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.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.0 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 3.8 ft @ 11.9 secs from 333 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.6 ft @ 16.0 secs with swell 4.1 ft @ 14.6 secs. Wind northwest 4-6 kts. Water temperature 65.3 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 4.0 ft @ 14.7 secs from 257 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.4 ft @ 13.9 secs from 267 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 5.7 ft @ 15.9 secs from 284 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 11.6 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 9.2 ft @ 12.8 secs from 288 degrees. Wind variable 2-4 kts. Water temp 59.7 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Tuesday (12/8) in North and Central CA Swell #1 was fading with waves 10-12 ft and not perfectly organized but clean with some larger sets. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 2 ft overhead and lined up and clean but a bit warbled from tide. In Southern California up north surf was 1-2 ft overhead and lined up but not perfectly and clean. Down south waves were head high to 1 ft overhead on the sets and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was 2 ft overhead and clean and lined up and very fun looking. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around northwest swell with waves shoulder high at exposed spots and lightly chopped by trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from Storm #1 is fading in North CA and just past it's prime in Southern CA.
Looking at the forecast charts another weaker gale has tracked over the dateline with 30 ft seas on Sun (12/6) then is pushing north of Hawaii Mon-Tues (12/8) with seas down to 26 ft and forecast to move into the Northeastern Gulf Wed-Thurs (12/10) producing up to 39 ft seas just off Northern Oregon resulting in swell for the US West Coast, but very raw. Secondary fetch to result in more 30 ft seas in the same area into Friday. So for now the core of storm cycle appears to be moving east. But a new storm is forecast over the North Dateline region Sat-Sun (12/13) resulting in 50 ft seas aimed east. But beyond a wind energy is to be settling down at the surface and aloft over the West Pacific. Longer term the return of the Active Phase of the MJO is still forecast which should result in the long awaited change towards a more permanently El Nino enhanced storm pattern.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday AM (12/8) the jet was consolidated and running flat west to east on the 40N latitude line over the width of the Pacific with strongest winds to 170 kts positioned from the dateline moving into the Gulf of Alaska. The jet was tracking over the US West Coast from Washington up into southern British Columbia. A broad trough was developing in the Western Gulf offering good support for gale development. But by Friday the trough is to start moving onshore over North California with a ridge (high pressure at the surface) building west of there. A solid weather event is possible for North California down to the SF Bay area. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to be .cgiit coming off Japan on Sat (12/12) but consolidating on the dateline and supporting formation of a solid trough just west of the Northern Dateline region with winds to 140 kts easing east-northeast into Sun (12/13) and moving into the Bering Sea. Some support for gale formation is possible in the Northern Dateline region. After that a bit of a muddled pattern is forecast, with winds very light and running flat west to east up at 50N, but with a pocket of 160 kts winds building over Japan early Tues (12/15). those winds to start tracking east-southeast down at 33N, while the rest of the jet lingers up at 50N. So a bit of a break in the storm track looks likely until the jet reorganizes. But long range models suggest the pocket of energy over Japan is to build and push east into Fri (12/18) opening up the West Pacific for storm production.
On Tuesday (12/8) residual swell from Dateline/Gulf Storm #1 was fading out in Hawaii and on the way down in North CA, and just past it's peak in Southern CA (see Dateline/Gulf Storm #1 below). Another gale started developing on the dateline pushing towards the Gulf Sun-Tues (12/8) (See Gulf Gale below)
Over the next 72 hours the Gulf Gale is to be the prime system of interest.
Dateline/Gulf Storm #1
A gale pushed off the North Kuril Islands on Wed AM (12/2) producing 45 kts northwest winds in the evening approaching the dateline and seas to 33 ft at 48N 172E. The gale held Thurs AM (12/3) as it reached the dateline with west winds at 45-50 kts over a modest area with seas 38 ft at 47N 175E targeting Hawaii (325 degs HI and the US West Coast (305 degs NCal). Fetch held in the evening at 45 kts falling southeast towards Hawaii resulting in 39 ft seas at 44N 178W targeting Hawaii (328 degs) and the US West Coast well (297 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the western quadrant of the fetch at 07Z reporting 33.3 ft seas with one reading to 38.9 ft where the model suggested 33 ft seas. The model was on track. Fetch faded to 40 kts Fri AM (12/4) tracking east in the Western Gulf with seas 37 ft over a solid area near 42N 168W targeting Hawaii (340 degs) but the US West Coast better (292 degs NCal). Winds rebuilt to 45 kts over a small area with 35-40 kt west winds over broader coverage in the evening in the Gulf with 33 ft seas at 42N 160W (288 degs NCal) targeting only the US West Coast. The Jason-2 satellite again passed over the west quadrant at 05Z reporting 31.8 ft seas with one reading to 36.0 ft where the model reported 32 ft seas. The model was right on if not a little low. Fetch rebuilt surprisingly solid to the north in the Gulf Sat AM (12/5) with west winds 45-50 kts and seas 39 ft at 45N 151W (297 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the core of the storm at 20Z and reported 36.4 ft seas with one reading to 41.6 ft where the model suggested 41.0 ft seas. The model was overhyping it slightly. West winds were fading from 40 kts in the evening off Oregon with 39 ft seas at 43N 143W (300 degs NCal). Additional 35 kt west fetch held Sun AM (12/6) off Oregon producing 32 ft seas at 46N 135W (319 degs NCal) targeting only from Pt Arena northward. This system to race onshore after that.
NCal: Residuals to be fading out on Wed AM (12/9) from 6 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: From Dateline - 292-302 degs From Gulf - 295-297 degrees
Southern CA (centered on Dana Point): Residuals on Wed AM (12/9) fading from 4.3 ft @ 14 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 303 degrees
Another gale developed on the dateline Sun AM (12/6) producing a small fetch of 40 kt west winds acting on an already roughed up sea state resulting in 34 ft seas at 41N 172E targeting Hawaii (313 degs HI). In the evening 35-40 kt west winds continued and easing east with seas 30 ft at 39N 178W again targeting Hawaii (319 degs HI) and also the US West Coast. Fetch faded some Mon AM (12/7) with 30-35 kt northwest winds falling down the dateline and then pushing into the Gulf generating 28 ft seas at 36N 173W targeting Hawaii (325 degs HI) and the US well. In the evening fetch continued tracking east at 30-35 kts but covering a huge area from the North Dateline region southeast reaching a point about 600 nmiles off North CA. Peak seas were 27 ft north of Hawaii at 38N 167W (333 degs HI) with 20+ ft seas filling the Gulf. On Tues AM (12/8) the fetch as pushing east at 30-35 kts with 25 ft seas at 40N 158W (286 degs NCal) now targeting purely the US West Coast. In the evening a new mini-gale is to develop north of Hawaii embedded in the main fetch with 45 kt east winds and 30 ft seas building at 37N 165W with 20-25 ft seas filling the Gulf. On Wed AM (12/9) the gale is to race east with a tiny area of 50 kt west winds generating seas of 34 ft at 39N 151W. 55 kt west winds to continue in the evening just off extreme North CA with 36 ft seas at 42N 140W (296 degs NCal). This system is to hold off Vancouver Island Thurs AM (12/10) with 50 kt northwest winds and 39 ft seas at 46N 132W and outside the NCal swell window. The gale is to hold there in the evening still producing 45 kt northwest winds generating 34 ft seas at 46N 135W (315 degs NCal) easing east. On Fri AM (12/11) 45 kt northwest winds to be just off Washington with 34 ft seas at 47N 130W and outside the NCal swell window but 30 ft seas barely in the window (319 degs). This system is to be gone after that.
The net result is to be raw stormy swell for California with some version of onshore winds and poor conditions.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (12/8) weak high pressure was ridging into Central CA with calm wind in control. But to the north a front associated with a broad area of low pressure in the Gulf was hanging over the Cape Mendocino area producing south winds at 15 kts and light rain. The calm wind pattern for Central CA is to start fading Wednesday as the front moves to Pt Arena then fades, but a much stronger front builds off the coast impacting it late with south winds over North CA down to San Francisco and rain mostly north of SF. Thurs AM (12/10) the front is to reach Monterey Bay with south winds to 20 kts there and 25 kts north of there up into Cape Mendocino. Solid rain fro the coast down to Morro Bay mid-day. Heavy snow for Tahoe and the Sierra starting at sunrise and continuing into Friday AM. accumulation of 2-3 ft possible. Clearing high pressure to try and build in behind on Fri (12/11) but the gale is to still be hanging off Vancouver Island setting up a gradient and northwest winds 20-25 kts from North CA reaching down over all of Southern CA. Light snow to continue for the Sierra through the day dissipating late. Winds to fade for a bit on Sat (12/12) while another local low builds just off Washington with the front over extreme NCal early with south winds there reaching south to maybe Pt Reyes late afternoon. Light rain down to San Francisco in the afternoon. A few inches of snow for Tahoe late. On Sunday yet another local storm to form over Cape Mendocino with the front from it impacting Central CA late afternoon. Strong onshore winds expected from Pt Reyes northwards and 15-20 kts south of there to Big Sur late evening. Solid rain for all of North and much of Central CA late evening down to Morro Bay. Heavy snow for Tahoe and the Sierra overnight lingering all day Monday. High pressure is to take over Monday AM (12/14) with rain fading early and northwest winds 20-25 kts for everywhere north of Pt Conception early building into Southern CA late. North winds continue for everywhere but Southern CA Tues AM (12/15).
No swell producing weather systems were occurring in the South Pacific.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours a gale is to form off Japan on Fri AM (12/11) lifting fast to the northeast. In the evening it is to reach storm status with 50 kt southwest winds and seas building from 28 ft. On Sat AM (12/12) 55 kt northwest winds are to build as it races towards the North dateline region generating 32 ft seas starting to target Hawaii. In the evening hurricane force 65 kt west winds are forecast just south of the Western Aleutians with 44-50 ft seas over a solid area at 47N 175E (325 degs HI, 303 degs NCal). by Sunday AM (12/13) all fetch is to be landlocked in the Bering Sea with seas from previous fetch fading from 44 ft at 50N 180W (33 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). This system is to be gone after that. Possible decent long period swell to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
More details to follow...
Nino 3.4 Temps Solid But Backing Off Slowly
Subsurface Warm Reservoir Slowly Discharging
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:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Mon (12/7) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated modest west winds over the south Kevin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) from 155E to 170W with light winds north of there. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, a light winds pattern was in.cgiay with no winds of interest from the west or east occurring. Anomalies were moderate from the west from 160E to 160W mainly over the equator. These west anomalies continue building traction after the loss of west anomalies from 10/31-11/9.
1 Week Forecast: The CFS model indicates modest west anomalies forecast mostly east of the KWGA from 170W-120W for the next week through Tues (12/15). Actual winds per the GFS model are to be mainly calm through Tues (12/15). So far no east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast.
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 (#3), the strongest of the year, started on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 then 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 #3, 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 up at 9N on 9/3 and held in some fashion up there into 9/29 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper. And then strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1 and held through 10/18, resulting in a yet another defined WWB event (#4) rivaling WWB #3 in June-July. And another small WWB started further east on 10/22 through 10/30. But by By 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared with west anomalies dead through (11/23). This slackening of the anomalies will likely usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle after Kelvin Wave #4 terminates its eventual eruption in the vicinity of the Galapagos starting 2.5 months later or near 1/15/16. Starting 11/20 a weak west anomaly pattern started to redevelop near the dateline and that was holding through today. 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 wind monitoring model: West and East New!
Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)
On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of Mon (12/7) a modest Inactive MJO signal was over the dateline equatorial region. The Statistic model forecasts it fading to weak status 10 days out with a solid Active MJO Pattern over the Central Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific 15 days out. The dynamic model is not readable. NOAA indicates it should be fixed in about 1 week. The assumption is that as the Active Phase fades in the Indian Ocean, so too will the Inactive Phase over the KWGA, and west anomalies will start rebuild driven by the El Nino base state. But the timing of this remain elusive. But if the Active Phase moves east, that would not be bad either as it would fuel yet a stronger jetstream over the NPac.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Only the ECMF model is updating and it indicates some form of 'MJO-like' active signal collapsed in the East Indian Ocean. But a week out the Active Phase is to be easing east over the Maritime Continent bound for the West Pacific. Any exact outcome is a bit up in the air right now but the possibility of the Active Phase of the MJO moving into the West Pacific is looking more likely. This leads us to believe that perhaps whatever Inactive MJO signal was trying to dominate the Pacific will fade as the Active Phase fades in the Indian Ocean or moves east. This would allow the more typical El Nino base state to re-emerge. But for now, we're still waiting for one of those options to materialize.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a solid Active Phase over the East Pacific (which is not happening) tracking west and fading through 12/16, with an Inactive pattern taking over the West Pacific at the same time and tracking east, pushing into Central America on 1/2. None of this is believable.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is trying to build on the dateline, but not quite fully there yet. West anomalies are light in the area with no Rossby Wave in.cgiay. More of the same is to continue through 12/28 until the MJO pushes harder east. The core of the MJO is to activate on the dateline Jan 1 with westerly anomalies redeveloping stronger to near WWB status 1/7 and holding into the end of the month. By 1/29 the Active Phase of the MJO is to fade slightly, with the Inactive Phase building some for February. It is obvious that the MJO is not dead, regardless of theories which suggest it should be during strong El Ninos. So it makes sense that the Active Phase at some point should return (as we suspect it is now). Still, the El Nino base state should be the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now supposedly in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec), but the westerly anomaly pattern is still not where we think it should be given the other atmospheric signals. That is expected to change shortly if one believes the models. The core of westerly anomalies are already easing east, and are to continue to do so into the Jan timeframe, when they are expected to push to 165W and out of the the KWGA. This would shut down the warm water conveyor, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay after draining all the warm water present in what is now a massive reservoir. But, if that we to not happen, the life of this years El Nino would be extended. Something to watch for. Still the above scenario is typical timing for an El Nino from a gross level perspective. A more detailed timing estimate is provided below.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/8) Actual temperatures remain impressive and the quality has improved because all sensors are now back on-line. A broad area of 30 deg temps were at depth from 150E to 153W (holding) with the 28 deg isotherm line retracting some at depth from 120W. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 146W eastward (building west some). +6 degs anomalies are from 130W eastward (steady) with a core at +7 degs starting at 120W and points east of there. These core regions are actually rebuilding to the west some - good news. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/4 the reservoir is in great shape with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a large core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 85W-133W 9shrinking some). This is a great scenario. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos at +4 degs from 100W to 122W but also making good eastward progress east of the Galapagos subsurface. Cool water is starting to undercut the warm pool though down at 125 meters and reaching east to 135W.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (12/4) Heights are fading and moving east, but still at high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 180W (building west). Peak anomalies at +20 cm are gone. +15 cm anomalies extending from the Galapagos at 90W to 130W and reaching from 5N to 5S (shrinking). +10 cm anomalies are now pushing to Ecuador and tracking north along the Central America Coast, typical of El Nino. All regions are pushing east suggesting maybe the westward di.cgiacement character of this El Nino event is finally changing, or the warm reservoir is discharging, normal for the later phase of the El Nino lifecycle.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (12/4) is shrinking but still at very impressive levels indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are from 154W to the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are easing east from 145W eastward attributable to WWB #4/Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are easing east from 139W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies easing east from 130W into Ecuador. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are easing east while shrinking between 120W->93W (with a 27 deg/1,620 nmile width, down from 30 degs/2400 nmiles). 2.0-2.5 anomalies are now pushing into Ecuador (the first time since early Oct). The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway. Di.cgiacement to the west appears to be fading fast. This El Nino remains slightly westward di.cgiaced for the moment, but that might change. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also evident just east of the dateline in the eastward retreat of of all temperature bands, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which started 10/31 and continues to date but is fading. And with that, the reservoir appears to be discharging with no other legit and believable WWB in sight. The peak of El Nino from a subsurface warming perspective has already passed.
A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. The third and strongest so far is erupting, but somewhat westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. In fact, a careful analysis indicates it has peaked. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). And now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4. We revised it a few times since then, but looking back we've determined it was correct if not a little late (more below). But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. But it appeared to start erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 peaking 11/17. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, is marked and historically strong. And with the current WWB/Kelvin Wave in development, a more aggressive face of this El Nino is now appearing.
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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Low-res: (12/7) Overall the picture remains solid and is getting a little more defined near the South America coast in the past week. And fingers of warm water appear to be radiating northeast from the equator up into Baja and Central America. And a solid volume/concentration of warm water is flowing into the Nino3.4 area. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water from the Galapagos west. The overall signature is the strongest of any point so far this year and of any time since mid-July 1997. Compared to '97, 2015 anomalies are warmer in the Nino3.4 region, but have less concentration and coverage in Nino1.2. Coverage south of the equator is not growing any down the Peruvian coast, and cannot complete with '97 in that regard, but is still very solid. Along the West African Coast, cool water is gone, being r.cgiaced by neutral temp water. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast but is not as defined as in Fall. Still very warm water extends west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Cool water has lost coverage over North Australia, presumably due to the presence of the Active Phase of the MJO in that area. This is atypical of a strong El Nino. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (12/7) temps solid with light +4.0 deg anomalies off Ecuador and +2.25 anomalies from the Galapagos to Ecuador with decent width, but not overtly impressive. Peak temps are down some in the past week. This continues to indicate the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward di.cgiaced, with occasional pockets of warmer water sneaking in, but not steadily. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (12/7) Consistent with satellite imagery above, anomalies are building at +4.37 degs, up from +3.9 on 12/2, up from +3.7 on 11/30, but down from +4.05 on 11/24 and up from +3.73 on 11/21 and rebounding from +3.4 degs on 11/17. Anomalies were steady between 10/2-10/22, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal, but then moved into the +4.0-4.3 range starting 10/23 and held to 11/14, then fell but are now rebuilding. For the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is focused west of the Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/7): Moderate warming is occurring over a broad area down the South American Coast and between the galapagos and Ecuador and the north of the equator out to 125W. It looks like Nino1.2 is trying to make some progress.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (12/7) The latest image depicts a shrinking situation, but at very high levels. Coverage of +2.25 deg anomalies is steady if not shrinking in terms of width near 140W. Peak temps are holding coverage at +4.0 between 98W to 125W. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive. All this warm water is now mostly attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. This remains unbelievable on a historical level and still breaks records set in the '97 El Nino. Temps between 160W-180W are steady, with +2.25 deg anomalies reaching west to 178W and if anything building west some. No +4 deg anomalies are present. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #3 and #4.
Hi-res Overview: (12/7) The El Nino signal is unmistakable and the strongest since 1997, and stronger than anything in the satellite age prior to that. It even beats '97 in the Nino3.4 region. The main focus continues to be the eruption ports that developed starting 10/28 and continue today. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos peaked on 11/19, not as intense as a previous peak on 9/19, but covering a larger area. Today the warmest temps have less coverage than the November peak. As of 12/7 there is a unbroken string of +4 deg anomalies from 98W to 120W with pockets between Ecuador and the Galapagos too. The mid-zoomed image depicts the warmth actually holding coverage over the past week but easing east with a broad pocket of solid +4 deg anomalies from 98W-120W with pockets between 80W to 98W. This remains impressive, but the peak was on 11/23. And this warm water is advected west. Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, then redeveloped and increased significantly starting 10/28 and peaked on 11/23. That peak was attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. We can't stress enough the importance of this upgrade and the effect this will have a few weeks out as it advects west into Nino 3.4 proper. Still, we are saying Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 (we estimated 10/4). Those waters advected west, with peak warming supposedly occur in Nino3.4 one month later, or 10/19. But with the new vent ports developing 10/28, yet more warm water is tracking into Nino3.4.
Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
Updated! Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through November.
Both images/datasets suggest this is the warmest the NINO3.4 region has ever been. Now the question becomes: Will that translate in weather and swell? If the theory that temps in this area translate in stormier weather, then the answer is obvious.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
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Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
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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 and beyond (expanding west to 165E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its off the charts but was formally at 140E (steady and well west). +1.5 deg anomalies are building to the west reaching unbroken to 175E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 178W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 105W-160W A former pocket of +3.5 anomalies is gone. Overall the warm water signature is steady and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/8) Temps are muddling along holding at +2.339, holding there since 11/30, up from +1.708 11/19, down from +2.106 (11/5), down form +2.422 on 11/1. Previously temps peaked for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously spiked at +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.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (12/8) temps are down at +2.709 compared to +2.840 on 12/6, down slightly from +3.022 (12/3) and up from +2.967 (12/1), steady from +2.980 (11/27), up slightly from +2.900 on 11/23, down 15 hundredths from 11/20 at +2.915, down one tenth of a degree from the all time peak of +3.041 on 12z 11/19. This temp beat the previous all time high of +3.028 degs (12Z 11/17), up from + 2.986 as of (12Z 11/15) Nov 15. Overall temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21. and are right at +2.9 or greater since 11/13. Very Impressive. This continues the upward trend with previous peaks at +2.780 (12z Nov 12) up from +2.704 (11/5 12Z). And more previous peaks for this event were: +2.512 (10/24 06z) besting the previous record of +2.468 (10/20), up from +1.824 on 10/8, and beating the previous peak of +2.44 on 10/3. The thought is Nino 3.4 temps are about peaked out now (until Kelvin Wave #4 starts to erupt and advect west). Previously temps were up from +2.037 on 10/1 and +2.077 on 9/17. The previous all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). That was crushed on 10/3 at +2.44, and now bested on 10/20 at +2.4678. By any standard we are at a Strong El Nino levels. We expect these temps to continue upward for the foreseeable future.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: The '97 El Nino peaked in this region at 3.6-3.7 degs mid-Nov to mid-Dec (OISSTv2). That is the goal. Today's (12/8) value steady at +2.988 compared to the 12/6 value of +2.989, up slightly form +2.919 (12/3), up from +2.905 (12/1), down slightly from +2.990 (11/28) up from +2.855 (11/23), up some from + 2.799 on 11/21, and down from +2.957 on 11/19. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97 in this region.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 11/25 they were +3.0 in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), down from +3.1 on 11/18, up from 11/11 when temps in Nino3 and 3.4 were both +3.0 degs. On 11/4 they were both +2.8. In '97 (11/26) peak temps in Nino3.4 reached +2.8. So we have beat that mark. But Nino3 temps in '97 reached +3.6-3.7 degs. We still have +0.6 degs to go. Insert Subsurface/Surface image here This years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event, but not as strongly so. The main evidence for this is the continued eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos with weakened warming east of there. This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 110W. 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.
Nino3.4 Monthly Temps (November) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of November were released 12/3 and came in at +2.34 degs C (ERSSTv4), beating the highest temp recorded in '97 (Nov - +2.32 degs) and beating the peak of the '82 El Nino (Dec +2.21 degs). And this years Oct temps were adjusted upwards to +2.0 degs. See updated graphs above. As of right now for a one month average, this put this years El Nino stronger than '97 and therefore the strongest ever (based on a one month SST reading). The ONI uses a 3 month running average. That is the final determiner. Very interesting.
SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
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Given the westward di.cgiacement in this years El Nino, we are interested in the relative effect on the jetstream as compared to previous strong ENSO events. That's is, how does one compare eastward versus westward di.cgiaced El Nino events. This years El Nino has relatively weak Nino1.2 anomalies compared to '82 and '97, but much warmer in Nino4. Do Nino3.4 temps accurately take that difference into account? We decided to find out. First we made an assumption: It is the total volume of warm water in the equatorial East Pacific, not just in Nino3.4 that defines the magnitude of the resulting El Nino atmospheric response. Whether that water is eastward or westward di.cgiaced, it makes no difference, as long as one can measure the total heating footprint, the bulk atmospheric response should be the same, just the center of core storm production would be either more east or west di.cgiaced.Next we needed to determine how to measure total heating footprint. There is a good historical record for anomalies in Nino1.2 (spanning 10 degrees longitude - 80W-90W), Nino3 (spanning 60 degrees - 90W-150W) and Nino4 (50 degrees - 150W to 150E). If one performs a weighted average of the SST anomalies for the 3 zones, a composite anomaly can be obtained. So we did that for recent strong El Nino events. The results indicate a pattern very similar to si.cgie Nino3.4 analysis, that this years event is in the top 2 for this time of year and the top 3 of all time (discounting the more historically correct 'centered' data). Here's the data:
Note: ERSSTv4 'centered' data is not available for Nino1, 3 and 4 regions, only Nino3.4.
Pacific Counter Current: As of 12/6 the current was strong from the west north of the equator from 125E to 130W with solid pockets on the equator at 130-160E and 170W. Anomaly wise - One pocket of solid west anomalies were between the dateline to 160W on the equator. Otherwise everything was normal. There were no pocket of east anomalies indicated. This is somewhat impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was solidly east from 170E to 130W mostly north of the equator with anomalies very strong from 165E to 120W on the equator.
SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected: This data is worthless. We are not reporting on it anymore.
Uncorrected Data is also worthless depicting peak temps to +2.95 degs Nov 5, and slowly fading into December falling to +2.6 degs Jan 1. Temps are still rising or al least holding steady at peak levels.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Nov Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak monthly temps between +2.4 degs (Statistical models), +2.6 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.5 occurring during Dec. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs, the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs and the mid-Sept between +2.1-2.5 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 now a valid comparison. '97 imagery had all the warmth crammed up along Ecuador. This years event is focused west of there, with more warmth in Nino4 than in '97 (see analysis above).
Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (12/3): Was rising from -13.10. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14 and -47.50 on 12/3.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -6.98. The peak low was recorded on 10/9 at -22.72, beating the previous peak low of -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. This is exactly where we want to be (at -20 or lower).
90 Day Average: Was steady at -15.24. A record low of -19.28 occurred on 10/16 and was matched on 10/20. The previous record low was -18.56 on 9/16. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -19.28 on 10/16.
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 being driving by the demise of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a building El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): Weak low pressure was over Southwest Aust on 12/5 as it has been for weeks, with no immediate change forecast through Sun (12/13). The Active Phase of the MJO in the Indian Ocean needs to fade and be r.cgiaced by the Inactive Phase, the preferred pattern for El Nino development in the Pacific.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 12/5 low pressure was falling south from a point south of Tahiti driving the SOI a bit negative. This low pressure system is forecast slowly fading while falling southeast with a weak pressure pattern taking hold afterward through Sun (12/13). The SOI should slow be rising to neutral. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're seeing perhaps a start of that pattern.
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of SOI values holding weakly negative. The Inactive Phase of the MJO in the West Pacific has been having significant impact. Hopefully that is poised to change a week out.
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 co.cgiing though not great, 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): Per the past 5 day 850 mbs anomaly charts there was no evidence of a south flow in.cgiay. Per the GFS model no real south flow is projected through Sat (12/5). It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the required southerly surface flow in the Tasman Sea. 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), then returning consistently 9/18 through 10/25, then fading. The SHBI appears to be offering no support for this years El Nino development at this time.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (12/5) today's value continues to inch up, rising to +1.32, up from +0.89 (12/1), up from +0.57 (11/23), down from +0.97 (11/15). This is a good trend suggesting that perhaps we're recouping from the lowest we've seen it on 12/1. Maybe the Inactive MJO in the Pacific is fading. But it is also typical for the ESPI to start falling as we move into Winter. This is primarily a summer and early Fall index during El Nino years. The most recent high value was +2.40 on Sat (10/17). It had been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) with only minor fluctuation. 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 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 2.02 on 9/29. 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. Monthly ESPI values are as follows: July 3.76, Aug 2.34, Sept 2.1, Oct 2.3. '97 had two peak values at +2.99 in Aug and +3.06 in Sept. 2015 had +3.7 in July followed by +2.33 and +2.20 in Aug and Sept and 2.3 in Oct. to complete with '97.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Nov) The current ranking is up some, at +2.31, up barley form +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. Still this MEI value has the 2015 event as the second 3rd strongest El Nino ever, and equivalent to 1982 for this time of year. So we continue mid-way 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. Most impressive.
North Pacific Jetstream (12/8) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, looking decent but not exceptional. But then the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over and has had a dampening effect and will continue to do so till the Inactive Phase is over.
Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
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Conclusion (Updated 11/17): WWB #3 peaked on July 4, with the resulting Kelvin Wave peaking on Sept 19 west of the Galapagos, or a roughly 2.5 month travel time. Likewise those warm waters advected into Nino3.4, peaking about one month later, or 10/19. Peak atmospheric influence should occur approximately 2 months later or 12/20. Then WWB #4 developed of near equal strength, peaking on 10/15, which resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. Using the same te.cgiate, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 12/30/2015 (westward di.cgiaced), and advecting into Nino3.4 and peaking roughly 1/30/2016 with peak atmospheric influence on approx 3/30/2016. This suggests peak atmospheric perturbation will occur in the window from 12/2/2015-4/2/2016, or well di.cgiaced later in the Winter as compared to the '97/98 event, and somewhat like the '82/83 event. The Inactive Phase of the MJO took control 10/31, and is expected to usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin wave Cycle starting 1/31/16. The resultant slackening of peak water temps won't reach Nino3.4 till 3/1, and won't hit the atmosphere till 5/1. By then, the effective lifecycle of El Nino for the Winter of 2015-2016 will be over. And any westerly anomalies projected for the KWGA in the Dec-Jan 2016 timeframe will contribute nothing to Kelvin Wave production and jetstream a.cgiification just due to the time it will take for a resulting Kelvin Wave to migrate east. But those anomalies could help the atmosphere like the Active Phase of the MJO does, fueling jetstream energy. That is the primary contribution of westerly anomalies from here forward.
In terms of comparative strength based on Nino3.4 temps, 2015 is in the same ballpark based on OISSTv2 weekly data. Based on ERSSTv4 data (a more conservative data source) '97 peaked at +2.32 degs with 4 months of +2.0 degs anomalies and '82 at +2.21 degs with 2 months temps greater than +2.0 degs. 2015 is looking to produce a +2.1 degree one month average based on very rough data today, with a huge reservoir of anomalies still venting to the surface and Kevin Wave #4 still migrating east. But, coverage of warmer than normal water and it's affect on the atmosphere is not limited to just the Nino3.4 area. Nino3 and Nino1.2.cgiay a role. It's is the total areal coverage of the warm water footprint that defines the impact on the atmosphere. Temps in Nino3 in this years event are at +3.0 degs, but peaked at +3.7 degs in '97. Conversely temps in Nino 4 in this years event beats temps in '97. All graphed out, one gets the sense that '97 and 2015 are very different events, but similar in total atmospheric effect.
Another question is: How much (if any) cooling will occur in Nino3.4 between the downslide up of Kevin Wave #3 and the ramp-up and peak of Kelvin Wave #4? Based on current data, Kelvin Wave #3 has surprisingly reinvigorated itself in late Oct/Nov and exceeded its earlier peak in Sept. The longer it holds on, the greater the likelihood that not dip in temps will develop before Kevin Wave #4 erupts. Assuming steady state anomalies in Nino3.4 (not falling below +2.0 degs during that window), there could be 4 months of +2.0 anomalies in Nino3.4 (with higher peaks), providing a strong and long su.cgiy of energy to fuel jetstream enhancement and similar to '97 and besting '82. It's not just magnitude of the peak temps that make a difference atmospherically, but also the duration of those anomalies. The longer and stronger the anomalies, the greater the atmospheric response. At this time the expected atmospheric affects should be significant, though di.cgiaced somewhat later in the season.
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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