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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:19 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   

A Pair of Gales Developing - East and West
Inactive MJO To Hold for Next 2 Weeks

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 15, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.9 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 12.2 secs from 334 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.8 ft @ 10.8 secs with swell 3.4 ft @ 11.3 secs from 267 degrees. Wind north 8-10 kts. Water temperature 59.9 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.1 ft @ 13.9 secs from 263 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.0 ft @ 12.9 secs from 269 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.3 ft @ 14.3 secs from 263 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 13.1 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 9.7 ft @ 13.6 secs from 294 degrees. Wind northwest 18-21 kts. Water temp 55.8 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (3/15) in North and Central CA residuals from Swell #12 were 3-4 ft overhead at exposed breaks and reasonably lined up but not optimal with clean conditions. It almost looked like clean windswell. Down in Santa Cruz surf was up to 1 ft overhead and clean and reasonably lined up but soft. In Southern California up north the same Gulf swell was producing waves in the shoulder high range and clean with lots of lines moving into the shore. Down south the same local swell was producing waves at head high on the sets and clean and lined up but a little inconsistent and wonky. Hawaii's North Shore was getting minimal northwest windswell with waves chest high or so and clean. The South Shore was near flat with thigh high sets and clean.The East Shore was getting wraparound windswell with waves chest high and clean with no winds early.

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

Meteorological Overview
Raw swell from a gale that tracked southeast through the Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Sat (3/12) with up to 39 ft seas and then stalled in nearshore waters off North CA continues to result in moderate sized surf but is settling down. Two gales are forecast, one on Wed-Thurs (3/17) stuck just off the Northern Kurils with 43 ft seas dissipating before making it to the dateline and the other north of Hawaii on Wed (3/16) with 30 ft seas then taking aim on California Thurs (3/17) with up to 34 ft seas. Swell possible for Hawaii from the first and Hawaii and CA from the second system. And the second system is to redevelop on Fri-Sat (3/19) with 28 ft seas pushing southeast mid-way between Hawaii and Southern CA. Maybe a little swell for both.

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

North Pacific

On Tuesday AM (3/15) the jet was barely consolidated tracking off Japan then .cgiit mid-way to the dateline with the northern branch ridging north to the Western Aleutians, then building in speed to 160 kts in one small pocket falling into a small pinched trough in the Western Gulf before ridging again and pushing east into Oregon. There was some support for gale development in the pinched trough.The southern branch tracked generally straight east along the 22N latitude line over Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to slow push into the Gulf of Alaska into Fri (3/18) but be progressively loosing wind support, with winds speeds down to 120 kts on Thurs (3/17). Beyond 72 hours the Gulf trough is to continue circulating and almost cutoff, but not quite, becoming a real trough again on Fri-Sat (3/19) with 130 kts winds feeding it and supporting gale development. at 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 with that trough moving east and over North CA on Mon (3/21). Another weak trough is to set up off the Kurils on Tues (3/22) but with no winds of interest. Also a trough with 110 kts winds is to set up in the Gulf of Alaska on Tues-Wed (3/23) perhaps offering weak support for gale development. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is dampening wind energy flowing into the jetstream.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (3/15) residual swell energy from Storm #12 was moving into California providing rideable surf with improved conditions.

Over the next 72 hours a new gale was developing off Japan on Tues AM (3/15) but tracking northeast fast driven by a large .cgiit in the jet over the dateline. By Tues PM (3/15) 50 kt west winds to develop just barely exposed west of the Kurils with seas building to 28 ft at 46N 158E. 55 kt west winds to move east some off the Central Kurils on Wed AM (3/16) with seas to 43 ft at 47N 161E. Winds to fade from 40 kts in the evening tracking east with seas fading from 40 ft at 48N 169E. The gale to fade after that with winds 30-35 kts from the west on Thurs AM (3/17) and seas fading from 28 ft at 50N 174E mainly moving into the Central Aleutians. Minimal sideband swell is possible for Hawaii.

Also on Tues PM (3/15) a gale is to form 850 nmiles north of Hawaii producing 30 kt north winds targeting the Islands with seas on the increase. On Wed AM (3/16) the gale is to track east some generating 35-40 kt north winds and seas building from 19 ft targeting Hawaii well at 35N 154W. In the evening winds to build to 50 kts from the north with seas to near 30 ft over a tiny area at 41N 152W and starting to to swing to the east. Still solid sideband swell to target the Islands. On Thurs AM (3/17) 45 kt northwest winds to be in.cgiay but aimed all southeast towards California with seas 34 ft at 40N 151W aimed east at Central and Southern CA. Fetch is to fade from 40 kts from the west in the evening with seas fading from 28 ft at 41N 151W aimed like before. The gale is to fade in it's south quadrant Fri AM (3/18) but rebuild in it's west quadrant with northwest winds back to 40 kts and seas building from from 26 ft at 44N 160W targeting midway between California and Hawaii. 40 kt northwest winds to hold in the evening with seas building to 28 ft at 41N 159W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. The gale to fade from there with 35 kt northwest winds Sat AM (3/19) and seas 29 ft at 40N 156W with sideband energy tracking towards both Hawaii and the US West Coast. 30-35 kt northwest winds to hold into the evening starting to track east with 27 ft seas at 39N 150W targeting Central and South CA. This system to dissipate from there. Assuming this system develops as forecast some solid swell to result for Hawaii and California.

Windswell arriving in Hawaii on Thurs AM (3/17) at 6.7 ft @ 11 secs (7 ft) from 350 degrees and holding with improved energy possible on Fri (3/18).


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.

North CA: Residuals on Wed AM (3/16) fading from 7 ft @ 12-13 secs (8.5 ft). Swell Direction: 294 moving to 300 degrees

Southern CA: 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 Tuesday AM (3/15) high pressure was west of the state with north winds 15-20 kts for North and Central CA and expected to hold through Wednesday. Northwest winds fade Thursday down to 10 kts with low pressure well off the coast dampening the high pressure system. Northwest winds to hold Friday at 10-15 kts strongest near Pt Conception and lighter Saturday at 10 kts with a front approaching from the west. Light south winds forecast on Sunday from Morro Bay northward and up to 20 kts from the south at Cape Mendocino. Light rain developing in the evening over all of North and Central CA. A front moves though in the evening with southwest winds 10 kts Monday AM from Pt Conception northward. Light rain holding over the state from Santa Barbara county northward through the day with moderate snow for Tahoe late afternoon into the evening. High pressure is to be right behind with northwest winds 15-20 kts Tues AM (3/22) everywhere including Southern CA. No rain or snow remaining.

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 tiny gale is forecast developing in the Western Gulf on Mon (3/21) pushing east with winds building in the evening to 45 kts and seas 32 ft over a small area at 47N 157W. On Tues AM (3/22) winds are to be fading from 40 kts as the gale races east-northeast approaching British Columbia with seas fading from 32 ft at 48N 150W. Sideband swell possible for mainly the Pacific Northwest.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

More details to follow...

Warm Pocket Holding at the Surface West of Galapagos
Equatorial Counter Current Strong From the East - The End is Near

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 (3/14) calm winds were south of the equator from 155E to 160W from 2S and points southward. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone mainly north of the equator. Anomalies were exceedingly weak from the west from 160E 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 west anomalies are forecast for the coming week and if anything, weak east anomalies are possible just west of the dateline through 3/19. 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 solid 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 Mon (3/14) a modest Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the dateline with the Active Phase over Indonesia reaching east to the west side of New Guinea. The Statistic model projects the Inactive Phase moving east and fading over the next 2 weeks, and weak at the end of the model run south of Hawaii with the Active Phase moving into the far West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts the same thing. 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 East Indian Ocean. It is to track east over the next 2 weeks moving over the Maritime Continent and well into the West Pacific, but very weak. The GEFS depicts the same general pattern but with the MJO stalling over the East 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 modest Active Phase was over the New Guinea and forecast to track east to Central America through 4/14. A weak Inactive Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/19 moving to the Central Pacific 4/24.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control of the Pacific west of the dateline and is to track east through 3/28. No west winds anomalies are in.cgiay on the dateline. Fuel for the jetstream and therefore storm production is gone. The model depicts west anomalies redeveloping on the dateline 3/23 just ahead of the next Active Phase of the MJO. with it moving over the West Pacific 3/26 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. Good support for fueling the jetstream and there fore storm development.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/15) 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 115W eastward and down only 25 meters. 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 127W down at 125 meters. The warm pool is is steep decline. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 3/9 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 125W to at 90W. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. Kelvin Wave #5 and #6 are holding off the end of this ENSO event and the onset of La Nina, but even that is in sight.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (3/9) The image depicts the warm pool in rapid decline. 0-+5 cm anomalies are holding for the moment covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 150W (easing east). Peak anomalies have redeveloped at +15 cm near 125W. +10 cm anomalies are fading in coverage between 105W-160W. 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: (3/9) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 150W extending east to the Galapagos. This is all that was formed from WWB #6. No Kelvin Wave is expected to result. +0.5-1.0 degs anomalies are all that remain and are tracking east from 115W. No warmer anomalies exist. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. Kelvin Wave #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: (3/14) 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 125W, holding concentration for now. 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: (3/14) The latest image depicts this area is fading with the last of the warm water at +2.25 degs in one pocket at 155W and fading in coverage attributable to Kelvin Wave #4.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/14): Solid warming is occurring from the Galapagos eastward, attributable to Kelvin Wave #5.
Hi-res Overview:
(3/14) 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 172E 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 103W. 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: (3/15) Today temps were fading from +0.726 degs. Recently 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 (3/15) temps were falling from +1.792 degs. 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: (3/15) Today's values were falling, down at +1.558. 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 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 +2.0 degs in early March. The forecast indicates temps fading fast to +1.4 by 4/1, then slowing their decline before stabilizing at +0.8 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 (3/15): It was rising at +17.20 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 rising from -20.35. 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 from -14.77. 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 3/15 neutral pressure was south of Tahiti and is to continue through Mon (3/21). But after that low pressure is to start building just southeast of New Guinea easing east. The SOI is expected to continue rising for the next week based on the Tahiti contribution and offer no further solid support to enhance El Nino or to fuel the jetstream with the Inactive Phase in control.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (3/15) Today's value was falling some at +1.51, having peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57. The other 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 (3/15) 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. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control now and destructively interacting with the influence on the jet stream and storm production. And this will continue until the next Active Phase of the MJO comes into.cgiay, perhaps late in March. Still with season moving towards Spring, the veracity of that influence will not be a strong as previous Active Phases in winter.

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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table


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