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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 8:11 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
4.1- California & 4.3 - 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 2/29 thru Sun 3/6

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   

Local Swell for Hawaii and California
Weather Moving Towards CA 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 Tuesday, March 1, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 14.6 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 11.5 ft @ 14.6 secs from 327 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.5 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 13.6 secs from 266 degrees. Wind east 4-8 kts. Water temperature 61.2 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 4.7 ft @ 13.7 secs from 261 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.4 ft @ 13.7 secs from 263 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.7 ft @ 14.5 secs from 272 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.3 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 5.0 ft @ 13.9 secs from 275 degrees. Wind east 1-2 kts. Water temp 57.6 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (3/1) in North and Central CA residual swell from a previous Gulf pulse was still producing waves in the 8 ft range though inconsistent, and clean. A nice day for surfing. Down in Santa Cruz surf was maybe head high on the sets and clean but soft. In Southern California up north surf was in the shoulder high range and clean with some bigger sets. Down south the same swell was producing waves at shoulder to maybe head high on the sets and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new local swell with waves in the 15 ft range Hawaii and trashed by onshore winds. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wraparound swell with waves pushing double overhead and getting progressively chopped as winds turns more northerly.

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell from a gale over the dateline Sun (2/28) with 30 ft seas targeting the Islands with a secondary fetch generating 32 ft seas on Tues Am (3/2) just northwest of Hawaii was hitting Hawaii. That fetch is to lift northeast then tracking east with seas in the 28-30 ft range Wed-Thurs (3/3) before pushing into North CA over the weekend. A weak system is to track over the dateline Thurs-Fri (3/4) with 28-30 ft seas perhaps making for small swell for the Islands. and another local gale is forecast off California on Sun (3/6) generating maybe 35 ft seas, but again less than 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast, resulting in much weather. Beyond and unfavorable jetstream configuration is to result in a rather.cgiacid swell production pattern. Get what you can now.

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

North Pacific

On Tuesday AM (3/1) the jet was consolidated and ridging some off Japan to the dateline then falling southeast with winds peaking at 210 kts in one small pocket forming a trough 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and offering decent support for gale development. From there the jet moved east and was holding together and just about moving over the San Francisco area. Over the next 72 hours the jet is to start producing 190-200 kts winds over the dateline running flat east with the Hawaiian trough racing east with a consolidated flow spanning the width of the Pacific into Fri (3/4). No clear cut troughs are forecast. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to .cgiit over Japan moving into the West Pacific on Sun (3/6) slowly easing east. A consolidated jet is to hold from the dateline eastward with winds 170-180 kts with a trough over the dateline and another just off the US West Coast. Gale development is to be supported. The .cgiit is to move to the dateline by Tues (3/8) totally shutting down gale development there with a trough ahead of it moving north of Hawaii and offering some limited support for gale development. But overall a significant downgrade in the storm track is expected, and with the the .cgiit point in the east moving onshore, weather is likely for the US West Coast.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (3/1) small residual swell from the Gulf of Alaska was producing surf hitting the California coast. Nothing remarkable, but conditions were.cgieasant. Larger swell was hitting Hawaii from a gale north of the Islands (see Fragmented West Gulf Gale below)

Over the next 72 hours a new gale forming out of the remnants of the Fragmented Gale (below) had developed well west of North CA generating 50 kt northwest winds over a tiny area and a broader area of 30-35 kt northwest winds south of it producing 36 ft seas at 39N 158W with 28 ft seas south of it down at 30N 160W. The gale to track east in the evening with 45 kts west winds an a broad area of 30-35 kt west winds south of it targeting all of California and especially Southern CA producing 32 ft seas at 40N 154W and 26 ft seas south to 29N 153W (271 degs SCal). The gale to stall 600 nmiles east of California on Wed AM (3/2) with 30-35 kt west winds over a broad area and seas 26 ft at 35N 150W and up to 30 ft up at 42N 152W. The gale to fade some and consolidate in the evening with 40 kt west winds off North CA and seas at 30 ft at 43N 150W and to 25 ft down to 35N 145W (290 SCal). Additional fetch to build into the gale on Thurs AM (3/3) with winds 45 kts from the west and seas 32 ft at 38N 143W (280 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). 35-40 kt west winds to hold in the evening just 900 nmiles off the CA coast producing 28 ft seas at 40N 145W (285 degs NCal) with 22 ft seas south to 35N 140W (281 degs SCal). A slow fade to set in Friday as the gale approaches California with seas still in the 26 ft range early 41N 140W (292 degs NCal), the fading in the evening. Raw local swell is to start arriving in North California Thurs PM (3/3) peaking Friday but continuing through the weekend. Southern CA to see the same pattern but di.cgiaced 24 hours, to Fri-Sun (3/6).

Also a gale was forming off North Japan on Tues AM (3/1) generating a decent size area of 45-50 kts west winds with seas on the increase. By evening fetch is to be fading from 45 kts with seas building to 36 ft at 44N 159E. 40 kt west winds to ease east Wed AM (3/3) with seas 30 ft at 44N 164E. Fetch fading from 40 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 26 ft at 41N 170E. 40 kt west winds to reconsolidate Thurs AM (3/3) with seas building to 28 ft at 41N 163E. 40 kt west winds to continue tracking east in the evening with seas to 31 ft at 40N 171E. Fetch fading from 35 kts Fri AM (3/4) with seas fading from 26 ft at 39N 180W targeting Hawaii well. This system is to fade from there. Possible modest swell for Hawaii if all goes as forecast.


Fragmented West Gulf Gale
A fragmented gale started to develop on the dateline starting Sat AM (2/27) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas 23 ft at 43N 180W (dateline). In the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds held while falling southeast with seas 22 ft over a broad area at 38N 180W targeting somewhere between Hawaii and the US West Coast. On Sun AM (2/28) fetch built to 40 kts falling southeast over the dateline and seas building to 28 ft at 36N 178W. That fetch tracked east in the evening with 30 ft seas at 34N 173W with 900 nmiles of 25+ ft seas north of it targeting the Islands well. Fetch faded Mon AM (3/1) with 25 ft seas fading at 32N 165W targeting Hawaii. A secondary fetch of 45 kt northwest winds set up 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii tracking east and in the evening it was generating 32 ft seas at 34N 168W. On Tues AM (3/2) 35-40 kt northwest winds were fading north of the Islands generating 30 ft seas at 28N 162W targeting the Islands and just 450 nmiles out. Fetch and seas to fade from there. Larger raw swell possible for Hawaii building some on Tues (3/1) and heading up from there. Possible Swell #12 resulting.

Hawaii: Swell to hit on Tues AM (3/1) peaking early at 10.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (16 ft Hawaiian) fading some late. Additional energy to move in over night peaking at 9 PM at 14.3 ft @ 16 secs (22-23 ft Hawaiian). On Wed sunrise (3/2) swell to be 12 ft @ 15 secs (18 ft Hawaiian) and raw and jumbled and slowly fading with winds slowly turning from north-northeast to northeast. Residuals fading on Thurs AM (3/3) from 9 ft @ 14-15 secs (13 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 322-330 degrees

North CA: Sideband swell to reach North CA on Fri (3/4) mid-day with period 16 secs and buried in more locally generated energy.

  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 (3/1) high pressure was holding on over all of California less the north end of Cape Mendocino where a front and south winds were getting a toehold. Otherwise light winds with a northerly tendency were in.cgiay. Light rain is to reach south to maybe Pt Reyes late afternoon. By Wed (3/2) high pressure is to be on the decline with a far larger low pressure system just off the coast. South winds to be reaching into Pt Arena or Bodega Bay later in the day with light rain down to San Francisco late evening. Thursday light winds are to be in.cgiay but light rain is to reaching south to Big Sur and clearing north of Pt Reyes. Another front is to be off the North Coast late but not affecting nearshore area. Friday the low is to nudge a bit east with south winds down well into Central CA pushing 15-20 kts near sunset with rain moving into all of North and Central CA at that time and building overnight. South winds to build Saturday morning from Pt Conception northward at 20+ kts with rain for the the North and Central coasts. Snow at higher elevations in the Sierra before sunrise turning to rain. A stronger front to arrive before sunrise Sunday (3/6) with rain in control from Santa Barbara northward moving into San Diego late AM. Snow building for the entire Sierra late AM getting heavy in the evening. Monday AM a modest northwest flow at 15-20 kts is forecast for the entire state with rain declining. Light snow fading in the Sierra. But then another front to arrive in the evening with south winds 30 kts down to Morro Bay by 10 PM and rain starting at 4 PM from Pt Conception northward. Solid snow to Tahoe overnight fading Tues AM (3/8). Winds fading from the northwest in the AM while another front queues up off the coast.

All this is attributable to the Active Phase of the MJO moving east into the US West Coast.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Mon PM 92/29) low pressure developed under New Zealand producing 30 ft seas aimed northeast at 58S 180W. Fetch held Tues AM (3/1) at 40 kts from the southwest generating 34 ft seas at 55S 174W aimed well to the northeast. Fetch is forecast fading from 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 51S 173W. Decent southern hemi swell is expected to result for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. Detailed swell forecast to follow.

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 gale is to develop 1000 nmiles west of Pt Conception on Sat AM (3/5) producing 40 kt west winds and seas building from 25 ft at 34N 147W. 35-40 kts west winds to race up to the coast in the evening with seas 28 ft at 33N 137W (275 degs SCal). Winds to build to 50 kts Sun AM (3/6) just off San Francisco with seas building to 35 ft at 37N 130W targeting all of California. This system to be moving onshore in the evening. Large raw west swell expected for all of CA.

After that a slack weather pattern is forecast.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

More details to follow...

Surface Waters Warming from Galapagos Westward
Kelvin Wave #5 Is Making at Showing at the Surface

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. But it was too little too late. There was not any real warm water left in the West Pacific to transport east. El Nino was in a steady collapse by mid-Feb with the subsurface warm reservoir in the East Pacific in steep decline with cool water ready to move in migrating from the west. 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 (2/29) indicated moderate west winds south of the equator from 160E to 160W mainly south of 4S and holding coverage, with stronger west winds south and outside the KWGA. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone from 3S northward. Anomalies were strong from the west from 170E to 150W south of the equator, with much of that south of 4S and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued expressing itself modestly.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies developed in the KWGA on 2/16, then built to near WWB status 2/23 and continued through today 3/1. They are forecast to hold through 3/2 mainly between 180-160W and positively influencing the jetstream and feeding the manifestation of El Nino. But even through at least 3/8 west anomalies are to hold over the above area. The only east anomalies that occurred in 2015 and 2016 (so far) in the KWGA were from 12/7-12/17 during an Inactive Phase of the MJO.

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 (2/29) a moderately strong Active Phase of the MJO signal was over the dateline while the Inactive Phase was strong in the Indian Ocean. The Statistic model projects the Active Phase moving steadily east while steadily fading, dissipating south of Hawaii 2 weeks out while the Inactive Phase moves into the West Pacific at moderate strength. The dynamic model depicts a similar initial setup, but with the demise of the Active Phase less aggressive, but still fading while moving south of Hawaii two weeks out and a weak version of the Inactive Phase moving into the West Pacific. This suggests the Active Phase is to be all but gone 2 weeks from now with El Nino influence of the jetstream fading as the Inactive Phase destructively integrates with it in 2 weeks (3/14).
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderately Active MJO signal over the dateline. It is to fade over the next 2 weeks while tracking east over the Americas and into the Indian Ocean. The GEFS depicts the same general pattern. West winds/anomalies in the KWGA are to start fading as the Active Phase moves east of the the dateline region, with a weaker jetstream flow and weaker storm track forecast.
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 Active Phase of the MJO is at peak intensity just east of the dateline with west wind anomalies fully in control in that area. This pattern to hold through 3/3 with west anomalies in control and solid if not at WWB status but di.cgiaced east near 165W having minimal Kelvin Wave generation potential, typical of the mature phase of El Nino. Still, these anomalies will help fuel the jetstream and therefore storm production. The model depicts west anomalies fading steadily and weak by 3/13, then to almost nothing 3/17 with the Inactive Phase taking control until 3/31 when the next Active Phase is to develop holding through 4/25. A solid pulse of west wind anomalies is forecast in the 4/20 timeframe with decent west anomalies forecast until 5/5.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/1) Actual temperatures remain decent but are fading. A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 155W and retreating but with the 28 deg isotherm line easing east now to 100W, the furthest east of this event. Anomaly wise things are fading fast. +2 deg anomalies are from 175W and points eastward but getting steadily shallower. +4 deg anomalies are moving east fast from 120W and delineate the remaining core of the subsurface reservoir while shallow. No warmer temps remain. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m and racing east at 112W (0.0 deg line). The warm pool is loosing ground quickly. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 2/22 the reservoir is fading but warm water is still flowing into it from near the dateline and a +5 deg core attributable solely to WWB #5 moving east from 105W-120W. +4 deg anomalies are retreating east from 125W. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. No +4 deg anomalies were pushing to the surface. This newly developed Kelvin Wave #5 has put the end of this ENSO event on hold for now, but even it's end is in sight.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (2/22) The image depicts the warm pool in decline too. 0-+5 cm anomalies are holding for the moment at covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 160W (steady for the moment). Peak anomalies at down to +10 cm anomalies and are loosing coverage between 108W-150W. The subsurface warm pool has recharged as much as it's going to from Kelvin Wave #5 and is on the decline.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (2/22) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 134W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 128W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some from 120W-105W. +2.0 deg anomalies are no longer present. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is wrapping up. Temps have dropped from Ecuador to the Galapagos to 0.5-1.0 degs and moving east, hopefully the extent of the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Downwelling Phase should reach the surface 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 passed. We're just trying to hold off the emergence of La Nina at this point.

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: (2/29) The latest image indicates temps are building from the Galapagos westward with +2.25 deg anomalies building on the equator extending 2 degs north and south out to 137W. No clear warming is occurring east of the Galapagos other than a thin pocket along the coast of Peru. Perhaps for the first time during this ENSO event, the Kelvin Wave eruption area is moving closer to the Nino1.2 region. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (2/29) The latest image depicts this area is rapid decline other than between 120W to 138W, part of the NIno1.2 warming mentioned above. This is attributable to Kelvin Wave #5.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (2/29): Rapid warming is occurring around the Galapagos attributable to Kelvin Wave #5.
Hi-res Overview:
(2/29) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building and showing signs of finally moving to the east with most warm anomalies now between 90W-138W. The mid-zoomed image depicts that 2-3 deg anomalies have built to the Galapagos concentrated from 90W to 137W (building into Nino1.2) with another pocket out at 141W to 170W.

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. The +0.0 anomaly line on the equator is not present (formally at 140E). +1.5 deg anomalies are extending west to 175E and east to at least 95W. There is also a solid area of +2.0 deg anomalies extending from 177W (building) and now reaching east to 110W. No +2.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is solid but on the decline in the west, but building some in the east.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/1) Temps started building some starting on 2/23, up to +1.155 today, rising from a recent low of +0.5 degs in mid-Feb. 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 (3/1) temps were steady today at +2.026, falling below the +2.0 mark on 2/25 for the first time since when this El Nino first started developing, and below the +2.5 degs range that was reached in 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: (3/1) Today's value have stabilized if not rising some at +1.982, up some from +1.848 (2/28), but otherwise declining since 1/16. Peak temps occurred 12/6 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 Feb 1. Then a sharp decline started with temps down to +2.5 degs mid-Feb. The forecast indicates temps fading fast to +2.0 by 3/1, then steadily declining from there before stabilizing at +0.75 degs in June and starting to rebuild in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe and is a minority opinion.
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 (3/1): It was falling hard at -46.90. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. Notable deep readings in this 2015-16 event were: -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4, -42.20 on 10/14, -47.50 on 12/3, -38.50 on 1/2, -40.20 on 2/17. Then the peak of this event occurred 2/22 at -50.30 and -49.10 on 2/29.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -19.99. The peak low was recorded on 1/26/16 at -24.89, with a secondary peak 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 from -17.00. 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. A recent low of
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A neutral pressure pattern was near Darwin on 3/1 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 3/1 weak low pressure was over Tahiti. It is to hold through Wed (3/2) then rapidly fade with neutral pressure in control by Friday and weak high pressure following. The SOI is expected to slowly be rising based on the Tahiti contribution then starting to rise.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (3/1) Today's value was +1.26, rising some over the past week. 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 in-fact turned from the negative phase (La 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 (3/1) 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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