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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2016 5:54 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
4.5- California & 4.1 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

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

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

Storm #2 Developing on Dateline
Another Solid Storm To Follow Friday

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 Sunday, January 3, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 11.1 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 7.5 ft @ 12.8 secs from 316 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.0 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 13.7 secs from 233 degrees. Wind east 12-14 kts. Water temperature 60.3 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.8 ft @ 14.9 secs from 259 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 15.1 secs from 243 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.2 ft @ 16.1 secs from 273 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.6 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 4.6 ft @ 13.3 secs from 286 degrees. Wind southeast 16-18 kts. Water temp 56.1 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (1/2) in North and Central CA the first pulse of swell from a co.cgiex gale formally over the dateline/Western Gulf was still hitting producing waves in the 1-2 ft overhead range and clean but winds with more of a southerly tilt to it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was up to head high at top breaks and clean. In Southern California up north surf was thigh high and clean and generally pretty weak. Down south waves were knee to thigh high with some sets to waist high and clean and unremarkable. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting swell from the Western Gulf with waves double overhead (10 ft faces) but pretty hacked up from northeasterly winds, but those are expected to turn to trades as the day progresses. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around swell from the Western Gulf too with waves 2 ft overhead and chopped from northeast 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 fading in Hawaii but still hitting the US West Coast mainly north of Pt Conception with a larger second pulse scheduled for Sunday (1/3).

Beyond this a far stronger system remains forecast to develop Sat-Sun (1/3) generating 47 ft seas tracking from the dateline into the Western Gulf aimed east offering good hope for mainline locations with solid sideband swell for the Islands, though weather is to accompany it relative to the US West Coast. Another system is to form right behind on the dateline Mon (1/4) generating 34-36 ft seas tracking east moving into California nearshore waters on Wed (1/6) with seas still in the 30 ft range likely setting up more weather and raw swell impacting mainly the California Coast.

And yet another stronger system is projected for the Southwestern Gulf on Sat (1/9) again with 47 ft seas targeting primarily the US West Coast. 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 which is to continue for the next 3-4 weeks. El Nino is to finally show it's face over the North Pacific.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (1/2) the jet was consolidated flowing east off Central Japan with winds building over the dateline to 190 kts on the 35N latitude line and starting to form a trough there offering support for gale development. From there the jet continued flat east with winds in the 160 kts range pushing into the Gulf of Alaska forming a small steep secondary trough before .cgiitting weakly at 135W or just 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast. The bulk of the wind energy continued east pushing into Southern CA wit a fragment of it peeling off to the north targeting Alaska. This is the best the jetstream has looked in years. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold in a pocket at 170 kts feeding development of the trough now moving into the Western Gulf Sun (1/3) offering good support for gale if not storm development there but also setting up new weak .cgiit point at 145W r.cgiacing the older one. But even that one is to dissolve Monday AM (1/4) as the jet comes fully onshore over Southern CA unimpeded with winds 140 kts likely setting up weather there up into Central CA. At this time 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 200 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 new trough on the dateline providing more support for gale development from there into the Western Gulf. A bit of a .cgiit is to redevelop north of Hawaii at that time too in association with the trough, but likely will be short lived as El Nino takes control of the North Pacific. A broad pocket of 160 kts winds to be set up just off Japan reaching to a point just north of Japan on Sat (1/9) continuing to support gale development in the Western Gulf with just a hint of a .cgiit off the immediate California coast, though still copious energy pushing southeast into Baja.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (1/2) swell from a co.cgiex gale that previously developed over the dateline was still hitting Hawaii with the first pulse of it hitting the US West Coast (see Co.cgiex Dateline Gale below). Remnants from this gale were fading in the Gulf of Alaska still producing a broad area of 20 ft seas 1300 nmiles west of Central CA and tracking towards that area. Otherwise weak high pressure was just barely holding over the immediate US West Coast making for clear skies and offshore winds, but that is to be short lived.

Over the next 72 hours a far stronger storm was developing and is forecast to evolve in the Gulf (see Storm #2 below). And additional fetch is to be building directly behind that storm on the dateline Sun PM (1/3) at 45-50 kts with seas building from 32 ft over a tiny area at 43N 178E. On Mon AM (1/4) 45-50 kt west winds to be falling east-southeast in the Western Gulf generating 37 ft seas at 41N 172W. In the evening a small area of 45 kt west winds to continue east generating 36 ft seas at 40N 161W. Tues AM (1/5) fetch is to be fading from 40 kts with seas fading from 34 ft at 40N 151W but 20 ft seas are to be filling the Southeast Gulf of Alaska set to impact the entire US West Coast. 40 kt northwest winds are forecast in the evening off the North CA coast with 32 ft seas at 40N 143W targeting all of CA> On Wed AM (1/6) winds to build to 45 kts just off Cape Mendocino with 34 ft seas at 41N 138W and 20 ft seas just off the Central CA coast. In the evening 40 kt northwest winds to still be off Cape Mendocino with 32 ft seas at 38N 131W, just off San Francisco. On Thurs AM (1/7) this system is to be fading while impacting the entire CA coast with 27 ft seas at 37N 125W. Large raw swell and weather is expected for all of California 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 developed 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 peaked at 18Z at 39 ft at 44.5N 159W. Fetch faded from there with seas dropping from 33 ft at 46.0N 157W in the evening. All this energy was targeting the US West Coast mainly from from Central CA northward.

And yet more wind energy developed over the dateline Fri AM (1/1) at 40 kts falling southeast and targeting Hawaii with seas to 27 ft at 38.5N 175W. Fetch was fading from 35 kts 900 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 continued past Hawaii Sat AM (1/2) generating more 24 ft seas targeting Central and Southern CA at 36N 152W. This system is to dissipate after that, being overtaken by Storm #2 (below).

Hawaii: 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: 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


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

Hawaii: For.cgianning purposes expect swell arrival before sunrise Mon AM (1/4) with period 18 secs and size building fast , peaking just after sunrise at 10.9 ft @ 17-18 secs (19 ft Hawaiian). Size and period fading some later in the day, down to 9 ft @ 15 secs (13.5 ft Hawaiian). Residuals fading on Tues (1/5) from 7.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (10.5 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 330 degrees

NCal: For.cgianning purposes expect swell arrival on Tues AM (1/5) with period 21 secs and size building steadily through the day pushing 11 ft @ 18-19 secs at sunset (20 ft) and buried in chop. Swell Direction: 292-296 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 Sat AM (1/2) weak high pressure was just barely holding over state with offshore winds trending southeast in control. But a broad low pressure system was lurking just off the coast with rain developing from Monterey Bay northward by late evening. The front is to weakly move over the coast from Pt Conception northward by Sun AM (1/3) with south winds 20-25 kts 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 and continuing through the night. This is the primer system. A far stronger storm to be just off the coast. Mon AM (1/4) south winds to still be the rule but weaker at 15 kts and actually turning northwest in Southern CA at 10-15 kts later in the day. Scattered rain for the entire coast, strongest early. A few inches of snow for the Sierra near sunset. Tues AM northwest winds to be 15 kts for North and Central CA fading late but south winds 20 kts for Pt Conception pushing into Southern CA later. Rain over the entire state Tues AM clearing late. Snow developing for the Sierra early clearing near 8 PM. The next front to be moving into the coast Wed AM (1/6) with south winds 25+ kts for North CA early and down to Pt Conception and Southern CA by afternoon. Rain moving into everywhere north of Pt Conception early and into Southern CA later afternoon. Snow for the Sierra by 2 PM continuing overnight. On Thurs (1/7) northwest winds forecast at 20+ kts everywhere except the north most end of the state with light scattered rain everywhere. Snow showers for the Sierra. By Fri AM (1/8) northwest winds to be fading in the north but still 15-20 kts for SCal and holding through the day. Rain clearing in the south. Saturday light winds are forecast for North and Central CA and building into Southern CA. No precip forecast. but another front is to be off the coast.

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 small gale is forecast developing in the Northwestern Gulf on Wed AM (1/6) with 40 kt west winds and seas building from 26 ft at 42N 175W. In the evening the gale is to lift northeast with winds building in coverage to 45-50 kts with seas building to 35 ft at 48N 169W. 45 kt northwest winds to hold into Thurs AM (1/7) with seas 35 ft at 48N 165W. Winds to fade from 45 kts in the evening with 28 ft seas fading at 49N 167W. This system is to be gone by Fri AM (1/8). Maybe some decent swell to result mainly targeting the US West Coast.

Yet another stronger gale is forecast forming north of Hawaii on Sat AM (1/9) with 55 kt west winds developing and seas on the increase from 41 ft at 40N 160W. By evening a small area of 55 kt northwest winds are forecast in the Central Gulf with 48 ft seas at 41N 153W. Something to monitor.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Major WWB In-Play in the KWGA
Active MJO is Feeding the Jetstream

The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).E.cgianation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric co.cgiing analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.

Overview: A strong El Nino is developing. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.      

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Fri (1/1) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated strong west winds from 155E to 160W south of the equator. Moderate to strong east winds were north of the equator from 155E eastward. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds at 12-20 kts south of the equator mainly south of 3S in the entire KWGA. East winds were 16-20 kts north of the equator north of 3N. Anomalies were strong from the west from 160E to 155W 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, and the strongest in months. This pattern is to hold if not build with strong west anomalies continuing from 160E east to 150W through 1/9 indicating a legit WWB was 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 in the central KWGA near the dateline by Wed 1/6 at 22+ kts and holding through Sat (1/9). 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

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 Fri (1/1) 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 locked over the dateline 2 weeks out while a strong Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean moving over Indonesia.  The dynamic model is having technical problems and is not available. From an El Nino standpoint, the Active Phase has begun expressing itself on the dateline and is super charging El Nino by constructive interfering with it. This is very good news (for now, until the Active Phase Move east and the Inactive Phase returns 4-6 weeks out).  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderate Active MJO signal in the West Pacific tracking east and fading over the Americas 2 weeks out. The GEFS is out of commission, but previously depicted 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 8. West wind anomalies are strong in the KWGA area with no Rossby Wave in.cgiay and are to build through 1/9 at WWB status, then fade only to rebuild 1/15 but eastward di.cgiaced (near 160W) as the MJO moves east and out of the KWGA. The Inactive Phase to set up 1/27 holding into 2/26, 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: (1/2) Actual temperatures remain impressive and believable with all sensors on-line. A pocket of 30 deg temps were at depth from 177W to 159W (shrinking) with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating from 122W. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are barely hanging on from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 134W eastward (moving east). No +6 degs anomalies remain. +5 deg anomalies are from 123W 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 12/29 the reservoir is in reasonably good shape with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a moderate core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 88W-127W (easing east). This is a good scenario but no longer great, with the core of the warm pool shrinking. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos at +4 degs near 107W and 95W but definitely loosing ground. Cool water is continuing to undercut the warm pool down at 125 meters and reaching east to 120W and building in coverage.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (12/29) Heights are fading and moving east, but still at high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are retracting east and covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 172W (steady). Peak anomalies at +20 cm have vanished. +15 cm anomalies are fading fast in one pocket from 105W to 115W. +10 cm anomalies are between 90W-145W. The subsurface warm pool is discharging or at least shrinking
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (12/29) is shrinking fast with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies shrinking from 142W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are moving east from 134W attributable to WWB #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are tracking east from 126W (fading). The formally large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are steady fading from 119W to 100W. +2.5 deg anomalies are long gone. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is wrapping up and the Upwelling phase is taking hold. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is evident in the west (just east of the dateline) with the eastward retreat of of all temperature bands, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which lasted from 10/31 through 12/17 (6 weeks). The current thinking is that the warm subsurface reservoir is discharging, or at at least fading commensurate with a pending Upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. But the Active Phase of the MJO is now building over the KWGA 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: (1/2) The latest image indicates temps were solid but not impressive in coverage nor intensity. If anything coverage has retreated more over the past week relative to Ecuador. No +4.0 deg anomalies were present. +2.25 anomalies covered from a bit off the coast of Ecuador to the Galapagos loosing coverage over the entire area. Temp continued 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: (1/2) The latest image depicts building coverage, especially west of 125W in the +2.25 temp range. Weaker coverage was east of there. No temps at +4.0 degs were depicted. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive, but continues a slow decline from it's peak. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. Temps between 160W-180W are building in width near 160W, and +2.25 deg anomalies reach further west now to 172W, though they previously were to the dateline on 12/14. No +4 deg anomalies are present. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #3 and #4. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/31): Modest 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 in patches. There no serious thought Nino 1.2 is going to build any more than it has.
Hi-res Overview:
(12/31) 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 12/31 one little pocket of +4 deg anomalies remained at 112W to 117W 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 108-117W. Hints of +4.0 anomalies exist just west of the Galapagos too. It's still impressive for a normal year.

Kevin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, then redeveloped and increased significantly starting 10/28 and peaked on 11/23. That peak was attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. A slow fade is occurring now as Kelvin Wave #4 dissipates.


Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through November.
Both images/datasets suggest this is the warmest the NINO3.4 region has ever been. Now the question becomes: Will that translate in weather and swell? If the theory that temps in this area translate in stormier weather, then the answer is obvious.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
(Click to enlarge)

OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image


Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
(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 off the charts. +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 177E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 177W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is breaking up with one portion of it at 120W and the second at 142W-162W. No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is fading slightly but still impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (1/2) Temps are steady at +1.866 as compared to +1.836 readings on 12/27, down from +1.950 (12/22), down from +2.088 (12/15), down from +2.387 12/11, holding there since 11/30, up from +1.708 11/19, down from +2.106 (11/5), down form +2.422 on 11/1. Previously temps peaked for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously spiked at +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded, then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again at +3.0 degs on 7/22.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (1/2) temps are steady at +2.429, 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 down some at +2.858, down from +2.732 (12/31), compared to +2.697 on 12/27, down from +2.753 (12/22), up from +2.671 (12/19), up barely from +2.655 (12/15), down from +2.882 (12/12), steady since (12/10) when it was +2.942, down some from (12/8) when it was +2.988 and stead compared to the 12/6 value of +2.989, up slightly form +2.919 (12/3), up from +2.905 (12/1), down slightly from +2.990 (11/28) up from +2.855 (11/23), up some from + 2.799 on 11/21, and down from +2.957 on 11/19. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97 in this region.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 12/23 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 (1/2): Was falling hard at -38.50. 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 rising from -9.32. 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 -10.87 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 1/2 with a slow trend toward higher pressure there for the next 7 days. It is relative high pressure over Australia in NHemi winter months that is the preferred pattern for El Nino development in the Pacific.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 1/2 weak low pressure was 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 by Wed (1/6) falling south with more low pressure over Tahiti through Sun (1/10). This is the Active Phase of the MJO having the desired effect. The SOI should start falling based on the Tahiti contribution. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're seeing perhaps a start of that pattern.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a steady state negative SOI attributable mainly to low pressure over Tahiti. The Inactive Phase of the MJO in the Indian Ocean should eventually set up high pressure over Australia contributing more to the SOI going negative.        
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (1/2) Today's value was up some more at +1.97 up from +1.67 12/27, and has been on a steady rise for 3 weeks now. This is a good sign. On 12/15 it was at +1.17, down from +1.25 (12/10), after rising through 12/8 to +1.37, up from +0.89 (12/1), up from +0.57 (11/23), down from +0.97 (11/15). This is a good trend suggesting that perhaps we're recouping from the lowest we've seen it on 12/1. Maybe the Inactive MJO in the Pacific is fading. But it is also typical for the ESPI to start falling as we move into Winter. This is primarily a summer and early Fall index during El Nino years. The most recent high value was +2.40 on Sat (10/17). It had been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) with only minor fluctuation. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 2.02 on 9/29. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate. Monthly ESPI values are as follows: July 3.76, Aug 2.34, Sept 2.1, Oct 2.3. '97 had two peak values at +2.99 in Aug and +3.06 in Sept.  2015 had +3.7 in July followed by +2.33 and +2.20 in Aug and Sept and 2.3 in Oct. to complete with '97.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Nov) The 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 (1/2) 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


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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