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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2016 5:29 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 & 4.0 - 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 2/15 thru Sun 2/21

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   

Jetstream Trying to Rebuild
Stronger Storm On the Charts Early Next Week

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
- Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.


On Tuesday, February 16, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 10.9 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 5.1 ft @ 13.4 secs from 310 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.4 ft @ 11.4 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 12.2 secs from 260 degrees. Wind southeast 6-8 kts. Water temperature 60.6 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.0 ft @ 11.5 secs from 267 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.7 ft @ 13.6 secs from 244 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.0 ft @ 12.2 secs from 270 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.5 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 4.4 ft @ 10.5 secs from 298 degrees. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temp 55.9 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (2/16) in North and Central CA waves were head high and reasonably well lined up with calm winds early and clean conditions. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high at top breaks and clean but weak. In Southern California up north surf was waist to maybe chest high and clean and lined up and looking quite fun. Down south waves were waist high and clean and breaking on the beach. Hawaii's North Shore was getting raw swell with waves 2 ft overhead and hacked by northeast winds. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wraparound energy mixed with northeast windswell and chopped from northeast trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell from a weak gale that developed off Japan Wed (2/10) and tracked to the dateline Fri (2/12) targeting Hawaii well with seas peaking in the 28-30 ft range was fading but still hitting the Islands and starting to show in North California. A bit of a break to follow while the Inactive Phase of the MJO dissipates and the Active Phase takes control starting to feed the jetstream. A local gale to target California Wed-Thurs (2/18) with 24 ft seas but swell buried in wind upon arrival at most breaks. Another gale to be right behind in the Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Fri (2/19) generating 22-24 ft seas targeting the US West Coast. Then a solid storm is to develop in the north dateline region on Fri (2/19) falling southeast through Sunday with seas in the 24-26 ft range offering swell for Hawaii. And a stronger system is to develop on the dateline Mon-Tues (2/23) with 40-42 ft seas aimed east. A slow improving storm pattern is suggested.

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

North Pacific

On Tuesday AM (2/16) the jet was consolidated tracking off Japan with winds to 200 kts but ridging northeast pushing almost to the north dateline region. On the dateline the jet .cgiit but then reconsolidated over the Eastern Gulf with winds to 130 kts there forming a bit of a trough then pushing over Oregon. Limited support for gale development was possible in the trough. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to fall southeast pushing over North CA Thurs AM (2/18) offering support for gale development and also weather for California. Back to the west the jet is to remain solid with 190 kts winds pushing off Japan an over the dateline tracking more easterly than before and reaching a point near 170W before .cgiitting, with the .cgiit not as pronounced as previously. And by Friday (2/19) the .cgiit in the jet is to move east reaching a point north of Hawaii with the whole of the jet down at 37N. No troughs were indicated though. Beyond 72 hours a broad flow of 170 kts winds is to be ridging slightly northeast off Japan by late Sat (2/20) then falling southeast over the dateline and into a building trough north of Hawaii offering good support for gale development, with the consolidated jet poised moving into Central CA. From there the trough is to weaken and pinch off Mon (2/22) northeast of Hawaii while winds weaken to the west, down to 140 kts with the jet becoming less focused only to start rebounding 24 hours later with winds to 140 kts from Japan to a point north of Hawaii with a new broad trough starting to set up in the Gulf and a consolidated flow moving over Central CA. Support for gale development potentially improving.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (2/16) the remnants of swell from the Japan-Dateline Gale were hitting Hawaii and that same swell was starting to move into California (see Japan-Dateline Gale below). A small new gale was forming in the Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below). Otherwise high pressure was in control over the dateline courtesy of a .cgiit in the jetstream aloft over that area.

Over the next 72 hours another small gale is to develop behind the Gulf Gale (above). That gale is to be tracking through the Gulf on Thurs AM (2/18) generating a broader fetch of 35 kts northwest winds and seas building to 23 ft at 48N 153W. In the evening fetch is to fade to 30-35 kts from the northwest but over a broader area with seas 23 ft at 45N 146W. On Fri AM (2/19) 30 kt west winds to be approaching the North CA coast generating 21 ft seas at 43N 140W. The gale to dissipate from there mainly moving into the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps some raw 13-14 sec period swell to result for North and Central CA.

Another gale is forecast developing just south of the Western Aleutians and west of the dateline Thurs PM (2/18) generating 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 28 ft at 49N 175E. On Fri AM (2/19) a broad area of 30-35 kts northwest winds to persist while racing east with seas holding at 28 ft at 47N 173W. 30-35 kts northwest winds to loose coverage while falling into the Western Gulf with seas fading from 25 ft at 45N 165W. Fetch to be fading Sat AM (2/20) from 30-35 kts with seas 26 ft at 38N 169W aimed well at Hawaii. 30 kt northwest winds to continue falling southeast and fading in the evening generating 25 ft seas at 36N 161W aimed a bit east of Hawaii. Secondary fetch to develop northwest of the Islands on Sun AM (2/21) at 40 kts generating 26 ft seas at 33N 168W targeting Hawaii. More of the same is forecast in the evening with seas holding at 25 ft at 30N 160W just 350 nmiles northwest of Hawaii. Fetch is to fade from 35 kts Mon AM (2/22) northeast of the Islands and seas 25 ft at 28N 155W mostly bypassing Hawaii. The gale to fade from there. This is one to monitor.


Japan-Dateline Gale
A gale developed Wed AM (2/10) off Japan pushing east generating 35-40 kt west winds and seas building from 21 ft over a small area at 39N 158E. In the evening 40-45 kt northwest winds were pushing east generating seas to 27 ft 38N 160E targeting mainly Hawaii. On Thurs AM (2/11) fetch was getting more organized at 40 kts over a modest sized area targeting Hawaii well with 29 ft seas at 37N 165E. Fetch was fading from 35 kts falling southeast in the evening with seas 29 ft at 35N 171E. On Fri AM (2/12) a broad area of 30-35 kts northwest wind were moving to the dateline with 27 ft seas fading at 37N 178E. In the evening northwest fetch was fading from 30 kts with seas fading from 24 ft at 37N 175W. This system dissipated from there. Possible decent swell to result mainly for Hawaii.

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Tues (2/16) with swell building slowly to 3 ft @ 17 secs late (5 ft). Swell building over night as period drops reaching 5 ft @ 14-15 secs (7 ft) early Wed AM (2/17) pushing 5.6 ft @ 14 secs late (7.5 ft). Swell fading Thurs AM (2/18) from 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 290 degrees


Gulf Gale
A small gale started developing in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Mon AM (2/15) with a small area of 35 kt west winds generating 21 ft seas at 43N 164W. Those winds fell southeast in the evening and held with seas building some to 22 ft at 42N 155W. Tues AM (2/16) the gale started developing more with winds 35 kts over a small area with seas 21 ft at 42N 149W. 30-35 kt northwest winds to hold in the evening while tracking east with seas still 21 ft at 41N 143W. Fetch is to build while falling southeast on Wed AM (2/17) at 40 kts with seas 22 ft at 43N 141W. In the evening fetch is to hold at 40 kts approaching the North and Central CA coasts with seas 26 ft at 41N 136W targeting Central CA well (292 degs NCal). The gale is to fade Thurs AM (2/18) poised to move onshore over Oregon with fetch 35 kts from the northwest with seas 22 ft at 35N 131W targeting North and Central CA (296 degs NCal). This system to move onshore from there. A good bit of raw swell to result from this system but also likely accompanied by weather relative to North and Central CA.

North CA: Rough estimate suggests swell arrival possible later Thurs (2/18) building to 11.7 ft @ 14 secs (16 ft). Residuals fading Fri AM (2/19) from 8 ft @ 13 secs (10.5 ft). Swell Direction: 280-290 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 Tuesday AM (2/16) a weak pressure pattern was in control resulting in light winds for all of California with low pressure building well offshore. By Wednesday south winds to be the norm from San Diego northward with rain developing initially from San Francisco northward then down to Pt Conception by late afternoon as the front moves in. Rain turning to snow at Tahoe near 5 PM and then dumping overnight well to sunrise. Southwest winds to be 20 kts early Thursday (2/18) from Morro Bay northward slowly turning more westerly and fading out by late afternoon. Rain fading through the day to a San Francisco. Snow for the Sierras tapering off by sunset. Winds generally light west turning northwest in Southern CA. Another front and low pressure system approaches Fri (2/19) with south winds 30 kts early up north but never exceeding 15 kts from San Francisco northward. Rain confined to Pt Reyes northward through the day. No snow for Tahoe. Clear Saturday with light winds except from the north 20 kts Pt Conception as high pressure builds just off the coast there. Sunday light winds are forecast for North and Central CA down to Morro Bay with high pressure ridging inland there. SCal to remain protected too. Light winds Monday as another low starts building off the Central Coast lifting northeast. That low to start impacting the North and Central Coasts Tues AM (2/23) with south winds 20-25 kts and light rain from Monterey Bay 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 a small storm is forecast developing west of the dateline Mon AM (2/22) with 50 kt west winds and seas building from 41 ft at 45N 176E aimed east. 50 kt west winds to continue tracking east over the dateline in the evening with 43 ft seas at 44N 177W. fetch to hold Tues AM (2/23) in the Western Gulf but more from the northwest now with seas 41 ft at 44N 170W targeting a bit east of Hawaii and more at the US West Coast. Fetch to fade from 45 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 36 ft near 43N 167W. Something to monitor.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Active MJO Moves into West Pacific
Kelvin Wave #5 Is Slowly on the Decline

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).

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 event occurred, with another Kelvin Wave developing. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a paragraph that ties 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 Mon (2/15) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated mostly calm winds winds over a large area south of the equator from 140E to 165W south of 2S with one patch of embedded west winds at 170E. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone from 2S northward. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds were 15-20+ kts near 152E (northeast of New Guinea) near 2S but otherwise winds were either north or calm. Anomalies per the TAO array were weak from the west at 165E south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued expressing itself weakly.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies were indicted in the KWGA starting 2/16, and and are to hold at moderate levels through at least 2/23. Actual winds per the GFS model are to continue from the west in the southern KWGA through Thurs (2/18) while expanding east at 18-22 kts holding till Sat (2/20) then falling south and out of the KWGA. A more robust El Nino pattern should be in effect, but the TAO array has not caught up with it yet (running 1 days behind). 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. The Active Phase of the MJO is to start positively enhancing westerly anomalies.

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 Mon (2/15) a building Active Phase of the MJO signal was over New Guinea and the dateline while a weakening Inactive Phase was easing east from a point just south of Hawaii. The Statistic model forecasts the Inactive MJO dissipating in 4 days (2/19) with the Active Phase moving steadily to towards the dateline while fading slightly, reaching the dateline 2 weeks out at modest strength. The dynamic model depicts a similar initial setup, but with the Active Phase slowly strengthening while moving to the dateline 2 weeks out. This remains a significant improvement and suggest the Active Phase is to start enhancing El Nino 2-3 days from now (2/19).
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderately Active MJO signal over the far West Pacific. It is to slowly ease east and move from the West Pacific to the dateline 11 days out while holding it's energy, then fading there. The GEFS depicts the same generally pattern, but with the MJO weakening 3 days out then rebuilding steadily as it tracks east getting strong in the West Pacific 2 weeks out. This suggests that we have moved past the Inactive Phase, and that the pattern is only going to get better from here forward. That is, west winds in the KWGA are to start being enhanced as the Active Phase moves to the dateline, fueling the jetstream.
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 has all but lost control of the KWGA today (2/16) but is not completely gone. West wind anomalies are to start building tomorrow. The Active Phase is to return fully by 2/26 with west anomalies in control and solid if not at WWB status near 3/2, holding solidly through 3/22 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. Still, they will help fuel the jetstream and therefore storm production. The model depicts west anomalies fading to almost nothing 3/29 with no coherent MJO signal expected beyond.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (2/16) Actual temperatures remain decent and all sensors are on-line. A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 139W and holding with the 28 deg isotherm line steady back at 120W. Anomaly wise things are fading. +2 deg anomalies are steady at 175W and points eastward. +4 deg anomalies are easing east from 134W and delineate the core of the rebuilding subsurface reservoir. +5 deg anomalies are easing east from 117W eastward with +6 degs anomalies no longer present. Cool subsurface waters previously down 150m at 120W retreated (0.0 deg line), but are now again flowing east, reaching east to 125W. The warm pool is loosing ground. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 2/12 the reservoir is rebuilding with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a +5 deg core attributable solely to WWB #5 moving east from 100W-137W. +4 deg anomalies reach west to 145W. This remains a improvement over a month ago, but is no longer growing. No +4 deg anomalies were pushing to the surface just yet but were close near 105W. This newly developing Kelvin Wave #5 has put the end of this ENSO event on hold for now.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (2/12) The picture remains positive here too. 0-+5 cm anomalies have rebuilt west covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 162W (steady for the moment). Peak anomalies at +15 are between 125W to 100W and loosing coverage. +10 cm anomalies have rebuilt between 95W-150W and steady. The subsurface warm pool has recharged as much as it's going to.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (2/12) Temps are rebuilding. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 152W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 147W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some from 140W.+2.0 deg anomalies are present between 101W-134W, easing east. No +2.5 deg anomalies were present. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is underway. Temps have dropped from Ecuador to the Galapagos to 0.5-1.0 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.

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: (2/15) The latest image indicates temps continuing to cool here east of 100W except for a few random pockets to +2.25 degs. Average temps were more in the +1.25-+1.5 deg range with one pocket of negative anomalies now present off Columbia starting to reach west to the Galapagos. 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: (2/15) The latest image depicts this area is now in rapid decline. A broad area of +2.25 anomalies between 120W to 160W and reaching 2-3 degs north and south of the equator is fading, with much weakness at 122W and 145W. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4 advecting west. Temps between 160W-180W are still building in coverage. +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to 173W. No +4 deg anomalies are indicated. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Wave #4. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (2/14): A steady state pattern was depicted other than from 80W-100W where temps are cooling dramatically and quickly.
Hi-res Overview:
(2/14) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building and westward di.cgiaced with most warm anomalies between 100W-175W. 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 and concentrated from 110W to 173W (in the core of Nino3.4).

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 173E). 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 179E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 175W. No +3.0 deg or +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is solid but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (2/16) Temps are steady now at +0.715. We're about ready to stop reporting this area. Previously they peaked here for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously 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 (2/16) temps were falling slightly at +2.176, fading from somewhere in the +2.5 degs range since late Dec through Feb 11. 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), Temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: (2/16) Today's value was fading some at +1.823, and has been doing that since 1/16. Temp have been fading steadily since 12/6 when they peaked at +2.989, and +2.990 (11/28).

Nino3.4 Monthly Temps (January) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of Jan are +2.27 (beating '98 which was +2.21 and '83 which was +2.13). December was +2.31 (beating 97 which was +2.23 and 82 at +2.21). November was adjusted up to +2.36 degs (beating the highest temp recorded in '97 Nov - +2.32 degs and beating '82 +2.03 degs). Oct temps were +2.03 degs. See updated graphs above. The ONI uses a 3 month running average.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec the values are: +1.8, +2.1. +2.2 +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3 and +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1 and +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.

Note: ERSSTv4 'centered' data is not available for Nino1, 3 and 4 regions, only Nino3.4.

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 2/15 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 160E to 145W. East current was also present from Galapagos to 145W. Anomaly wise - One pocket of solid east anomalies was between 160E to 145W on the equator. Otherwise everything was effectively normal. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. El Nino is in solid decline based on this data.

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 then peaked again Feb 1 at +2.9 degs. The forecast indicates temps fading fast to +1.7 by 3/1, then steadily declining from there before stabilizing at +0.7 degs in July and starting to rebuild in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Jan Plume depicts temps peaked in Jan, at +2.8 degs. The consensus suggests temps to fall steadily from here forward, down to -0.7 by October.
See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (2/16): It was falling hard from -38.50. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14 and -47.50 on 12/3. Another peak of -38.50 occurred on 1/2.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -10.01. 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 from -12.58. 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. The peak low occurred on 9/16 at -18.56 and again at -19.28 on 10/16. 
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A neutral pressure pattern was near Darwin on 2/16 and is to hold for the next week or slightly turn towards stronger high pressure. 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 2/16 weak low pressure was starting to show south of Tahiti and a stronger low was centered well west of Tahiti. this low is to steadily build east into Wed (2/24). The SOI is expected to be turning more negative based on the Tahiti contribution.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (2/16) Today's value was +1.17, down some over the past weeks. The most recent peak was +2.33 on 1/14. It also peaked at +2.40 on Sat (10/17) and was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling. 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.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Jan) These numbers were released Feb 5th and indicate the index increased slightly by 0.08 to +2.20, holding it in 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.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have infact turned from the negative phase (L Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

North Pacific Jetstream (2/16) 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: This El Nino is the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based primarily on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the 2nd strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory, but there are still 2 months to go in the main Winter/Spring precipitation season. Based on surf, El Nino is having the expected affects producing 9 significant class swells in the North Pacific so far this season with more expected.

From a pure El Nino perspective, the peak of the event is over. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and the jetstream is still positively being reinforced by it. That in combination with the Active Phase of the MJO is still rendering El nino of significant positive influence on storm production and will continue to do so through mid-to late April. but after that, the jetstream and storm track will start to decline, primarily due to seasonal changes.

Then the focus turns to how quick and how much will the jet be affected for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.

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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