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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, September 26, 2015 2:36 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
Swell Potential Rating = 1.5 - California & 1.5 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' 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 9/28 thru Sun 10/4

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   

Small Gale Forecast for Gulf
Anomalies Dropping in Nino3.4 and Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Areas

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.


On Sunday, September 27, 2015 :

  • Buoy 165 (Barbers Point): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 1.3 ft @ 13.6 secs from 197 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.3 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 13.7 secs. Wind southeast 2 kts. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.5 ft @ 6.7 secs from 256 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.2 ft @ 14.5 secs from 212 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.3 ft @ 14.5 secs from 204 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.2 ft @ 7.0 secs with swell 3.6 ft @ 12.5 secs. Wind northwest 16-20 kts. Water temp 61.7 degs.


    Buoy 46059 is scheduled to come back on-line in October.
    Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.  

Current Conditions
On Saturday (9/26) in North and Central CA a mix of local windswell and energy from the Gulf of Alaska was producing surf in the chest high range but heavily textured and lumpy. Down in Santa Cruz background leftover southern hemi swell was producing surf in the waist high range on the sets and clean though warbled from tide. In Southern California up north waves were flat and clean and swamped by tide. Down south surf was maybe thigh high and clean and foggy nearly breaking on the beach. Hawaii's North Shore was getting tradewind generated warp around easterly windswell at waist to chest high and pretty ragged from east-northeast winds. The South Shore was small with occasional waist high sets and clean. The East Shore was getting local east windswell with waves head high and heavily chopped from enhanced trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific no swell producing fetch was occurring. High pressure was in command of the Gulf of Alaska generating east-northeast trades for Hawaii at 20 kts enhanced by the close proximity of Tropical Storm Niala resulting in larger than normal easterly windswell along east facing shores there. The high was also just starting to have an impact over Cape Mendocino CA generating north winds there at 20 kts and expected to build through the day. And Typhoon Dujuan was east of Taiwan bound for mainland China. Looking at the forecast charts high pressure is to produce north winds and windswell Sun-Mon (9/28) for North and Central CA and continue producing enhanced trades for Hawaii through Wed (9/30) while TS Niala fades and falls west-southwest out of the picture. Of more interest is the jetstream is forecast to wake up some over the North Pacific mid-next week feeding a gale over the Gulf producing 20-22 ft seas targeting Hawaii Wed-Thurs (10/1) and maybe a broader gale off Kamchatka on Sat (10/3). Down south a gale is forecast tracking east through in the Southeast Pacific on Mon (9/28) with 34-36 ft seas then moving east out of the CA swell window. Another gale is forecast moving under New Zealand Tues (9/29) with 33 ft seas but decaying while tracking east. A stronger storm to develop in the deep Central Pacific on Wed-Thurs (10/1) with up to 48 ft seas with more energy forecast under New Zealand behind that. The models seem a bit optimistic. And of course, El Nino continues evolving with the interest being the slow eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 focused just west of the Galapagos. 

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

North Pacific

On Sat AM (9/26) the jet was pushing flat east off Japan with winds still weak at 100 kts but the .cgiit pattern of weeks previous is fading out. The jet ridged north on the dateline tracking into the Northern Gulf of Alaska the fell into a pinched backdoor trough centered 900 nmiles off Central CA, before correcting and moving inland over the Pacific Northwest. But winds over it's entire length other than off Japan never exceeded 90 kts offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to slowly pinch off into Sat (9/26) then evaporate. Of more interest is the development of the aforementioned consolidated jet pushing due east off Japan reaching to the dateline with winds 110 kts, then fading quickly and tracking east-northeast up into the Northern Gulf. No troughs forecast but the overall configuration is to start looking far more positive. Over the next 72 hours a significant improvement in the pattern is forecast with the energy pushing off Japan building to 120 kts and reaching almost to the dateline by Tues (9/29) then lifting gently to the east-northeast eventually pushing into North Canada. A bit of a trough is forecast developing over the Kuril Islands perhaps helping to support gale development there. And remnants of the backdoor trough off California are to still be present, but fading while moving inland. Beyond 72 hours winds to build to 140 kts in the Kuril Island trough on Wed-Thurs (10/1) helping to support gale formation there. And a new pinched trough is to develop in the Gulf of Alaska on Thurs (10/1) with 130 kt winds pushing down into it before fully pinching off on Fri AM (10/2) offering limited support for low pressure or small gale development. At the same time winds are to fade some off Japan, but are to start rebuilding Sat (10/3) to 140 kts directly over land there. At that time the main flow is to be pushing pretty flat east off Japan to the dateline, then .cgiitting with the northern branch tracking through the Northern Gulf and the southern branch weakly pushing into Southern CA. It's still looking like the beginning of a transition to Fall with enhancement from El Nino is to develop this week.   

Surface Analysis
On Sat AM (9/26) north windswell from a broad high pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska at 1028 mbs was starting to generate north winds at 20 kts over Cape Mendocino and providing semi rideable surf down into North and Central CA. This high was also generating enhanced trades for Hawaii at 20 kts from the east-northeast mult.cgiied by Tropical Storm Niala 240 nmiles southeast of the Big Island (see Tropical Update below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was indicated.

Over the next 72 hours the high pressure system is to build to 1032 mbs by Sun (9/27) centered in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska generating 30 kt north winds over North CA early but not reaching south of Pt Arena resulting in decent sized north windswell relative to Central CA. The high is to also be generating more east-northeast trades at 20 kts over and just east of the Hawaiian Islands resulting in larger than normal short period windswell on east facing shores. And a cutoff low is to develop on the south periphery of the high aided by a upper backdoor trough above it generating 25 kt northeast winds targeting the Islands. More windswell to result. But by Mon (9/28) the high is to start fading and wind isolated to North CA are to be dropping from 20 kts and fading out late with 15-20 kt easterly trades holding over Hawaii. Windswell fading in CA but holding in HI. By Tues (9/29) no fetch is to be left relative to California and only generic trades from the east at 15-20 kts are forecast for the Islands (more east windswell there).      


  North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height


Tropical Update
Tropical Storm Dujuan: On Sat AM (9/26) this system was 450 nmiles east of Taiwan with winds 95 kts and strengthening while tracking west-northwest. Winds to peak at 115 kts Sun AM (9/27) positioned over the south most Japan Islands and 300 nmiles from Taiwan. A slow fade is to set in with Dujuan tracking over north Taiwan Mon AM (9/28) with winds 95 kts and then into mainland China Tues AM (9/29) with winds 80 kts. No recurvature to the northeast is forecast.   

Tropical Storm Niala: On Sat AM (9/26) this system was 240 nmiles southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii tracking west with winds 50 kts. This system is forecast slowly fade while taking a slow west-southwest track, putting it 270 nmiles south of Oahu on Tues (9/29) with winds depression status or 30 kts. This system is to only help form a pressure gradient with high pressure to it's north generating enhanced trades resulting in easterly windswell along east facing shores.     

California Nearshore Forecast
On Sat (9/26) a strong high pressure pattern was building in the Gulf of Alaska with north winds at 15-20 kts along all the North and Central CA coast with a gradient building in the Pt Arena area. On Sunday the gradient is to move north with 30 kt north winds over North CA but an eddy flow setting up from Pt Reyes southward. And by Monday the gradient is to be gone later. A generally light winds pattern (north 10 kts) is forecast until Wed when north winds start building over Pt Conception at 15-20 kts as high pressure tries to get a toehold with north winds 15 kts northward to Pt Arena and remaining unchanged Thurs-Fri (10/2). There's some signs the gradient is to start lifting north a little Sat (10/3) with light winds early for Central CA.  


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Sat AM (9/26) no swell from previous fetch was in the water. A pair of small gale with 35 kts winds were tracking across the Central South Pacific but were for the most part obscurred over Antarctic Ice.  

Over the next 72 hours those gales are to continue east-northeast with the second of the pair starting to get good exposed north of the ice line by Mon AM (9/28) generating 50-55 kt west winds resulting in 34 ft seas at 57N 135W. Winds to fade to 45 kts in the evening with 38 ft seas at 56S 124W aimed mainly east but with sideband energy perhaps targeting California. The focus is to be Chile though. This system to track east out of the California swell window by Tues AM 99/29) with 45 kt west-southwest winds producing 36 ft seas at 59S 110W again targeting Chile. A fade is forecast in the evening. Something to monitor.


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 high pressure is to remain weak relative to California with no windswell production forecast. But it is to hold north of Hawaii with trades 15-20 kts into Thurs (10/1), then dissipating. Windswell from it relative to Hawaii to fade at that time.

Of far more interest is to be the development of low pressure in the Western Gulf late Tues (9/29). This low is to track east into Wed AM (9/30) generating 35-40 kt north winds and starting to get some traction on the oceans surface and holding into the evening with 24 ft seas at 39N 160W. 35 kt north winds to hold Thurs AM (10/1) with 20 ft seas at 37N 157W and falling south some in the evening with 22 ft seas moving to 37N 154W. Fetch to be fading from 30 kts Fri AM 910/2) with 20 ft seas dissipating at 34N 155W. If all this happens some 13 sec period swell would result targeting Hawaii.

Also a broad gale is to be developing just east of Kamchatka on Sat (10/3) tracking east producing northwest winds at 40 kts generating 24 ft seas at 48N 168E. This is a step in the right direction if one is to believe the models.     


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a broader storm is forecast forming in the deep Central Pacific on Wed PM (9/30) with 55 kt southwest winds generating 44 ft seas at 61S 162W on the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. This system is to track east Thurs AM 910/1) with 55 kt west winds and 47 ft seas at 60S 147W. Winds to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 40 ft at 61S 135W. Better odds for swell from this one targeting mainly Chile and Peru with sideband energy up into California.

And yet another system is modeled under New Zealand on Sat (10/3) with a modest sized area of 55 kt southwest winds and seas at 43 ft at 54S 171E. Something to monitor.    

Details to follow...


Nino3.4 Anomalies Dropping per Hi-Res Imagery
Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Area Temp Fading Too

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).E.cgianation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric co.cgiing analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.

Overview: A strong El Nino is developing. 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 has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.      

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast: As of Sat (9/26):
Analysis from TAO Buoys: Down at the surface the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds (not anomalies) from 162E-175W on the equator and north of there. This is consistent with the pattern from days past. A pocket of 12 kt west winds was centered at 2N 169E per the 00hr GFS in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Anomalies were strong from the west from 162E to 165W on and north of the equator with some anomalies south of the equator. This is a little bigger than days past. This pattern has been in control in some form since 9/2 and intensified some 9/17 and is holding to date. It is locked over the eastern half of the KWGA, which is a normal configuration as El Nino matures. Previously, west anomalies were steady for a 29 day window (7/19-8/19) and followed directly behind a very strong WWB burst (third of the year) that was associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) 6/24-7/17 (nearly 2 months of west anomalies or stronger). Starting 9/2 a steady Westerly Wind anomaly pattern set up from 160E over the dateline intensifying some 9/17 and is holding through today.  
1 Week Forecast: Moderate west anomalies are forecast from 150E to 170W (and further east than that) through 9/29. Then those anomalies are to fade a little and move east to 140W. The GFS model depicts west winds in the KWGA through Sun (8/27) then migrating north to 7N at 12 kts and building to 20 kts consistently by Sat (10/3) and building south into the KWGA proper. It almost looks like a full on WWB might develop a week out. And even in areas not mentioned above, a dead wind pattern is to continue in the KWGA, meaning west anomalies expected to continue.
This remains a great situation. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast. The thought is these anomalies are continuing to push warm water from the West Pacific to depth and though not generating a distinct Kelvin Wave, are filling the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos.    

A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May with weaker but still solid west anomalies continuing after that through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern (the first such event of the year), then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB, the strongest of the year so far, starting on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 but held nicely through 7/17 (22 days), the result of a historically strong Active Phase of the MJO which produced a strong and large Kelvin Wave, the third this year and the strongest by far. Moderate westerly anomalies redeveloped 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continued through 8/19. That is nearly 2 months of non-stop anomalies if not out and out west winds (6/26-8/19). From 8/19-8/25 lesser westerly anomalies occurred and those were mainly east of the KWGA, with dead neutral anomalies in the West KWGA. West anomalies started rebuilding on 8/26 and turned to legit west winds up at 9N on 9/3 and held in some fashion up there into 9/22 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper.  West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production.  

Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections: As of 9/26: 
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral signal over the far West Pacific typical of a maturing El Nino. The Statistic model suggests no MJO pattern and that is to hold for for the next 15 days. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing. In essence no MJO influence is forecast. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate a dead MJO signal, not unexpected. The GEFS suggest some Active Phase development possible over the Indian Ocean 2 weeks out, but that is not believable.     
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a weak Inactive Phase in the far West Pacific tracking east. In reality, this pattern has been on the charts for weeks now and consistently fails to materialize. It is suspected the stronger El Nino base state is in control, but exhibits an Inactive-like MJO pattern over the far West Pacific, with an Active-like pattern over the dateline and points east of there, but not moving. The model thinks it's a real Inactive Phase in a normal year in the West Pacific and tries to move it east. We are for the most part ignoring this model.        
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): A weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is all but gone now. A weak push of the Active Phase of the MJO is expected to start 9/29 and holding through 11/3 enhanced mi-Oct by a Rossby Wave. We'll believe it when it happens. An Inactive Phase to follow 11/15-12/6 with West anomalies fading significantly. Perhaps another Active Phase behind that starting 12/6 with West anomalies building again centered at 170W and enhanced by a Rossby Wave. But it appears that all oscillations are to be weak. West anomalies are forecast from now to the end of December except for a little break late November with a slight hint of eastward movement of the core of those anomalies in late Dec. The El Nino base state is now the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. The question is, will another Kelvin Wave result or will the anomalies at least continue to fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into Dec? We think probably so. Is it possible this El Nino might last longer than previously expected? Too early to tell. At a minimum, three more months of west anomalies are forecast (per the model). Tropical systems have the best chance of constructively interfering (enhancing) westerly anomalies from here forward. We're on autopilot now.  It doesn't get any better than this.  

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/26) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 140W (giving up some ground) with a previous pocket to 30 degs faded out. The 28 deg Isotherm reaches east to 125W (holding steady).  Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from the dateline eastward and +4 deg anomalies cover from 152W eastward (easing east), the direct effects of the massive June-July WWB. A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal is starting to erupt into the Galapagos. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 110W (holding) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 138W to Ecuador (holding). This pocket is a mixture of warm water from a WWB in early May merging with water from the most recent strong WWB in late June-July. The pipe is open. And warm warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline and into this reservoir. Warm waters appears to be erupting west of the Galapagos with the hi-res subsurface animation (9/20) depicting near-surface movement of the warm pool from 110W-->95W.  A tiny backdraft cool pool east of the Galapagos is gone. The Upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle is over. It's about time.  
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (9/20) It is holding solid depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 178E (expanding slightly). Peak anomalies were +15 cm extending from the Galapagos (85W) to 140W (easing east). +5 cm anomalies are pushing into Ecuador. This is a good upgrade and indicates the arrival of the 3rd Kelvin wave with peak heating subsurface from the Galapagos westward. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight. This is a classic major El Nino setup.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: As of (9/20) it indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 178W and the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs have expanded some from 158W eastward. +1.5 deg anomalies are doing the same expanding west from 151W. This westward expansion is very interesting. A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 141W-->88W (easing east slightly) with a large pocket of +2.5 deg anomalies between 123W-->98W (easing east). A previous pocket of cooler 0.5-1.0 degs anomalies between the Galapagos and Ecuador is gone suggesting the Upwelling Phase is over.  

A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. And now a third is erupting, but westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggests there are 2.5+ months of warm water in this reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). The peak was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4 in the Nino 1.2 region but we are revising that to 11/4 now given stalling effect the Upwelling Phase had. And westerly anomalies continue in the KWGA pushing more warm water to depth. So the question becomes, is this third Kelvin Wave the final one, or will another follow? Or maybe just a continued r.cgienishment of the warm pool will continue for the next month or more. We all hope the answer is more is on the way. But that is entirely dependent upon how strong the El Nino base state really is. All data suggests this is a historically epic setup.  

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.
Satellite Imagery
(9/24) Overall the picture is improving, and dramatically. Warmer waters are building up into Central America and south into Peru and filling the Nino1.2 region nicely. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward. And the pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting more concentration compared to previous days data. The overall signatures is the strongest of any point so far this year and of any time since mid-July 1997. Compared to '97, 2015 anomalies are warmer in the Nino3.4 region, but have less concentration in Nino1.2.  Surprisingly coverage south of the equator is nearly on par with '97. Overall, the current expansion of water temps is impressive. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and is holding and extending west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Slightly cool water is over North Australia extending north of New Guinea to the dateline. The cool wake of previous tropical systems are evident off Japan and the Philippines. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.  
Hi-res Nino1.2: (9/25) Temps have lost a little ground here but still hold respectable. +2.5 anomalies fill the Ecuador-Galapagos region with a small pocket to +4.0 along the immediate North Peru coast. A cool pocket is holding just north of the Galapagos. Overall, this warming pattern is very good news and suggests previous cooling in this region was not completely due to westward di.cgiacement of this years event, and was attributable to the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle.  But we are not giving up on the though that this years event is westward di.cgiaced (see Nino 3.4 below).  
Galapagos Virtual Station: (9/25) Anomalies are holding today at +4.0 degs. This station spiked dramatically through 9/16 with anomalies moving from +4.1 (9/12) to +5.3 (9/16), flirting with peak temps received back in 6/14 (+5.5). But a bit of a fade occurred 9/17 down to +4.5 falling to 3.8 degs on 9/23. Anomalies stabilized today at +4.0 degs. A quick look at the Nino1.2 hi-res imagery e.cgiains the situation, with the last little pocket of the upwelling phase cooler waters moving into the East Galapagos. Previously a solid reading occurred on 5/23 at +4.59 degs suggesting the first Kelvin Wave generated in Jan-Mar had arrived, then built to +5.45 degs on 6/14. Temps faded from that high peak down to +4.1 degs in late June then rebuilt up to +4.94 on 7/17. Then a fade set in, down to +3.1 degs as of 7/31 and bouncing from +3.1-3.5 through 8/7, then falling dramatically to +2.0 on 8/10 and held at +2.1-2.3 degrees 8/14-8/19. Temps built to +2.7-3.2 8/22-8/27 and up to +3.5 on 9/5 then down to +3.2 degs on 9/9.  A dramatic rise started 9/12 pushing up to +5.3 on 9/17. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (9/24): This chart depicts much warming is occurring in the south end of Nino1.2 off Peru and Chile, while slight cooling continues occurring on the equator either side of the Galapagos. A warm water regime started in this region in late April and built steadily there, peaking between the Galapagos and Ecuador on 7/14 as Kelvin Wave #2 reached it's maximum. Then temps started fading from 7/14-7/30. From 7/31-8/13 temps between Ecuador and the Galapagos stabilized, then crashed heavily starting 8/13 finally bottoming out 8/17, perhaps associated with backdraft from Massive Kelvin Wave #3/Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle. A slow warm up started 8/23 and progressed nicely through 9/6 before falling back some, then started rebuilding again on 9/17, and fast. By 9/22 temps had almost fully rebound to 7/14 levels. 
Hi-res NINO 3.4: (9/25) The latest image remains impressive, but has backslid some. A solid pool of warm surface water remains unbroken advecting west from from the Galapagos westward with solid +2.25 degs anomalies from a previous Kelvin Wave reaching west to at least 160W. Within that, 3 pockets of +4-5 deg anomalies are present west of the Galapagos at 97W, 103W and 111W and advecting west. But coverage of anomalies at 155W is thinning. Kelvin Wave #3 appears to be not building anymore. Total coverage of anomalies is holding, not growing now. Overall intensity of the warm pockets west of the Galapagos has faded in the past 7 days. Perhaps the focus of the eruption is going to move east some?  It's hard to tell but seeing how temps there are fading some, we think not. One would think this eruption site would continue to stay active, but it instead appears to be backing off. Within a week we'll know more. 
Previously +2.25 anomalies reached to 133W on 7/16 and then 138W (7/31) pushing to 149W on 8/10 and 158W on 8/15 and filling the area to 160W on 8/18. This is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of the 1st and 2nd Kelvin Waves earlier this year. And the third one is just starting to present.
Hi-res Overview: (9/25) READ THIS Like the low-res image, the El Nino signal is unmistakable and the strongest since 1997, and stronger than anything in the satellite age prior to that. But, the intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos has definitely lost intensity. All anomalies are in the 4-5 deg range, where as when it peaked on 9/16 there were 3 clearly defined pockets at +5 degs. We'd like to say they have advected west and lost a little heat in the process, but we're not seeing that either. And even worst, temps between 160W-180W have lost at least 1 deg C if not more. Clearly Nino3.4 temps are on the downswing and we cannot e.cgiain why. This is not a Nino1.2 issue. It is an issue affecting all Nino regions. Given the subsurface situation, surface water temps should be raging. Instead they are in a holding pattern if not backsliding. This is not good (unless it can be attributed to a data quality control issue with the satellite - doubtful).

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below.

Other Sources
TAO Data: +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific, the warmest in years, advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area west to the dateline and beyond (holding at 175E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its at 160E (unchanged). +1.5 deg anomalies have become fragmented in the west with the core unbroken temps falling back to 155W (rapidly moving east). There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 149W (falling back east) with +3.0 deg anomalies depicted embedded in it from 105W to 130W (holding). Overall the warm water signature is shrinking in the west, and through still impressive, has lost significant ground the past week.
Nino1.2 Index Temps: (9/26) Temps have lost a little ground as expected at +2.0 today. They bottomed out at +1.265 degs on 9/15, and have been slowly rebuilding since. This rise is consistent with what is being indicated in the hi-res Nino1.2 imagery. Previously temps hovered at +2.1 degrees early June then spiked reaching +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. Temps fell to +1.9 degrees on 7/27 and bottomed out at +1.0 degs on 8/20 at the height of the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle. Then temps started building to +1.3 on 8/26 and +1.7 by 8/29 and to +2.0 by 9/8 before falling, down to +1.265 degs on 9/15. They started rising after that as Kelvin Wave #3 started arriving.  
Nino 3.4 Index Temps: Temps are steady today at +1.751, having spiked on 9/17 at +2.077. The all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). We are approaching that level again in fit's and starts. By any normal standard we are in Strong El Nino.  We expect these temps to6 continue upward for the foreseeable future. In '97 for Aug the monthly anomaly in Nino3.4 was +2.02 (OISST.v2) The data for this months data (Aug) was +2.06. They are even. For OISSTv.4 its +1.74 ('97) and +1.49 (2015). This months data is just a bit behind '97. Based on what is happening in the Nino 1.2 region, with the 3rd Kelvin Wave apparently starting to erupt there, the thought is additional warming is poised to occur in Nino3.4 with a 1 month delay. Water temps previously held in the +1.0-1.3 deg range since mid-April, then started building pushing +1.5 degs on 6/30, held then crept up, peaking at +1.75 degs on 7/19 and +1.7 degs on 7/29, pushing +1.8 of 8/10 and +2.24 on 8/23. 

Special Analysis (9/3): We performed an analysis of Nino1.2 and Nino3.4 weekly anomalies temps using OISST.v2 data. A very interesting pattern emerged: Nino1.2 temps are averaging lower in this years event to date compared to '97, but the Nino3.4 temps are higher.  Specifically the Nino1.2 anomaly average for the period 4/30-8/26 for 2015 is +2.42 while in '97 is was +3.43. Meanwhile west of there in the Nino3.4 region, the average for 2015 is +1.49 while it was +1.42 in '97.  This suggests the 2015 event is more focused west of the Galapagos as compared to '97. And looking at the Nino4 region, the same pattern emerges. A si.cgie view of SST anomaly charts clearly indicates the same thing. There was much more heating in the Galapagos region in '97, while in 2015 the warmth is di.cgiaced more to the west.

If you narrow the focus to just the timeframe July through August the same trend emerges with Nino1.2 anomalies +1.52 degs warmer in '97 compared to 2015 and Nino 3.4 temps almost dead even (-0.03 in 2015). 

Regardless, the working theory is this years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event. The main evidence for this is the eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos.  Though that eruption is fading some now, and with no evidence to suggest peak eruption is occurring in the Nino1.2 region proper (yet), we will continue with this theory. This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.  

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 9/16 the current was moderate but not overly impressive. The current is pushing strongly west to east over the west equatorial Pacific north of the equator from 130E to 155W, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 130W before fading out at 90W. A stream of weak to modest east current was just south of the equator from 110W to the dateline. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific, with a strong pocket north of the equator from 170E to 150W, then fading with another pocket at 100W. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated south of the equator from 140W to the dateline. This is not impressive but not unimpressive either. Compared to the '97 El Nino at this time, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 130E to 130W mainly north of the equator.   

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 For the model run 9/26 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have stabilized. Water temps are at +1.75 deg C (verified at 1.75 degs today) and are to fade some to +1.75 degs by Oct peaking at +1.85 degs by Nov, then dropping off. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the new Kelvin Wave below, we suspect this projection is well on the low side. Uncorrected data has stabilized suggesting a peak to +2.45 degs in Nov. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peak in Oct-Nov but suspect that might be on the low side.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Sept Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak temps between +2.1 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.45. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs and the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs. See chart here - link. 

If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on the areal coverage of water temps, there is no comparison. '97 imagery leaves this years event in the dust. The '97 event built non-stop from this point forward (in terms of areal coverage). Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable to stronger anomalies in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2 and the coverage of warm waters is a worm in this area compared to '97s mammoth coverage. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 the result of a pause in upwelling of warm water in that region, a break between the first and second Kelvin wave eruptions and the third poised just off Ecuador. It trued to rebuild then fell back on 9/8 and then started rebuilding 9/15. The good news is concerns about these cooler waters advecting west and impacting temps in the Nino3.4 region are gone, with regent warming from the 3rd Kelvin Wave already eliminating those cool pockets. And things are just getting started. Peak temps in western Nino 1.2 expected 10/4 then advecting to Nino 3.4 on 11/4.

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (9/26): Was falling from -32.50. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -17.22. The lowest point in years was achieved -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15.
90 Day Average: Was rising from -16.69. The peak low was obtained on 9/16 at -18.56. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. But we had hoped it would hold there. It has not, but will likely start falling again as it picks up the negative numbers in the daily index.  It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and on a steady fall ever since, bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, and peaked (9/16) at -18.56 (peak low of the year so far). 
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): Moderate high pressure was moving east out of the area and expected to fade some, but not give way to any lower pressure, with a new high pressure system building over Southeast Aust on Thurs (10/1) holding into Sat (10/3).  
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): Low pressure was existing southeast of Tahiti on Sat (9/26) with a secondary low forecast building to the southwest. By late Tues (9/29) a higher pressure pattern is to take root with no immediate relief indicated.         
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of falling or well-negative SOI values through Tues (9/29). This is exactly what we want to see. a rising SOI to follow into Thurs (10/1).       
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied. Current numbers suggest good but not great co.cgiing, but getting better footing slowly but steadily (notice the 90 day average trend). This pattern is to only change for the better as the El Nino base state builds as we move into Fall. A consistent 90 day average of -18 is our target, indicative of a strong El Nino.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino): Per the past 5 day 850 mbs anomaly charts, a weak but persistent south flow has been in effect in the East Australia region strengthening lately. Per the GFS model that flow is to persist into Mon (9/28), fade some, then return on Thurs (10/1). It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the southerly surface flow. South and southeast wind anomalies have been in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18), then returning consistently 9/18. The SHBI appears to only be slightly influencing El Nino development, but we have no hard numbers to confirm. 
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (9/26) Today's value continues rising to +2.30, up from +1.87 on 9/18 and up since 9/5 (+2.07). The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Aug) The current ranking is up hard at +2.37 or up 0.39 standard deviations (65). The July MEI was 1.97 SD (65). At this same time in '97 the ranking was 3.00 SD (66) and in '82 it was 1.85 SD (62). So we're between the '82 and '97 events but close to '97, in strong El Nino territory presumably moving towards the Super El Nino range. The top 5 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '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. We've already beat all those. Suffice it to say we are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric co.cgiing per this index. Most impressive.  
North Pacific Jetstream (9/24) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet is to start the Fall transition on Sun (9/27) perhaps influenced by El Nino, but nothing remarkable. This is disappointing, considering this is the ultimate determiner of how well El Nino is connected to the atmosphere in terms of influencing winter storm production. We suspect it is just a matter of time before it wakes up and responds.     

Analysis: In late 2013 into 2014 the Active Phase of the MJO and successive Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific and primed the atmosphere out of a 15 year La Nina biased pattern that had been in.cgiay since the demise of the '97-98 Super El Nino. It is assumed some greater force was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern, (the PDO). This warming and teleconnection continued building in 2015 with two Kelvin Waves arriving in Ecuador warming surface waters well into El Nino territory and a third, the strongest so far, starting to erupt in the Galapagos region. At this time we believe the classic El Nino feedback/teleconnection loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean well co.cgied.   

The 2015 El Nino pattern continues to build in fits and starts, but is hampered by 'The Pause' that occurred in August and continues in Nino1.2 today (9/10). In spite of that, El Nino continues to move forward. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today are solid and expected to only build as the leading edge of massive Kelvin Wave starts erupt over the Galapagos. Still the focus of that eruption right now is west of the Galapagos.  The big question remains concerning how strong will this El Nino become. In the end, strength is a function of the temperatures in the Nino3.4 region. The warmer the core temps and the larger their areal coverage, the more influence on the jetstream. Obtaining high Nino3.4 temps is a function of the strength and duration of westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. And the frequency of those events is dictated by the 'character' of the El Nino. The '97 event was a bulldozer, developing out of a previous cold La Nina water state, and never looked back. Contrasting that was the '82-83 event, which didn't even start presenting until the Fall. The 2015 event presented originally with a false start in 2014 (and for that matter another false start in 2012), and has taken it's sweet time getting organized since then, in fit's and starts. We suspect it is struggling against an atmospheric biased towards La Nina forced by a 15 year run of the cool phase of the PDO. But we believe the atmosphere is now transitioning to the warm phase of the PDO, but is still fighting some previous momentum from the cool phase, hence elongating this El Nino's lifecycle. Regardless, a large and strong Kelvin Wave, the largest of this event is starting to erupt now. It will take at least 3 months for the tail end to erupt over the Galapagos and advect through the Nino 3.4 region. So assuming peak heating in Nino1.2 occurs on 10/4, it will be 11/4 till that peak warmth reaches Nino3.4. And that might even be optimistic.

Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
Full Sized Chart
(Click to enlarge)

The longer El Nino threshold temperatures persist, the thought is the longer it will take proportionally to dissipate. That is, the sooner warm water temps develop, the sooner they will have an effect on the atmosphere and the more momentum El Nino will have on the atmosphere, and will therefore take longer to dislodge. The atmosphere responds very slowly to change. but once changed, it doesn't turn back to it's previous configuration quick either. An official El Nino was declared in late 2014 and has only gotten stronger since then. If westerly anomalies continue as predicted by the CFS model, and another Kelvin Wave results (starting say 11/1), it would not arrive in Ecuador till ~Feb 1, 2016, and not disburse till a month later (March) that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 17 months. That said, the character of this event is not at all like '97 (which was brisk paced and steady), but not at all like '82 either (which developed even later and faster). This one is a slow moving train wreck. That would not be a bad thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107.

So where does it go from here? Having a MEI (July & Aug) that is equivalent to two other El Nino that eventually turned into Super El Ninos is no guarantee that this years event will eventually evolve into a Super El Nino. We still have 0.63 SDs to go. But given the current warming in the west quadrant of Nino1.2 now, that seems like a pretty easily obtainable goal. And looking at the record back to 1950 for other events that have similar values in July & Aug, the odds favor that outcome. With an evolving El Nino base state in control and building, it seem more warm water transport east is inevitable. And we haven't even hit the Fall season switchover, which tends to supercharge westerly anomalies during El Nino years. The future concerning more and stronger WWBs is unknown, but we are betting on the CFSv2 being largely on the right track with the El Nino base state slowly having greater influence over time and being enhanced by Rossby Waves at times.        

So for now we're tracking towards an El Nino that will end up somewhere between the 82' and '97 event, with very good atmospheric momentum in.cgiay.  We'll continue monitoring the North Pacific jetstream and will be looking for tropical activity in the West Pacific to recurve northeast moving towards the Gulf of Alaska, and for swell to result from such systems in Sept. To us, those are the sure signs of deep changes in the atmosphere influenced by El Nino. Typhoon Atsani did not live up to the hype. And Kilo is not going to do it either. And the jetstream charts are not impressive. All data to date regarding the character of this years event, depict it as a slow mover. As such, any direct influence from El Nino will probably occur alter in the Fall rather than earlier. Regardless, continue your training routine.Once the storm cycle starts, we expect it to only build in momentum, consistency, and intensity, peaking in the Feb timeframe.      

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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