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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 6:25 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
4.0- California & 3.7 - 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 2/1 thru Sun 2/7

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 #8 Pushing Towards CA
Storms #9 & #10 Projected Despite Inactive MJO

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 Wednesday, February 3, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 8.9 ft @ 15.4 secs with swell 6.8 ft @ 14.5 secs from 326 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 11.4 secs with swell 1.1 ft @ 12.6 secs from 195 degrees. Wind east 8-10 kts. Water temperature 57.9 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.0 ft @ 13.0 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.0 ft @ 13.1 secs from 264 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.6 ft @ 12.4 secs from 266 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.1 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 12.1 secs from 287 degrees. Wind southeast 10-14 kts. Water temp 55.6 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Wednesday (2/3) in North and Central CA residual Gulf swell was producing surf in the head high range at top breaks with light offshore winds and clean conditions. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high and clean and weak. In Southern California up north residual swell was trying to wrap in but only in the knee high range and not really rideable. Conditions were clean with no wind. Down south waves were flat and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband energy from Storm #8 with waves 10 ft and clean but with rain in the area. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same dateline swell with waves 1 ft overhead and chopped from east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell from a storm that developed in the Gulf of Alaska Tues (2/2) with seas to 50 ft was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast. Another smaller gale to follow Fri-Sat (2/6) generating 46 ft seas in the Gulf aimed east. And a broader system is forecast for the Northern Dateline Mon-Tues (2/9) with up to 46 kts seas aimed southeast with yet another forecast behind that. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control but for the moment is not having much of a negative impact on the storm track.

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

North Pacific

On Wednesday AM (2/3) the jet was consolidated flowing east off Japan on the 35N latitude line with winds to 185 kts reaching to 160W just 600 nmiles north of Kauai then .cgiitting slightly with the northern branch tracking up into British Columbia and the southern branch tracking over Southern Baja. Remnants of a trough were fading while moving into the GUlf of Alaska. There was limited support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to be holding strength over the dateline with winds to almost 190 kts by Sat (2/6) ridging some off Japan but falling into a developing trough north of Hawaii with the .cgiit point moving east to 140W. The position of the north and southern branches east of the .cgiit to remain steady relative to the American west coast. Good support for gale if not storm development expected in the trough. Beyond 72 hours the trough just north of Hawaii is to grow but starting to pinch off come Mon (2/8) offering great support for gale development up till that time. Back to the west winds to build to 200 kts solid approaching and on the dateline feeding the trough. The trough itself is to fade some then start regenerating in the Western Gulf on Wed (2/10) again offering good support for gale development. And a second trough is forecast over the Kuril Islands moving east. One can't ask for a better jetstream setup.

Surface Analysis
On Wednesday (2/3) Dateline swell was starting to build at the outer buoy off California 46059 (see Dateline Gale below). Sideband energy from Swell #8 was hitting Hawaii but mostly bound for the US West Coast (see Swell #8 below). Otherwise the remnants of Storm #8 were fading in the Gulf and no other swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.

Over the next 72 hours yet another small but potent storm is to start forming in the Southwestern Gulf on Fri AM (2/5) producing a tiny area of 35 kt west winds getting traction on previously existing 9 ft seas under it. Fetch is to track northeast in the evening with winds to 70 kts and seas building fast from 30 ft over a tiny area at 38N 162W (345 degs HI). 55 kt west winds to be fading while lifting northeast on Sat AM (2/6) with seas building to 45 ft at 41N 155W (285 degs NCal). Fetch to be fading from 45 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 44 ft at 44N 151W (296 degs NCal). This system is to fade after that with 45 kts west winds and seas dropping from 37 ft at 48N 149W mostly aimed northeast towards Alaska. Another nice but small pulse of swell could result aimed mainly from North CA up into the Pacific Northwest and Canada.


Storm #8
A new storm started forming 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Monday AM (2/1) with 50 kt west winds getting good traction producing 32 ft seas at 35N 169W targeting Hawaii initially (326 degrees). By evening it was tracking northeast with 60-65 kt northwest winds building and seas pushing 41 ft at 40N 159W targeting the US West Coast (286 degs NCal). On Tues AM (2/2) fetch was holding at 60 kts from the west with seas peaking at 51 ft at 43N 155W (294 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the west flank of the storm at 17Z reporting a 15 reading average of 43.1 ft and one reading to 47.2 ft where the model suggested 38 ft seas. The model was undercalling it. In the evening the storm was tracking north with winds fading from 50 kts with seas fading from 45 ft at 46N 151W (298 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the eastern flank of the storm at 08Z and reported seas to 32.6 ft with one reading to 37.6 ft where the model suggested seas should be 36-37 ft. The model was slightly hotter than reality. This system was gone by Wed AM (2/3). Overall this storm outdid what the model suggested it would, which is good.

Hawaii: Sideband swell started hitting the ISlands on Wed (2/3) at 1 AM at 7.8 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft Hawaiian) and is to fade through the day dropping to 5 ft @ 13 secs late (6.5 ft). Residuals expected on Thurs (2/4) fading from 3.3 ft @ 11-12 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 315-320 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (2/4) at 1 AM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building. Period dropping to 20 secs at 5 AM with size on the increase. Swell peaking mid-AM at 12 ft @ 18 secs (21 ft) and holding well through the day with period down to 17 secs by sunset. Swell fading Fri AM (2/5) from 8.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (13 ft). Residuals on Sat AM (2/6) fading from 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 290-295 degrees

South CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (2/4) building to 2.2 ft @ 21 secs late (4.5 ft). Swell peaking sunrise Fri (2/5) at 5.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (9.5 ft faces) trickling down through the day. On Sat AM (2/6) swell fading from 3.8 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft) with residuals on Sun AM (2/7) fading from 3.1 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 295-300 degrees.


Dateline Gale
Another broad gale started developing just west of the dateline on Fri AM (1/29) producing a broad area of 30-35 kts northwest winds and seas to 24 ft at 37N 170E. This system built in the evening in coverage with northwest winds 50 kts targeting Hawaii well with seas pushing 27 ft at 36N 177E. 30-35 kt northwest fetch held into Sat AM (1/30) moving over the dateline with seas to 26 ft over a broad area at 35N 177W but extending northward to 45N (on the dateline). The gale faded some in the evening with fetch tracking east and dropping from 35 kts with seas 25 ft up at 36N 173W. This system faded from there with seas fading Sun AM (1/31) from 23 ft at 43N 170W.

Some 14-15 secs period swell to result for Hawaii with less size eventually reaching the US West Coast assuming all goes as forecast.

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (2/3) building to 4 ft @ 16 secs late (6.5 ft). Swell building to 5 ft @ 14-15 secs (7 ft) early Thurs (2/4) but getting overridden by another swell. Swell Direction: 286 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 Wed AM (2/3) weak high pressure was off South CA ridging north into San Francisco making for generally light winds from SF southward. A weak front was pushing into the Cape Mendocino area with south winds there at 25-30 kts and rain developing expected to sweep south to Monterey Bay in the evening and maybe 2 inches of snow to Tahoe. Thurs AM (2/4) a light offshore pattern is to set up for the state with skies clearing over Central CA early. A light offshore flow and clear skies are forecast through Wed (2/10). Offshore winds to be stronger near canyons in the mornings.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell producing weather systems were occurring in the South Pacific.

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. 


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




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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours another gale is to start developing just west of the dateline and positioned further north than previous systems, presumably due to the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Winds to be 45 kts and seas building from 20 ft at 40N 168E on Sun AM (2/7). By evening 60-65 kts northwest winds are forecast generating 40 ft seas over a tiny area at 43N 175E. On Mon AM (2/8) a broader area of 50 kt northwest winds is to start falling southeast from the dateline with 47 ft seas at 42N 177W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. In the evening 45-50 kt northwest winds to hold position with seas fading some from 43 ft at 43N 171W. On Tues AM (2/9) a broadish area of 45-50 kt northwest winds to be dropping slightly southeast with 41 ft seas solid at 42N 172W. The storm is to be falling southeast in the evening with 45 kts winds targeting Hawaii well and 40 ft seas at 38N 167W with 28 ft seas 600 nmiles northwest of Hawaii. Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts Wed AM (2/10) tracking due east with seas fading from 38 ft at 38N 161W. This system to fade from there pushing towards CA.

Yet another strong storm is to be developing Tuesday (2/9) off Central Japan pushing east generating 50-55 kt west winds and seas building to 38 ft over a small area in the evening at 36N 160E. Wed AM (2/10) winds to build to 60+ kts with seas increasing from 48 ft at 38N 166E. In the evening 50 kt west winds to be pushing over the dateline with seas building to 52 ft at 38N 173E. Looks impressive.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Inactive MJO In Control - But Storm Track Remains Active
Kelvin Wave # 5 Continues Developing

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 Tues (2/2) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated mostly calm winds over a large area south of the equator from 140E to 160W south of 2S. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone from 2S northward. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, no west winds were in.cgiay with calm or north winds from 2S southward. Anomalies per the TAO array were weak at best from the west from 180W to 165W on and south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued expressing itself, but very weakly now.
1 Week Forecast: Very weak west anomalies are forecast over a small area on the dateline for the coming week and not impressive. Actual winds per the GFS model are to generally be east in the KWGA through Fri (2/5) then retreating north of 2N thereafter and weakening some. A 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 during an Inactive Phase of the MJO. Fortunately that ended quickly. But the Inactive Phase is back in effect now.

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 Tues (2/2) a modest Active Phase of the MJO signal was over Indonesia and a modest Inactive Phase signal over the dateline. The Statistic model forecasts the Inactive MJO slowly easing east moving to a point south of Hawaii and fading, but not quite gone 15 days from now with a weak Active Phase of the MJO moving into the West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts a similar initial setup, but with both the Active and Inactive Phases remaining steady and building in strength 2 weeks out.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal over the East Indian Ocean. It is to slowly ease east and strengthen slightly over the next 2 weeks. The GEFS depicts the Active Phase in the same initial position, making only slight east headway while building to modest strength, This all suggests any west winds currently in the KWGA are purely attributable to El Nino with no MJO influence. If anything, west anomalies are being muted by the Inactive Phase.
40 Day Upper Level Model: We are ignoring this model because it has consistently failed to be accurate.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control of the KWGA today (2/3) and near it's peak. West wind anomalies are non-existent due to destructive interference by the Inactive MJO. The Inactive Phase is to continue into 2/19, with west anomalies muted through then. The Active Phase is to return 2/20 with west anomalies again in control and solid holding through 3/15 but di.cgiaced east near 165W 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. The model depicts west anomalies fading some by 3/20, but not out, and holding as the Inactive Phase again takes control 3/20 and beyond. It is obvious that the MJO is not dead, regardless of theories which suggest it should be during strong El Ninos.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (2/3) 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 steady at 125W. Anomaly wise things have improved dramatically. +2 deg anomalies are steady at 172W and points eastward. +4 deg anomalies have rebuilt and are from 146W eastward and delineate the core of the rebuilding subsurface reservoir. +5 deg anomalies are rebuilding over a broader area from 138W eastward. This is a major improvement. Cool subsurface waters previous down 150m to 120W have retreated to 145W, but are trying to ease east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 1/28 the reservoir is rebuilding significantly with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a shrinking core of +5 deg anomalies from Kevin Wave #4 still present at 103W and shrinking. But a broad area of +4-5 deg anomalies are depicted from 155W eastward consolidating into one large pocket. This is a huge improvement. No +4 deg anomalies were pushing towards the surface just yet. This newly developing Kelvin Wave has put the end of this ENSO event on hold for now.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (1/28) Huge improvement are evident here too. 0-+5 cm anomalies have rebuilt west covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 165W (shrinking some). Peak anomalies at +15 have reappeared and are building, running from 145W to 115W and continuous. +10 cm anomalies have rebuilt between 100W-155W and steady. The subsurface warm pool is recharging.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (1/28) Temps are rebuilding. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading slightly from 163W, an early effect of the WWB #5 and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 160W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some from 156W.+2.0 deg anomalies are present between 117-150W. And now a few pixels of +2.5 deg anomalies are showing near 130W. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is beginning. Temps have dropped from Ecuador to the Galapagos at 1.0-1.5 degs, hopefully the extent of the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin wave #4. 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. A third erupted in the Sept timeframe, but 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. A pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, ending on 9/20. Another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which started erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 (much earlier than expected - due to it's westward di.cgiacement) 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. With WWB/Kelvin Wave #4, a more aggressive face of this El Nino appeared during the Oct-Nov timeframe. Then the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over on 10/31 holding into mid Dec, and with it the subsurface warm pool started discharging. Amazingly in sync with a building Active Phase of the MJO on 12/27 -1/15 another solid WWB occurred and Kelvin Wave #5 started building 1/20, likely extending the life of this El Nino.

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: (2/2) The latest image indicates +2.25 temps were all but gone east of 100W except in a few random small patches and shrinking in coverage. Average temps were more in the +1.5 degs category. 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: (2/2) The latest image depicts a solid area of +2.25 anomalies between 105W to 160W, a little more concentrated from 115W west. Anomalies were 2-3 degs north and south of the equator. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive, and is starting to show signs of rebuilding. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. Temps between 160W-180W are starting to shrink again. +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to 170W but are loosing coverage, though they previously were to the dateline on 12/14. No +4 deg anomalies are present. Warming is also occurring south of the equator near 170E and down to 20S. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Wave and #4. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (2/2): A steady state pattern was depicted other than from 90-120W where temps are warming.
Hi-res Overview:
(2/2) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building. The main focal point has been 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 dissipated 4 days later. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area contains only +3 deg anomalies, and then only in patches.
Most anomalies are 2-3 degs.

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 at 140E. +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 180W. 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 140W-159W (steady). 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: (2/3) Temps are again on the decline fading from +1.269. Previously they were rising some at +1.691 (2/1), up from +1.421 (1/28), up from +1.001 on 1/23, down from +1.835, down from +2.001 (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 (2/3) temps are steady at +2.347, up to +2.738 (1/23) up some at +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: (2/3) Today's value was steady at +2.316, down from +2.686 on (1/23), 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 1/27 anomalies were +1.5 (Nino4), +2.5 (Nino3.4), +2.3 (Nino3). We're on a steady slow decline though Nino 4 is actually increasing some. On 1/20 temps were as follows: +1.5, +2.5, +2.3. 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.

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

SST Image

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.

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 were reached at +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then faded slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Jan1. The forecast indicates temp steadily fading from there to +2.5 on Feb 1, dropping to +2.0 by 2/15, then steadily declining from there falling before stabilizing at +0.5 degs in Sept and starting to rebuild 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 (2/3): It was rising from 8.60. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14 and -47.50 on 12/3. Another peak of -38.50 occurred on 1/2.
30 Day Average: Was rising from -17.57. The peak low was recorded on 10/9 at -22.72, beating the previous peak low of -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. This is exactly where we want to be (at -20 or lower).  
90 Day Average: Was rising some at -11.42. 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 2/3 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 2/3 weak high pressure was just south of Tahiti and is to hold for the foreseeable future. The SOI is expected to rise 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.
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a slowly rising SOI attributable mainly to higher pressure building south of Tahiti and the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (2/1) Today's value was +1.80, down from +1.98 (1/28), down from +2.15 (1/23), down from +2.24 (1/21), 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 (2/3) 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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