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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, December 31, 2015 4:00 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
3.2 - California & 4.2 - 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 12/28 thru Sun 1/3

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   

Storm #2 Forecast for Dateline/West Gulf
Active Storm Pattern to Follow

Stormsurf would like to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It's been a great year for us with many upgrades to the site i.cgiemented and more to come. Thanks so much for all your support. Forecasts will be updated over the holidays as time permits giving us some time to enjoy a much needed break. Then it will be back to business as usual after New Years. Hope you score good waves or snow over the Holidays!

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 Thursday, December 31, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 8.3 ft @ 16.7 secs with swell 4.4 ft @ 16.5 secs from 336 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.8 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 12.9 secs from 236 degrees. Wind east-northeast 8-10 kts. Water temperature 60.8 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.8 ft @ 11.4 secs from 261 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.6 ft @ 13.0 secs from 251 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.1 ft @ 13.5 secs from 259 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 5.8 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 4.0 ft @ 12.1 secs from 300 degrees. Wind northeast 14-16 kts. Water temp 55.4 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
On Thursday (12/31) in North and Central CA residual swell originating from the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska on Fri (12/25) was still hitting providing small background surf in Northern California in the shoulder to head high range and clean with still offshores, but down considerably from days past. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high and clean but weak. In Southern California up north surf was waist high on the sets and clean as can be and lined up reasonably well. Down south waves were thigh to maybe waist high and clean but closing out on the inside bar. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new dateline swell with waves 3-4 ft overhead and clean but raw looking with light trades early. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around swell with waves 2 ft overhead and lightly chopped from trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell from a poorly organized co.cgiex gale that evolved over the dateline region Sun-Thurs (12/31) was starting to hit Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast later on New Years Day.

Beyond this gale is to develop further on Thurs (12/31) generating in the Gulf of Alaska producing a small area of 40 ft seas aimed east targeting mainly the US West Coast north of Pt Conception with secondary seas north of Hawaii to 28 ft targeting the Islands and Southern CA. But of more interest is a far stronger system scheduled to follow in it's wake Sat-Sun (1/3) generating 52 ft seas tracking from the dateline to the Western Gulf aimed east offering good hope for mainline locations with solid sideband swell for the Islands. This system is to reorganize just 1,000 nmiles off the NCal coast on Tues (1/5) generating a broad area of 28-30 ft seas likely setting up much weather and large raw swell impacting the entire US Coast.

Another series of small systems are to follow, one in the Gulf late Wed (1/6) with 32 ft seas aimed east and another developing behind it on the dateline also on Wednesday with 43 ft seas falling southeast and targeting Hawaii well. A good storm cycle is setting up.

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 and this is to continue for the next 3-4 weeks. El Nino is to finally 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 Thursday AM (12/31) a very consolidated and strong jet was flowing east off Central Japan with winds to 180 kts on the 35N latitude line pushing over the dateline and reaching east to 145W before .cgiitting with the northern branch ridging hard up into Alaska and the southern branch falling southeast eventually pushing into Central Baja. High pressure was lodged as usual in between the .cgiit flow providing clear skies over the US West Coast. Enjoy it while it lasts. A trough was developing just west of the .cgiit point in the Western Gulf of Alaska offering good support for gale development in that region. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold in the 160-170 kts range feeding development of the trough in the Western Gulf Fri-Sat (1/2) offering good support for gale development there and putting pressure on the .cgiit point moving it to 132W of just 500 nmiles off the Central CA coast Sat PM (1/2). By Sun (1/3) winds to regroup in the jet just east of the dateline to 180 kts with the .cgiit point moving onshore over Central CA ushering in the start of a weather pattern for the West Coast as another trough sets up in the Western Gulf. The jet is to be fully consolidated from Japan pushing into the US West Coast centered on the 35n latitude line looking very much like the classic El Nino configuration, courtesy of the return of the Active Phase of the MJO and constructive interference with the El Nino base state. Beyond 72 hours, a new pocket of 170 kt winds is to be building just off Japan on Tues (1/5) digging east-southeast over the dateline by Thurs (1/7) forming a trough on the dateline providing more support for gale development from there into the Western Gulf. A bit of a .cgiit is to develop north of Hawaii at that time too, but likely will be short lived as El Nino takes control of the North Pacific.

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (12/31) swell from a co.cgiex gale that previously developed over the dateline was starting to hit Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Co.cgiex Dateline Gale below). Remnants from this gale were starting to consolidate in the Gulf of Alaska and expected to produce yet more swell (see Gulf Gale below). Otherwise high pressure was over the US West Coast making for clear skies and offshore winds.

Over the next 72 hours a far stronger storm is to develop west of the dateline Fri PM (1/1) with 55 kt northwest winds and getting good purchase on an already roughed up seas state with seas building fast from 34 ft at 38N 170E. By Sat AM (1/2) hurricane force west winds at 65 kts are forecast pushing over the dateline with seas building from 48 ft at 39N 179E targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. 55 kt west winds to hold into the evening tracking east with seas peaking at 52 ft at 39.5N 172W. Fetch is to be lifting slightly northeast on Sun AM (1/3) with winds 50-55k kts and seas still 50 ft at 40.5N 163W targeting the US West Coast more than Hawaii now. The storm is to continue east and start regenerating some in the evening with winds back to 50 kts and seas from previous fetch 46 ft at 41.5N 157W. Mon AM (1/4) fetch is to be fading from 45 kts 1500 nmiles off North CA with seas 42 ft at 41.5N 151W. In the evening this system is to be gone but additional fetch is to be building directly behind at 40 kts. Seas from the original fetch fading from 35 ft over a huge area at 41N 144W or just 1000 nmiles from North CA. Tues AM (1/5) fetch is to be fading from 40 kts with seas fading from 30 ft at 40N 148W but 20 ft seas area to be filling the Southeast Gulf of Alaska set to impact the entire US West Coast. Large raw swell and weather is expected for the majority of the mainland during swell arrival.

Co.cgiex Dateline Gale
A small fetch of 45 kts west winds developed Mon AM (12/28) on the dateline producing a small area of 32 ft seas at 46N 178E aimed east. 40 kt west winds persisted in the evening generating more 28-30 ft seas at 47N 174W aimed east. Fetch faded from 35 kts Tues AM (12/29) with seas fading from 26 ft at 52N 167W. Small 16 sec period sideband swell is possible for Hawaii with more direct energy for the US West Coast. But small is the operative word given the small size of the fetch and relative long distance to both Hawaii and the US West Coast.

A broader but less defined area of 30-35 kt west winds developed well south and just east of the dateline Tues AM (12/29) producing a broad area of 20-26 ft seas near 39N 175W. This fetch pushed eastward in the evening and faded from 30 kts with 22 ft seas at 37N 170W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. By Wed AM (12/30) a new fetch of 30-40 kt west winds developed west of the dateline over a large area starting to get traction and producing 22-24 ft seas at 35N 172W and points west of there targeting mainly Hawaii. That fetch tracked east in the evening building in coverage at 40 kts generating 20-26 ft seas over a solid area at 37N 172W targeting mainly Hawaii again. On Thurs AM (12/31) 40 kts northwest winds were still in.cgiay just northwest of Hawaii generating near 30 ft seas at 35N 169W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. None of the above fetch was well defined and resulting seas were not consolidated. But swell should result just the same, but a bit ill defined.

And yet another fetch to develop from the remnants of the aforementioned gale in the Central Gulf Thurs AM (12/31) producing 45-50 kt west winds over a small area with seas building from 36 ft at 44.5N 163W. Seas peaking at 18Z at 39 ft at 44.7N 159W. Fetch is to fade from there with seas dropping from 34 ft at 45.5N 157W in the evening. All this energy is to be targeting the US West Coast mainly from from Central CA northward.

And yet more wind energy is to be developing over the dateline Fri AM (1/1) at 40 kts falling southeast and targeting Hawaii with seas to 28 ft at 38.5N 175W. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts 1800 nmiles north of Hawaii in the evening with seas fading from 25 ft at 36N 163W. Sideband swell from this system to intermix with existing swell relative to Hawaii but be traveling directly towards Southern CA. 35 kt west winds to continue past Hawaii Sat AM (1/2) generating more 25 ft seas targeting Central and Southern CA at 36N 152W. 35 kt fetch is to fall southeast in the evening with seas fading from 24 ft at 32N 142W.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thurs AM (12/31) with period 17 secs and size building through the day, pushing near 9 ft @ 15 secs by early afternoon (13.5 ft Hawaiian) but a bit jumbled and unrefined. Swell to fade some overnight but still at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.5 ft) New Years Day Fri AM (1/1). The second pulse from this system to arrive late Friday afternoon building to 9 ft @ 16 secs (14 ft Hawaiian) and holding overnight. Solid swell to continue Sat AM (1/2) at 9.9 ft @ 14 secs early (13.5 ft Hawaiian) fading some through the day. Swell slowly fading Sun AM (1/3) from 8.1 ft @ 14 secs (11 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 325-330 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on New Years Day/Fri AM (1/1) building to near 5 ft @ 15-16 secs late (7.5 ft). Swell continuing on Sat AM (1/2) fading from 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft). Swell Direction 292-296 degrees. Secondary swell to arrive late Sat PM with period 17 secs peaking near sunrise Sun (1/3) at 6.5 ft @ 16 secs (10 ft) holding through the day. Swell Direction: 296 degrees Additional energy arriving overnight with swell on Mon AM (1/4) at 7.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (10.5 ft). Swell Direction 280 degrees. A much confused sea state to be expected as we get into Mon (1/4).

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (1/2) at 1.8 ft @ 16 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell holding Sun AM (1/3) from 2.1 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 295-300 degrees Additional swell energy arriving Mon AM (1/4) at 2.9 ft @ 15 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 294 degrees. yet more swell energy arriving on Tues AM (1/5) at 3.5 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 292 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 Thurs AM (12/31) weak high pressure was over the state with offshore winds and clear skies the rule everywhere. More of the same is forecast Friday into early Sat AM but a broad low pressure system is to be lurking just off the coast turning winds southeasterly from Monterey Bay northward by noon with rain developing north of Bodega Bay late afternoon. The front is to weakly move over the coast from Pt Conception northward by Sun AM (1/3) with south winds everywhere in that region and affecting Southern CA by evening. Steady rain pushing south but mainly affecting only the coast reaching San Francisco to maybe Point Conception by early evening. This is the primer system. A far stronger storm to be just off the coast. Mon AM (1/4) south winds at 30 kts are to be building over the north end of the state working their way slowly south to Monterey Bay Tues AM with 15 kt south winds to Southern CA late evening. Rain building in the north down to San Francisco Tues AM reaching to Southern CA at nightfall. Snow developing for the Sierra by nightfall. Clearing high pressure to be nosing into the coast Wed AM (1/6) with north winds 25 kts for North CA early and down to Pt Conception by afternoon. rain clearing Wed AM and snow fading for the Sierra by sunset Wednesday. A bit of a break expected on Thurs (1/7) but more weather is to be queuing up in the Gulf. Light rain expected for the North Coat down to Monterey Bay Thurs PM.

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 in the Gulf on Wed AM (1/6) with 50-55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 28 ft at 42N 157W. In the evening the gale is to race east with winds fading from 45 kts off the North CA coast with seas fading from 33 ft at 42N 149W. This system is to be gone by evening.

Yet another stronger gale is forecast forming over the dateline Wed AM (1/6) with 50 kt northwest winds developing and seas on the increase. By evening a small area of 55 kt northwest winds are forecast on the dateline with 42 ft seas at 40.5N 176W falling southeast and targeting Hawaii well. On Thurs AM (1/7) 45 kt northwest winds to continue with 38 ft seas at 39N 172W targeting Hawaii well. More fetch to follow associated with this system if one is to believe the models.

  

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...

MJO/ENSO Update

MJO Has Turned Active in West Pacific
Major WWB Burst In-Play Now

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 Wed (12/30) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated strong west winds from 155E to 165W south of the equator. Moderate to strong east winds were north of the equator from 160E eastward. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds at 15-18 kts were south of the equator in the west KWGA. East anomalies to 22 kts were north of the equator near the dateline. Anomalies were strong from the west from 160E to 160W on and south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino was starting to show itself.
1 Week Forecast: GFS anomaly model indicates west anomalies started 12/21, and built to WWB status on 12/27, and are building in velocity and coverage today. This pattern is to only build with strong west anomalies from 160E east to 160W building both in velocity and width through 1/7 indicating a legit WWB in.cgiay on the dateline. Actual winds per the GFS model are to continue from the west in the southern KWGA and lifting north, getting good positioning there by Sat 1/2 at 22+ kts fading to the 18-20 kt range on Mon 1/4 and holding but lifting further north and centered at the intersection of the dateline and equator by 1/7. A true El Nino pattern is setting up. No east anomalies had occurred this year in the KWGA through 12/7, then materialized no thanks to the Inactive Phase of the MJO and held into 12/17. Fortunately that 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 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)

June/July WWB October WWB

 

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of Wed (12/30) 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 Indian. The Statistic model forecasts the Active MJO slowly easing east and licked over the dateline 2 weeks out while a strong Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean moving over Indonesia.  The dynamic model depicts the same thing only with the pattern moving east even slower. 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 9for 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 America 2 weeks out. The GEFS is depicting a similar pattern too with it moving from the West Pacific and stalling on the dateline 2 weeks out. The preferred outcome is that of the GEFS.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a Active MJO over the West Pacific easing east through 1/8. 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 10. West anomalies are strong in the KWGA area with no Rossby Wave in.cgiay and are to build through 1/10 at WWB status, then fade only to rebuild 2/4 but eastward di.cgiaced (near 160W) as the MJO moves east and out of the KWGA. The Inactive Phase to set up 2/12 holding into 2/29, with west anomalies weakening but not gone. The Active Phase is to return 3/3 with west anomalies again in control at WWB status 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: (12/31) Actual temperatures remain impressive and believable with all sensors on-line. An area of 30 deg temps were at depth from 180W to 157W (shrinking) with the 28 deg isotherm line barley holding at 120W. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are barely hanging on from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 137W eastward (moving east). No 6 degs anomalies remain. +5 deg anomalies are from 128W eastward (moving east). The core regions are mostly steady for the moment, but are fading in intensity and easing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/24 the reservoir is in reasonably good 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-130W (easing east). This is a good scenario but not longer great. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos at +4 degs near 107W but definitely loosing ground. Cool water is continuing to undercut the warm pool down at 125 meters and reaching east to 125W and building coverage.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (12/24) 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 extending from 105W to 125W and reaching from 2N to 5S (shrinking). +10 cm anomalies are pushing to Ecuador but just barely and reaching west to 150W. The subsurface warm pool is shrinking
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (12/24) is shrinking indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are shrinking from 156W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are moving east from 139W attributable to WWB #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are tracking east from 129W (fading). A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are steady at 121W into Ecuador. +2.5 deg anomalies are gone. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is wrapping up. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also 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). Previous signs of what was though to maybe be Kevin Wave (#5) are no longer present. 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 and might result in another Kelvin Wave, with a strong west winds in effect now. Still the peak of El Nino from a subsurface warming perspective has already passed and any additional warming will serve mainly to extend the life of El Nino.

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.

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: (12/30) The latest image indicates temps were solid but not impressive in coverage nor intensity. If anything coverage has retreated some over the past week. No +4.0 deg anomalies were present. +2.25 anomalies covered from just off the coast of Ecuador to the Galapagos steady in width but loosing a little coverage near Ecuador, but building in coverage 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: (12/30) The latest image depicts building coverage, especially west of 120W in the +2.25 temp range. Weaker coverage was east of there. Peak temps at +4.0 degs are depicted in a small pocket near 158W. 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 building in width near 160W ,but +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to only 172W where they 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 (12/30): Moderate warming is occurring over a broad but spotty area down the South American Coast off Chile and Peru and north of the equator up into Central America. Also temps are on the increase on the equator from 110W out to 160W. There no serious thought Nino 1.2 is going to build any more than it has.
Hi-res Overview:
(12/30) The El Nino signal is unmistakable. The main focus continues to be eruption port that developed starting 10/28 west of the Galapagos and continues today. Those ports peaked on 11/19, not as intense as a previous peak on 9/19, but covering a larger area. Today the warmest temps have far less coverage than the November peak and continue to fade. As of 12/30 one little pocket of +4 deg anomalies remained at 110W to 118W where it previously covered from 100W to 140W. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area fading and loosing some intensity with +4 deg anomalies from 108-118W. Hints of +4.0 anomalies exist just west of the Galapagos too. It's still 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
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.
(Click to enlarge)


OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image

 

Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
(click to enlarge)

 

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 (steady and well west). +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 175E. 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 breaking up with on pocket at 120W and the second at 142W-163W. No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is fading slightly but still impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/31) Temps are steady at +1.876 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 (12/31) temps are steady at +2.489, up slightly from +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. Today's value was steady at +2.732, 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 12/23 temps were falling in all regions, as follows 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 (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
(Click to enlarge)

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 (12/31): Was falling hard at -29.50. 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 -9.66. 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 rising some at -11.15 but is expected to start falling from here forward. 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): Weak low pressure was near Darwin on 12/31 with no change forecast for the coming week. 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 12/31 weak low pressure was developing over and west of Tahiti. This pattern is to hold if not intensify over the coming 7 days with a broad low pressure pattern developing just west of Tahiti and a tropical system directly over Tahiti 5 days out. 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): (12/31) Today's value was up some more at +1.93 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 current ranking is up some, at +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 (12/31) 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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