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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, March 12, 2016 4:35 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
4.0 - California & 3.2 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 3/14 thru Sun 3/20

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 #12 Moving Through Gulf
Inactive MJO In Control for a Bit

Swell Classification Guidelines

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

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


On Monday, March 14, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 7.3 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 4.0 ft @ 11.0 secs from 334 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 9.0 ft @ 10.8 secs with swell 6.5 ft @ 10.1 secs from 272 degrees. Wind northwest 20-23 kts. Water temperature 60.1 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 7.0 ft @ 11.4 secs from 266 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.4 ft @ 12.7 secs from 264 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.4 ft @ 13.0 secs from 252 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 13.4 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 10.8 ft @ 10.4 secs from 267 degrees. Wind south 16-20 kts. Water temp 55.4 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (3/12) in North and Central CA raw local swell was 10-11 ft on the face at exposed breaks and raw with south wind and chop mostly blowing it out. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 1 ft overhead and pretty torn up by south winds and mostly unrideable. In Southern California up north local windswell was producing waves in the shoulder high range and relatively clean at select spots but with underlying lump. Down south the same local swell was producing waves at shoulder to head high and rideable but still pretty lumpy with a light northwest flow in effect. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northwest windswell with waves head high or so at best breaks and clean but generally weak. The South Shore was getting minimal background southern hemi swell with waves waist high on the sets and clean.The East Shore was getting wraparound windswell with waves waist high but chopped from brisk east wind.

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

Meteorological Overview
Raw windswell from a local gale that was just off Central CA on Friday was still producing jumbled waves for Central and South CA. A far broader system tracked southeast through the Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Fri (3/11) generating up to 39 ft seas targeting the US West Coast, and was in the Eastern Gulf on Sat with seas fading from 30 ft and is expected to move directly over the north end of CA late Sun (3/13) bringing more larger raw swell and weather with it. Two gale are forecast, one on Wed-Thurs (3/17) stuck just off the Northern Kurils with 37 ft seas dissipating before making it to the dateline and the other north of Hawaii on Wed (3/16) with 22 ft seas then moving towards California Thurs-Fri (3/18) with up to 32 ft seas. Swell possible for Hawaii from the first and Hawaii and CA from the second system.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (3/12) the jet was barely consolidated tracking off Japan then .cgiit mid-way to the dateline with the northern branch moving east just south of the Aleutians and the southern branch tracking along the 20N latitude line over Hawaii. The two flows came closer together as they approached the US West Coast but did not merge with the northern branch pushing inland over North Ca and the southern branch over Southern Baja. Winds in the northern branch were up to 170 kts moving over the Western Gulf falling into a gentle trough offering decent support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to slow push into Northern California early Mon (3/14) offering continued support for gale development and also weather for much of California and Oregon. After that a ridge is to take over the West Coast. But a bit of a trough is forecast developing in the Western Gulf on Tues (3/15) being fed by 150 kts winds and moving slowly east but also nearly pinched over that duration offering only limited support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to move into the Central Gulf by Thurs (3/17) still pinched, then opening up some by the weekend (Sat 3/19) but with winds down to 130 kts offering limited support for gale development. And a second trough is to develop off the Kuril Islands on Wed (3/16) tracking east but winds generally less than 110 kts. Minimal support for gale development possible. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having the expected negative impact on the jetstream and also storm development.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (3/12) raw mostly windswell was hitting all of California from a gale that formed just along the coast 24 hours earlier generating 20 ft seas locally. This was more of a weather producer providing much needed rain. But a larger system was tracking through the Gulf targeting Hawaii and California (see Dateline-Gulf Storm below).

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.


Dateline-Gulf Storm #12
A storm developed over the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Thurs AM (3/10) with west winds 45-50 just just south of the Aleutians aimed east producing 29 ft seas on the increase. In the evening 45-50 kt northwest winds moved east into the Western Gulf of Alaska generating 36 ft seas up at 50N 167W. On Fri AM (3/11) a elongated fetch of 45 kt northwest winds tracked east-southeast into the Central Gulf generating 39 ft seas at 48N 160W targeting Oregon and California with sideband energy down into Hawaii. In the evening the gale was approaching the US West Coast with a shrinking area of 40 kt west winds generating 37 ft seas at 47N 153W. Sat AM (3/12) winds were fading from 35 kts over a shrinking area 900 nmiles northwest of California with seas fading from 30 ft at 45N 144W. In the evening a secondary fetch of 30 kt west winds to develop 900 nmiles west of Central CA with seas 25 ft over a broad area at 40N 140W. The gale is to build some Sunday AM (3/13) with 30-35 kts northwest winds reaching to a point just 200 nmiles off San Francisco with 25 ft seas moving east to 40N 134W. The fetch is to be moving onshore over North CA in the evening with a broad area of 30 kt west winds extending west well into the Gulf with 24-25 ft seas just off the Oregon-CA border and 20 ft seas extending nearly to the Eastern Aleutians. Residuals fetch and seas to fade through Monday (3/14). Much local weather is expected in sync with the swell arriving in California.

Hawaii: Expect sideband swell arrival Sat evening (3/12) peaking sunrise Sun (3/13) at 6.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (9.5 ft Hawaiian) then fading late to 5.6 ft @ 14 secs late (8.0 ft). Residuals on Mon AM (3/14) fading from 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 340 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival near noon on Sun (3/13) with swell building to 7 ft @ 17-18 secs at sunset (12 ft) with much 13 sec period lump in the water too at 9.5 ft @ 13 secs (12 ft) peaking overnight. Mon AM (3/14) swell to be fading slowly from 12 ft @ 15-16 secs (18 ft). Residuals on Tues AM (3/15) fading from 8.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (11 ft) and dropping more Wed AM (3/16) from 7 ft @ 12-13 secs (8.5 ft). Swell Direction: 294 moving to 300 degrees

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon AM (3/14) building to 5.8 ft @ 16-17 secs late (9 ft). Swell holding decently Tues (3/15) at 5.4 ft @ 15 secs early (8 ft). Swell fading Wed AM (3/16) from 4.1 ft @ 13-14 secs (5.5 ft). Residuals fading Thurs AM (3/17) from 2.9 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 302 moving to 310 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 (3/12) a front was setting up off the coast with copious west winds behind it. A light south flow was in control of nearshore coastal waters and building over Central CA but up to 25 kts for North CA. That front to push south through the day with modest rain pushing south to Big Sur late afternoon. North winds for Southern CA later in the day as weak high pressure gets a nose in there. 12 inches of snow for Tahoe through the evening. Sunday south winds to continue at 30 kts for the north end of the state and 20 kts down into San Francisco and 10-15 kts to Pt Conception. Steady modest rain down to Morro Bay through the day. 15 more inches of snow for Tahoe during daylight hours and possibly another 16 inches more overnight (46 inches accumulation total at Squaw). Monday AM the front fades with high pressure taking over nearshore with winds north 10 kts early but stronger at Pt Conception, pushing 20-25 kts later afternoon. Scattered showers early mainly for the north end of the state. Snow clearing at sunrise for Tahoe. Tuesday high pressure takes over the state with north winds 15-20 kts for North and Central CA holding early Wednesday. Light winds take over Thursday with low pressure well off the coast and holding through Sat (3/19).

All this is attributable to the last bit of the Active Phase of the MJO moving east into the US West Coast, then passing east with the Inactive Phase starting to build in.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

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 forecast developing off Japan on Mon-Tues (3/15) but tracking northeast fast driven by a large .cgiit in the jet over the dateline. By Tues PM (3/15) 45-50 kt west winds to develop with the storm just off the Northern Kurils and seas building to 28 ft at 48N 157E. 45-50 kt west winds to continue stationary off the Kurils on Wed AM (3/16) with seas to 36 ft at 47N 159E. Winds to fade from 45 kts in the evening tracking east with seas fading from 36 ft at 48N 165E. The gale to fade after that with winds 35 kts from the west on Thurs AM (3/17) and seas fading from 28 ft at 50N 170E. Minimal swell is possible for Hawaii.

Also on Tues PM (3/15) a gale is to form 750 nmiles north of Hawaii producing 40 kt north winds targeting the Islands well with seas building from 18 ft at 35N 160W. On Wed AM (3/16) the gale is to lift northeast some generating 40 kt north winds and seas building from 22 ft targeting Hawaii well at 34N 155W. In the evening winds to build to 45 kts from the north with seas 23 ft at 38N 151W but starting to to swing to the east. Still solid sidebands well to target the Islands. On Thurs AM (3/17) 45 kt northwest winds to still be in.cgiay and basically over the same area with seas 30 ft at 40N 152W aimed a bit east of the Islands and somewhat at Southern CA. Fetch is to fade from 35 kts from the north-northwest in the evening with seas holding at 30 ft at 38N 150W aimed like before. the gale to finally start tracking east Fri AM (3/18) with winds from the west at 30 kts and seas fading from 27 ft at 38N 148W targeting California well. The gale to fade from there. Perhaps some solid swell to result for Hawaii and maybe California.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

More details to follow...

Surface Waters Warming Markedly Near and West of Galapagos
Kelvin Wave #5 Breaching - But Equatorial Counter Current is Strong From the East - PDO Still Positive

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 (3/11) calm winds were south of the equator from 155E to 150W from 2S and points southward. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone mainly north of the equator. Anomalies were very weak from the west from 180W to 155W south of and on the equator. El Nino continued expressing itself weakly. But east winds and anomalies were building at 155E.
1 Week Forecast: No anomalies are forecast for the coming week. Previously solid west anomalies developed in the KWGA on 2/16 building to WWB status 2/23 continuing through 3/2, then fading to just anomalies before dissipating on 3/9 and the Inactive Phase of the MJO started taking root in the West Pacific. This was WWB #6 for the 2015-2016 season. Positive influence for the jetstream is gone and forecast to not return for the immediate future. But no east anomalies are forecast. 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 (3/11) a modest Inactive Phase of the MJO was in the West Pacific moving east with a neutral pattern elsewhere. The Statistic model projects the Inactive Phase moving east and fading over the next 2 weeks, reaching the dateline and weak at the end of the model run with the Active Phase starting to move into the far West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts the same thing, but with the Inactive Phase fading to almost nothing while moving east, with a modest Active Phase developing over the Maritime Continent 1 week out and moving to the far West Pacific 2 weeks out. This suggests El Nino influence of the jetstream fading as the Inactive Phase destructively integrates with it now through at least 3/23.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal over the central Indian Ocean. It is to track east over the next 2 weeks moving over the Maritime Continent and almost to the West Pacific, but weak. The GEFS depicts the same general pattern but with the MJO stalling over the Maritime Continent and weakening. West winds/anomalies in the KWGA are to remain weak, with a weak jetstream flow and weaker storm track forecast until the Inactive Phase looses control.
40 Day Upper Level Model: A weak Inactive Phase was over the West Pacific and forecast to track east to Central America through 4/1. A weak Active Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/1 moving to the East Pacific 4/21.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is gone with the last remnants positioned south of California easing into the Atlantic and west wind anomalies all but gone on the dateline. Fuel for the jetstream and therefore storm production is gone. The model depicts west anomalies nonexistent from now through through 3/23 with the Inactive Phase of the MJO in control. West anomalies to redevelop 3/24 ahead of the Active Phase, with the Active Phase taking hold 3/28 in the West Pacific holding through 4/21. Modest to almost strong west anomalies are forecast through that window. Another Inactive Phase to develop starting 4/23 but with west anomalies holding into early May, driven mainly by El Nino.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/12) 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 reaching east to the Galapagos, the furthest east of this event. Anomaly wise things are collapsing. +2 deg anomalies are from 175W and points eastward. 3 deg anomalies are all but gone over a tiny area from 110W 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 with -2 deg anomalies reaching east to 125W down at 125 meters. The warm pool is is steep decline. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 3/4 the reservoir is fading and very shallow but warm water is still flowing into it from the dateline attributable to Kelvin Wave #6 at +2-3 deg anomalies. A modest sized area of +3 deg anomalies attributable to WWB #5 was fading from 130W to at 90W. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. Kelvin Wave #5 and #6 are holding off the end of this ENSO event, but even it's end is in sight.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (3/4) The image depicts the warm pool trying to hand on. 0-+5 cm anomalies are holding for the moment covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170W (steady for the moment). Peak anomalies have redeveloped at +15 cm near 125W. +10 cm anomalies are fading in coverage between 105W-155W. The subsurface warm pool rebuilt slightly on 3/8, and is almost holding on barely thanks to weak Kelvin Waves #5 and #6.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (3/4) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 125W extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are all but gone with one pixel left at 108W. No warmer anomalies exist. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is over. There's a faint hint of Kelvin Wave #6 at +0.5 degs at 147W, but nothing is expected from it. Temps have dropped from Ecuador to the Galapagos to 0.5-1.0 degs and moving east. But the eastern periphery, instead of pushing east is growing to the west, currently at 107W, demarking the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. Kelvin waves #5 and #6 are only serving 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: (3/11) The latest image indicates temps are fading some from the Galapagos westward with +2.25 deg anomalies on the equator extending 2-3 degs north and south out to 130W, but loosing concentration. Marked cooling is occurring east of the Galapagos up into Panama. But warming at +2.25 degs is occurring in a thin but solid pool along the entire coast of Peru and half way up into Ecuador. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (3/11) The latest image depicts this area is fading with the last of the warm water at +2.25 degs between 150W-160W and fading in coverage attributable to Kelvin Wave #4.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/10): Solid warming is occurring west of the Galapagos and east of there into Ecuador, attributable to Kelvin Wave #5.
Hi-res Overview:
(3/10) The El Nino signal is unmistakable, and is building from the Galapagos out to 125W at +2-3 degs above normal attributable to Kelvin Wave #5. These temps have probably peaked as of 3/10. Similar anomalies are between 155W-170W attributable to Kelvin Wave #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. The +0.0 anomaly line on the equator is not present (formally at 140E). +1.5 deg anomalies are extending west to 173E and east to at least 95W. There is also a solid area of +2.0 deg anomalies extending from 180W (steady) and now reaching east to 108W. No greater 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: (3/12) Today temps were fading some from +1.429 degs. Temps started building 2/23, rising from a recent low of +0.5 degs in mid-Feb, then peaked on 3/11 at +1.52 degs. 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 (3/12) temps started falling from +1.920. From 2/25-3/11 they were steady at about +2.023. They fell below the +2.1 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: (3/12) Today's values were falling, down at +1.646. They had been steady from 2/13-3/9 at about +1.9 degs, 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 Feb were +2.19 (beating '98 which was +1.89 and '83 which was +1.84). Jan readings were +2.23 (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 +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 3/12 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 100W to 140E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. El Nino is in solid decline based on this data, which would be normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.

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 and falling from +2 degs in early March. The forecast indicates temps fading fast to +1.5 by 4/1, then slowing their decline before stabilizing at +0.75 degs in August before 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 (3/12): It was steady at 2.50 attributable to the Inactive Phase of the MJO. 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 some from -22.35. The peak low was recorded on 1/26/16 at -24.89, with a secondary peak on 3/6 at -23.00. 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 -15.37. 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 3/12 neutral pressure was south of Tahiti and is to be followed a neutral pressure through Sat (3/19). 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): (3/12) Today's value was rising from +1.57. 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) (Feb) These numbers were released March 5th and indicate the index decreased slightly to +2.12. In Feb the readings 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 and up to +1.75 in Feb. 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 (3/12) 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 occurring through (3/13) as the Active Phase of the MJO moves east over and past, but after that, it's over. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected affect producing 12 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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