DNO Surf Team Report – It keeps going and going and going…

I must have made Santa’s ‘Nice’ list because I’ve been getting a lot of surf lately. Not sure what I did to deserve this, but I’ll take it. In case you were sleeping the past week, we had solid 10′ surf with double overhead sets and bigger waves in SD. Yesterday calmed down to a more manageable head high range and was reinforced with a new NW today. That will back off slightly on Friday with shoulder high sets then we get another small shot of NW for shoulder high surf again on Saturday. By Sunday the groms finally get back in the action with chest high sets and we can all take a breather. All in all a fun weekend of easier surf. Water temps have dropped to a winter-like 60 degrees and tides are starting to get extreme this weekend with 6.5′ at breakfast and -1.5′ late afternoon. That’s an 8′ tide swing- plan your sessions accordingly. For a more detailed THE Surf Report, check out http://northcountysurf.blogspot.com/. 

Monday starts off with chest high sets then we get a slow rise late in the day from a new NW. As it fills in more on Tuesday though, models show a cold front sweeping through on Xmas Day. This will most likely be more of a wind than a rain maker and as it heads ashore, the storm surf will pick up quickly through the day. Look for 8’+ windy sloppy conditions late in the day and unrideable. Wednesday will start to clean up with dying head high waves in the AM. Thursday is clean and chest high then another weak cold front comes through next Friday for head high+ sloppy conditions. Forecast charts then show us getting back on track with a new NW groundswell around the 30th for head high surf. Looks like a mixed bag next week with off and on conditions. 

Looks like a nice cool weekend to get your last minute shopping done for me (hint) then the above mentioned cold front moves in on Christmas. Various models have showers associated with this system and others have it just being windy. Regardless, look for a chance of a White (i.e. Wet) Christmas with a slight chance of showers and breezy. We get a break on Wednesday/Thursday with sunny/cool conditions then a potentially wetter storm arrives late next week. Models show it being fairly week but we should have more showers than the Christmas Day system. After that- who knows- but it does look like we’ll be back to a more active pattern. Make sure to keep track of the waves and weather at http://twitter.com/NorthCountySurf.

Just like the stock market recently- it’s tough to call. Due to the cold fronts next week, some days could be windy, others could be clean. If I was a betting man (which I’m not since it’s illegal in CA), I’d say today, late Monday (before the cold front arrives), late Wednesday (once the Xmas system moves through), and late next weekend (if the models hold up).

All this El Nino fueled waves and weather have been a great start to our winter season. But hold on- we’re not in a true El Nino event yet! Amazingly, all this activity is just a good start to a normal fall/winter. Seems had to believe, but it takes two to tango- and in the case of an El Nino- that means the oceans and atmosphere need to work together to kick an El Nino into gear. Right now only one of them are co-operating. I’ll let the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explain:
The surface of the tropical Pacific Ocean is nice and warm, but the atmosphere just doesn’t seem interested. Will these two crazy kids get in sync and qualify as El Niño conditions? Forecasters think there’s a 90% chance that will happen soon and continue through the winter.

Following our “Is it El Niño conditions?” decision tree, once we have a monthly average surface temperature anomaly in our  El Niño   region above 0.5°C (currently near 1.0°C), and it’s forecast to stay that way for the next several months (it is; more on that later), we need signs of an atmospheric response before we can change our relationship status to “El Niño Advisory.”

While warmer-than-average surface waters in the equatorial Pacific are an essential element of El Niño, the atmospheric response is just as critical. In the case of El Niño, those warmer-than-average waters in the central and eastern Pacific warm the air above them, leading to more rising air, clouds, and rain. So much more rising air, in fact, that the entire circulation over the equatorial Pacific— is changed.

The average circulation is driven by strong rising air over Indonesia, leading to west-to-east winds aloft, sinking air over the Eastern Pacific, and returning east-to-west winds (the trade winds) near the surface of the Pacific. More rising air in the central and eastern Pacific weakens this circulation, slowing the trade winds along the surface. Like any good partner, the slower trade winds help to sustain El Niño, keeping the surface waters warmer.

What’s distracting the atmosphere from settling down with the ocean into El Niño? Perhaps it’s a subseasonal dalliance! (Yep, I’m going to torture this metaphor. Buckle in.) We’ve covered The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) a few times before in this space. The MJO is a major area of rising air, clouds and rain (“enhanced convection,” if you’re feeling frisky) that moves eastward along the equator, affecting global atmospheric circulation. It can circle the globe in about 4­–6 weeks. The MJO has been active over the past few months, circling the Earth a few times since September. When the MJO-related area of enhanced convection moves from Africa to the Indian Ocean and through the Pacific, it changes the winds and cloud patterns in the areas we monitor for El Niño conditions. The MJO is a subseasonal pattern, meaning it affects conditions on timescales of a few weeks. Recently, most of the changes we’ve observed in the atmospheric circulation over the tropical Pacific look MJO-related, changing from week to week.

ENSO, on the other hand, is a seasonal pattern, meaning it lasts for several months in a row. We’ve already observed a season of above-average tropical Pacific surface temperature and expect it to continue through the spring. When the atmospheric response to the warmer-than-average waters has kicked in, those signature changes (the weak-in-the-knees Walker circulation) will lock in for the long haul.  The consistent changes in the atmospheric circulation are how El Niño affects global weather and climate patterns. There’s a 90% chance that El Niño conditions will form soon and last through the winter, with a 60% chance it will last through the spring. Why are forecasters confident that these two are destined for each other? Most climate models predict that sea surface temperatures will remain higher than the El Niño threshold (0.5°C above average). Adding support to this is that the amount of warmer-than-average water under the surface is still quite high, although slightly decreased from last month (the November average tied for sixth highest since 1979). This will provide a source of warmer-than-average water for the surface over the next few months.

It’s likely that the tropical Pacific Ocean will keep nudging the atmosphere and the two will get in gear finally, resulting in a true  El Niño. So until then, enjoy the good start to our winter and be ready for bigger and better things. 

Not sure which I want to stare at more- that long right sandbar point or all the colors. I choose both.   
Keep Surfing,

Michael W. Glenn
Have A Bowl Game Named After Me
Asked Santa For A 9’0″ Rhino Chaser But He Can’t Fit It In His Bag

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