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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, March 5, 2016 11:51 AM
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 & 3.0 - 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 3/7 thru Sun 3/13

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   

Storm Door Opens for California
Active Phase of MJO Moving from Dateline Over CA

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 Saturday, March 5, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 9.9 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 7.8 ft @ 10.9 secs from 334 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 6.1 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 4.7 ft @ 13.8 secs from 267 degrees. Wind west 4-6 kts. Water temperature 61.3 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 6.3 ft @ 14.0 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 4.5 ft @ 14.0 secs from 263 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 5.5 ft @ 14.7 secs from 271 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 10.3 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 7.4 ft @ 13.6 secs from 275 degrees. Wind south 14-18 kts. Water temp 57.6 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (3/5) in North and Central CA local swell was 10 ft on the face and nearly clean at many breaks but with a fair amount of underlying lump and disorganization. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 2 ft overhead and lumpy but not unrideable. In Southern California up north surf was chest to head high with bigger sets and lined up but a bit out of control but reasonably clean. alot of local energy in the water. Down south the same local swell was producing waves at shoulder high and lined up but with some south wind on it early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northerly windswell with waves 2 ft overhead and with some north lump running through it but not horrible. The South Shore was tiny with waves knee to thigh high. The East Shore was getting wraparound windswell with waves chest to shoulder high and textured by northeast winds early.

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell from a gale gale that tracked through the Gulf with seas in the 28-30 ft range Wed-Thurs (3/3) is hitting the US West Coast, but already peaked in North CA. A weak system developed off Japan Tues-Wed (3/2) with 34 ft seas and tracked over the dateline Thurs-Fri (3/4) with 28-30 ft seas is to provide swell for the Islands by Sunday (3/6). Remnants of that system are to redevelop some off California on Sun-Mon (3/7) generating 24-26 ft seas, but less than 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast, resulting in raw local swell and much weather. Beyond and unfavorable jetstream configuration is to result with a comparatively weaker swell pattern in control. Maybe a gale to develop in the Eastern Gulf on Fri-Sat (3/12) with seas building to 36 ft seas just off Cape Mendocino making for more raw larger local swell and weather, but that's it.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (3/5) the jet was consolidated from just off Japan over the dateline all the way to just 200 nmiles off Point Conception running flat west to east at 180 kts. There was a mild trough in the Eastern Gulf and another off Japan offering limited support for gale development. But the overall configuration and wind speeds were promising. Over the next 72 hours winds to build to 190-200 kts with both troughs building some and the Gulf trough moving onshore over Central CA late Sunday with the Japan trough moving to the dateline and offering better support for gale development, and both easing east a little more into Tuesday (3/8). The Gulf trough is to be primarily a weather producer relative to the Southwest US Coast. The dateline trough is to move to a point north of Hawaii and weaken offering minimal support for gale development. West of there the jet is to .cgiit and be unorganized offering nothing of interest. Beyond 72 hours the trough north of Hawaii is to move east and reorganize 900 nmiles off the California coast on Thurs (3/10) with 140 kts winds falling into it and 160 kt winds east of there pushing into Central CA offering good support for gale development and likely weather building into California. West of there a large .cgiit is to be in control offering only support for high pressure down at the surface on the dateline and points west of there. By Sat (3/12) the Gulf trough is to move inland over North and Central CA while weakening with the jet reconsolidating off Japan and winds building in one small pocket to 170 kts, offering some hope for renewed storm production long term if the jet holds consolidated.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (3/5) swell from a Fragmented Gale was fading in North CA but still sizeable and solid in Southern CA (see Fragmented Gale below). Also a gale formed off Japan and moved towards the dateline targeting Hawaii (see Dateline Gale below). A new local gale was developing just off California promising lots of swell but also raw quality (see below).

Over the next 72 hours another weak weather system was developing off North CA on Sat AM (3/5) producing 35 kt west winds 1200 nmiles out and seas to 23 ft at 41N 148W. A broad area of 30-35 kts west winds to push east in the evening starting to reach the coast and generating more 24 ft seas at 40N 140W targeting all of California. Additional west fetch at 35 kts to develop Sun AM (3/6) just off North CA generating seas of 26 ft at at 37N 138W targeting Central CA. The fetch is to be just off San Francisco in the evening with seas to 26 ft 600 nmiles west of there at 37N 134W. Additional northwest fetch to hold just off the coast into Mon AM (3/7) at 35-40 kts with seas 26 ft just of Pt Conception targeting mainly Southern CA and moving over the Channel Islands by evening and into Baja Tues AM (3/8). Raw conditions seem likely nearshore for this entire window.

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun AM (3/6) at 11.7 ft @ 13 secs (14-15 ft) building some later in the day. Swell peaking near 1 AM Mon (3/7) at 14.5 ft @ 14 secs (18-20 ft) and exceedingly raw. Swell pulsing mid-day Monday to 15.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (22 ft) then fading slowly through the night. Swell fading Tues AM (3/8) from 11 ft @ 14 secs (15 ft). Conditions unrideable except at the most protected breaks for the duration of this event. Swell Direction: 270 turning to 290 degrees late in the swells life.

South CA: Expect swell arrival late on Sun (3/6) afternoon at 4.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6 ft faces). Swell building into Mon (3/7) holding through the day at 5.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (7.5 ft). Larger swell to arrive Tues AM (3/8) well before sunrise peaking at sunrise at 7.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (11 ft) fading some through the day. Residuals fading on Wed AM (3/9) from 4.5 ft @ 14 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 275-280 degs initially turning to 290 degrees late in the swells life.


Dateline Gale
A gale formed off North Japan on Tues AM (3/1) generating a decent size area of 45-50 kts west winds with seas on the increase from 30 ft. By evening fetch was fading from 45 kts with seas building to 35 ft at 44N 159E. 40 kt west winds eased east Wed AM (3/3) with seas 29 ft at 44N 164E. Fetch faded to 35 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 26 ft at 40N 170E. 40 kt west winds reconsolidated Thurs AM (3/3) with seas holding at 28 ft at 37N 170E. 40 kt west winds to continue tracking east in the evening with seas to 31 ft at 37N 175E. Fetch fading from 30 kts Fri AM (3/4) with seas fading from 27 ft at 36N 175W targeting Hawaii well. This system is to fade from there. Possible modest swell for Hawaii if all goes as forecast.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sat (3/5) building to 6 ft @ 16 secs late (9.5 ft). Swell peaking sunrise Sun (3/6) at 8.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (13 ft) fading slightly late. Residuals on Mon (3/7) fading from 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310-315 degrees


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.

A new gale formed out of the remnants of the above fetch well west of North CA Tues AM (3/1) 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 30 ft seas south of it down at 29N 162W. The gale tracked east in the evening with 45 kts west winds and 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 stalled 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 151W. The gale faded some and consolidated in the evening with 35-40 kt west winds off North CA and seas at 28 ft at 43N 147W and to 25 ft down to 35N 145W (290 degs SCal). Additional fetch built into the gale on Thurs AM (3/3) with winds 40 kts from the west and seas 28 ft at 38N 143W (280 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). 30-35 kt west winds to hold in the evening just 900 nmiles off the CA coast producing 25 ft seas at 40N 138W (290 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 dropping from 21 ft early at 40N 140W (290 degs NCal), then 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).

North CA: Residuals on Sat (3/5) fading from 9.5 ft @ 14 secs (13 ft). Swell Direction: 275-280 degrees. A good amount of local lump intermixed.

Southern CA: Swell fading some Sat AM (3/5) from 5.3 ft @ 15 secs (7.5 ft). Residuals on Sun AM (3/6) from 3.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 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 Saturday AM (3/5) remnants of one front were fading over coastal waters and the new broad gale was building just off the coast. A steady south to southwest flow was in control of nearshore waters at 15 kts from Pt Conception northward. Light rain early. The front is to be moving onshore while building in the evening with south winds 30 kts from Pt Conception northward. Heavy rain from Santa Barbara northward by 4 PM. Heavy snow for the entire Sierra range starting just after sunset. By sunrise Sunday (3/6) winds to be west 20 kts mainly north of Pt Conception. Rain into San Diego early. Heavy snow fading for the Sierra by 7 AM with total accumulations at 20-24 inches and maybe 45 inches at Kirkwood. A second low to move into the Central Coast late Sunday evening with southwest winds 25+ kts over all of Central CA holding through the night and building southward. Heavy snow rebuilding at Tahoe by 8 PM Sunday continuing through the evening. Additional accumulations of 11-13 inches for Tahoe by 8 AM Monday. On Monday AM a strong northwest flow is expected building into the coast at 20+ kts for the North and Central Coast building to 30 kts late though Southern CA to be mostly protected. Rain all morning then declining by 4 PM. Clearing skies in the Sierra. Tues AM (3/8) north winds still in control all locations including Southern CA at 25 kts early slowly fading to 15 kts late and near calm from San Francisco northward. No precip forecast. Wednesday winds to fade to calm while a new front builds off the coast and south winds 20 kts for North CA. Rain for Pt Arena northward. Thursday the front is to dissolve while falling south to San Francisco with southwest 20 kt to Monterey Bay. Solid rain over the North and Central Coast pushing south to Pt Conception late. Solid snow for Tahoe overnight. Friday AM the storm door open fully again with west winds 20+ kts down into Southern CA with rain to San Diego early. A little break for North and Central CA mid-day. Snow moderating for Tahoe during the day. But another front to arrive Friday evening with southwest winds 25+ kts from Morro Bay northward into Sat AM (3/12). Heavy rain Fri PM from Morro Bay and heavy snow for Tahoe starting Fri PM and continuing well into Saturday. the El Nino we've been waiting for in California is set to materialize, at least for a bit.

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 (2/29) 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.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Mon (3/7) late pushing 1.6 ft @ 19 secs with luck (3 ft). Swell building peaking mid-day Tues (3/8) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading some Wed (3/9) from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 190 degrees

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 form in the Central Gulf Fri AM (3/11) falling southeast with a broad area of 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 27 ft at 43N 148W. In the evening the gale to track east from there with 40-45 kt west winds and seas building to 34 ft at 43N 140W. On Sat AM (3/12) winds are to build to 50 kts from the northwest just off Oregon and North CA with seas building to 37 ft over a small area at 42N 132W targeting North and Central CA directly. The gale to move into North CA in the evening.

No other swell production is forecast but a series of small gales are forecast developing in the West Pacific offering hope for the future assuming the jet does as forecast.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

More details to follow...

Subsurface Warm Pool in Steep Decline
Kelvin Wave #5 Warming Surface Waters from Galapagos Westward

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 Fri (3/3) modest west winds were south of the equator from 170E to 150W mainly south of 5S and mainly 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 140W south of the equator mainly 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 3/2. They faded to just anomalies on 3/4 and are loosing coverage today, and those are expected to dissipate 3/8 with a dead neutral pattern taking hold. At that time positive influence of the jetstream will fade as will manifestation of El Nino. 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. For Now an El Nino pattern continues to hold control.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Comparison of 2 Strong Westerly Wind Bursts (WWB)

On left the massive WWB in late June/July that created large Kelvin Wave #3. On right the current WWB that is generating Kelvin Wave #4.
Scales are a little different but notice anomalies in the July event at 12-14 m/s est (24-28 kts) and now in Oct at 13-14 m/s (26-28 kts)
(Click to Enlarge Images)

June/July WWB October WWB


Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of Fri (3/4) a modest Active Phase of the MJO signal was over the dateline while the Inactive Phase was strong over the Maritime Continent moving east. The Statistic model projects the Active Phase dissipating south of Hawaii 8 days out then gone 2 weeks out while the Inactive Phase moves well into the West Pacific at modest strength. The dynamic model depicts the same thing, but with the Inactive Phase fading to nothing while moving east, with a dead neutral pattern in control 10 day to 2 weeks out. This suggests El Nino influence of the jetstream fading as the Inactive Phase destructively integrates with it by 3/14.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderately Active MJO signal south of the Gulf of Alaska . It is to fade over the next 2 weeks while tracking east over the Americas into the Indian Ocean reaching the Maritime Continent. 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: The Active Phase was weak over the East Pacific and forecast to move over Central America 3/13. The Inactive Phase is moving into the West Pacific and forecast to track east to Central America through 3/30. A weak Active Phase to return to the West Pacific 3/30 moving to the East Pacific 4/14.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is past it's peak intensity positioned south of Hawaii easing into the Continental US with west wind anomalies in rapid decline. Fuel for the jetstream and therefore storm production should be in decline in the dateline region. The model depicts west anomalies fading steadily and gone by 3/8 with the Inactive Phase of the MJO in control 3/13- 3/23. Then the Active Phase is to develop 3/25 holding through 4/17. Modest west anomalies forecast in the Inactive Phase continuing through the Active Phase, driven mainly by El Nino. Event after that in April and May timeframe, west anomalies to continue.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/5) Actual temperatures remain decent but are fading. A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 155W with the 28 deg isotherm line easing east now to 100W, the furthest east of this event. Anomaly wise things are collapsing. +2 deg anomalies are from 175W and points eastward but getting steadily shallower. No 4 deg anomalies or higher are present. +3 deg anomalies are from 125W eastward. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface reservoir. No warmer temps remain. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m and racing east now reaching the Ecuador Coast. The warm pool is is steep decline. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 2/27 the reservoir is fading but warm water is still flowing into it from near the dateline and a small +5 deg core attributable solely to WWB #5 was moving east from 100W-115W. +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):  (2/27) 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 163W (steady for the moment). Peak anomalies at down to +10 cm anomalies and are loosing coverage between 110W-150W. The subsurface warm pool is declining, holding on barely thanks to weak Kelvin Wave #5.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (2/27) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding miraculously at 132W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 124W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some fading between 112W-108W. +2.0 deg anomalies are no longer present. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is over. Temps have dropped from Ecuador to the Galapagos to 0.5-1.0 degs and moving east with the eastern periphery at 91W, demarking the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Downwelling Phase should have reached the surface about March 1, and that is obvious in the surface water anomalies (see below). But this will only slow the demise of El Nino. 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: (3/4) The latest image indicates temps are building from the Galapagos westward with +2.25 deg anomalies building on the equator extending 3 degs north and south out to 130W. 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, but still is not fully in it. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (3/4) The latest image depicts this area is rapid decline other than between 120W to 130W, part of the Nino1.2 warming mentioned above. This is attributable to Kelvin Wave #5.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/3): Weak warming is occurring west of the Galapagos attributable to Kelvin Wave #5 with cooling east of it thanks to the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4.
Hi-res Overview:
(3/3) 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-135W.

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 175W (steady) 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: (3/5) Temps started building some starting on 2/23, steady at +1.255 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 (3/5) temps were steady at +2.023. They fell 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 deg 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: (3/5) Today's value have stabilized at +1.900, 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 (3/5): It was rising steadily as the Active Phase faded, at -5.90. 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 -22.97 - a peak reading. The peak low was recorded on 1/26/16 at -24.89, with a secondary peak on 3/5 at -22.97. Another peak occurred 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 -16.64. 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 - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 3/5 near neutral pressure was over Tahiti with low pressure moving out of the area. Weak high pressure is to follow moving east of the area on Thurs (3/10) with a neutral pressure pattern to follow. The SOI is expected to start rising based on the Tahiti contribution and offer no further solid support to enhance El Nino or to fuel the jetstream as this Active Phase of the MJO dissipates. Its just too late in the season.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (3/5) Today's value was rising from +1.45. 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 '15-16 El Nino is still 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 (3/5) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks very good and is forecast to hold for a few more day, but then move into rapid decline as the Inactive Phase of the MJO takes over the dateline region. From a surf standpoint, it's all down hill from here.

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. Solid precip is expected over the next week (3/3-3/10) as the Active Phase of the MJO moves east into California, but after that, it's over. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected affect producing 11 significant class swells in the North Pacific so far this season. The target is 16, but that appears ambitious.

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 with the Inactive Phase of the MJO scheduled to take over in the next 2 weeks, and the seasons moving towards Spring, the veracity of that influence will decline.

The focus now 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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