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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, January 2, 2021 12:58 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
5.5 - California & 4.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)

Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

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

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

Swell #3 Hitting CA
North Dateline Swell #4 Behind - Swell Machine Primed

On Saturday, January 2, 2021 :

  • Buoy 233 (Pearl Harbor Entrance)/Buoy 239 (Lanai): Seas were 2.8 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 12.6 secs from 296 degrees.
  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 8.9 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 6.6 ft @ 13.5 secs from 326 degrees. Water temp 78.4 degs.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.2 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 2.8 ft @ 14.0 secs from 257 degrees. Wind at the buoy was west at 2-4 kts. Water temperature 57.2 degs. At Harvest Buoy (071) primary swell was 8.4 ft @ 19.1 secs from 287 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 2.2 ft @ 13.4 secs from 272 degrees. At Oceanside (045) swell was 1.7 ft @ 14.8 secs from 255 degrees. Southward at Point Loma (191) swell was 2.9 ft @ 14.9 secs from 274 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 13.9 ft @ 18.2 secs with swell 10.7 ft @ 18.5 ft from 289 degrees. Wind at the buoy (012) was west at 2-6 kts. Water temp 51.8 degs (013), 51.6 degs (SF Bar) and 54.5 degs (042).

See Hi-Res Buoy Dashboards (bottom of the page)

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.

Current Conditions
On Saturday (1/2) in North and Central CA waves were 20 ft and solid a strong but pretty untouchable from southerly winds early. Protected breaks were 10 ft and pounding long line closeouts with clean conditions and untouchable. At Santa Cruz surf was 3-4 ft overhead on the sets and clean and lined up with light winds and rainy and foggy. In Southern California/Ventura waves were head high lined up and peeling with glassy conditions when the set came. Central Orange County had sets at shoulder high and clean and lined up. Swell not hitting here yet. South Orange County's best summertime breaks were waist to chest high on the sets and clean and lined up but inconsistent. North San Diego had sets at waist high and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore had waves at 3-4 ft overhead and a bit funky from northeast wrap-around lump. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting shoulder high east windswell and chopped from moderate east-northeast trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Saturday (1/2) swell was starting to hit California from a strong storm that tracked northeast from the southern dateline into the Gulf Wed-Fri (1/1) with up to 56 ft seas aimed east. That swell is building in Southern California too and that swell is fading in Hawaii. Beyond another swell is on the way from a storm that developed over the North Dateline region Thurs-Sat (1/2) with up to 59 ft seas targeting mainly the Aleutians and points east of there. This storm had the distinction of having the lowest central pressure of any wintertime North Pacific storm in history. Remnant energy from that system is to push through the Northern Gulf Sun-Mon (1/4) with 26-30 ft seas aimed east. Another diffuse gale is to form tracking east through the West and Central Gulf Mon-Wed (1/6) with 30-36 ft seas aimed east. After that a local storm is forecast off California on Thurs (1/7) producing 44 ft seas aimed east. And maybe another to be right behind it on Sat (1/9) with 47 ft seas aimed east while another one tracks from Japan to the North Dateline region Fri-Sat (1/9) with seas building to 43 ft aimed east. Much swell looks possible.

See all the details below...


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

North Pacific

On Saturday (1/2) the jet was well consolidated pushing east off Japan with winds building to 180 kts over the dateline then slowly fading while still pushing east into Oregon. There were no distinct troughs but there was still support for gale formation just given the bulk energy in the jetstream. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast and if anything the jet is to fall further south and flatter with winds in the 160-170 kts range with the leading edge of the jet impacting Oregon. A but of a trough is to form on the leading edge over the Northern Gulf on Mon-Tues (1/5) perhaps support more direct gale formation there and also causing a break in the jet over the US West Coast Tues-Wed (1/6) perhaps setting up a break in weather there. Beyond 72 hours winds energy is to start building in the jet off Japan on Thurs (1/7) building to 200 kts late Fri (1/8) reaching the dateline and then pushing to a point north of Hawaii early Sun (1/10) with the jet looking no different than it does today. The net effect is continued support for gale development. The future remains hopeful.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (1/2) swell from a strong storm (Storm #3) was fading in Hawaii and hitting North and Central CA with gusto (see Storm #3 below). And swell from another broad Storm #4 was pushing east being generated over the North Dateline region and setting records for the lowest central pressure of all time (See North Dateline Storm #4 below), And secondary swell near the California Coast is projected developing late Sun (1/3) (see California Local Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours starting Mon AM (1/4) another solid gale is forecast developing in the far Western Gulf with 40 kts west winds over a broad area and seas building from 31 ft at 42.5N 180W aimed east. In the evening the gale is to shift east towards the Central Gulf with winds 35-40 kts solid over a broad area aimed east and seas 34 ft over an elongated area with it's core at 44N 176W reaching east to 44N 152W. Fetch is to hold Tues AM (1/5) in the Central Gulf at 35-40 if not 45 kts from the west with seas 37 ft over a solid area at 44.5N 165W aimed east and filling the core of the Gulf of Alaska. This system is to be moving east in the evening with 35-40 kts west winds and seas fading some at 30-36 ft centered at 45N 155W aimed east. Fetch is to be fading Wed AM (1/6) from 30-35 kts in the Central Gulf with seas fading from 31 ft over a solid area at 44N 150W. A long run of swell is possible from this system.


Storm #3
A strong storm developed on the Southern Dateline Tues PM (12/29) with 55 kt west winds and seas building from 43 ft at 36N 177W aimed east tracking east. The storm pushed east-northeast on Wed AM (12/30) with 55-60 kt west and northwest winds and seas building to 47 ft at 39.5N 168W aimed east. In the evening the storm was sweeping northeast with 55 kt west winds and seas 58 ft at 42.5N 161W aimed east positioned 1,200 nmiles north of Kauai. On Thurs AM (12/31) northwest winds were fading from 40 kts with seas 42 ft at 43N 154W aimed east. Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 40 kts with seas fading from 39 ft at 45N 148.5W aimed east. The gale is to dissipate after that on Fri AM (1/1) with winds fading from 35 kts and seas fading from 33 ft at 44N 142W aimed east. Large swell has resulted.

Hawaii: Dribbles on Sat (1/2) fading from 4.9 ft @ 13 secs (6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 320-325 degrees

North California: On Sat AM (1/2) swell to peak at 11.5 ft @ 18 secs (21 ft) holding through the day. Swell fading Sun (1/3) from 10 ft @ 15-16 secs (15 ft). Swell Direction: 287-295 degs focused on 292 degrees

South CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (1/1) with period 22 secs and building through the day to 4.3 ft @ 19 secs (8.0 ft) at exposed breaks only. Swell fading Sun (1/3) from 5.3 ft @ 16-17 secs early at exposed breaks (8.5 ft). residuals on Mon (1/4) fading from 4.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 292-299+ degs focused on 298 degrees


North Dateline Storm #4 - Lowest Pressure of all Time
A new storm started developing west of the dateline Wed PM (12/30) producing 50-55 kt southwest winds and seas building from 32 ft over a diffuse area near 40N 167E aimed northeast. On Thurs AM (12/31) the gale build to storm status with pressure falling to 921 mbs, the lowest winter pressure ever recorded in a winter storm in the North Pacific. Winds were 65-70 kts (hurricane force) from the west just south of the Western Aleutians with the ASCAT satellite reporting winds to 85 kts (100 mph) and another unconfirmed report to 95 kts (110 mph). The storm was lifting northeast with seas building to 54 ft at 48.5N 172E aimed east and northeast. The fetch held just barely south of the Central Aleutians in the evening with 55 kt west winds and seas building to 57 ft at 51N 177E aimed east and up to 59 ft at 18Z at 50N 175.5E. The storm fell southeast some on Fri AM (1/1) with 50 kt west winds over a broad area aimed east with 47 ft seas at 50.5N 177.5E aimed east. In the evening the gale was fading but still large with winds 45 kts filling the North Dateline region with 43 ft seas at 47N 179W aimed east. Fetch was fading Sat AM (1/2) with pockets of west winds at 35-40 kts with 30 kt west winds filling a good portion of the North Pacific and seas fading from 36 ft at 48N 173W. Residual fetch is to fade over the dateline and further south in the evening at 35 kts with seas fading from 29-30 ft over a broad area centered roughly at 43.5N 170W aimed east. This system gone after that. Possible swell mainly for the US West Coast but with secondary energy targeting Hawaii later. Something to monitor.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sun (1/3) building to 6.4 ft @ 19 secs (12.0 ft). Swell holding steady all day Mon (1/4) at 7.4 ft @ 16-17 secs late (12.0 ft). Swell fading some Tues (1/5) from 7.0 ft @ 15 secs early (10.5 ft). Swell Direction: 325-330 degrees Note that most energy was traveling on great circle path not directly aimed at the Islands.

North California: Expect swell arrival on Sunday (1/3) near sunset with period 22 secs and size building underneath Swell #3. Swell to peak on Mon (1/4) mid-morning at 10 ft @ 18 secs (18 ft) and starting to be overrun by more local swell (see below) late afternoon. Swell Direction: 301-308 degrees with most energy from 308 degrees

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (1/4) building to 3.0 ft @ 19 secs late at exposed breaks. Swell peaking on Tues AM (1/5) at 5.0 ft @ 17-18 secs early (8.5 ft) at the most exposed breaks but starting to get overrun by more local swell later. Swell Direction 303-311 degrees with most energy from 310 degrees


California Local Gale
Secondary fetch from the North Dateline Storm #4 above is to redevelop slightly in the Central Gulf on Sun AM (1/3) with pockets of 35-40 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft roughly at 41N 160W aimed east. Fetch is to push east and organize more in the evening at 35-40 kts with seas 29 ft at 39.5N 145W aimed east. Fetch is to fall southeast on Mon AM (1/4) at 40-45 kts from the northwest just off North CA with seas 31 ft at 38N 136W aimed east. In the evening the gale is to push onshore over North CA with 27 ft seas just off San Francisco at 37.5N 129W aimed southeast. Raw swell likely to arrive along with weather for North and Central CA.

North CA: Expect swell arrival Monday evening building quick and raw. At sunrise Tues (1/5) swell to be fading from 15 ft @ 16-17 secs (25 ft) and raw. Mixed residuals of the 2 swell to be steady on Wed (1/6) at 8.6 ft @ 16 secs (13.5 ft). Swell Direction: 290 degrees

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Tues PM (1/5) at 6.5 ft @ 17 secs (10 ft) at the most exposed breaks with luck. Mixed residuals of this swell and the Swell #4 fading slowly on Wed (1/6) from 4.8 ft @ 16 secs (7.5 ft) at the most exposed breaks.


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


Tropical Update
No tropical weather system of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (1/2) south winds were 15-20 kts for Cape Mendocino and south at 5-10 kts down into San Francisco and 1-5 kts into Central CA and forecast holding all day. Rain for the Golden Gate northward likely holding all day. Building rain for North CA down to Pt Arena in the evening. Maybe some snow showers isolated to Tahoe late evening. Sun (1/3) south winds are forecast for North CA at 10-20 kts and light down to the Golden Gate and calm for Central CA early. Winds turning light south down to Monterey Bay later afternoon and 25-30 kts for Cape Mendocino later. Light to moderate rain for Cape mendocino all day but no further south. Snow showers for Tahoe early. Monday a solid front starts moving into North CA early with south winds 15-20 kts from Big Sur northward and up to 35 kts for Cape Mendocino building to 20+ kts late afternoon for most of Central CA with low pressure just off the North CA coast. Rain for all of North and Central CA early building through the day but not reaching south of Pt Conception. Snow developing for all of the Sierra by midmorning building through the afternoon and likely blizzard conditions lat afternoon then fading in the evening. Tues AM (1/5) light winds are forecast for all of North and Central CA early but with a strong front just off the coast reaching Cape Mendocino later with south winds 25 kts there. No rain during the day but starting for Cape Mendocino late evening. No snow forecast. Wednesday (1/6) the front is to back-build over North CA with 30 kt south winds but light winds from the Golden Gate southward early. The front to sweep south to the Golden Gate and dissipating at sunset. Light winds everywhere at that time. Rain for Cape Mendocino early pushing into Monterey Bay after sunset then dissipating there. No snow forecast. On Thurs (1/7) high pressure and northwest winds at 15-20 kts are forecast for Pt Arena south to Pt Conception holding all day. Maybe some snow showers isolated to Tahoe. Friday (1/8) northwest winds 10 kts from the Golden Gate southward building to 15 kts later. South winds 15 kts for Cape Mendocino early and quickly fading to light. Rain for Cape Mendocino early. Saturday (1/9) northwest winds are forecast at 10 kts early for all of North and Central CA building from the south for North CA to Pt Arena later. No precip forecast.

Total snow accumulation for the week for Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood and Mammoth at 30 inches, 34 inches, 18 inches, and 4 inches.

Freezing level about 7,000 ft through Jan 5 rising to about 8,000 ft thereafter then maybe falling back to 7,000 ft on 1/10.

Snow Models: (Scroll down for resort specific forecasts). Updated!


South Pacific

Surface Analysis
No swell was in the water.

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are 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 system (Possible Storm #5) is forecast developing in the Central Gulf on Thurs (1/7) with 45 kts west winds over a small area and seas building from 41 ft at 40.5N 146W aimed east. In the evening 45 kt west winds to push east just off North CA with 44 ft seas at 42.5N 137.5W aimed east. The gale is to lift northeast on Fri AM (1/8) pushing into Oregon with 40 kt northwest winds and seas fading from 35 ft at 43.5N 129.5W aimed east. Large raw swell is expected to result.

And another small storm (Possible Storm #6) is forecast taking the same track forming in the Central Gulf on Fri PM (1/9) with 55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 35 ft at 41.5N 151W aimed east. On Sat AM (1/9) 50-55 kt west winds are to be in the Central Gulf with seas building to 47 ft at 40.5N 145W aimed east. Fetch is to fade Sat PM from 40-45 kts just of Oregon with 41 ft seas at 43N 135W aimed east. Something to monitor.

And yet another system (Possible Storm #7) is to be possibly be forming off Japan on Thurs PM (1/7) producing 45 kt west winds and seas on the increase. This system is to pushing east-northeast really gaining strength on Sat AM (1/9) with 45-50 kt northwest winds over the Northern Dateline and seas building to 39 ft at 40.5N 145W aimed east. Fetch to hold in the evening drifting northeast with 43 ft seas at 47.5N 174.5W aimed east. Something to monitor.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.



MJO/ENSO Forecast


SOI 90-Day Average Rising - But the Equatorial Pacific Cool Pool is Warming Some

MJO/ENSO Discussion
The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) 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 equator it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slackening if not an outright reversing trade winds while enhancing 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 in the Pacific 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. Wind anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) are key for understanding what Phase the MJO is in over the Pacific. The KWGA is located on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south (or on the equator from New Guinea east to the dateline). West wind anomalies in the KWGA suggest the Active Phase of the MJO in the Pacific, and east anomalies suggests the Inactive Phase. In turn the Active Phase strengthens and the Inactive Phase weakens the jetstream, which in turn enhances or dampens storm production respectively in the Pacific.
And the El Nino/La Nino cycle (collectively know as ENSO - El Nino Southern Oscillation) is a less frequent (about once every 7 years) but more impactful cycle that affects world wide weather. Specifically, strong El Nino events promote storm production in the Pacific while La Nina events suppress storm production. These therefore have a significant impact on the production of swell and surf. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO and ENSO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for upcoming activity (or inactivity depending on the state and interaction of these two oscillations).

Overview: A double dip La Nina was in control through the Winter of 2017-2018. But warming started building along the South and Central American coast in early March 2018 associated with two upwelling Kelvin Waves, and continued trying to build over equatorial waters over the Summer and Fall, but not enough to declare El Nino and not coupled with the atmosphere. In January 2019, those warm waters were fading, but then rebuilt late in Feb associated with Kelvin Wave (#3). But as of early June 2019 warm water was fading and by August a tongue of cool water was tracking west on the equator from Ecuador over the Galapagos reaching to a point nearly south of Hawaii. El Nino was dead. A bit of a recovery occurred during Fall of 2019, with weak warm water building in the Nino 1.2 region, but cool water held in a pool off Peru and had not changed until March 2020. By April the cool pool pushed east and by May subsurface cool waters erupted off Ecuador, forming a well defined cool tongue that looked like the start of La Nina, holding into July 2020.

Fall/Winter 2020/2021 = 3.0/3.5 (California & Hawaii)
Rating based on a 1-10 scale: 1 being the lowest (small and infrequent surf conditions), 5 being normal/average, and 10 being extraordinary (frequent events of large, long period swells)

Rationale: It is assumed the PDO has moved to the warm phase in 2014 and that a weak borderline El Nino from 2018 faded out in the Fall of 2019. A La Nina like ocean temperature pattern developed in the equatorial East Pacific in the summer of 2019, then faded and returned to a neutral if not weak warm status during the Winter of 2019-2020 only to return stronger in the Summer of 2020. We have been suspecting a turn towards a La Nina like atmospheric pattern to develop in the late Winter/early Spring of 2020. Our best hope is that moderation from the warm phase of the PDO might tamp down development of a full blown La Nina as we move into 2020. But at this time that does not appear likely. Given all that, for the 2020 there is decent probability for development of La Nina meaning a reduced number of storm days and storm intensity during the summer season, resulting in a below normal level of swell, with swell being below normal duration and period. And by the Fall and early Winter of 2020/21, the number of storm days, intensity and duration of those storms should fade even more, resulting in depressed swell production. This pattern is expected to hold through the Spring of 2021.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast (KWGA - Kelvin Wave Generation Area - The area 5 degrees north and south of the equator from 170W to 135E)
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of (1/1) 5 day average winds were strong from the east over the Eastern equatorial Pacific continuing over the Central Pacific and stronger still from the east over the KWGA. Anomalies were neutral over the East equatorial Pacific continuing over the Central Pacific and exceedingly strong easterly over the KWGA. (Note: These are 5 day average winds, so they lag what is happening today by about 2 days).
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): On (1/2) exceedingly strong east anomalies were filling the KWGA and reaching east to a point south of Hawaii. The forecast calls for more of the same through the model run ending on 1/9 with strong east anomalies in control reaching east only to a point south of Hawaii. Weak west anomalies are currently south of California to Ecuador with no change forecast.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: (1/1) a weak Inactive MJO pattern was in control of the KWGA today. The statistic model projects it holding through day 10 of the model run then fading to neutral on day 15. The dynamic model suggests the same but with the Inactive Phase building over the KWGA into day 10 at strong status holding on day 15 of the model run.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (1/2) The statistical model depicts the Active Phase was non-existent over the Indian Ocean today and is to track to the far West Maritime Continent and very weak on day 15. The GEFS model suggests a variant of the same.
40 day Upper Level Model (assumed to be a statistical mode and 1 week ahead of what is occurring at the surface): (12/6) No Update. This model depicts a weak Active Phase (wet air) over the East Pacific tracking east while fading pushing into Central America on 12/21. A modest Inactive Phase was over the West Pacific and is to push east and into the Central America on 1/5. A weak Active Phase is to push into the West Pacific on 1/10 easing east at the end of the model run on 1/15. .
4 Week CFS Model (850 mb wind): (1/1) This model depicts no MJO signal today with strong east anomalies over the core of the KWGA. The forecast indicates east anomalies are to hold strong for 2 more days then weakening to moderate plus status and holding through the end of the run on 1/29. The low pass filter indicates perhaps some weakening in strength of high pressure over the KWGA at the end of the model run but still solidly present.
3 Month CFS Model (850 mb wind): (1/2 - using the 4th/latest ensemble member): This model depicts no coherent MJO signal over the KWGA today with moderate to strong east anomalies in control focused over the dateline. No real change is forecast through 2/11. At that time the Active Phase of the MJO is to build strong over the KWGA 2/10-3/23 with modest to strong west anomalies over the KWGA. A weak Inactive MJO is to return 3/3 building gently over the KWGA through the end of the model run on 4/2 with mostly modest west anomalies forecast over the KWGA. The low pass filter indicates a high pressure bias is firmly in control over the dateline today with 3 contour lines reaching east to a point south of California and is to continue through the end of the model run. A fourth contour line is to develop on 1/12 with a filth setting up 2/10-2/27 with the fourth fading on 3/15 and the third fading on 4/1. A double contour low pressure bias is over the Indian Ocean today and is to build in coverage with a second contour lined holding through 3/1. No realistic change in the coverage or position of either is forecast though the model suggest a shift in the border between the two to 170E at the end of the model run. East anomalies that were previously solid in the Indian Ocean for over a year migrated east through the West Pacific to the East Pacific on 10/1 and have stabilized there.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (1/2) Today in the far West Pacific the 30 deg isotherm was gone. The 29 deg isotherm was steady at 160E. The 28 deg isotherm line was steady at 170E today. The 24 deg isotherm was backtracking to 130W today. Anomaly wise, warm anomalies +3 deg C were locked steady in the West Pacific pushing east to 165W at depth and moving no further east. A broad cooling pattern was controlling the entire equatorial Pacific with anomalies -2 degs C in the far East, but otherwise temps generally -1 deg C over the entire equatorial Pacific at depth. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/29 indicates the same thing. Negative anomalies in the East Pacific were the least negative at any time in months. The GODAS animation appears to be 1 week behind the TAO data but also is more detailed and accurately modeled.
Sea Level Anomalies: (12/29) Negative anomalies were forming a wave pushing west from the Galapagos to the dateline on the equator at -10 cms continuous over that area with 2 small pockets to -15 cms at 130 and 145W. Negative anomalies were -5 to -10 cms along the coast of Peru up into Ecuador and reaching north up to Baja and -5 cms into South and North CA. Looking at the big picture, negative anomalies were forming a massive triangle from Cape Mendocino to the intersection of the dateline and equator then into Southern Chile. No positive anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific, except from the dateline and points west of there. But the triangle was not as strong as weeks past but not substantially weakening either.

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 & 3.4: (1/1) The latest images indicate cold anomalies were on the equator from Ecuador west to the dateline and solid in density over that entire and large area. Two small pockets of colder anomalies were near the Galapagos were all but gone compared to days past. Otherwise a weakly cooler regime was imbedded in the flow between 150-165W in the West and losing intensity even there. And the overall cool pool does not look as cold as weeks and months past. Cool anomalies were losing strength along the coasts of Chile and Peru with stray pockets of warming indicated. This clearly indicates a well developed version of La Nina filling the entire equatorial Pacific and down into Chile. But the overall cool intensity of that pool appears to be waning. We are past the peak of this event.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (1/1): Temps continue warming along Chile and Peru reaching west to 100W. And a marked warming trend is occurring on the equator from the Galapagos west to 120W and weaker west of there to 145W. The balance again looks like warming is taking the upper hand.
Hi-res Overview: (1/1) A stream of consistent cool water is well entrenched from Chile up to Peru and Ecuador then tracking west on the equator out to the dateline and west to New Guinea. But the trail of markedly cool anomalies previously imbedded in that flow is gone. The peak of La Nina has perhaps past.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (1/2) Today's temps were rising some from -1.4171 a few day earlier to -1.324 today after peaking near -0.9551 on 12/22. A previous peak of -0.595 occurred on 12/11. This area has been on a seesaw rising trend since early October. Temps were previously down to -2.138 on 8/13. The longterm trend has been steady but quite cold since June.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps:
(1/2) Temps were on a slow but slightly warming trend rising from -1.001 a few days ago to -0.959 today after bottoming out at -1.654 on 11/3, beating the previous low of -0.945 on 9/22. The previous low before that was -0.733 on 9/10. Temps have been on a steady decline since 7/25. Overall the trend appears to be in a steep decline.

Click for Full Sized Image Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp (SST) Anomalies & Current SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (12/30) Today the model indicates temps steady at -1.00 degs after bottoming out in early Nov at -1.25 degs. The forecast depicts temps holding at -1.00 degs to mid-Jan then beginning to rise, rebuilding up to -0.4 degs in April and rising to -0.25 degs mid-July and stabilizing there. This is likely becoming a 2 year event in that even if temps were to return to normal in July it would take 3-5 months for the upper level circulation to respond in kind.
IRI Consensus Plume: The Oct 21, 2020 Plume depicts temps are at -1.10 degs today, and are to hold into Dec, then moderating and starting to rise some to -0.89 by Jan 2021 and then neutral by June. Most models are suggesting a moderate to La Nina returning to Neutral in the late Spring. See chart here - link.

Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) (negative is good, positive bad - this is a lagging indicator) (1/2): The daily index was falling to +18.05. The 30 day average was rising to +16.83. The 90 day average was rising to 10.11. This index is a lagging indicator.
ESPI Index (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive and/or rising is good, negative and/or falling is bad): June -0.67, May -0.46, April 2020 -0.69, March -0.09, Feb +0.65, Jan +0.42, This index was steady positive Aug 2018 through Feb 2020, and now is steady negative, but only weakly so.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation
Per NOAAs index recent values: Jan 2018 +0.29, Feb -0.19, Mar -0.61, April -0.89, May -0.69, June -0.85, July -0.09, Aug -0.43, Sept -0.46, Oct -0.75, Nov -0.78, Dec -0.12, Jan 2019 -0.18, Feb -0.50 Mar -0.23, April +0.10, May +0.14, June -0.11, July +0.44, Aug -0.14, Sept +0.05, Oct -0.96, Nov -0.28, Dec +0.01, Jan 2020 -1.17, This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO. No consistently solid negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington/JISAO index (Jan-Dec): Jan 2018 +0.70. Feb +0.37, Mar -0.05, April +0.11, May +0.11, June -0.04, July +0.11, Aug +0.18, Sept +0.09. No real negative readings have occurred since Dec 2013
The PDO turned from a 16 year negative run (Jan 98-Feb 2014) in early 2014 and has been positive ever since (other than a few months of negative readings in Fall 2016, the result of a turn towards La Nina). Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data strongly suggests that could be a possibility. By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

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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Local Interest

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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table


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