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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, March 24, 2016 6:54 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
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   

Gale Forecast for Dateline Region
South Pacific Pulse for SCal Too

Swell Classification Guidelines

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

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


On Thursday, March 24, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 3.8 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 2.6 ft @ 12.4 secs from 333 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 12.8 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 11.5 secs from 258 degrees. Wind northeast 2-4 kts. Water temperature 60.1. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.3 ft @ 13.0 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.2 ft @ 13.0 secs from 253 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.9 ft @ 12.8 secs from 268 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 7.7 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 2.5 ft @ 19.2 secs from 293 degrees. Wind northwest 21-25 kts. Water temp 57.0 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Thursday (3/24) in North and Central CA surf was head high or so and pretty lumpy and bumpy even though local wind was light. Looked like pure windswell even though some longer period swell was lurking underneath. At Santa Cruz surf was up to shoulder high and clean but generally weak. In Southern California up north waves were waist to chest high and clean and lined up and consistent looking very fun. Down south waves were chest high and clean but a bit mixed up and weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting background windswell with waves occasionally waist to maybe chest high and clean offering rideable peaks but nothing more. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same windswell with waves 2 ft and clean early with no trades in effect.

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

Meteorological Overview
Small swell from a gale previously in the Gulf on Tues-Wed (3/23) was hitting North California but buried in local windswell. There weak odds of southern hemi swell pushing towards Southern CA from a gale in the deep Central Pacific on Sun (3/20). Otherwise no swell of interest was in the water. By Sat (3/26) another gale is forecast developing in the Northwest Pacific producing 32 ft seas approaching the dateline and slowly falling southeast through Tues (3/29) approaching Hawaii with sea fading from 23 ft. Swell focused on Hawaii looks possible. We're really just waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to do something.

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

North Pacific

On Thursday AM (3/24) the jet was consolidated pushing off Japan with winds to 140 kts, then started .cgiitting as it approached the dateline, but not fully .cgiitting till it reached a point 900 nmiles north of Hawaii. The northern branch tracked east-northeast reaching up to the 45N latitude line eventually pushing into Oregon with the southern branch easing southeast from the .cgiit point tracking over Hawaii and eventually moving inland over mainland Mexico just south of Baja. No troughs were indicated offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours into Sun AM (3/27) wind energy is to build over the West Pacific in the consolidated portion of the jet to 200 kts pushing hard east to 170W with a trough developing Sat-Sun (3/27) in the NOrthwest Pacific easing east to the dateline and offering good support for gale development. The weak .cgiit pattern is to hold in the east supporting only high pressure down at the surface. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the dateline trough falling southeast into Tues AM (3/29) and starting to pinch off 600 nmiles north of Hawaii being fed by 180 kts winds. Good support for gale development till then. After that the jet to remain consolidated in the west but weaker with winds down to 140 kts with a huge ridge in control of the extreme East Pacific with the northern branch .cgiitting from the main flow near Hawaii and pushing up well into Alaska before falling south by Mon (3/28) forming a backdoor trough over Central California and holding there till Thurs AM (3/31) perhaps offering hope for cooler temps and limited precipitation for the Sierras.

Surface Analysis
On Monday (3/21) swell from a gale in the Gulf was producing a second pulse of surf in Hawaii and also starting to show in North CA (see Gulf Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours a new broader gale is to develop in the Northwest Pacific on Fri PM (3/25) producing 30-35 kt west winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Sat AM (3/26) 40 kt northwest fetch to develop in the same area with seas building from 22 ft at 47N 172E (323 degs HI). In evening 45 kt west winds to build while easing southeast with seas building to 30 ft at 44N 175E (324 degs HI). Sun AM (3/27) 40 kt northwest winds to continue with a broader area of 32 ft seas at 43N 179E (325 degs HI). More of the same is forecast in the evening with the gale falling southeast generating 32 ft seas at 42N 176E. A slow fade to set in through Mon AM (3/28) with winds barely 40 kts from the northwest and seas 31 ft at 40N 180W (319 degs HI). Fetch to fade from 35 kts in the evening with seas dropping southeast from 28 ft at 36N 177W (314 degrees). This system to be gone after that. A possible long run of rideable surf to result for Hawaii if all goes as forecast.

Hawaii: Assuming all goes as forecast swell arrival would be on Tues (3/29).

Gulf Gale
A gale developed 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. Seas built to 27 ft at 43N 154W (295 degs NCal). By evening west winds were 45 kts with seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 47N 149W (302 degs NCal). On Wed AM (3/23) west winds were fading from 45 kts but lifting north with seas 32 ft at 49N 146W (310+ degs NCal). Fetch was fading from 40 kts in the evening still lifting northeast with seas 32 ft at 50N 140W (317 degs NCal). This system tracked northeast from there and out of the NCal swell window getting ready to move onshore over Central Canada. Possible small northerly swell to result for North and Central CA.

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs afternoon (3/24) building to 5 ft @ 16 secs (8 ft) mixed with local windswell. More of the same is forecast on Fri Am (3/25) with windswell dominating the pure Gulf swell at 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft). Residuals fading Sat AM (3/26) from 5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction 295-315 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 Thursday AM (3/24) high pressure was in control at 1030 mbs centered 600 nmiles west of Pt Conception generating northwest winds 15-20 kts for North and Central CA, but northeast for Southern CA. North winds and high pressure continue for North and Central CA on Fri (3/25) at 20 kts building to 25 kts and Sat at 20 kts but Southern CA to be protected in an eddy with light southwest winds. More high pressure and north winds Sunday at 20 kts building Monday at 25-30 kts and reaching into Southern CA later, continuing at 20 kts on Tuesday (3/29) over the entire state. a backdoor front might bring light snow to the A far lighter north winds flow is forecast on Wed-Thurs (3/31). With this north winds event, much of the El Nino driven warm water will likely be r.cgiaced by cold upwelled water.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Sun AM (3/20) a gale tracked east through the deep Central South Pacific resulting in 38 ft seas at 67S 140W then fading from 31 ft in the evening at 67S 135W. 30 ft seas were fading while tracking east on Mon AM (3/21) at 66S 130W, then fading. Background swell possible for SCal a week out but most of this energy was focused on Chile.

SCal: Swell arrival starting Tues AM (3/29) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) building to 2 ft @ 17 secs later (3 ft). Swell building Wed (3/30) to 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell fading Thurs (3/31) from 2.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 190 degrees

Another gale tracked under New Zealand on Mon PM (3/21) generating 32 ft seas at 63S 170E. On Tues AM (3/22) with 33 ft seas were at 63S 175W and fading. No swell is expected for Hawaii.

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch 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 there's potential for remnants of the Northwest Pacific Gale above to redevelop weakly in the Gulf on Thurs (3/31).


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...

Active MJO Trying to Build into West Pacific
Subsurface Warm Pool Continues 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. And another weaker one occurred in Feb. 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 Wed (3/23) no solid west anomalies were indicated. Generally winds were normal over the KWGA.
1 Week Forecast: Per the GFS model weak west anomalies developed starting 3/19 near 150E and are forecast to hold through at least 3/31 in the 6 m/sec range. No east anomalies are indicated and none have occurred since early 2014 except for on pulse on 12/7-12/17/16 during an Inactive Phase of the MJO. For now a very weak 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 3/23 a moderate Active Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific reaching east to almost the dateline. The Statistic model projects the Active Phase moving east to the dateline and slowly fading over the next 2 weeks. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Active Phase fading 1 week out in the West Pacific with the Inactive Phase reappearing in the West Pacific and holding 2 weeks out. The models are .cgiit. This suggests El Nino influence of the jetstream building about a week out as the MJO begins to constructively interfere with through 3/29 but then backing off some.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (3/24) The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal just west of the dateline. It is to track east over the next 2 weeks moving over the West Pacific but steadily weakening. The GEFS depicts the same pattern. 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, but likely nothing more than weakly (at least initially).
40 Day Upper Level Model: (3/24) A modest Active Phase was over the dateline and is forecast to track east to Central America through 4/5. A weak Inactive Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/3 moving to the East Pacific 4/23.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Inactive Phase of the MJO was all but gone on the dateline and was moving east. No west wind anomalies were in.cgiay on the dateline per this model. Fuel for the jetstream and therefore storm production was minimal. The model depicts west anomalies redeveloping weakly on the dateline 3/28 as the Active Phase of the MJO pushes east. It is to move over the West Pacific 3/31 holding through 4/25. Modest west anomalies are forecast slowly building through that window and extending beyond the end of the Active Phase till mid-May, then fading. Another Inactive Phase to develop starting 5/10 but not shutting down west anomalies completely until mid-May, driven mainly by El Nino. Once west anomalies develop there is to be good support for fueling the jetstream and therefore storm development (4/8-5/15).

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/23) Actual temperatures remain decent but are fading. A pocket of 29 deg temps were fading at depth between 140E to 163W (tracking west) with the 28 deg isotherm line reaching east to the Galapagos, the furthest east of this event. Anomaly wise things are collapsing. +1 deg anomalies extend from 172E eastward with +2 degs anomalies from 130W eastward. No warmer anomalies are present. The entire warm pool only extends no more than 75 meters deep at it's deepest point. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m and racing east now reaching the Ecuador Coast with -2 deg anomalies reaching east to 110W down at 75 meters and appear to be making eastward progress. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 3/19 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 tiny area of +3 deg anomalies attributable to WWB #5 was fading from 95W to Ecuador. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. Kelvin Wave #5 and #6 are resisting the total collapse of this ENSO event and the onset of La Nina, but that resistance will likely be short lived.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (3/19) The image depicts the warm pool in rapid decline. Neutral anomalies are over the entire equatorial region 3 degs north and south of the equator from the Galapagos westward. This suggests there is no warm water at depth.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (3/19) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are all that is left and fading from 99W extending east to the Galapagos.

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: (3/23) The latest image indicates temps are holding from the Galapagos westward with a thin warm pocket of +2/25 deg anomalies on the equator to 110W. A pocket of cooler water (0.0 degs) is from Columbia to the Galapagos. +2.25 deg anomalies also remain in pockets along the coast of Peru but are fading fast. Warming in Nino1.2 peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (3/23) The latest image depicts this area is fading with no +2.25 deg anomalies remaining. It's over.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/22): Solid warming is occurring in one pocket over the Galapagos. Otherwise cooling is occurring on the equator from just west of the Galapagos to 120W and again in a secon pocket at 155W. The warm pool is collapsing
Hi-res Overview:
(3/19) The El Nino signal is still very much present but is on the decline. A pocket of +2-3 degs above normal attributable to Kelvin Wave #5 is between 90W to 132W. 2 deg anomalies are also out at 165W 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: (3/24) +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 178E and east to at least 95W. There is no +2.0 deg anomalies over the Central equatorial Pacific any longer, and they are now isolated to the east between 122W to 195W. Overall the warm water signature is decent but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/24) Today temps were holding at +0.745 degs. Recently temps started building 2/23, rising from a low of +0.5 degs in mid-Feb peaking on 3/11 at +1.52 degs and have been fading slowly since. 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 (3/24) temps were slowly fading from +1.697 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: (3/24) Today's values were steady, at +1.661. 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 +0.5 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 (3/24): It was falling at -18.60. 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 -9.55. 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 -15.55. 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 3/24 low pressure was south of Tahiti and is forecast to hold till 3/26 then fade with a neutral pressure pattern taking hold of the region beyond. The SOI is expected to fall for the next few days, then stabilize based on the Tahiti contribution and offer better support to enhance El Nino and fuel the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (3/24) Today's value was falling some at +1.13, 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 (3/24) 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. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected effect producing 13 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 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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