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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, January 5, 2016 5:03 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
4.5- California & 4.1 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 1/4 thru Sun 1/10

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

Swell #2 Hitting California
Western Gulf/Dateline to Remain Active

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.

 

On Tuesday, January 5, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 10.5 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 8.4 ft @ 13.9 secs from 326 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 7.6 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 4.4 ft @ 13.3 secs from 248 degrees. Wind south 21-25 kts. Water temperature 59.9 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.1 ft @ 13.8 secs from 258 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 4.7 ft @ 13.1 secs from 259 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 5.4 ft @ 13.8 secs from 276 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 13.6 ft @ 20.0 secs with swell 7.4 ft @ 20.2 secs from 290 degrees. Wind west 21-25 kts. Water temp 56.7 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Tuesday (1/5) in North and Central CA swell from Storm #2 was starting to move into the area producing waves in the 15 ft range and heading up, but with strong onshore winds. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 3 ft overhead on the sets and on the increase and somewhat clean but with much underlying lump. In Southern California up north surf was shoulder high or so but destroyed by stiff onshore winds. Down south waves were chest to head high and trashed by strong southerly wind. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting swell from the Storm #2 with waves 12 ft Hawaiian and clean. occasional rain showers in the mix but otherwise beautiful. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around energy from Swell #2 at 2 ft overhead and chopped from east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell from solid Storm #2 has hit Hawaii and is on the way down but is starting to show in North CA but poor local conditions are marring it.

Beyond another gale has formed right behind on the dateline Mon (1/4) generating 31 ft seas tracking east and expected to move into California nearshore waters on Wed (1/6) with seas still in the 30 ft range likely setting up more weather and raw swell impacting mainly the California Coast.

Another short-lived system is projected for the Northwestern Gulf on Fri (1/8) producing a fleeting area 40 ft seas targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest. An another gale is to form south of it on Fri (1/8) also producing 42 ft seas for a short time targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. More smaller system to follow until maybe Tues (1/12) when a stronger but still small system might form over the dateline.

All this is attributable to the migration of the Active Phase of the MJO in the far West Pacific constructively interacting with the El Nino base state fueling westerly winds and imparting energy to the jetstream. The result is a significant upgrade of the North Pacific jetstream which is to continue for the next 3-4 weeks. El Nino is finally starting to show it's face over the North Pacific.

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

North Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Tuesday AM (1/5) the jet was consolidated flowing east off Central Japan with winds there to 200 kts tracking east on the 35N latitude line fading over the dateline then re-energizing north of Hawaii to 140 kts and tracking flat into Southern CA. No prominent troughs were in.cgiay thereby limiting support for gale development. But given the total consolidation and relative energy in the jet, some support for gale development is likely across the width of the Pacific. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold in the pocket building off Japan at 190 kts on Wed (1/6) feeding development of a trough on the dateline and easing into the Western Gulf on Thurs (1/7). Good support for gale if not storm development possible. And a secondary trough to form in the Western Gulf on Fri-Sun (1/10) offering more support for gale development in the Gulf. And a tertiary trough is to build over the North and Central CA coast Wed-Thurs (1/7) offering support for weather there. Beyond 72 hours winds to hold solid at 170 kts streaming off Japan reaching over the dateline with a new pocket of 200 kt winds building mid-way to the dateline on Tues (1/12) digging east-southeast forming yet another solid trough in the dateline/Western Gulf region providing more support for gale development. A weak .cgiit is to develop near 140W on Sun (1/10) perhaps dampening the storm track relative to the US West Coast, but that is expected to be short lived. As the MJO moves east, that .cgiit point will move east with it, eventually bringing the focus of the storm track directly into the US West Coast.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (1/5) swell from Storm #2 was fading in Hawaii (but still very solid size wise) and starting to impact the US West Coast (see Storm #2 below). Weather was now a factor for the California coast and expected to continue with only short breaks between storm systems. Also another gale developed on the dateline and is tracking east targeting California well (see Gulf Gale below)

Over the next 72 hours another strong gale is to form in the Northwestern Gulf on Thurs PM (1/7) generating 55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 32 ft at 46N 154W. On Fri AM (1/8) winds to be fading from 50 kts with seas to 38 ft over a small area aimed east at 48N 151W targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy down to Central CA. Winds to be fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 30 ft up at 51N 151W targeting only Canada. A decent pulse of swell could result for the Pacific Northwest with smaller 18 sec energy for Central CA (shadowed in the SF Bay Area).

Also another small gale is to develop just east of the southern Dateline region Fri AM (1/8) producing 45 kt northwest winds and 30 ft seas at 36N 173W targeting Hawaii well. 45-50 kt northwest winds to continue tracking east in the evening with seas building to 36 ft at 35n 165W (33 degs HI). This system to track east and fade with winds 45 kts Sat AM (1/9) with seas 36 ft at 34N 157W bypassing Hawaii and targeting mainly Southern CA (283 degs). This system to be gone by nightfall. Swell possible for Hawaii for the weekend with much smaller energy for Southern CA beyond.

 

Storm #2
A far stronger storm started to develop west of the dateline Fri PM (1/1) with 45 kt northwest winds starting to get purchase on an already roughed up seas state with seas building fast. On Sat AM (1/2) hurricane force west winds at 65 kts are forecast pushing over the dateline with seas building from 37 ft at 39N 177.5W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. 55 kt west winds to hold into the evening tracking east-northeast with seas peaking at 47 ft at 40.5N 167W. Fetch is to be lifting slightly northeast on Sun AM (1/3) with winds fading from 50 kts and seas still 47 ft at 42.5N 159W targeting the US West Coast more than Hawaii now. The storm is to continue east in the evening with winds fading from 45 kts and seas 42 ft at 43.5N 155W. Mon AM (1/4) fetch is to be fading from 35 kts 1300 nmiles off Oregon with seas 34 ft at 45N 151W. In the evening this system is to be gone.

NCal: Expect swell arrival on Tues AM (1/5) with period 21 secs and size building steadily with a solid front loaded spike occurring for 4 hours in the afternoon the settling at 11 ft @ 18-19 secs at sunset (20 ft) and buried in chop. Raw swell on Wed 91/6) to be fading from 13 ft @ 16-17 secs early (21 ft). Swell Direction: 292-296 degrees

SCal: Swell arrival expected late Tues night (1/5) building into Wed AM (1/6) pushing 5.9 ft @ 18 secs later (10.5 ft). Swell continuing overnight fading early Thurs AM (1/7) at 6.6 ft @ 16 secs (10.5 ft). Swell being overtaken by Gulf swell below later in the day. Swell Direction: 298-302 degrees

 

Gulf Gale
Another gale developed on the dateline Sun PM (1/3) at 45 kts with seas building from 28 ft over a tiny area at 43N 178E. On Mon AM (1/4) 45 kt west winds were falling east-southeast in the Western Gulf generating 31 ft seas at 41N 173W. In the evening a small area of 45 kt west winds continued east generating 31 ft seas at 40N 161W. Tues AM (1/5) fetch was fading from 40 kts with seas holding at 31 ft at 39N 151W 1300 nmiles west of San Francisco with 20 ft seas filling the Southeast Gulf of Alaska set to impact the entire US West Coast. 40 kt northwest winds are forecast in the evening off the North CA coast with 31 ft seas at 38N 143W targeting all of CA. On Wed AM (1/6) winds to be fading from 35 kts over a broad area off California with 30 ft seas at 38N 135W just 600 nmiles off Central CA. In the evening fetch is to fade from 30 kts with 27 ft seas at 37N 130W, just 400 nmiles off San Francisco and Monterey Bay. On Thurs AM (1/7) this system is to be fading while 20 ft seas impact the entire CA coast. Large raw swell and weather is expected for all of California during swell arrival with sideband energy for Hawaii.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed AM (1/6) peaking 9 AM at 7.3 ft @ 16 secs (11.5 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading to 6.4 ft @ 14 sec late (9 ft). Residuals fading Thurs AM (1/7) from 5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 325-330 degrees

North CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Thurs AM (1/7) with seas/swell 14.5 ft @ 16 secs (22 ft) mixing with previous raw swell and holding through the day with period dropping to 15 secs after sunset. residuals fading Fri (1/8) from 9.1 ft @ 14 secs early (12.5 ft). Swell Direction: 275-280 degrees

South CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Thurs AM (1/7) with seas/swell building through the day peaking late at 7.5 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft) mixing with previous raw swell. Solid swell to continue overnight then fading Fri AM (1/8) from 6.2 ft @ 15 secs (9.5 ft). Swell Direction: 280 degrees

 

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

 

Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues AM (1/5) weak low pressure was just off Oregon with a trough and short wave front pushing into the California coast. Winds were west at 15-20 kts for most locations but south at 15 kts in Southern CA. Rain everywhere. Snow was developing in the Sierra and expected to continue well into the evening with 9 -16 inches of accumulation possible. The next gale is forecast to push into the state Wed AM with southwest winds 20 kts for Pt Reyes southward into Southern CA and rain from Morro Bay northward and pushing south into San Diego late afternoon. Snow starting for the Sierra by 10 AM continuing into 4 AM Thurs (1/7) with 8-12 inches of additional accumulation. On Thurs (1/7) west to northwest winds forecast at 15 kts everywhere from San Francisco southward with patches of light rain fading through the day. 2 inches of additional snow for the Sierra. By Fri AM (1/8) southeast winds to be in control from Monterey Bay northward and northwest winds to be fading from 15 kts south of there into Southern CA. Clear north of Monterey Bay by 10 AM and rain trying to clear south of there. No more snow forecast. Saturday a small local low is possible impacting the North and Central coasts with 15 kt south to southeast winds possible pushing into Southern CA later and light rain from Pt Arena southward into Southern CA later. Maybe 2 inches of snow for the Southern Sierra. Sunday light winds and clear skies forecast. Monday southeast winds to develop from Pt Conception northward 10-15 kts as a weak front pushes up towards the coast and continuing Tuesday as the front dissolves off the coast.

South Pacific

Overview
Surface Analysis  
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

 

QuikCAST's

 

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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours another small gale is forecast developing over the Southern Dateline region on Sun (1/10) but producing only 34 ft seas over a tiny area at 38N 172E targeting Hawaii. Fetch and seas fading in the evening just east of the dateline from 26 ft. Maybe small swell to result for the Islands.

A broader co.cgiex (fragmented) gale is forecast forming over the dateline on Tues AM (1/12) with pockets of 40-45 kts westerly winds and seas 26 to 34 ft in 3 pockets. Something to monitor.

  

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...

MJO/ENSO Update

ONI Values Released: 2015 Stronger than the 1982 El Nino (so far)
Active MJO continues Feeding Jetstream

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 (1/4) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds from 160E to 1155W south of the equator. Moderate to strong east winds were north of the equator from 155E eastward. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds at 18 kts were south of the equator mainly south of 3S mainly from 165E eastward. East winds were 16-20 kts north of the equator north of 3N at 165E eastward. Anomalies were strong from the west from 160E to 145W on and south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino was expressing itself.
1 Week Forecast: GFS anomaly model indicates west anomalies started 12/21, and built to WWB status on 12/27, and built in velocity and coverage through 1/3, then backed off a little. This pattern is to build starting 1/6 with strong west anomalies from 175E east to 140W through 1/11 indicating a legit WWB is to continue for at least the next week. Actual winds per the GFS model are to continue from the west in the southern KWGA slowly lifting north, getting good positioning in the central KWGA near the dateline by Fri 1/8 at 13 kts and holding through Sun (1/11). They are to fade some thereafter near the dateline but build in coverage from 3S and points southward over the entire KWGA by Sat (1/9) through Tuesday (1/12). A true El Nino pattern is setting up. The only east anomalies that occurred this year in the KWGA were from 12/7-12/17, thanks to the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Fortunately that short bout ended with westerly anomalies back in.cgiay and building now.

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 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 set up near the dateline and held to 12/7, then fading with weak east anomalies taking hold till 12/17 courtesy of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. West anomalies started redeveloping on 12/17 and were building 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

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)

June/July WWB October WWB

 

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of Mon (1/4) the Active Phase of the MJO signal was in control of the West Pacific and dateline regions with a strong Inactive Phase building south of India. The Statistic model forecasts the Active MJO slowly easing east and locked over the dateline 2 weeks out while a strong Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean moving over Indonesia.  The dynamic model is having technical problems and is not available. From an El Nino standpoint, the Active Phase has begun expressing itself on the dateline and is super charging El Nino by constructive interfering with it. This is very good news (for now, until the Active Phase Move east and the Inactive Phase returns 4-6 weeks out).  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderate Active MJO signal in the West Pacific tracking east and fading over the Americas 2 weeks out. The GEFS depicts the Active Phase holding it's position weakening just slightly with no movement for the next 2 weeks. The preferred outcome is that of the GEFS.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a Active MJO over the dateline easing east and gone by 1/15. That is not believable. We are ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is in control of the dateline today and is to continue to make steady eastward progress with it peaking near Jan 8. West wind anomalies are strong in the KWGA area with no Rossby Wave in.cgiay and are to hold through 1/12 at WWB status, then fade as the Active Phase fades out on 1/20. But west anomalies to to rebuild 1/25-1/30 eastward di.cgiaced (near 160W) courtesy of a Rossby Wave. The Inactive Phase to set up 1/27 holding into 3/2, with west anomalies weakening but not gone. The Active Phase is to return 3/5 with west anomalies again in control maybe approaching WWB status slowly fading through the end of March but di.cgiaced east near 165W likely having no Kelvin Wave generation potential, typical of the mature phase of El Nino a.

It is obvious that the MJO is not dead, regardless of theories which suggest it should be during strong El Ninos. That evidence is the presence of the Inactive Phase that destructively interfered with the El Nino base state (12/7-12/17) and now the Active Phase that stated developing 12/27.

CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (1/5) Actual temperatures remain decent (all sensors on-line). A pocket of 30 deg temps were at depth from 176W to 159W (shrinking) with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating from 122W. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are barely hanging on from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 134W eastward (steady today). No +5 deg or greater anomalies remain. The core regions are mostly steady for the moment, but are fading in intensity and easing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/29 the reservoir is in reasonably good shape with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a moderate core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 88W-127W (easing east). This is a good scenario but no longer great, with the core of the warm pool shrinking. Warm water also appears to barely be erupting west of the Galapagos at +4 degs near 107W and 95W but definitely loosing ground. Cool water is continuing to undercut the warm pool down at 125 meters and reaching east to 120W and building in coverage. The beginning of the end is in sight.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (12/29) Heights are fading and moving east, but still at high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are retracting east and covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 172W (steady). Peak anomalies at +20 cm have vanished. +15 cm anomalies are fading fast in one pocket near 107W. +10 cm anomalies are between 90W-145W. The subsurface warm pool is discharging or at least substantially shrinking
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (12/29) is shrinking fast with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies shrinking from 141W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are moving east from 134W attributable to WWB #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are tracking east from 126W (fading). The formally large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are steady fading from 119W to 99W. +2.5 deg anomalies are long gone. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is wrapping up and the Upwelling phase is taking hold. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is evident in the west (just east of the dateline) with the eastward retreat of of all temperature bands, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which lasted from 10/31 through 12/17 (6 weeks). The current thinking is that the warm subsurface reservoir is discharging, or at at least fading commensurate with a pending Upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. But the Active Phase of the MJO is now building over the KWGA with a solid WWB underway and might result in another Kelvin Wave. But it would not reach the reservoir for 2 months or about March 1. This might only extend the life of El Nino, or slow it's demise, but not add substantially to it. 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. With the WWB/Kelvin Wave #4, a more aggressive face of this El Nino appeared during the Oct-Nov timeframe. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over on 10/31, and with it the subsurface warm pool started discharging, with no significant westerly anomalies nor warm surface water left in the West Pacific to be driven to the east in the form of a Kelvin Wave.  Perhaps with the building Active Phase of the MJO on 12/27 another weak Kelvin Wave might result, but it's almost meaningless at this point in the year.

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.
Satellite Imagery
Hi-res Nino1.2: (1/4) The latest image indicates temps were solid but not impressive in coverage nor intensity. If anything coverage is retreating more over the past week relative to Ecuador. No +4.0 deg anomalies were present. +2.25 anomalies covered from a bit off the coast of Ecuador to the Galapagos loosing coverage over the entire area but building in patches up into Costa Rica, but not overtly impressive. 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.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (1/4) The latest image depicts steady coverage, widest near 140W in the +2.25 temp range. Weaker coverage was east of there. No +4.0 degs anomalies were depicted. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive, but continues a slow decline from it's peak. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. Temps between 160W-180W are steady in width near 160W, and +2.25 deg anomalies reach west now to 172W, though they previously were to the dateline on 12/14. 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 7 day Trend (1/4): Modest warming is occurring over a broad but spotty area north of the equator near the Galapagos up into Central America. Otherwise there is no serious thought Nino 1.2 is going to build any more than it has.
Hi-res Overview:
(1/4) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but fading. Even the main focal point which has been the eruption ports west of the Galapagos are all but gone now. Those ports peaked first on 9/19, then more broadly on 11/19. As of 1/4 no +4 deg anomalies remain. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area fading and loosing some intensity with faint wisps of +4 deg anomalies from 115W to 120W and a slightly stronger wisp from 90W to 100W. But for a normal year, this remain most impressive.

Kevin 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. A slow fade is occurring now as Kelvin Wave #4 dissipates.

 

Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
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.
(Click to enlarge)


OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image

 

Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
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Other Sources
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 (retracting to 172E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its near 140E. +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 180W. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 175W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is holding at 138-162W. No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is fading slightly but still impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (1/5) Temps are fading down to +1.314 as compared to +1.836 readings on 12/27, down from +1.950 (12/22), down from +2.088 (12/15), down from +2.387 12/11, 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 (1/5) temps are fading slightly at +2.341, down form +2.429 (1/2), up slightly at +2.466 on 12/27, down from +2.708 (12/22), up from + 2.517 (12/19), up from +2.416 (12/15), falling slowly but steadily 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 but it will never be reached. Today's value was at +2.520, down from +2.858 (1/2), down from +2.732 (12/31), compared to +2.697 on 12/27, down from +2.753 (12/22), up from +2.671 (12/19), up barely from +2.655 (12/15), down from +2.882 (12/12), steady since (12/10) when it was +2.942, down some from (12/8) when it was +2.988 and stead 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 12/30 temps were falling in Nino4: +1.5, Nino34: +2.7 (steady), and falling in Nino3: +2.6. On 12/23 temps were falling in all regions: Nino4: +1.6, Nino3.4: +2.7 and Nino3: +2.7 degs. On 12/16, temps were steady at +2.9 degs in both Nino3 and 3.4 and +1.7 in Nino 4. 12/9 was down slightly at +2.8 (Nino3.4) and +2.9 (Nino3). On 12/2 they were +2.9 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), down from 11/25 when they were +3.0 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), and down from the peak of +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 (December) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of December was +2.37. November was adjusted up to +2.36 degs, 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 +2.03 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.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct and Nov the values are: +1.8, +2.0. +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
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SST Image

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 depicted peak temps to +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then fading slightly to early December, then falling to +2.5 degs Jan 1 and projected on a steady decline from there but not falling to +0.0 even by Sept 1.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Dec Plume depicts temps peaked in early Nov, at +2.9 degs. the consensus suggests temps to fall steadily from here forward, down to 0.0 by August and then going slightly negative from there.
See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (1/5): Was falling at -37.10. 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 at -10.62. 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 falling some at -11.31 and is expected to continue falling. 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. 
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A neutral pressure pattern was near Darwin on 1/5 and is to hold for the next 7 days. It is relative high pressure over Australia in NHemi winter months that is the preferred pattern for El Nino development in the Pacific.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 1/5 weak but broad low pressure was over and west of Tahiti. This pattern is weaken slightly then restrengthen over the next 7 days. This is the Active Phase of the MJO having the desired effect. The SOI should start falling based on the Tahiti contribution. 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 steady state negative SOI attributable mainly to low pressure over Tahiti. The Inactive Phase of the MJO in the Indian Ocean should eventually set up high pressure over Australia contributing more to the SOI going negative.        
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (1/5) Today's value was steady at +1.97 up from +1.67 12/27, and has been on a steady rise for 3 weeks now. This is a good sign. On 12/15 it was at +1.17, down from +1.25 (12/10), after rising through 12/8 to +1.37, 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 Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +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 (1/5) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks very solid now and is forecast to only become more so as the Active Phase of the MJO gains a stronger foothold.

Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
Full Sized Chart
(Click to enlarge)

Conclusion: 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. 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

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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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