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a moderate Inactive Phase is supposedly developing in the far West Pacific tracking east. In reality, this pattern has been on the charts for weeks now and consistently fails to materialize. It is suspected the stronger El Nino base state is in control, but exhibits an Inactive-like MJO pattern over the far West Pacific, with an Active-like pattern over the dateline and points east of there, but not moving. The model thinks it's a real Inactive Phase in a normal year in the West Pacific and tries to move it east. We are for the most part ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb): A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is forecast continuing through 9/26 mainly centered at 130E, much like the 40 day upper level chart we are ignoring above. We will ignore this one too. Some positive enhancement from a Rossby Wave is occurring now and is to continue through 9/25 easing slowly west. A push of the Active Phase of the MJO remains scheduled starting 9/28 in the far West Pacific but now only holding to 10/25 and weaker than previous projections with a solid WWB embedded in that. No easterly anomalies are forecast for the long term. Westerly anomalies are the rule from now forward over the entire KWGA and holding well into mid-Nov. The question is, will another Kelvin Wave result? A solid WWB is forecast in the middle of the Active Phase centered on 10/13 and it almost seems like one is occurring now at 9N. We'll see. Regardless, by 12/1 the CFS model has westerly anomalies on the move to the east centered at 165W (instead of 180W like now) suggesting the peak of El Nino is expected in the Dec timeframe (from a wind perspective).
Again we are ignoring the supposed Inactive MJO pattern in the far West Pacific depicted by the models. And we're more interested now in forecast constructive interference from a Rossby Wave now i.cgiay in the East Pacific and easing west into early October. And the Active Phase is still on the charts. In reality, a pure El Nino base state is at.cgiay driving current west anomalies and not expected to change much anytime soon, or if anything, build. Tropical systems if anything have the best chance of constructively interfering (enhancing) westerly anomalies from here forward. And west anomalies if not out and out west winds, regardless of their source, are all that's required to push warm water to the east. CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/5) On the equator and under the dateline (160-180W) temperature anomalies remain impressive. 29 deg temps are between 155E to 147W (retracting some) with a pocket at 30 degs at 180-165W (retracting). +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 151W eastward (moving east), the direct effects of the massive June-July WWB. A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal is poised to erupt into Ecuador (leading edge erupting now just west of the Galapagos). That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 115W (retracting some) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 147W to Ecuador (holding). This pocket is a mixture of warm water from a WWB in early May merging with water from the most recent strong WWB in late June-July. The pipe is open. And warm warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline. And warm waters appears to be erupting in the east but the hi-res subsurface animation (8/31) still depicts a tiny backdraft cool pool behind (east of) the Galapagos. That almost doesn't seem to matter anymore.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): Data from 8/31 has upgraded again. It depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 178W (holding) with a core at 20 cm at 120W with +15 cm anomalies from 105-150W (expanding). Anomalies are building into Ecuador (0-+5 cm with pockets to 5 cm) indicative of the arrival of the 3rd Kelvin wave. This is most impressive. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight in the mid-Pacific poised to merge with a subsurface reservoir poised off Ecuador. This is a classic major El Nino setup.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: As of (8/31) this data drives the point home. It indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175W and the Galapagos (holding). +1.0-1.5 degs are from 160W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same easing east from 156W. All these sectors are holding. A pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 150W-->100W (building) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 140W-->110W (expanding some). A pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies is fading fast between the Galapagos and Ecuador (from 90W-83W) with warmer water building along the immediate coast of Ecuador. The backdraft pool has not completely given up but is fading.
A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. And now a third is poised with it's leading edge starting to present over and west of the Galapagos, the strongest of all and getting stronger with each update. A pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, suggestive of a break between successive strong Kelvin Waves. But that gap is fading fast now (see below). The subsurface configuration suggests there are 2.5 months of warm water in this reservoir (till Nov 1) and some of that water is extremely warm (8 degs above normal). The peak is forecast to occur roughly on 10/4 in the Nino 1.2 region. And westerly anomalies are building in the ITCZ just north of the KWGA. So the question becomes, is this third Kelvin Wave the final one, or will another follow? We all hope the answer is more is on the way. but that is entirely dependent upon how strong the El Nino base state really is. Historically this is an epic setup.
Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean.
Low-res: (9/3) Overall the picture is improving dramatically. A tiny cool pocket remains between the Galapagos and Ecuador. Otherwise a warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific. And the pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting more concentration compared to the past months data. Still it is not like peak warming on 7/16, but it covers more area and it is just a matter of time till it surpasses that benchmark. Comparing today's image to anything post 1997, it's obvious the equatorial East Pacific is way warmer than anything other than '97 (at this time). A huge pool of warm water is covering the entire equatorial Pacific and filling the entire North Pacific Ocean. Temperatures in the NINO1.2 region have a thin cool line running through it. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there, but backing off slightly. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and is building while extending west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, but possibly attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Slightly cool water is over north Australia up to New Guinea. The cool wake of Typhoons Goni and Atsani are evident off the Philippines and Japan. Slightly warm water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.
Hi-res Nino1.2: (9/4) Things continue improving, and dramatically here. Water temps continue building along both sides of the Galapagos on into Ecuador and Peru. There is no sign of cooler waters with 3 pockets of +4 degs anomalies in the region, the best in weeks, and +2.25 deg anomalies almost totally covering the area extending unbroken from Peru over the Galapagos and heading west. This is in stark contrast to the low res image (above). This area is now building dramatically as the new erupting Kelvin Wave builds momentum. We're already near the peak previous warming that ocurred in this area on 7/14 per satellite imagery. The hi-res chart that depicts temp changes over the past 7 days (9/4) depicts a continuous stream of very recently warmed warm water building along Peru and west of there up to the equator and over the Galapagos and points west of there. No cool pockets exist and 3 warm pockets at +5 deg C are inidcated.The new Kelvin Wave is erupting west and east of the Galapagos in the same area that previous cooler water was covering. The net effect is the eruption has totally wiped out any cooler pockets associated with the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle in August.
Previously a rapid decline in anomalies started 8/13, reaching it's worst on 8/15 east of 100W with only limited pockets of +2.5 deg or greater anomalies present. This cooler pocket started working it's way west over the Galapagos. But warming started just in time, on 8/23 and is building furiously today and has already negated any affect previous cooling might have had. The upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is over and eliminated. Peak temps occurred between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14, then faded between 7/14-7/30 (and is reflected in the low res imagery too - see above). From 7/31-8/13 temps between Ecuador and the Galapagos stabilized then crashed starting 8/13 finally bottoming out 8/17. A slow warm up started 8/23 and is progressing quickly on 9/5.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (9/4) This station reported temp anomalies at +3.5 degs. This is up from +3.2 degs on 9/3 and up from 2.6 degs (8/28), and back in line with previous readings in the +2.7-3.2 range (8/20-8/26). Regardless, the trend is upward. Previously a solid reading occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had arrived, then built to +5.45 degs on 6/14. Temps faded from that high peak down to +4.1 degs in late June then rebuilt up to +4.94 on 7/17. Then a fade set in, down to +3.1 degs as of 7/31 and bouncing from +3.1-3.5 through 8/7, then falling dramatically to +2.0 on 8/10 and held at +2.1-2.3 degrees 8/14-8/19. Temps built to +2.7-3.2 8/22-8/27 and up to +3.5 on 9/5.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (8/31) Unbroken +2.25 degs anomalies continue advecting west from a previous Kelvin Wave that impacted the Galapagos. And 2 pockets of +4 deg anomalies (measured at 5 deg C above normal and building in coverage) are now present at 99W and 108W, advecting west. Total coverage of anomalies continues to build. Previously +2.25 anomalies reached to 133W on 7/16 and then 138W (7/31) pushing to 149W on 8/10 and 158W on 8/15 and filling the area to 160W on 8/18. This is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of the 1st and 2nd Kelvin Waves earlier this year. And the third one is just starting to present.
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific, the warmest in years, advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline. They have actually built in coverage north of the equator in the past week. We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line to see if it's moving east. Today its at 160E (easing west 2 degs). +1.5 deg anomalies reaching to 177W (building massively west). There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 170W (large upgrade west) with +3.0 deg anomalies now depicted embedded in it from 108W to 124W. Overall the warm water signature is building, and very impressive at this time. We expect more expansion in the next 2-3 months
Nino1.2 Index Temps: (9/5) Temps are down slightly, at +1.61. Previously temps hovered at +2.1 degrees early June then spiked reaching +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded, then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again at +3.0 degs on 7/22. Temps fell to +1.9 degrees on 7/27 and bottomed out at +1.0 degs on 8/20 a the height of the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle. Then temps started building to +1.3 on 8/26 and +1.7 by 8/29.
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are up some at +1.9. The all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). By any normal standard we are in Strong El Nino now. In '97 for Aug the monthly anomaly in Nino3.4 was +2.0. Our guess for this months monthly anomaly so far is ~+1.8. Based on what is happening in the Nino 1.2 region, with the 3rd Kelvin Wave apparently starting to erupt there, the thought is additional warming is poised to occur in Nino3.4. Water temps previously held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April, then started building pushing +1.5 degs on 6/30, held then crept up, peaking at +1.75 degs on 7/19 and +1.7 degs on 7/29, pushing +1.8 of 8/10 and +2.24 on 8/23.
Special Analysis (9/3): We performed an analysis of Nino1.2 and Nino3.4 weekly anomalies temps using OISST.v2 data. A very interesting pattern emerged: Nino1.2 temps are averaging lower in this years event to date compared to '97, but the Nino3.4 temps are higher. Specifically the Nino1.2 anomaly average for the period 4/30-8/26 for 2015 is +2.42 while in '97 is was +3.43. Meanwhile west of there in the Nino3.4 region, the average for 2015 is +1.49 while it was +1.42 in '97. This suggests the 2015 event is more focused west of the Galapagos as compared to '97. And looking at the Nino4 region, the same pattern emerges. A si.cgie view of SST anomaly charts clearly indicates the same thing. There was much more heating in the Galapagos region in '97, while in 2015 the warmth is di.cgiaced more to the west.
If you narrow the focus to just the timeframe July through August the same trend emerges with Nino1.2 anomalies +1.52 degs warmer in '97 compared to 2015 and Nino 3.4 temps almost dead even (-0.03 in 2015).
Regardless, the pattern is emerging that this is a westward di.cgiaced El Nino like the 82/83 super El Nino event. This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 9/3 the current moderate but not overly impressive. The current is pushing strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific north of the equator from 130E to 165E, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 140W before fading out at 120W. A stream of weak to modest east current was over the immediate Galapagos reaching west to 120W and then again near 170E. Anomaly wise - moderate west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific to the dateline, with a strong pocket north of the equator from the dateline to 140W, then fading with another pocket at 100W. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated south of the equator at 180W. This is not as impressive as the last update. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 130E to 140W mainly north of the equator.
SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected: For the model run 9/5 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures have downgraded slightly. It suggests water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 1.9 degs today) and are to steadily warm continuing to +1.85 degs by Oct peaking at +2.0 degs by Nov, then dropping off. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the new Kelvin Wave forming subsurface, we suspect this projection is on the low side. Uncorrected data suggests peaks to +2.95 degs
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Aug Plume has upgraded significantly, suggesting peak temps between +2.0 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.3. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs. See chart here - link.
If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on the areal coverage of water temps, there is no comparison. '97 imagery leaves this years event in the dust. The '97 event built non-stop from this point forward (in terms of areal coverage). Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable to stronger anomalies in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2 and the coverage of warm waters is a worm in this area compared to '97s mammoth coverage. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 the result of a pause in upwelling of warm water in that region, a break between the first and second Kelvin wave eruptions and the third poised just off Ecuador. The good news is concerns about these cooler waters advecting west and impacting temps in the Nino3.4 region are gone, with regent warming from the 3rd Kelvin Wave already eliminating those cool pockets. And things are just getting started. Peak temps in Nino 1.2 expected 10/4 then advecting to Nino 3.4 on 11/4.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change): As of (9/3):
Daily Southern Oscillation Index: Was falling from -11.7. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30/31st.
30 Day Average: Was rising from -14.12. The lowest point in years was achieved -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15.
90 Day Average: Was falling from -15.23 tying the previous peak low, It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23 (peak low of the year so far).
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): High pressure was over Southeast Australia on Sat (9/5), is to fade some Sun (9/6) only to be r.cgiaced by more high pressure Mon-Thurs (9/10) fading some then rebuilding on Sat (9/12).
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): High pressure is in this region and forecast to hold for the next week through Sat (9/12), though weaker Tues-Thurs (9/10).
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a neutral to weakly negative SOI through Thurs (9/10) attributable mainly to high pressure over Australia. Low pressure is needed over Tahiti for deep negative SOI values.
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied. Current numbers suggest good but not great co.cgiing, but getting better footing slowly but steadily (notice the 90 day average trend). This pattern is to only change for the better as the El Nino base state builds as we move into Fall. A consistent 90 day average of -18 is our target, indicative of a strong El Nino.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino): No real south winds are forecast till Wed (9/9) as high pressure builds over eastern Australia. It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the southerly surface flow. South and southeast wind anomalies have been in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18), but not lately. The SHBI appears to only be slightly influencing El Nino development, but we have no hard numbers to confirm.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (9/5) Today's value was + 2.07, down from +2.16 on 9/3. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Aug) The current ranking is up hard at +2.37 or up 0.39 standard deviations. The July MEI was 1.97 SD (65). At this same time in '97 the ranking was 3.00 SD and in '82 it was 1.85 SD. So we're in the middle between the '82 and '97 events, in strong El Nino territory presumably moving towards the Super El Nino range. The top 5 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. We've already beat all those. Suffice it to say we are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric co.cgiing per this index.
North Pacific Jetstream (9/5) A modest flow was running across the North Pacific roughly centered at 48N ridging slightly north of there over the dateline region. This is not impressive and suggests only weak influence by El Nino. But, the forecast suggests a large trough building on the dateline by Thurs (9/10) deepening and pushing south to 32N by Sat (9/12). Perhaps a weak Fall pattern is to try and set up.
Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 the Active Phase of the MJO and successive Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific and primed the atmosphere out of a 15 year La Nina biased pattern that had been in.cgiay since the demise of the '97-98 Super El Nino. It is assumed some greater force was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern, (the PDO). This warming and teleconnection continued building in 2015 with two Kelvin Waves arriving in Ecuador warming surface waters well into El Nino territory and a third, the strongest so far, starting to erupt in the Galapagos region. At this time we believe the classic El Nino feedback/teleconnection loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean well co.cgied.
The 2015 El Nino pattern is rebuilding nicely from a pause that occurred in August. But it has found a way to move forward regardless. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today are solid and expected to only build from here with the very leading edge of massive Kelvin Wave now starting to erupt over the Galapagos. So the big question becomes: How strong will this El Nino become? In the end, strength is a function of the temperatures in the Nino3.4 region. The warmer the core temps and the larger their areal coverage, the higher the resulting number. And for the most part obtaining high Nino3.4 temps is a function of the strength and duration of westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. And the frequency of those events is dictated by the 'character' of the El Nino. All El Nino events are different. The '97 event started early, developed out of a previous cold La Nina water state, and never looked back. Other strong events in '72, '86, and '91 had dissimilar profiles. The point being, there is no exact te.cgiate for a strong El Nino other than they tend to form in the Spring and peak during the following Winter. Given the false start of this El Nino in 2014 (and for that matter the other false start in 2012), this event has taken it's sweet time getting organized. But it's been struggling against an atmospheric bias towards La Nina driven by the cool phase of the PDO. We believe the atmosphere is now transitioning to the warm phase of the PDO, but is still fighting some previous momentum from the cool phase, hence elongating this El Nino's lifecycle. Regardless, a large and strong Kelvin Wave, the largest of this event is starting to erupt now. It will take at least 3 months for the tail end to erupt over the Galapagos and advects through the Nino 3.4 region. So assuming the peak heating in NIno1.2 on 10/4, it will be 11/4 till that peak warmth reaches Nino3.4. There is no anticipated effect from the so called 'warm blob' off the Pacific Northwest. We believe that is more a symptom of the developing warm PDO, and will get punctured by incoming storms once El Nino gets traction and the jetstream energizes in the late Jan/early Feb 2016 timeframe. Winds from storms cause mixing and upwelling, which in turn cool surface waters.
The longer El Nino threshold temperatures persist, the thought is the longer it will take proportionally to dissipate. That is, the sooner warm water temps develop, the sooner they will have an effect on the atmosphere and the more momentum El Nino will have on the atmosphere, and will therefore take longer to dislodge. The atmosphere responds very slowly to change. but once changed, it doesn't turn back to it's previous configuration quick either. An official El Nino was declared in late 2014 and has only gotten stronger since then. If the Active Phase of the MJO does develop in the Oct timeframe as predicted by the CFS model, and if a significant Kelvin Wave results, it would not arrive in Ecuador till ~Jan 1, 2016, and not disburse till a month later (Feb). that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 16 months. That said, the character of this event is not at all like '97 (which was brisk paced and steady), but not at all like '82 either (which developed even later and faster). This one is a slow moving train wreck. That would not be a bad thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107.
So where does it go from here? Having a MEI (July & Aug) that is equivalent to two other El Nino that eventually turned into Super El Ninos is no guarantee that this years event will eventually evolve into a Super El Nino. We still have 0.63 SDs to go. But given the current warming in Nino1.2 now, that seems like a pretty easily obtainable goal. And looking at the record back to 1950 for other events that have similar values in July & Aug, the odds favor that outcome. With an evolving El Nino base state in control and building, it seem more warm water transport east is inevitable. And we haven't even hit the Fall season switchover, which tends to supercharge westerly anomalies during El Nino years. The future concerning more and stronger WWBs is unknown, but we are betting on the CFSv2 being largely on the right track with the El Nino base state slowly having greater influence over time and being enhanced by the MJO and Rossby Waves at times.
So for now we're tracking towards an El Nino that will end up somewhere between the 82' and '97 event, with very good atmospheric momentum in.cgiay. We'll continue monitoring the North Pacific jetstream and will be looking for tropical activity in the West Pacific to recurve northeast moving towards the Gulf of Alaska, and for swell to result from such systems in Sept. To us, those are the sure signs of deep changes in the atmosphere influenced by El Nino. Typhoon Atsani did not live up to the hype. Regardless, continue your training routine.Once the storm cycle starts, we expect it to only build in momentum, consistency, and intensity, peaking in the Feb timeframe.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
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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