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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2016 6:12 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
2.5 - California & 4.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 3/28 thru Sun 4/3

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 Building Over Dateline Region
Weak South Pulse Expected for SCal

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 Sunday, March 27, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.6 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 9.9 secs from 336 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 6.7 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 9.4 secs from 270 degrees. Wind east 6 kts. Water temperature 60.3. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.4 ft @ 12.9 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.2 ft @ 14.0 secs from 244 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.9 ft @ 13.7 secs from 270 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 11.6 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 6.4 ft @ 12.2 secs from 311 degrees. Wind northwest 23-29 kts. Water temp 56.1 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (3/26) in North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft over at top spots and bumpy even though local wind was light early. Pure local windswell. At Santa Cruz surf was chest high and semi-lined up but warbled and weak and unremarkable. In Southern California up north waves were waist high or so and clean and semi-lined up. Down south waves were chest to head high and clean coming out of the north but weak with local lump intermixed. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more windswell with waves chest high and clean and rideable but nothing more. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same windswell with waves waist high and clean early with little to no trades in effect.

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

Meteorological Overview
No swell has been generated or is in the water originating in the North Pacific. Small swell from a gale in the deep South Pacific is pushing towards California from a gale there on Sun (3/20). Small is the operative word. But by Sat PM (3/26) another gale is to be developing near the dateline falling southeast producing up to 34 ft seas tracking directly towards Hawaii through Tues (3/29). Swell focused on Hawaii looks possible with sideband energy for the US West Coast. Nothing else of interest is to follow. We're waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to provide one last push before the season fades out.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (3/26) the jet was well consolidated pushing off Japan with winds building to 200 kts reaching the dateline, then .cgiitting with the northern branch tracking east-northeast reaching up to the 48N latitude line eventually pushing into Washington with the southern branch easing southeast from the .cgiit point tracking just south of Hawaii and on the 20N latitude line eventually moving inland over mainland Mexico just south of Baja. A trough was developing just west of the .cgiit point and east of the Kuril Islands offering developing support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours into Tues AM (3/29) that trough is to build and start falling southeast supported by a good wind flow from the consolidated jet moving the .cgiit point in the jet to a point just 600 nmiles north of Hawaii. Winds are to fade to 170 kts at that time, but still offering good support for gale development down in lower levels of the atmosphere. But to the west winds tracking off Japan are to weaken to the 120 kts range, but the jet is to not .cgiit. East of the trough a huge ridge is to be in.cgiay with the northern branch pushing the whole way up into Alaska then falling south down the US West Coast forming a backdoor trough with it's peak over San Francisco. No support for gale development but perhaps support precipitation and cold temperatures mainly for the Sierras. Beyond 72 hours the Hawaiian trough is to pinch off and dissipate by Thurs AM (3/31) and the ridge over the US West Coast is to cut off and dissipate too. A generally consolidated jet is to remain tracking flat across the Pacific on the 28N latitude line with winds in the 120 kts range over the dateline and north of Hawaii. No direct support for gale development expected though with no troughs in.cgiay. Finally on Sat (4/2) a small trough is to start building just west of the dateline with 150 kts winds mainly east of the trough, offering limited support for gale development. The jet is to weakly start .cgiitting just off California at 135W.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (3/26) no groundswell was in the water targeting our forecast area.

Over the next 72 hours a new broader gale is to develop in the Northwest Pacific. It started building on Fri PM (3/25) producing 30-35 kt west winds just south of the Central Aleutians and west of the dateline and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Sat AM (3/26) 40 kt northwest fetch was building in the same area with seas building from 22 ft at 45N 170E (324 degs HI). In evening 45 kt west winds to build while easing southeast with seas building to 30 ft at 43N 172E (324 degs HI). Sun AM (3/27) 45 kt northwest winds to continue resulting in a broader area of 32 ft seas at 42N 178E (325 degs HI). 40 kt northwest winds are forecast in the evening with the gale falling southeast generating 34 ft seas at 41N 178E. A slow fade to set in through Mon AM (3/28) with winds barely 40 kts from the northwest and seas 33 ft at 36N 180W (313 degs HI). In the evening fetch to fade from barely 35 kts positioned 700 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas dropping southeast from 30 ft at 33N 175W (314 degrees). This system to be gone by Tues AM (3/29) with northwest fetch barely reaching Kauai at 15 kts. 25 ft seas to fade from 30N 169W. A possible long run of rideable surf to result for Hawaii if all goes as forecast. Sideband swell for California.

Hawaii: Assuming all goes as forecast swell arrival expected on Tues afternoon (3/29) pushing 10.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (17.5 ft). This would put it in significant class territory (#13 for the NPAC season). Swell to peak early Wed AM (3/30) and hold till sunset at 11.5 ft @ 16 secs (18 ft Hawaiian - but that's probably a bit over stated). Residuals Thurs AM (3/31) fading from 8 ft @ 14-15 secs (11.5 ft). Swell Direction: 314-324 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 (3/26) high pressure was in control at 1026 mbs centered 700 nmiles west of Pt Conception generating northwest winds 20 kts for North and Central CA, but light offshore early for Southern CA. North winds and high pressure continue for North and Central CA on Sunday at 20 kts while SCal remain protected. More of the same early Monday. But then later Monday new high pressure is to build just off the Pacific Northwest with a backdoor trough and surface low pressure setting up over Nevada producing a gradient and more 20 kt north winds for North and Central Ca but now building into Southern CA by late afternoon Monday. Light snow for the Sierra possible starting mid-day Monday fading in the evening with accumulations of 4-6 inches possible. Tuesday north winds at 20 kts forecast for all of CA waters then fading with a far lighter north flow is forecast on Wed (3/30) at 10 kts and down to nearly calm early Thursday and Friday. More but weak high pressure to set up early Sat (4/2) with north winds 15 kts for North and Central CA. With this north wind 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 another small gale is forecast developing on the dateline on Sat (4/2) producing 35 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii. No other swell producing fetch is indicated.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...

Weak 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 Fri (3/25) a small area of west winds were south of the equator in the KWGA with anomalies between 160E to 170W. A weak expression of El Nino was occurring, more than a few days ago.
1 Week Forecast: Per the GFS model weak west anomalies developed starting 3/19 near 150E and are forecast to hold through at least 4/2 in the 3-6 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 3/25 a modest Active Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific reaching east to the dateline. The Statistic model projects the Active Phase moving east reaching to a point south of Hawaii while 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 4/1 but then backing off some.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (3/26) The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal just east of the dateline. It is to track east over the next 2 weeks moving quickly over the Pacific and the Atlantic moving into the Indian Ocean while steadily weakening. The GEFS depicts the same pattern. West winds/anomalies in the KWGA are to supposedly build some for a week, perhaps feeding the jetstream flow and supporting a improving storm track by the end of the month, but then fading.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (3/26) A weak Active Phase was over the dateline and is forecast to track east to Central America through 4/5. A modest Inactive Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/10 moving to the East Pacific 4/23. Another Active Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/25.
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 4/18. 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 very weak Inactive Phase to develop starting 4/18 but not getting solid ever, finally taking over the dateline region mid-May shutting down west anomalies completely. 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: (3/26) 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 but getting shallower with each day, only extending down 10 meters. Anomaly wise things are collapsing. +1 deg anomalies extend from 172E eastward with 2 degs anomalies from 122W 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 few tiny pockets of +3 deg anomalies attributable to WWB #5 were fading from 120W 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 98W 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: (3/25) The latest image indicates temps are trying to hold on at +2.25 degs straddling the equator from the Galapagos west to 110W. A pocket of cooler water (0.0 degs) is from Columbia to the Galapagos. Warmer temps previously in pockets along the coast of Peru 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: (3/25) The latest image depicts this area is fading with no +2.25 deg anomalies remaining. It's over.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/25): Solid cooling is occurring in one pocket just east of the Galapagos with another elongated pocket from 105W-140W. The warm pool is collapsing
Hi-res Overview:
(3/25) The El Nino signal is still very much present but is on the decline. A pocket of +2 degs above normal attributable to Kelvin Wave #5 is between 90W to 110W. 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 170E. The +0.0 anomaly line on the equator is not present (formally at 140E). 2 pockets of +1.5 deg anomalies were present from 178E to 130W and again from 125W to 95W with a pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies from 112W and points eastward. Overall the warm water signature is decent but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/26) Today temps were up some at +0.934 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 were fading slowly since, until rising just the past 5 days. 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 (3/26) temps were slowly fading from +1.690 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: (3/26) Today's values were steady, at +1.663. 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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