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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, March 19, 2016 10:56 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
3.5- California & 2.5 - 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 3/21 thru Sun 3/27

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   

Two Modest Swells Tracking Southeast
South Pacific Showing Signs of Waking Up

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 21, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 10.4 ft @ 15.4 secs with swell 6.1 ft @ 15.0 secs from 350 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.7 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 14.2 secs from 252 degrees. Wind southeast 4-6 kts. Water temperature 61.7. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.0 ft @ 16.7 secs from 256 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.2 ft @ 14.8 secs from 213 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.4 ft @ 14.6 secs from 204 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 5.3 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 4.3 ft @ 14.7 secs from 268 degrees. Wind southeast 4-6 kts. Water temp 57.6 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (3/19) in North and Central CA surf was 2-3 ft overhead and clean but pretty funky due to too much tide early. At Santa Cruz surf was chest to shoulder high and clean and reasonably lined up but soft and wonky due to tide. In Southern California up north rare set waves were waist high or so and clean and lined up but inconsistent. Down south waves were waist high and breaking on the beach at beach breaks. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the backside of another pulse of northerly Gulf swell with waves 3 ft overhead and relatively clean but with some sideshore lump still present. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same north swell with waves 3 ft overhead and chopped from northeast wind.

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

Meteorological Overview
Two swells were in the water. One originated from a gale off the Northern Kurils that produced up to 42 ft seas on Wed (3/16) but dissipating on Thurs (3/17) before making it to the dateline and was pushing towards Hawaii. The second one was from a gale north of Hawaii on Wed (3/16) peaking late evening with 32 ft seas then taking aim on California Thurs (3/17) with up to 32 ft seas and then redeveloped on Fri-Sat (3/19) with 34 ft seas pushing southeast mid-way between Hawaii and Southern CA. A second pulse of sideband swell is pushing towards Hawaii with the first pulse starting to show in North California. After that a small gale is forecast for the Northeastern Gulf on Tues-Wed (3/23) producing maybe 30 ft seas aimed east targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is taking it's toll.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (3/19) the jet was .cgiit tracking off Japan with the northern branch tracking just south of the Western Aleutians tracking over the dateline and eventually falling into a trough in the CEntral Gulf being fed by 140 kts winds offering some support for gale development. From there the jet ridged northeast moving inland over British Columbia. The southern branch was easing southeast near 28N in the west eventually moving inland over mainland Mexico in the east and south of Baja near 20N. In all a pretty weak and poorly organized jet. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to track east and move inland over North CA on Sunday evening (3/20) into Monday while the jet tries to organize in the west. The .cgiit point is to move east some with an almost consolidated jet pushing off Japan with winds to 140 kts finally .cgiitting on the dateline on Tues (3/22). From there the northern branch is to be weak and meandering but supporting some weak form of a trough in the Western Gulf but with no real wind to fuel gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to continue being reasonable consolidated pushing east off Japan reaching the dateline then .cgiitting with the two stream paralleling each and wind energy .cgiit equally between them but forming no troughs to support gale development into Sat (3/26). But by then winds off Japan to be 180 kts, suggesting the end of the Inactive Phase of the MJO and perhaps improve support for gale development beyond.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (3/19) swell from a gale in the Gulf was produce waves in Hawaii and also starting to show in North CA (see Gulf Gale below). Swell from a gale previously off the Kurils was also tracking towards Hawaii (see Kuril Gale below).

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


Gulf Gale
On Tues PM (3/15) a gale formed 850 nmiles north of Hawaii producing 35 kt north winds targeting the Islands with seas on the increase. On Wed AM (3/16) the gale tracked east some generating 35-40 kt north winds and seas building from 23 ft targeting Hawaii well at 35N 154W (10 degs HI). In the evening winds built to 45-50 kts from the north with seas to 28 ft over a small area at 40N 152W and starting to to swing to the east (14 degs HI). Still solid sideband swell was targeting the Islands. On Thurs AM (3/17) 45 kt northwest winds were in.cgiay but aimed all southeast towards California with seas 33 ft at 40N 151W aimed east at Central and Southern CA (286 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal). Fetch faded from 40 kts from the west in the evening with seas fading from 29 ft at 41N 150W aimed east (287 degs NCal, 293 degs SCal). The gale faded in it's south quadrant Fri AM (3/18) but rebuilt in it's west quadrant with northwest winds back to 40-45 kts and seas building from from 25 ft at 44N 160W targeting midway between California and Hawaii. 40-45 kt northwest winds held in the evening with seas building to 31 ft at 43N 162W targeting Hawaii (356 degs) and the US West Coast (294 degs NCal). The gale faded from there Sat AM (3/19) with 40 kt northwest winds and seas 35 ft at 40N 157W with sideband energy tracking towards both Hawaii (006 degs) and the US West Coast (286 degs NCal, 293 degs SCal). 35 kt northwest winds to hold into the evening starting to track east with 30 ft seas at 39N 150W targeting Central and South CA (286 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal). This system to dissipate from there with 30 kt northwest winds fading Sun AM (3/20) off the California coast with seas fading from 27 ft at 39N 146W (284 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal). Assuming this system continues as forecast some solid swell to result for Hawaii and California.

Hawaii: On Sat AM (3/19) swell is to be fading from 6.7 ft @ 13-14 secs early (9.0 ft) and dropping Sun AM (3/21) from 4.2 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 360-010 degrees.

North CA: Expect the first pulse of this swell to arrive Sat AM (3/19) building to 7.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (10.5 ft) in the afternoon. Swell fading Sun AM (3/20) from 5.6 ft @ 13-14 sec (7.5 ft). Additional energy building late Monday (3/21) from the second pulse of this storm reaching 10 ft @ 16 secs at sunset (16 ft). Swell peaking overnight and fading Tues AM (3/22) from 11.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (15.5 ft). Residuals fading Wed AM (3/23) from 8 ft @ 12-13 secs (10 ft) and haggard. Swell Direction: 285-287 degs

Southern CA: Expect the first pulse of swell arriving Saturday evening well after sunset peaking Sun AM (3/20) sunrise at 3.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (5 ft) holding through the day. Residuals on Monday (3/21) fading from 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5 ft). Longer period energy from the second pulse building underneath late. Swell building through the day Tues (3/22) pushing 5.0 ft @ 16 secs (7.5 ft) late. Swell fading but still holding decently on Wed (3/23) from 5 ft @ 15 secs (6.5 ft). Residuals fading on Thurs (3/24) from 3.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 292-294 degrees


Kuril Island Gale
A gale started 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 were just barely exposed west of the Kurils with seas building to 28 ft at 45N 158E. 50-55 kt west winds moved east some off the Central Kurils on Wed AM (3/16) with seas to 42 ft at 47N 161E (316 degs HI, 305 degs NCal). Winds fades from 40 kts in the evening tracking east with seas fading from 39 ft at 48N 168E (324 degs HI, 306 degs NCal)). The gale fades after that with winds 30-35 kts from the west on Thurs AM (3/17) and seas fading from 28 ft at 49N 174E mainly moving into the Central Aleutians (330 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). Minimal sideband swell is possible for Hawaii and even less for California given the long travel distance.

Hawaii: Swell arrival expected Sat evening and building. Swell to peak Sun AM (3/20) at 4.2 ft @ 16 secs (6.5-7.0 ft) holding decently through the day. Residuals fading fast Mon AM (3/21) from 3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 316-330 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 (3/19) high pressure was fading with a broad gale in the Gulf of Alaska moving towards the coast setting up a light southerly flow over North CA but generally light winds elsewhere early. Light rain is expected for the extreme north end of North CA in the evening. Light southerly winds forecast on Sunday from Morro Bay northward (10 kts) and up to 20 kts from the south at Cape Mendocino. Rain from Monterey Bay northward Sunday strongest near Pt Arena. Maybe 1 inch of snow for Tahoe starting at 10 PM only at highest elevations. Southwest winds 15 kts Monday AM from San Francisco northward building late afternoon and northwest winds 10 kts south to Pt Conception and also building later. Light rain holding over the region mainly just north of San Francisco during the day but pushing south to Half Moon Bay in the evening. Light snow snow for Tahoe starting 10 AM building in the later evening fading out by 7 Am Tuesday with 18 inches accumulation. High pressure is to be right behind with northwest winds 15-20 kts Tues AM (3/22) everywhere including Southern CA. Light spotty showers fading early down to Big Sur. Snow fading early for Tahoe. Northwest winds 20 kts for most of the state Wed and Thurs, but turning northeast for Southern CA Thurs AM. North winds and high pressure continue for North and Central CA on Fri (3/25) and Sat at 20 kts but Southern CA to be protected in an eddy with light southwest winds.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

Over the next 72 hours a gale is forecast tracking east through the deep Central South Pacific resulting in 30 ft seas starting Sun AM (3/20) at 64S 148W building to 35 ft but di.cgiaced south in the evening at 67S 142W. 38 ft seas to track east on Mon AM (3/21) at 66S 131W, then fading.


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 a gale is forecast forming in the Gulf of Alaska on Tues AM (3/22) with winds building over a small area to 45 kt from the northwest starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By evening west winds to be 45 kts with seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 47N 151W. On Wed AM (3/23) west winds to be fading from 40 kts as the gale tracks east with seas still 30 ft at 49N 146W (310+ degs NCal). Fetch to be holding in the evening but lifting north with seas fading from 29 ft at 50N 145W (314 degs NCal). This system to track northeast from there and out of the NCal swell window getting ready to move onshore over Central Canada. Something to monitor.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours another gale is forecast in the deep Central South Pacific on Thurs (3/24) with seas to 30 ft at 53S 130W. An early season indeed if this materializes.

More details to follow...

Cooler Water Continues Building over Equatoral East Pacific
Subsurface Warm Pool in a Steady Decline

The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).

Overview: A strong El Nino has developed. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool built steadily in spurts, peaking in the Oct-Nov, timeframe, then began a slow decline. But even in Jan 2016, the strongest Westerly Wind Burst of the event occurred, with another Kelvin Wave developing. 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 (3/18) light west winds were south of the equator from 160E to 180W from 4S and points southward, or basically over a tiny area. 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 180W south of the equator. East anomalies were on the equator from 155E and points west of there. El Nino continued expressing itself very weakly.
1 Week Forecast: Weak west anomalies are forecast starting today (3/19) developing modestly at 150E and holding through at least 3/22. But 'weak' is the operative word. 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 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO started taking root in the West Pacific. This was WWB #6 for the 2015-2016 season. With no west anomalies in.cgiay, positive influence for the jetstream is gone and not forecast to return until maybe 3/19. 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 3/18 a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading mostly east of the dateline reaching south of Hawaii with the Active Phase over Indonesia reaching east over New Guinea and the West Pacific. The Statistic model projects the Inactive Phase gone 7 days out with the Active Phase moving into the West Pacific 10 days out. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Active Phase fading out 2 weeks out in the West Pacific and a dead neutral pattern taking hold 2 weeks out. This suggests El Nino influence of the jetstream building about a week out as the MJO begins to constructively interfere with it starting 3/23.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal over the Maritime Continent. It is to track east over the next 2 weeks moving over the West Pacific but steadily weakening. The GEFS depicts the same general pattern but with the MJO stalling over dateline and collapsing. West winds/anomalies in the KWGA are to supposedly build some, perhaps feeding the jetstream flow and supporting a improving storm track by the end of the month.
40 Day Upper Level Model: A modest Active Phase was over the New Guinea and forecast to track east to Central America through 4/8. A weak Inactive Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/13 moving to the Central Pacific 4/28.
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 3/24 just ahead of the next Active Phase of the MJO. with it moving over the West Pacific 3/26 holding through 4/16. Modest west anomalies are forecast through that window and extending beyond the end of the Active Phase till 4/26. Another Inactive Phase to develop starting 4/23 but not shutting down west anomalies completely until early May, driven mainly by El Nino. Good support for fueling the jetstream and therefore storm development during that window (3/23-5/2).

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/19) Actual temperatures remain decent but are fading. A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 157W 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 in one pocket at 155W to 175W and another from 130W and points eastward but are showing signs of fading. 3 deg anomalies are all but gone except over a tiny area from 115W eastward and down only 25 meters (very shallow). In fact the entire warm pool only extends 75 meters deep. 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 120W 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):  (3/14) 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 170W (easing east). Peak anomalies have redeveloped at +15 cm near 125W. +10 cm anomalies are fading in coverage between 120W-155W. The subsurface warm pool rebuilt slightly on 3/8, but even that is fading now, sustained only by weak Kelvin Waves #5 and #6.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (3/14) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 108W extending east to the Galapagos.No real anomalies have formed from WWB #6. No Kelvin Wave is expected to result. No warmer anomalies exist. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced and even that is in rapid decline.

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: (3/18) The latest image indicates temps are fading some from the Galapagos westward with pockets of cooler water (0.0 degs) from Columbia over the Galapagos to 95W. +2.25 deg anomalies remain in a thin pool along the entire coast of Peru and Ecuador but is not showing signs of weakness. Also +2.25 deg anomalies exist from 100W out to 125W. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (3/18) The latest image depicts this area is fading with no +2.25 deg anomalies remaining. It's over.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/17): Solid warming is occurring in one pocket at 85W attributable to Kelvin Wave #5. Otherwise slow cooling is occurring over the equator from the Galapagos to the dateline. the warm pool is collapsing
Hi-res Overview:
(3/17) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but on the decline. A pocket of +2-3 degs above normal attributable to Kelvin Wave #5 is between 100W to 130W. 2 deg anomalies are also out at 160W attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. These temps peaked as of 3/10.


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 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 pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies between 175W to 155W and another at 130W reaching east to 95W. No greater anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is solid but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/19) Today temps were holding at +0.719 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 (3/19) temps were falling steadily at +1.741 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: (3/19) Today's values were steady, at +1.667. They had been steady from 2/13-3/9 at about +1.9 degs, but otherwise started declining 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 (3/19): It was falling at +0.00. 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 -14.61. 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 falling some from -14.51. 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 3/19 neutral pressure was south of Tahiti and is to continue through Wed (3/23). But after that weak low pressure is to start building just south of Tahiti. The SOI is expected to hold for the next 4 days, then possible start falling based on the Tahiti contribution and offer better support to enhance El Nino and fuel the jetstream assuming the low builds as forecast.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (3/19) Today's value was falling some at +1.39, 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 (3/19) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks weak now and is forecast to hold for about a week negatively influenced by the Inactive Phase of the MJO, but then is to move into a better.cgiace later in the month as the Active Phase of the MJO takes over the dateline region.

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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