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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 8:54 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
3.8 - California & 3.2 - 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 11/22 thru Sun 11/28

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 Forecast for North Dateline Region
Jetstream On track to Dive South

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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, November 24, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 2.9 ft @ 10.3 secs from 337 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 14.0 secs with swell 1.2 ft @ 14.2 secs. Wind northeast 2-6 kts. Water temperature 65.1 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.9 ft @ 14.6 secs from 252 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.3 ft @ 16.8 secs from 218 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.4 ft @ 15.7 secs from 252 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.0 ft @ 12.8 secs with swell 4.8 ft @ 12.9 secs from 273 degrees. Wind northwest 14-16 kts. Water temp 57.2 degs.


    Buoy 46059
    Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.  
    Hi-res Buoys New!

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (11/24) in North and Central CA northwest swell from a low pushing down the coast was producing surf in the head high plus range and torn apart by southwest winds early but clean at protected spots. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high and torn up by south winds. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and clean and lined up when the sets come. Down south waves were waist high on the sets coming from the south and heavily textured from southwest winds. Hawaii's North Shore was chest to head high on the sets and kinda funky and crossed up though winds were light. The South Shore was thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated easterly windswell with waves thigh to waist high and chopped from trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell is in the water from a tiny but reasonably strong gale that developed off Kamchatka pushing to a point just shy of the Aleutians on Sun (11/22) producing a small area of 38 ft seas aimed east offering small swell for all. Also swell is being produced relative to North and Central CA by a local system that is falling down the immediate Pacific Northwest Coast on Tues (11/24) generating 24 ft seas.  But most of it will likely be buried in chop when it arrives. 

Beyond there's a transitory gale forecast for the Gulf on Thurs (11/26) generating 22 ft seas aimed east. But of more interest is a legit storm forecast coming over the dateline later Thurs (11/26) with supposedly 42 ft seas aimed east then fading while tracking into the Western Gulf Friday. This is a downgrade from previous forecasts where up to 48 ft seas were projected. And yet another small storm is forecast tracking east off North Japan on Sat (11/28) with seas to 40 ft, then pushing over the dateline and into the Western Gulf and forecast to continue to generate fetch and seas in the 22-24 ft range over a broad area targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. All this coupled with the forecast changes in the jet and a switch in the MJO next week certainly make it seem like the long awaited change towards an El Nino enhanced storm pattern are becoming closer to reality. 

Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

On Tuesday AM (11/21) the jet was trying to consolidate off Japan with a trough developing over the North Dateline region and being fed by a pocket of 170 kts winds offering support for gale development there. A very split jet was in control from 175W eastward, with the northern branch tracking over Alaska and the southern branch falling southeast to Hawaii then pushing east from there into Baja. Also a backdoor trough was over and just off North Oregon falling south mainly offering weather versus swell production. Over the next 72 hours the backdoor trough is to fall south and stall over North CA offering mainly unsettled weather. The trough over the North Dateline region is to start pinching off in the Western Gulf Thurs (11/26) and fade out, offering only the tiniest hope for low pressure down at the surface. Of more interest is the anticipated development of a new trough off Kamchatka late Wed (11/25) driven by an infusion of winds streaming off Japan at 140 kts building to 170 kts by Fri (11/27) and falling into the trough as it tracks over the Western Gulf.  Great support for gale development expected. The split point in the jet is to push east to 170W by Friday. Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough is to continue tracking east but loosing energy on Sat (11/28) with winds down to 150 kts offering less support for gale development. But the whole jet is to be falling south reaching 38N late Sun (11/29) running flat west to east with the split point moving to 138W or just 750 nmiles off the Central CA coast. And a new very broad trough is to start developing in the Western Gulf on Tues (12/1) getting great support form the jet and the split point holding at 135W but with the southern branch continuing east pushing into Southern CA. This configuration is very much like one would expect to see during an El Nino year.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (11/24) a gale was along the Pacific Northwest Coast falling south.  Raw swell expected for NCal (see Local Gulf Gale below). Also swell from a tiny gale off Kamchatka was in the water pushing towards Hawaii and California (see Kamchatka Gale below).  Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.

Over the next 72 hours a new gale is to try and develop in the Gulf of Alaska starting Wed AM (11/25) producing mainly south winds targeting Alaska but with a small area of 30-35 kt northwest winds trying to get traction on the oceans surface.  Those winds to hold and grow a little in the evening producing 20 ft seas at 45N 155W.  35 kt northwest winds to hold into Thurs AM (11/26) with 22 ft seas at 47N 149W.  A quick fade to follow.  Small 13-14 sec period swell could result targeting Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest.  

And a solid gale was developing off the North Kuril Islands on Tues (11/24) and is forecast developing more off the Kurils on Wed AM (11/25) producing 55 kt northwest winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface with seas building from 34 ft at 44N 165E. The storm is to lift east-northeast on the evening still generating 50 kt northwest winds with seas building to 35 ft at 46N 175E. 50 kt west-northwest winds are forecast over the North Dateline region Thurs AM (11/26) with 41 ft seas at 48N 178W (335 degs HI, 305 degs NCal) aimed mainly east. Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts in the evening just east of the dateline with 41 ft seas at 48N 171W (342 degs HI, 304 degs NCal) targeting the US West Coast well. Residual 45 kt west fetch is forecast Fri AM (11/27) with seas fading from 37 ft at 48N 167W (304 degs NCal). Northwest fetch to fade from 35 kts over a solid area in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 47N 163W (303 degs NCal). If all goes as expected some solid long period swell could result mainly for the US West Coast with sideband swell for Hawaii. Something to monitor.

Local Gulf Gale
A small high pressure system at 1036 mbs was in the Northern Gulf on Mon (11/23) generating a gradient with weak low pressure developing over the Pacific Northwest generating 30 kt north winds falling south off the Oregon Coast and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. This fetch built to 35 kts while falling south in the evening centered just off Oregon with seas building to 18 ft over a tiny area at 49N 130W and east of any great circle path to North and Central California. 40 kt north winds were off Washington and North Oregon on Tues AM (11/24) with 24 ft seas at 47N 130W aimed south but still shadowed by Cape Mendocino relative to Central CA. A quick fade to follow with 30-35 kt north winds pushing to Cape Mendocino in the evening with 23 ft seas at 42N 129W on the 315 degree path to Central CA. A quick fade to follow. This is to be more of a weather and snow producer in higher elevations for CA than anything. 

NCal: Expect swell arrival late Tues (11/24) at 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft) but with lots of local windswell intermixed. On Wed (11/25) swell to peak at 7.5 ft @ 12-13 secs  (9 ft) but well shadowed in the SF Bay Area. Residuals to be fading from 5 ft @ 10-11 secs (5 ft) early Thurs (11/26).  Swell Direction:  3112+ degrees  

Kamchatka Gale
On Sat AM (11/21) an area of low pressure was developing off the Kuril Islands generating 35 kts west fetch. By evening better organization was occurring producing 40+ kt northwest winds off Southern Kamchatka aimed southeast and east with seas building from 20 ft. 50 kt northwest and west winds were lifting slowly northeast Sun AM (11/22) producing 31 ft seas at 48N 170E aimed east (325 degs HI, 306 degs NCal). The gale moved into the Bering Sea in the evening with 50 kt west fetch south of the Aleutians generating 39 ft seas at 50N 176E aimed east (330 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). By Monday AM (11/23) the gale was fully in the Bering Sea with fading 40 kt northwest fetch just shy of the Western Aleutians producing 34 ft seas at 51N 180W (308 degs NCal). This system faded after that. Some small swell could result for Hawaii and the US West Coast. 

Hawaii:  Expect swell arrival on Wed (11/25) afternoon with swell pushing 2.4 ft @ 17 secs late (4 ft). Swell continuing on Thurs (11/26) at 3.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.5 ft) early and holding.  Swell fading Fri AM (11/27) from 3.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft).  Swell Direction: 325 degrees

NCal:  Expect swell arrival late on Thurs (11/26) pushing 1.8 ft @ 18 secs (3 ft). Swell peaking on Fri (11/27) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft).  Residuals on Sat (11/28) at  2.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.0 ft).  Swell Direction: 306-307 degrees

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


Tropical Update
Typhoon In-Fa 27W on Tues AM (11/24) was 850 nmiles south of Southern Japan with winds 75 kts and tracking northeast. Steady acceleration is forecast from here forward with winds fading, and falling below typhoon strength late Wed (11/25). It's remnants are to get absorbed by a l=newly developing cold core low over North Japan on Fri (11/27).

Tropical Storm Sandra was 550 nmiles south of Puerto Vallarta Mexico on Tues AM (11/24) producing 45 kt sustained winds tracking west. A slow turn to the northwest is forecast with this system building to hurricane status Wed AM (11/25) then peaking while turning more to the north Thurs AM (11/26) with winds to 85 kts positioned 450 nmiles south of Cabo San Lucas. From there Sandra is to accelerate to the north-northeast moving inland north of Mazatlan on Sat (11/28) with winds 40 kts. No swell of interest to result.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues AM (11/24) low pressure was moving south over the Oregon Coast with a front pushing south the Central CA coast. Snow was falling in Tahoe with 3 inches accumulation by 1 PM. On Wednesday north winds to continue at 20 kts for the entire coast including Southern CA. Light rain early for Central CA. Light snow through the day for Tahoe.  Total snow accumulation to be 9 inches. By Thursday a light offshore wind pattern is to be in control with a light pressure pattern over nearshore waters. No change Friday or Saturday except for a weak low pressure system moving into Southern CA late Sat with south winds 15 kts and rain from Morro Bay down to San Diego late afternoon into the evening. Snow for Mammouth.  Light winds again on Sunday for all locations. By Monday (11/30) south winds start building for North and Central CA with a local low off the coast and rain developing in th evening for North and Central CA continuing into Tues AM.  Light snow for Tahoe. South winds continue Tuesday. More low pressure lining up offshore.

South Pacific

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




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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours another gale is to follow pushing off the Kuril Islands on Sat (11/28) producing 50 kts west winds and in the evening seas to 38 ft at 45N 167E. The gale is to fade some by Sun AM (11/29) as it reaches the dateline with west winds at 45 kts and seas 38 ft at 44N 176E. Fetch is to fade in the evening to 40 kts but with 35 kts west-northwest winds over a solid area resulting in 34 ft seas at 45N 176W. Fetch is to fade from 30-35 kts Mon AM (11/30) in the Western Gulf with seas dropping to 29 ft over a solid area near 43N 168W. 30-35 kts northwest fetch is to hold into Tues (12/1) generating more seas.  This is one worth monitoring. 

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Nino 3.4 Temps Holding Near Peak Levels
Inactive MJO To Slowly Fade

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 planet, 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 split 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).Explanation 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 coupling 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 Fri (11/23) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated weak west winds in the Kevin Wave generation Area (KWGA) near 170E with calm winds elsewhere. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, light west winds were at 164E in one pocket and calm elsewhere. Anomalies were modest from the west at 165E-165W (sensors were down at the surface at 160W). These west anomalies are rebuilding a little traction after the loss of west anomalies from 10/31-11/9.
1 Week Forecast: The CFS model indicates modest west anomalies forecast in the KWGA from 160E and east of there to the Galapagos for the next week through Tues (12/1) and stronger just east of the dateline and progressively moving west to 170E. Actual winds per the GFS model are to be light over the bulk of KWGA through Wed (11/25) then building from the northwest near 175E in association with a tropical system building south of the KWGA on Thurs (11/26) and those northwest to west winds to build in coverage over the entire Southern KWGA by Sat (11/28) at 14 kts, then fading back to near calm by Tues (12/1). So far no east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast. The thought is west anomalies have been pushing warm water from the West Pacific to depth and those waters have migrated into the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos. But the volume and velocity of that warm water migration faded significantly at the end of WWB #4 between 10/19-10/30. By 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared with west anomalies dead through at least today (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.       

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 10/30 the Inactive Phase of the MJO Cycle caused neutral winds to develop in the KWGA. Starting 11/20 a weak west anomaly pattern started to develop near the dateline and that was holding through today. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. 

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East New!

Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)

On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)

June/July WWB October WWB


Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of Tues (11/24) a modest Inactive MJO signal was over the far West equatorial Pacific reaching to the dateline. The Dynamic model forecasts it locked in this position but steadily weakening and retrograding west from the dateline area and all but gone 8 days from today,a pattern similar to the configuration it was in prior to the Inactive Phase of the MJO taking over on 10/31. The Statistic model has it fading and easing east with a solid Active MJO Pattern over the Central Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific 15 days out. Either way the Inactive MJO is to be gone about 10 days out. The assumption is that west anomalies will start rebuild driven by the El Nino base state as the Inactive Phase of the MJO fades out and halts it destructive interference with El Nino in the next week or two.    
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of 'MJO-like' active signal is fading in the Central Indian Ocean and is expected to make no eastward progress and is to totally dissipate 8 days from now (12/2). This is generally consistent with the OLR models above. This leads us to believe that perhaps whatever Inactive MJO signal was trying to dominate the Pacific will fade as the Active Phase fades in the Indian Ocean. This would allow the more typical El Nino base state to re-emerge.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a very weak signal with no significant change forecast for the next 40 days. A typical El Nino pattern is forecast.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): An Inactive MJO has all but lost it's grip over the dateline region as of 10/24 and is to track east and effectively gone by 11/29. West anomalies are to be rebuilding now weakly enhanced by a Rossby Wave that is passing through this region and is to continue into 12/11 having a slightly positive effect on west wind anomaly production. By 11/30 the Active Phase of the MJO is to be in control of the dateline and a bit east of there and westerly anomalies redeveloping stronger in the West KWGA to the dateline holding to 1/8/16. At that time the Active Phase of the MJO is to fade slightly, Then redevelop on 2/7. It is obvious that the MJO is not dead, regardless of theories which suggest it should be during strong El Ninos. So it makes sense that the Active Phase at some point should return. Still, the El Nino base state should be the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now supposedly in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec), but the westerly anomaly pattern is weak given the Inactive Phase. That is expected to change shortly. The core of westerly anomalies are already easing east, and are to continue to do so into the early Jan timeframe, when they are expected to push to 165W and out of the the KWGA. This would shut down the warm water conveyor, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay after draining all the warm water present in what is now a massive reservoir. That is typical timing for an El Nino from a gross level perspective. A more detailed timing estimate is provided below. 

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (11/23) Actual temperatures remain impressive but are getting confused by sensor outages now in the East Pacific. Still there is suggestion of 30 deg temps at depth from 165E to 138W with the 28 deg isotherm line at 120W and steady. There are almost no active sensors left between 125W and 170W except a few at depth. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 156W eastward. +6 degs anomalies are from 140W eastward with a core at +7-8 degs starting at 131W and points east of there. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 11/19 the reservoir is in great shape with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a large core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 95W-142W. This is a great scenario. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos primarily at +3 degs from 160W to 95W (steady) with three +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface at 105W, 120W and 125W. 
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (11/19) Heights are steady, holding at ridiculous high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 175W (steady). Peak anomalies at +20 cm are between 104W and 135W moving east. +15 cm anomalies extending from 95W to 145W and reaching from 5N to 5S (steady). +5 cm anomalies are pushing to Ecuador and reach the coast. +10 cm anomalies are making eastward progress extending almost to Ecuador (suggesting maybe the westward displacement character of this El Nino event is about to change). All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight. This is a classic major El Nino setup.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (11/19) is steady at very impressive levels (and updates daily) indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are shrinking from 159W to the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are easing east from 154W eastward attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are easing east from 150W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies easing east from 145W-->91W. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are easing east between 138W->100W beating anything in Kelvin Wave #3 (with a 38 deg/2,280 nmile width). 1.5-2.0 anomalies are now starting to  push into Ecuador (the first time since early Oct). The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway in the east while displacement to the west appears to be fading. This El Nino remains slightly westward displaced for the moment, but that might change in the next week. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also evident just east of the dateline in the eastward retreat of of all temperature bands, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which started 10/31 and continues to date but is fading.   

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 displaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. In fact, a careful analysis indicates it has peaked. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). And now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4.  We revised it a few times since then, but looking back we've determined it was correct if not a little late (more below). But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. But it appeared to start erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 peaking 11/17. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, is marked and historically strong. And with the current WWB/Kelvin Wave in development, a more aggressive face of this El Nino is now appearing.  

Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
(11/23) Overall the picture remains solid but is not getting any more defined near the South America coast. If anything over the past 2 weeks, warm temps are retracting from Peru and Ecuador and advecting west. But a solid increase in volume/concentration of warm water is flowing into the Nino3.4 area and is very impressive in it's concentration there. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water from the Galapagos west. The overall signature is the strongest of any point so far this year and of any time since mid-July 1997. Compared to '97, 2015 anomalies are warmer in the Nino3.4 region, but have less concentration and coverage in Nino1.2. Coverage south of the equator is not growing any down the Peruvian coast, and cannot complete with '97 in that regard, but is still very solid. Along the West African Coast, cool water is all but gone, being replaced by neutral temp water. This is not a worry as the same thing happened during the '97 event. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast but is not as defined as weeks past. Still very warm water extends west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Cool water has lost coverage over North Australia, and has lost concentration and coverage if not completely closed off. This is atypical of a strong El Nino. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.  
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (11/23) temps are rebuilding nicely with +2.25 anomalies from the Galapagos to Ecuador with decent width, but not impressive. Still, they have rebuilt significantly from 11/17 when they were almost completely gone
, and are holding compared to 11/20 imagery. This continues to indicate the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward displaced, 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. Given its been 4.0 months, and warming has not redeveloped, displacement is the operative explanation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (11/23) Consistent with satellite imagery above, anomalies are rebuilding here at +4.05 up from +3.73 on 11/21 and rebounding from +3.4 degs on 11/17. Anomalies were steady between 10/2-10/22, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal, but then moved into the +4.0-4.3 range starting 10/23 and held to 11/14, then fell but are now rebuilding. For the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is focused west of the Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (11/23): Warming is occurring between Ecuador to the Galapagos and continuing west of the Galapagos to 110W. A steady pattern is elsewhere in the Nino 3 and 4 areas.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(11/23) The latest image continues backing off slightly in term of the coverage of temp, though peak temps are holding between 100W and 122W if not easing east slightly. The areal coverage of +2.25 deg anomalies appears to be shrinking some, with not as much girth as on 11.20. That's a good thing. Still the pattern remains incredibly impressive. The question is whether this is part of Kelvin Wave #3 or an early pulse of Kelvin Wave #4. We're beginning to think this is more the leading edge of Kelvin Wave #4, especially given the westward displacement of the warming. This remains unbelievable on a historical level and still breaks records set in the '97 El Nino. Temps between 160W-180W continue surging west, but with a shrinking area of +4 deg range at 158W.  Still +2.25 deg anomalies reach a little west of the dateline. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #1, #2 and #3, and with some energy from #4. 
Hi-res Overview: (11/23) The El Nino signal is unmistakable and the strongest since 1997, and stronger than anything in the satellite age prior to that. It even beats '97 in the Nino3.4 region. The main focus continues to be the eruption ports that developed starting 10/28 and continue today. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos is not as intense as the peak at 9/19, but is covering a large area, but down some in coverage from a few day ago. As of 11/23 there is a continuous string of +4 deg anomalies from 98W to 135W on the backed off view, not just individual vent ports. The mid-zoomed image depicts the warmth building in coverage with a continuous stream of +4 deg anomalies from 99W-135W with +5 deg anomalies at 102W 110W and 122W but fading in intensity. This is impressive and likely the peak of our warm footprint. And this warm water is advected west. Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with multiple pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, then redeveloped and increased significantly starting 10/28 and have likely peaked as of 11/18. Though this might actually be water from the leading edge of Kelvin Wave #4 too. We can't stress enough the importance of this upgrade and the effect this will have a few weeks out as it advects west into Nino 3.4 proper. Still, we are saying Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 (we estimated 10/4). Those waters advected west, with peak warming supposedly occur in Nino3.4 one month later, or 10/19. But with the new vent ports developing 10/28, yet more warm water is tracking into Nino3.4. And the peak of Kevin Wave #4 is still to erupt.  Looking forward to seeing the Nino3.4 monthly data for November when it posts.  

Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
(Based on Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp Anomalies)

Updated! Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through October.
Left image suggests 2015 is already the third strongest El Nino in recorded history (beat only by '82 and '97). The right image suggests it's the 4th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the 2nd or 3rd strongest for this time of year, a bit of downgrade from last month when it was in the top 2.
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 (expanding west to 165E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its off the charts but was formally at 140E (steady and well west). +1.5 deg anomalies are building to the west reaching unbroken to 172E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 180W but the failure of some buoys makes any additional analysis suspect. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 109W-135W with +3.5 anomalies at 125W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (11/24) Temps are steady consistent with satellite imagery to +1.91 today 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 temps are +2.900 down 15 hundredths from 3 days ago at +2.915, down one tenth of a degree from the all time peak of +3.041 on 12z 11/19. This temps 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. 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 values are +2.855, up some from + 2.799 on 11/21, and down from +2.957 on 11/19. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97 in this region.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 11/11 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 displaced 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 displaced 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. 

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(Click to enlarge)

SST Image

New! (11/18) Given the westward displacement 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 displaced 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 displaced, 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 displaced.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 simple 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 11/6 the current was moderate to strong from the west and solid but all north of the equator. The current is pushing modestly west to east mostly north of the equator from 125E to 120W unbroken. There was 1 pockets of east current at 90W but tiny in coverage. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific, with a strong pocket north of the equator from 165E to 150W. Others were scattered pockets of west anomalies on the equator too. There were no pocket of east anomalies indicated.  This is reasonably impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 120E to 120W on and north of the equator with massive anomalies over the same if not larger area.    

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 This data has been upgraded again.  The run on 11/24 for the Nino 3.4 region depicts peak temp occurring now at +2.9 degrees. A quick crash is to occur thereafter with temp down to +1.9 degs by Jan 1.
Uncorrected Data has upgraded depicting peak temps to +2.9 degs now and holding into Dec7, then steady if not slowly backing off falling from +2.5 degs Jan 1. That makes sense for November, but makes no account for Kelvin Wave #4 what is expected to arrive around Christmas and then advect into Nino3.4 in late Jan 2016.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Nov Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak monthly temps between +2.4 degs (Statistical models), +2.6 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.5 occurring during Dec. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs, the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs and the mid-Sept between +2.1-2.5 degs. See chart here - link. If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on the areal coverage of water temps, there is now a valid comparison. '97 imagery had all the warmth crammed up along Ecuador. This years event is focused west of there, with more warmth in Nino4 than in '97 (see analysis above).

Atmospheric Coupling Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (11/24): Was up at 2.60. 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. 
30 Day Average: Was rising from -5.10. 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 at -14.21. 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 coupling. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -19.28 on 10/16. 
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a fading El Nino base state being driving by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a fading El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): Weak low pressure was over Southeast Aust on 11/24 and forecast holding through Tues (12/1). It looks like the Active Phase of the MJO in the Indian Ocean is to continue having a negative impact on El Nino.       
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 11/24 weak but solid high pressure was southeast of Tahiti and forecast to hold till Sat (11/28) driven by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. But strong and broad low pressure is forecast building just west of that region tracking east pushing over Tahiti on Mon (11/30). This will keep the SOI higher than what it should be till Monday, and then it should crash. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're not seeing that just yet.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of SOI values moving to the positive range. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having significant impact.        
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are coupled. Current numbers suggest good coupling though not great, but getting better footing slowly but steadily (notice the 90 day average trend). This pattern is to only change for the better as the El Nino base state builds as we move into Fall. A consistent 90 day average of -18 is our target, indicative of a strong El Nino.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino): Per the past 5 day 850 mbs anomaly charts there was no evidence of a south flow in play. Per the GFS model no real south flow is projected through Thurs (11/27). It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the required southerly surface flow in the Tasman Sea. South and southeast wind anomalies have been in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18), then returning consistently 9/18 through 10/25, then fading. The SHBI appears to be offering no support for this years El Nino development at this time.  
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (11/24) today's value continues falling at +0.57, down from +0.97 (11/15). This is the lowest we've seen it since we started following it in July and has been trending slightly down driven by the Inactive MJO. But it is also typical for it 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 coupled 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) (Oct) The current ranking is down some, falling to +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 strongest El Nino ever for this time of year, and the third strongest ever. 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 coupling per this index. Most impressive.  
North Pacific Jetstream (11/24) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, looking decent but not exceptional. But then the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over and has had a dampening effect and will continue to do so till the Inactive Phase is over.   

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

Conclusion (Updated 11/17): WWB #3 peaked on July 4, with the resulting Kelvin Wave peaking on Sept 19 west of the Galapagos, or a roughly 2.5 month travel time.  Likewise those warm waters advected into Nino3.4, peaking about one month later, or 10/19. Peak atmospheric influence should occur approximately 2 months later or 12/20. Then WWB #4 developed of near equal strength, peaking on 10/15, which resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. Using the same template, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 12/30/2015 (westward displaced), 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 displaced 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 amplification 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 play a role. It's is the total areal coverage of the warm water footprint that defines the impact on the atmosphere. Temps in Nino3 in this years event are at +3.0 degs, but peaked at +3.7 degs in '97. Conversely temps in Nino 4 in this years event beats temps in '97. All graphed out, one gets the sense that '97 and 2015 are very different events, but similar in total atmospheric effect.

Another question is: How much (if any) cooling will occur in Nino3.4 between the downslide up of Kevin Wave #3 and the ramp-up and peak of Kelvin Wave #4? Based on current data, Kelvin Wave #3 has surprisingly reinvigorated itself in late Oct/Nov and exceeded its earlier peak in Sept. The longer it holds on, the greater the likelihood that not dip in temps will develop before Kevin Wave #4 erupts. Assuming steady state anomalies in Nino3.4 (not falling below +2.0 degs during that window), there could be 4 months of +2.0 anomalies in Nino3.4 (with higher peaks), providing a strong and long supply of energy to fuel jetstream enhancement and similar to '97 and besting '82. It's not just magnitude of the peak temps that make a difference atmospherically, but also the duration of those anomalies. The longer and stronger the anomalies, the greater the atmospheric response. At this time the expected atmospheric affects should be significant, though displaced somewhat later in the season. 

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool


External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave

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