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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, January 23, 2016 12:59 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 & 4.2 - 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 1/25 thru Sun 1/31

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   

Solid Storm #7 On the Charts
Decent Swell for HAwaii Ahead Of It - More Behind Too

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 Monday, January 25, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.8 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 4.1 ft @ 10.4 secs from 332 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 6.3 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 5.1 ft @ 13.9 secs from 269 degrees. Wind northwest 4-6 kts. Water temperature 60.3 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 5.8 ft @ 13.1 secs from 265 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 4.5 ft @ 14.7 secs from 264 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 5.3 ft @ 15.9 secs from 271 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 18.4 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 12.3 ft @ 13.3 secs from 270 degrees. Wind west 18-25 kts. Water temp 57.0 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (1/23) in North and Central CA new local swell was hitting producing waves in the 15-18 ft range and trashed by strong west winds. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 10 ft on the faces and comparatively cleaner but warbled and out of control and closed out. In Southern California up north surf was head high with some bigger sets and clean and lined up. Not perfectly organized, but not bad either. Down south waves were 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was pretty quiet with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and clean and lined up, but a bit on the weak side. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around energy from the northwest with waves waist high and lightly chopped early from southeast winds.

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

Meteorological Overview
The El Nino fueled storm track remain productive and impressive, with more storm activity forecast per the models. A gale developed off Japan Tues (1/19) with seas in the 28 ft range then tracked east, peaking Fri (1/22) on the dateline with 36 ft seas, then fell southeast and is expected to still generate 28-30 ft seas Sun (1/24) 700 nmiles northwest of Hawaii and targeting the Islands well. A far stronger storm is to develop off Japan on Mon (1/25) pushing over the dateline early Tues (1/26) with up to 50 ft seas, then track east and fade some only to rebuild in the Gulf Wed-Thurs (1/28) with up to 40 ft seas targeting NCal northward. Solid longer period swell is possible for all our forecast locations. A broad but weak system is to follow over the dateline Sat (1/30) with 25 ft seas targeting Hawaii well. A very active pattern indeed.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (1/23) the jet was well consolidated flowing east off Japan with winds 180 kts forming a weak trough on the dateline, then pushing into the Southern Gulf of Alaska 600 nmiles north of Hawaii and fading significantly just east of there at 145W with remnant energy pushing into Central CA and down to well south of Baja. There was limited support for gale development in the dateline trough. Over the next 72 hours winds are to be building solidly off Japan to 220 kts on Sun (1/24) falling into a developing trough moving from the dateline into the Gulf offering great support for storm development with the .cgiit becoming more pronounced just off California (140W). the trough to hold in some fashion in the Gulf till Tues (1/26) before starting to dissipate with 180-190 kts winds continuing to stream off Japan running flat east into the Central Gulf. Great support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours another broad trough is to be developing in the Western Gulf Wed-Thurs (1/28) being fed by 200 kts winds in the core of the jet off Japan offering good support for gale development and persisting through Sat (1/30) with winds building and feeding that trough to 210 kts. Incredibly impressive. And the consolidated jet is to start pushing into Central CA late on Fri (1/29) offering improved odds for precipitation there. Hold this view in your memory cause you likely won't see it again for a long time - classic El Nino.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (1/23) more large raw swell from a local gale just off the Central CA coast was hitting there but buried in onshore winds and chop. Swell from a broad gale that tracked from Japan to the dateline and was now falling southeast towards Hawaii was in the water poised to hit the Islands (see Japan-Dateline Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours the models suggest broad and strong Storm #7 is to develop off Japan tracking over the dateline Mon-Thurs (1/28) with peak seas to 50 ft (see Possible Storm #7 below). No other systems of interest are forecast.


Japan-Dateline Gale
Another gale formed tracking off Japan on Tues-Wed (1/20). On Wed AM (1/20) a fragmented fetch of 30-35 kt westerly winds is to be in.cgiace off the coast generating 29 ft seas at 31N 154E targeting Hawaii. In the evening fetch was tracking east at 35 kts generating 26 ft seas at 35N 164E. 35-40 kt west winds were building Thurs AM (1/21) as the gale tracked east with 28 ft seas building up at 39N 162E. 40 kt west winds held in the evening tracking east with seas building to 32 ft at 39N 168E. Fetch held in coverage Fri AM (1/22) at 40 kts while easing east with seas building to 36 ft at 41N 173E. Fetch faded from 30 kts on the dateline in the evening with seas fading from 34 ft at 40N 179W. A secondary fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds developed south of the original core Sat AM (1/23) pushing over the dateline targeting Hawaii well with new seas developing and 27 ft seas from the original fetch fading at 42N 173W targeting Hawaii and now the US West Coast. More of the same is forecast in the evening with 35 kt northwest winds in the secondary fetch producing 28-30 ft seas at 35N 171W. On Sun AM (1/24) 35-40 kt northwesterly fetch to continue tracking east with 30 ft seas at 33N 171W targeting primarily Hawaii. Residual 35 kts northwest fetch to track just 400 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii in the evening with 27 ft seas at 30N 161W. This system to fade out after that.

Swell is already in the water with more local swell being generated relative to Hawaii. Lesser size is expected for the US West Coast.

Hawaii: 17 secs period forerunners to arrive starting late Sun (1/24) pushing to 7.5 ft @ 17 secs at sunset (12.0 ft Hawaiian). Secondary swell moving in through Mon (1/25) pushing 11.8 ft @ 15 secs late (17.5 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading from 8 ft @ 14 secs (11 ft Hawaiian) Tues AM (1/26) Swell Direction: 310 moving to 320 degrees


Possible Storm #7
A storm is to develop off Japan tracking over the dateline Mon-Wed (1/27) fading then eventually rebuilding in the Gulf of Alaska Wed-Thurs (1/28). A gale is to develop pushing off Japan on Sun (1/24) with winds building to storm status 55 kts late over a small area. By Mon AM (1/25) 55 kt west winds are to be approaching the dateline with seas 41 ft at 41.5N 172E. On Mon PM 55 kt west winds are to be over the dateline tracking east-southeast with seas and seas building from 47 ft at 41N 179W. On Tues AM (1/26) a broad area of 50 kt west winds are to be racing through the Southwest Gulf generating 47 ft seas at 39N 170W. In the evening winds are to still be 45-50 kts but di.cgiaced northeast some in the core of the Gulf of Alaska with seas redeveloping from 40 ft at 43N 161W. The gale is to be fading from 45 kts Wed AM (1/27) with 43 ft seas at 45N 155W targeting the Pacific Northwest well with 30 ft seas reaching south to 35N. Fetch is to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 38 ft up at 48N 148W. This system is to be gone by Thurs AM (1/28).

If all goes as forecast a solid long period swell could result for Hawaii and the US West Coast on up into the Pacific Northwest.


  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 (1/23) a local low was just off North CA with 20+ kt northwest winds pushing into the coast there and 10-15 kts northwest winds into Central CA reaching almost to Southern CA. Light rain was from Monterey Bay northward. it was snowing lightly in Tahoe from lake level and above with 8 inches of accumulation overnight Friday and another 2-3 expected through the day Saturday. Sunday high pressure and northwest winds forecast at 10 kts but up to 15 kts near Pt Conception. Maybe some light rain for extreme North CA. Light winds on Monday with a gale low trying to organize well off the coast but getting shunted north by high pressure locked over CA. More of the same expected Tuesday through Thursday with a light wind regime and high pressure in control. More of the same Friday into Sat AM then a local low is to set up over Central CA Sat mid-day (1/30) with brisk southwest winds 25 kts from Morro Bay northward turning northwest 25 kts for Pt Arena northward.

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 yet another broad gale is to start developing just west of the dateline on Fri (1/29) producing 40-45 kts northwest winds and seas to 25 ft at 40N 165E. This system is to building in the evening in coverage with northwest winds 40 kts targeting Hawaii well with seas pushing nearly 30 ft at 41N 170E. 45 kt northwest fetch to hold into Sat AM (1/30) with seas to 32 ft at 43N 174E. More of the same is forecast in the evening with fetch falling southeast and seas building to 36 ft at 42N 180W. Something to monitor.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Kelvin Wave #5 Dramatically Building
Westerly Anomalies Fading - Inactive MJO Taking Control

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 has developed. 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 built steadily in spurts, peaking in the Oct-Nov, timeframe, then began a slow decline. But even in Jan 2016, the strongest Westerly Wind Burst of the enter event occur, with another Kelvin Wave currently in development. 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 (1/22) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated weak west winds over a small area south of the equator from 170E to 160W. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone north of the equator. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, one small area of west winds at 11 kts was near 160E in the southern KWGA. Anomalies per the TAO array were strong from the west from 180W to 155W on and south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued robustly expressing itself. Fairly impressive considering there was no MJO assistance.
1 Week Forecast: Very weak west anomalies are forecast over a small area near 170W for the coming week. Actual winds per the GFS model are to generally be calm mainly in the central and south KWGA but with west winds to 20 kts near 150E Mon-Thurs (1/28). Calm winds manifest as west anomalies on the anomaly charts (absence of east trades). East winds to continue in the North KWGA for the foreseeable future. A somewhat muted El Nino pattern is in effect now. The only east anomalies that occurred this year in the KWGA were from 12/7-12/17, thanks to the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Fortunately that short bout ended quickly.

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 built to strong WWB status 12/29-1/15, then faded out. 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 (1/22) a weak Active Phase of the MJO signal was over Indonesia with a weak Inactive Phase signal over the dateline. The Statistic model forecasts the Inactive MJO slowly easing east while building some moving to a point south of Hawaii 15 days from now with a broad Active Phase of the MJO moving into the West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts a similar setup, but with both the Active and Inactive Phases moving more slowly east than the statistic model.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal over the central Indian Ocean. It is to slowly east east and build some in strength over the next 2 weeks moving to the Maritime Continent. The GEFS depicts the same just a little more aggressive in terms of the eastward movement. This all suggests west winds currently in the KWGA is really just pure El Nino forcing.
40 Day Upper Level Model: We are ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Inactive Phase of the MJO is moving over the KWGA today (1/23). West wind anomalies are fading to weak status. The Inactive Phase is to continue into 2/20, with west anomalies muted through 2/17, then returning thanks to support from a Rossby Wave forecast moving over the area. The Active Phase is to return 2/23 with west anomalies again in control but weaker and holding through 3/23 but di.cgiaced east near 160W having minimal Kelvin Wave generation potential, typical of the mature phase of El Nino. That is, westerly anomalies slow track east until they migrate to the East Equatorial Pacific and the El Nino collapses.

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 enhanced it starting 12/27.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (1/23) Actual temperatures remain decent (all sensors on-line). A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 139W easing east with the 28 deg isotherm line at 120W. No 30 deg anomalies are present. Anomaly wise things have improved dramatically. +2 deg anomalies are steady at 174W and points eastward. +4 deg anomalies have rebuilt and are from 156W eastward and delineated the core of the rebuilding subsurface reservoir. +5 deg anomalies are rebuilding over a broader are from 146-115W. This is a major improvement. Cool subsurface waters previous down 150m to 120W have retreated to 160W. This is good news. Core regions are rebuilding for now. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 1/18 the reservoir is rebuilding significantly with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a small core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 88W-105W. But a broad area of +4-5 deg anomalies are depicted from 165 eastward. This is a huge improvement. Still, all the real super warm temps from Kelvin Waves 33 and #4 have discharged. This is typical of the mature phase of El Nino. No +4 deg anomalies were pushing towards the surface just yet. The end of this ENOS event has been put on hold for now. .
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (1/18) Huge improvement are evident here too. 0-+5 cm anomalies have rebuilt west covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 177W (building some). Peak anomalies at +15 have reappeared, running from 160W to 125W with one small break in between. No +20 cm anomalies are indicated, at least not yet. +10 cm anomalies have rebuilt between 100W-165W and steady. The subsurface warm pool is trying to rebuild.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (1/18) Temps are rebuilding. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies have rebuilt west to 173W, an early effect of the WWB #5 and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are now moving west previously at 133W now at 169W, attributable to WWB #5. +1.5 deg anomalies have rebuilt to 166W. The formally large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies is starting to show between 150-160W and 130-140W. No +2.5 deg anomalies were present. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is over but the Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is beginning. Temps have dropped some near Ecuador to 1.5-2.0 degs, hopefully the extent of the Upwelling Phase. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced.The Downwelling Phase should not reach the reservoir for 2 months or about March 1. This might only extend the life of El Nino, or slow it's demise, but not add substantially to it. The peak of El Nino from a subsurface warming perspective has already passed.

A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. The third and strongest so far is erupting, but somewhat westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. In fact, a careful analysis indicates it has peaked. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). And now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4.  We revised it a few times since then, but looking back we've determined it was correct if not a little late (more below). But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. But it appeared to start erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 peaking 11/17. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, is marked and historically strong. With the WWB/Kelvin Wave #4, a more aggressive face of this El Nino appeared during the Oct-Nov timeframe. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over on 10/31, and with it the subsurface warm pool started discharging, with no significant westerly anomalies nor warm surface water left in the West Pacific to be driven to the east in the form of a Kelvin Wave.  With the building Active Phase of the MJO on 12/27 -1/15 another weak Kelvin Wave might result, but it's almost meaningless at this point in the year.

Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
Hi-res Nino1.2: (1/22) The latest image indicates +2.25 temps were all but gone east of 90W except in patches and shrinking in coverage. Most heat was north of the equator up into Central America and even that was fading. 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: (1/22) The latest image depicts a steady balloon of +2.25 anomalies between 130W to 160W. But from 130W and points east of there the footprint is shrinking steadily, but is still present over the equator and 2-3 degs north and south of there to the Galapagos, but now only in patches. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive, but is showing signs of a slow decline from it's peak. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. Temps between 160W-180W are growing. +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to 170W, though they previously were to the dateline on 12/14. No +4 deg anomalies are present. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #3 and #4. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (1/22): No warming is indicated. Instead cooling is taking over from the Galapagos to 120W over a very thin stream on the equator. Otherwise a steady state pattern was depicted.
Hi-res Overview:
(1/18) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building. The main focal point which has been the eruption ports west of the Galapagos, but they are gone now with no +4.0 degree anomalies depicted. Those ports peaked first on 9/19, then more broadly on 11/19, then faded with no +4 deg anomalies remaining on 1/4, only to continue reappear 1/15, then dissipate 4 days later. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area contains only +3 deg anomalies, and then only in patches.

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 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 though previously was at 140E. +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 177W. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 172W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is between 137-158W (fading). No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is steady and impressive but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (1/23) Temps crashed hard but are now stabilizing, today at +1.001, down from +1.835, down from +2.001 (1/7), up from +1.608 degs on 1/7, up from +1.314 on 1/5, down hard from +1.836 on 12/27, down from +1.950 (12/22). 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 (1/23) temps jumped and today have stabilized at +2.738 compared to +2.438 on 1/14, up from +2.248 (1/11), down from +2.397 on 1/7. The all time peak was reached at +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.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: (1/23) Today's value was down some at +2.686, down from +2.913 (1/19), up some from 1/14 when it was +2.894, up from +2.609 (1/11), down from +2.858 (1/2), down from +2.732 (12/31), compared to +2.697 on 12/27, down from +2.753 (12/22), up from +2.671 (12/19), up barely from +2.655 (12/15), down from +2.882 (12/12), steady since (12/10) when it was +2.942, down some from (12/8) when it was +2.988 and stead compared to the 12/6 value of +2.989, up slightly form +2.919 (12/3), up from +2.905 (12/1), down slightly from +2.990 (11/28) up from +2.855 (11/23), up some from + 2.799 on 11/21, and down from +2.957 on 11/19. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97 in this region.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 1/13 temps were falling as follows: Nino4: +1.3, Nino34: +2.6, Nino3 +2.8. On 1/6 temps were falling as follows: Nino4: +1.4, Nino34: +2.6, Nino3 +2.7. On 12/30 temps were falling in Nino4: +1.5, Nino34: +2.7 (steady), and falling in Nino3: +2.6. On 12/23 temps were falling in all regions: Nino4: +1.6, Nino3.4: +2.7 and Nino3: +2.7 degs. On 12/16, temps were steady at +2.9 degs in both Nino3 and 3.4 and +1.7 in Nino 4. 12/9 was down slightly at +2.8 (Nino3.4) and +2.9 (Nino3). On 12/2 they were +2.9 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), down from 11/25 when they were +3.0 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), and down from the peak of +3.1 on 11/18, up from 11/11 when temps in Nino3 and 3.4 were both +3.0 degs. On 11/4 they were both +2.8. In '97 (11/26) peak temps in Nino3.4 reached +2.8. So we have beat that mark. But Nino3 temps in '97 reached +3.6-3.7 degs. We still have +0.6 degs to go. Insert Subsurface/Surface image here This years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event, but not as strongly so. The main evidence for this is the continued eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos with weakened warming east of there.  This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 110W. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time. 
Nino3.4 Monthly Temps (December) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of December was +2.37. November was adjusted up to +2.36 degs, beating the highest temp recorded in '97 (Nov - +2.32 degs) and beating the peak of the '82 El Nino (Dec +2.21 degs). And this years Oct temps were adjusted upwards to +2.03 degs. See updated graphs above. As of right now for a one month average, this put this years El Nino stronger than '97 and therefore the strongest ever (based on a one month SST reading). The ONI uses a 3 month running average. That is the final determiner. Very interesting.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct and Nov the values are: +1.8, +2.0. +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(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 1/11 the current was strong from the west on the equator in one small pocket on the dateline with generalized west current from there to 135E. East current was from the Galapagos to 160W. Anomaly wise - One pocket of solid west anomalies was between 170E to 160W on the equator. Otherwise everything was effectively normal. There were no pockets of solid east anomalies indicated.  This is somewhat impressive event compared to '97, because in '97, a massive La Nina signal was developing with hard east current over the entire equatorial Pacific with strong east anomalies in the east and on the dateline. Maybe we're setting ourselves up for a soft landing. That would be too good to be true.

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data depicts peak temps to +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then fading slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Jan1, then steadily fading from there to +2.5 on Feb1, then a steady decline from there falling and stabilizing at +0.2.5 degs in Sept and starting to rebuild to +0.5 degs in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe.
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 (1/22): Was steady at -28.10. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14 and -47.50 on 12/3. Another peak of -38.50 occurred on 1/2.
30 Day Average: Was falling at -20.48. The peak low was recorded on 10/9 at -22.72, beating the previous peak low of -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. This is exactly where we want to be (at -20 or lower).  
90 Day Average: Was falling some at -12.65 and is expected to continue falling. A record low of -19.28 occurred on 10/16 and was matched on 10/20. The previous record low was -18.56 on 9/16. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -19.28 on 10/16. 
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A neutral pressure pattern was near Darwin on 1/23 and is to hold for the next week. It is relative high pressure over Australia in NHemi winter months that is the preferred pattern for El Nino development in the Pacific.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 1/23 weak low pressure was over Tahiti with remnants of Typhoon Victor falling south at 170W. A neutral pressure pattern is to set up and hold through Sat (1/30), with no high pressure immediately indicated. The SOI should stay negative 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.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (1/23) Today's value was +2.15, down some from 1/21 when it was +2.24, and down from it's recent peak at +2.33 on 1/14. Previously it was up from +2.07 on 1/7 up from +1.67 12/27, and has been on a steady rise for 4 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) (Dec) These numbers were released Jan 5th and indicate the index dropped by 0.19 to +2.12, putting it the third highest since 1950 behind the '82/83 and '97/98 El Ninos. Since it has not reached the +3.0 standard deviation level, it is NOT considered a Super El Nino, nor is it expected to reach that status. The Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. The top 6 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '15, '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.
North Pacific Jetstream (1/23) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks very good and is forecast to hold.

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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