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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2015 5:41 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 = 3.0 - California & 2.0 - 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 10/12 thru Sun 10/18

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   

Weak Gulf Gale in Play
Another Storm Forecast Under New Zealand

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 Thursday, October 15, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.8 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 4.1 ft @ 9.7 secs from 339 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 16.0 secs with swell 2.3 ft @ 14.6 secs. Wind southwest 2-4 kts. Water temperature 73.9 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.4 ft @ 12.2 secs from 247 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.1 ft @ 15.8 secs from 223 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.2 ft @ 14.8 secs from 220 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.7 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 5.2 ft @ 11.6 secs from 298 degrees. Wind northwest 8-10 kts. Water temp 63.1 degs.


    Buoy 46059 has been reactivated.
    Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.  

Current Conditions
On Thursday (10/15) in North and Central CA Gulf windswell was producing surf in the head high.cgius range and reasonably clean but with some lump intermixed. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high on the sets at better breaks and clean but warbled by tide. In Southern California up north Gulf windswell was producing surf in the waist high range on the sets and clean. Down south southern hemi swell swell was producing waves in the chest high range and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northerly windswell in the 2 ft overhead range at top breaks and a little warbled by northeast winds. The South Shore was getting southern hemi background swell with waves occasionally shoulder high and clean but weak. The East Shore was getting northeast tradewind generated windswell with waves thigh to waist high and chopped from trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific windswell generated by a gale previously Gulf of Alaska was still hitting the US West Coast. Residual southern hemi swell from a small but strong storm previously under New Zealand was fading in Hawaii and the US West Coast.

Looking at the forecast charts another weak gale is tracking through the Gulf of Alaska Thurs-Fri (10/16) generating 20 ft seas targeting mainly the US West Coast. And yet another is forecast further north in the Gulf later Tues (10/20) with 24 ft seas, with a supposedly tropical fueled system developing in the Southwestern Gulf on Thurs (10/22) with 30+ ft seas. And 2 tropical systems are in flight in the west with another forecast in the east by the weekend. Down south another gale tracked under New Zealand Thurs-Fri (10/9) generating 38 ft seas aimed east with swell tracking towards mainly the US West Coast. And another small but strong storm is forecast Thurs-Fri (10/16) under New Zealand producing at 48 ft seas aimed east. So more southern hemi swell looks likely. El Nino remains stable with slowly erupting Kelvin Wave #3 mainly west of the Galapagos, and a Westerly Wind Burst still in flight producing the first signs of Kelvin Wave #4 taking shape under and just east of the dateline. Impressive.


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

North Pacific

On Thurs AM (10/15) the jet was .cgiit over Asia then consolidating as it pushed off Japan with winds barely 100 kts, then started ridging northeast to a point just east of the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians with winds to 130 kts before falling southeast into a nice trough over the Gulf of Alaska with it's apex 900 nmiles northeast of Hawaii, and then ridged again pushing into North Canada. There was what appeared to be decent support for gale development in the Gulf trough. A cutoff low was moving over Pt Conception. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to slowly push east while pinching and loosing energy, moving into Central California on Sat AM (10/17) and very weak. Back to the west a slightly .cgiit flow is to be easing east of Japan Sat PM but consolidating 1/2 way to the dateline forming a broad trough with winds 160 kts in its apex, but only over a small area. Still the breadth of the trough is to be impressive. It's to ease east into the Western Gulf on Sunday evening (10/18) while consolidating some. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to move slowly into the Gulf and weaken, becoming almost flat by Wed (10/22) and no longer offering support for gale development. But at that time the entire jet, though a little diffuse, is to be running flat on the 40N latitude line from Japan into Oregon with winds building in pockets to 140 kts later Thurs (10/23) looking fairly impressive for the time of year. All we need is some energy. 

Surface Analysis
On Thursday AM (10/15) a gale was tracking through the Gulf of Alaska generating some fetch of interest (see Gulf Gale below). Another low was just east of Kamchatka but land locked in the Bering Sea. 2 tropical systems were just east of the Philippines (see Tropical Update below).

Over the next 72 hours a broad low pressure system is to be tracking through the Western Gulf but winds to only be 25-30 kts Sun-Mon reach with seas never exceeding 16 ft. Maybe some windswell top result for Hawaii mid-week. No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

Gulf Gale
Low pressure was falling southeast into the Gulf on Wed AM (10/14) producing a decent sized fetch of 30 kt northwest winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface with seas building some. By evening 30-35 kts northwest winds were easing east in the Gulf with seas building to 19 ft over a small area at 42N 162W targeting mainly Hawaii (356 degs HI, 288 degs NCal).  Fetch held into Thurs AM (10/15) with a modest sized area of 20 ft seas building at 39N 157W again targeting Hawaii (360 degs) but starting to swing more east targeting the US West Coast (285 degs NCal, 292 SCal). Fetch is to fade to 30 kts in the evening with sea dropping to 18 ft up at 44N 152W. One last pulse of 30 kt northwest winds are forecast Fri AM (10/16) generating 19 ft seas at 44N 147W targeting only CA (295 degs NCal, 302 degs SCal) then gone by the evening. If all goes as forecast a small pulse of sideband energy to result for Hawaii and better size for the US West Coast.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri evening (10/16) pushing 4.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.5. ft). Swell peaking over night but still decent sunrise Sat (10/17) at 4.5 ft @ 12 secs (5.5. ft) then slowly fading. Swell Direction: 345 degrees

NCal: Expect swell arrival near 11 PM Sat (10/17) building early Sat (10/18) peaking mid AM at 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft) with local chop on top. Swell fading Mon (10/19) from 4.5 ft @ 11 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction 285 degrees  

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


Tropical Update
A solid Westerly Wind Burst continued over the equatorial West Pacific supporting tropical storm formation. The WWB started in earnest on Thurs (10/1).

Tropical Depression Nora was 120 nmiles south of the Big Islands of Hawaii on Thurs AM (10/15) with winds 25 kts tracking west. No additional swell was being generated. Whatever swell is to arrive on the Southeast Shore of the Big Island has already hit.  

Tropical Storm Koppu was 1000 nmiles east of the Northern Philippines on Tues AM (10/13) with winds 30 kts tracking west. Slow steady strengthening occurred and by Thurs AM (10/15) with winds building to 60 kts positioned 480 nmiles east of the northern Philippines tracking west. More of the same is forecast with Koppu building to 100 kts on Sat AM (10/17) positioned 50 nmiles east of the Northern Philippines and moving inland Sun AM (10/18) while turning north. The GFS model has this system sequestered between the Philippines and Taiwan into Thurs (10/22) making no eastward progress.

Tropical Storm Champi (formally TD 25W) was due east of Koppu or 300 nmiles northeast of Guam on Thurs AM (10/15) with winds 50 kts tracking west.  Steady slow strengthening is forecast with this system taking a west-northwest track positioned 260 nmiles north of Guam on Fri AM (10/16) with winds 70 kts and at typhoon status. A continued turn to the north is forecast Sat AM (10/17) with winds 85 kts then turning northeast Sun AM (10/18) positioned 800 nmiles south of Tokyo Japan with winds 100 kts. This system is to track northeast into Tues AM (10/20) with winds falling to 80 kts positioned 600 nmiles southeast of Central Japan. The GFS model has this system tracking east-northeast into Thurs (10/22) bound for open waters of the North Pacific but weakening. Something to monitor.    

And yet a third tropical system is to develop mid-way between Mexico and Hawaii on Sun (10/18) building and taking a northerly track running mid-way between Hawaii and California into Thurs (10/22). Will believe it when it happens. 


California Nearshore Forecast
On Thurs (10/15) low pressure was filling the Gulf suppressing high pressure and resulting in a light winds flow locally over CA. No change is forecast until later Friday as north winds start building at 15 kts over Pt Conception as the Gulf low fades and high pressure starts to build offshore. North winds to be mostly confined to the southern part of Central CA Saturday with a front pushing weakly into North CA offering a hint of rain mostly from SF Bay northward, but with north winds building up to Pt Arena late driven by high pressure off the coast. Sunday north winds to be in control over all of North and Central CA at 15-20 kts and not relenting into Wed (10/21) when they lift to Cape Mendocino with a 10 kt flow over Central CA. North winds to build Thurs into Fri (10/23) to 30 kts as the high compresses against the coast.


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Thurs AM (10/15) another small swell was tracking first towards Hawaii and expected to reach California later (see Another New Zealand Storm below).  

Over the next 72 hours another storm is to be forming under New Zealand Thurs AM (10/15) generating 50 kts west winds over a small area aimed east and seas building from 29 ft at 57S 156E. In the evening winds are to build to 55 kts from the west winds over a decent sized area but aimed due east with seas building from 44 ft at 57S 167E (200 degs HI, 215 degs CA and shadowed by Tahiti relative to SCal). 50 kt west winds to continue Fri AM (10/16) pushing a little more northeast generating 48 ft seas at 56S 178E (195 degs HI, 210 degs CA and shadowed relative to SCal but NCal is to be barely clear). Fetch is to fade from 45 kts lifting slightly east-northeast in the evening with seas fading from 43 ft at 53S 170W (188 degs HI, 207 CA and shadowed in NCal, but clear in SCal). This system to be gone after that with winds fading from 35 kts and seas from previous fetch fading from 35 ft at 52S 1621W (182 degs HI, 203 degs NCal and unshadowed, 204 degs SCal and unshadowed). Limited swell tracking northeast given the storms mostly easterly trajectory.       

Another New Zealand Storm (4th Swell)
On Fri AM (10/9) another gale generated a small area of 50 kt west winds and seas to 37 ft at 56S 162E (214 degs and not shadowed in NCal, but shadowed in SCal, barely in the 201 deg window for HI).  Fetch faded from 40 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 36 ft at 55S 175E (193 degs HI, 213 degs and not shadowed in NCal, but shadowed in SCal). 35 kt west winds held on into Sat AM (10/10) producing 30 ft seas at 54S 175W (190 degs HI, 208 degs SCal and unshadowed but shadowed in NCal).  This system was gone after that. Yet one more small swell might result but at a very oblique angle relative to HI. 

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri (10/16) building to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs later (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell holding Sat (10/17) at 1.8 ft @ 16 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell fading Sun AM (10/18) from 1.4 ft @ 15 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195-200 degs.

California: Expect swell arrival Mon AM (10/19) with period 18 secs pushing 1.5 ft @ 17 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell continuing Tues AM (10/20) at 1.8 ft @ 16-17 secs early (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell peaking Wed AM (10/21) at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft) Swell Direction: 214 degrees 


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 remnants of the a broad but weak low in the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend are to theoretically redevelop with some more vigor in the North Gulf on Tues AM (10/20) producing a decent fetch of 40 kt northwest winds and seas building to 20 ft up at 52N 151W.  Winds building to 40 kts in the evening with 24 ft seas at 53N 148W on the 316 degree track to NCal but mainly aimed at Pacific Northwest. Something to monitor. 

And the tropics to be active as well (see Tropical Update)

Semi tropical energy is to be streaming east from Japan on Mon (10/19) and starting to develop while reaching the dateline Tues (10/20). This system is to continue on an east-northeast track into Thurs (10/22) positioned in the Central Gulf but never generating any real fetch in it's south quadrant. Still this is to be one to monitor.

South Pacific

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

More details to follow...


Strong WWB Hangs on in Equatorial West Pacific
Kelvin Wave #4 Builds - Surface Warm Pool Solid

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:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Tues (10/15) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated strong west winds (not anomalies) from 165E-175E north and south of the equator.  A small pocket of northwest winds at 18-20 kts were in the heart of the KWGA at 178E lesser west winds to 167E. No other west winds were in the KWGA. Anomalies continued very strong from the west from 170E to 170W in the heart of the KWGA. This Westerly Wind Burst started on Thurs (10/1) and continues today in full effect. Comparing this one to the massive WWB in late June-early July, this one appears to be exceeding it. Impressive. This pattern has been in control in some form since 9/2, intensified some 9/17 and holding, and then intensified again on 10/1 (to WWB status). This pattern has been 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. Most impressive.   
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies and west winds are forecast to hold while lifting north out of the KWGA on Sun AM (10/18) aided by the interaction of a Rossby Wave positively reinforcing the El Nino base state. After that west winds are to cease and be r.cgiaced with a generally light flow likely resulting in more anomalies through Thurs (10/22), but nowhere near the verocitly of what is occurring and has been occurring since 10/1. In short, the WWB is to end on Sun (10/1). It's been a great run. 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 setting up a new distinct Kelvin Wave (#4), moving into 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 then 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 9/29 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper.  And then strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1 and have held through 10/13, resulting in a defined WWB event. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. We certainly have had a lot of that so far this year.  

Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here

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: As of 10/15: 
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral signal over the equatorial dateline region typical of a maturing El Nino. Both the Statistic and Dynamic model suggests an Inactive pattern over the far West Pacific with no MJO pattern over the dateline and east of there and that is to hold for for the next 15 days. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of weak 'MJO-like' signal building over Africa and the west Indian Ocean over the next 2 weeks. In reality, this is likely not the MJO, but likely an enhanced El Nino base state westerly wind burst starting now.
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. Clearly that is not the case. We are ignoring this model.        
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The current WWB and supposed Active Phase of the MJO is to dissipate in the next 72 hours. Beyond the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to take over 10/21-11/24 but with a Rossby Wave passing through it near 11/4 and yet another starting 11/24 resulting in stronger west anomalies. The net result is to still be westerly anomalies driven by the El Nino base state, just weaker than what is occurring today. The Active Phase of the MJO is forecast again starting 12/10 driving stronger west anomalies aided by a Rossby Wave on 12/14 with another WWB possible then and holding as the Active Phase builds in through early January. That seems a bit far fetched, but this ENSO event has been unpredictable. The El Nino base state is now the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec)  It is assumed this current WWB will produce one more defined Kelvin Wave with anomalies behind that continuing to fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into Dec. As of this run of the model core westerly anomalies are to remain strong, but start easing east in the early Jan timeframe. This would shut down the warm water conveyor, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay. At a minimum, 3-4 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 unless you're back in 1997. This even clearly exceeds the '82 event.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (10/15) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 134W and continuing to make limited headway daily. The 28 deg Isotherm reaches east to 124W (easing east). Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from 180W eastward and expanding in areal coverage significantly. +4 deg anomalies cover from 158W eastward (falling east some), the direct effect of the massive June-July WWB #3 and non-stop westerly anomalies ever since (WWB #4). A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal temps continue erupting into the Galapagos. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +7 degs anomalies centered at 110W (building) with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 148W to Ecuador (steady). This pocket is a mixture of warm water from Kelvin Wave #2 merging with water from strong Kelvin Wave #3 and more warm water moving in from the dateline (Kelvin Wave #4). The pipe is wide open and warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline and into this reservoir. This is a best case scenario. Warm waters appears to be erupting west of the Galapagos per the hi-res subsurface animation (10/10) at primarily 105W at +4C with +3 deg C surface movement of the warm pool from 145W to 97W (steady).  Slightly cooler water was building in coverage between the Galapagos and Ecuador.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (10/10) It is building depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170E (expanding). Peak anomalies were +15 cm extending from 95W to 150W and reaching from 5N to 5S (expanding significantly again since 10/5). +5 cm anomalies are pushing into Ecuador. 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 (10/10) it indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady between 178E and the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies have expanded significantly easing east from 178W eastward (a major expansion west) attributable to the current WWB and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are building to 155W (expanding). A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 144W-->102W (retreating in the east). No +2.5 deg anomalies are present (yet). 1.5-2.0 anomalies continue pushing into Ecuador but with a few pixels of 1.0-1.5 anomalies encroaching at 88W. Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway. This is very good news. But the focus remains westward di.cgiaced (bit nowhere near as much as '82).    

A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. The third and strongest of all is erupting, but somewhat westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. 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 were 2.5+ months of warm water in this reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). A now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4 in the Nino 1.2 region but that was revised to 11/4 (due to the Upwelling Phase materializing). And another WWB occurred resulting in another Kelvin Wave (#4), which should peak 2.5 months from now, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month or more after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, is marked and historically strong. And with the current WWB/Kelvin Wave in development, a more aggressive face of this El Nino is now appearing.  

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
(10/15) Overall the picture is solid and unchanged in the past 2 weeks. Warmer waters are building up into Central America and holding south into Peru and filling the Nino3.4 region nicely. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water from Ecuador to 140W. The pattern is getting better defined and is exhibiting more concentration compared to previous weeks. The overall signature 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 and coverage in Nino1.2.  Coverage south of the equator is not growing any down the Peruvian coast, and cannot complete with '97 in that regard. Along the West African Coast, cool water continues there but is steadily loosing ground. This is not a worry at this point in the cycle and the same thing happened during the '97 event. 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 (Maritime Continent) and getting cooler, typical of a strong El Nino. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.  
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (10/15) things are holding steady. Over the past 5 days temps have not lost ground in the core area between the Galapagos and Ecuador and if anything have built with a new pocket of +4 deg anomalies depicted. But around the edges to the south temps have retreated. A tiny cool pocket north of the Galapagos is effectively gone. All this suggests the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward di.cgiaced, with the Nino 1.2 region being just a collateral pocket of warming. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since. Given its been 3.0 months, and warming has not redeveloped to previous levels, di.cgiacement still remains the operative e.cgianation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (10/14) Anomalies are steady since 10/2, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal.  Today's reading was +3.62 degs. A recent crash in temps on 10/1 was attributable to the tiny cool pocket just east of the Galapagos. But that is all but gone now. 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 9/16 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 then anomalies stabilized at +4.0 degs. Temps dipped to 3.1 degs on 10/1, then rebuilt to the +3.4-3.8 degs by 10/3 and has held through today. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (10/14): A little warming has occurred in 2 small pockets either side of the Galapagos, with additional small warm pockets from there to the dateline. No cool pockets were indicated. This is the usual ebb and flow of El Nino.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(10/14) The latest image remains impressive and is effectively unchanged in the past 5 days. We are back in a good.cgiace, similar to where we were weeks ago with a solid pool of warm surface water unbroken, advecting west from from the Galapagos at +2.25 degs reaching west to at least 160W. Previous weakness near 155W has been completely refilled. Within the large warm pool, 1 pocket of +4 deg anomalies is present west of the Galapagos at 106 but is steadily loosing some coverage. This is attributable to the normal ebb and flow of Kelvin Wave eruption. This pockets is the main eruption point of Kelvin Wave #3. (see previous image here 9/28 and 9/30). Previously +2.25 anomalies reached west 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 8/30 solidly. But a breakup started on 9/5 at 155W, regrouped 9/15 and held to 9/23, faded some, but has now rebuilt and exceeded the original peak as of 10/2. 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 now underway having already refilled the area west of 150W, with much more to come.
Hi-res Overview: (10/14) 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. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos has stabilized since 9/28 though it continues to fluctuate east of the Galapagos. About 3 pockets of 4 degree anomalies are strung from Ecuador to the west (down from 5 last report), the vent ports for Kelvin Wave #3. Temps between 160W-180W are rebuilding now but we're still trying to regain the peak levels from 9/16. With westerly anomalies and a WWB in the West Pacific, that seems to be helping the situation. Given the subsurface situation, surface water temps should be raging. They were in a holding pattern if not backsliding from 9/20-9/28, but are finally improving. This is good.


Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
(Based on Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp Anomalies)

Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & OISSTv4 (right) This years data valid through Sept.
Left image suggests 2015 is already the third strongest El Nino in recorded history (beat only by '82 and '97). The right image suggests it's the 6th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the strongest or 2nd strongest for this time of year.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
(Click to enlarge)

OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image


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 155E (steady). +1.5 deg anomalies are steady in the west with the core unbroken temps at 180W. There is also a massive embedded area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 170W with a previous pocket to +3.0 deg redeveloping over a broad area at 137W to 106W. Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily Index Temps: (10/15) Temps though down, are steady the past week, at 2.22 today, down from +2.581 on 10/8. They bottomed out at +1.265 degs on 9/15, and have been slowly rebuilding ever since. This 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, and are solid today.  
Nino 3.4 Daily Index Temps: Temps are steady here at +2.179 today, up from +1.824 on 10/8, but still down from the all time peak of +2.44 on 10/3. Previously temps were up from +2.037 on 10/1 and +2.077 on 9/17. The previous all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). That was crushed on 10/3. By any standard we are at a Strong El Nino levels. We expect these temps to continue upward for the foreseeable future. (Note: These temps are ERSSTv.4 - biased low compared to OISSTv.2). 

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(Click to enlarge)

SST Image

This years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event, but not as strongly so. The main evidence for this is the continued eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos with weakened warming east of there.  This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 120W. 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 10/11 the current was moderate but not overtly impressive. The current is pushing modestly west to east only north of the equator from 125E to 140W, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 120W then fading out. A stream of weak to modest east current was in pockets over and just south of the equator from 90W to 140W. 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 165E to 150W, then fading. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated on the equator at 140W.  But weak west anomalies were mainly in control on the equator from 130W to 110W. This is reasonably impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 150E to 130W on and north of the equator.   

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 For the model run 10/13 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have supposedly already occurred on 10/1 at +2.08 degrees. +1.95 degs anomalies to hold till Dec 1, then a big crash is to occur. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the Kelvin Wave #3 below and developing Kelvin Wave #4, we suspect this projection is well on the low side. Uncorrected data suggests a peak to +2.55 degs in Nov, then starting a fast fall. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peak in Dec.
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 finally looks like Kelvin Wave #3 is having a good impact in this area now (10/3) but it has hurt the overall coverage compared to '97. But compared to the other super El Nino in '82, this years event crushes it. We continue solidly.cgiaced between '97 and '82. There could be no better.cgiace to be.

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (10/15): Was falling at -31.50. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14. 
30 Day Average: Was steady at -22.65. The peak low was recorded 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.  
90 Day Average: Was falling from -19.22 (10/15) beating the previous record low of -18.56 on 9/16. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -18.96 on 10/13. 
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): High pressure was weakening over this area on Thurs (10/15) but a new high pressure system is to be building over Southeast Aust on Sat (10/17), fading some with more high pressure expected in.cgiay by Wed (10/21).   
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): Local low pressure was moving southeast and away from Tahiti on Thurs (10/15) likely helping to push the recent well negative SOI values. This is exactly the pattern one wants to see if a Super El Nino is in development. Continuous local lows near or over Tahiti.  Weak high pressure is forecast building in the area into Mon (10/19) but fading with a short lived low pressure starting to build south of Tahiti on Tues (10/20), fading Thurs (10/22).
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of moderately negative SOI values, higher than today.           
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 co.cgiing though not great, 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 starting 10/9, the south flow has rebuilt some. Per the GFS model the southerly flow is being suppressed by high pressure exiting over New Zealand. No clear signs of south winds are forecast until Sun (10/18) holding for a few days, fading then returning on Thurs (10/22). It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the required southerly surface flow in the Tasman Sea. 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 and in.cgiay up to today. 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): (10/15) today's value strengthen some to +2.33. It has been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks now with only minor fluctuation. 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, then down to 
2.02 on 9/29. 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) (Sept) The current ranking is up again, rising from +2.37 (Aug) to +2.53 (Sept) or up 0.16 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 continue between the '82 and '97 events but closer 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 (10/15) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet has started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, but nothing remarkable yet. Previously the jet has not at all looked like it is influenced by El Nino, so this is an upgrade. Given the slow nature of this El Nino, the slow response by the jetstream should not be unexpected. 

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

Conclusion: 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 the PDO was dictating the change from a cool regime to warmer pattern. 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 the classic El Nino feedback loop is in effect, with the atmosphere and the ocean well co.cgied and reinforcing and feeding the El Nino pattern at a global scale.    

The 2015 El Nino pattern continues to build in fits and starts, most recently hampered by 'The Pause/Upwelling Phase of the Kevin Wave cycle ' that occurred in August and continued in Nino1.2 through Sept. Even in spite of that, El Nino continued to evolve. Temps in the Nino 3.4 region today have surpassed their previous peak and expected to only build as massive Kelvin Wave #3 continues erupting focused mainly west of the Galapagos but showing signs of building east of there. The big question remains concerning how strong will this El Nino become. That is a function of anomalies 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 has taken it's sweet time getting organized, in fit's and starts, but is on a roll recently. We expect peak warming in Nino1.2 to occur on 11/4 with peak warmth reaching Nino3.4 a month later. That would.cgiace this event as a late bloomer, more in line with the '82 than '97. Either way, they were both Super El Ninos, and we're well on track to reach that status.

The longer El Nino threshold temperatures persist, the longer it will take proportionally to dissipate. The atmosphere responds very slowly to change. but once changed, it doesn't turn back to it's previous configuration quickly. 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 with a peak in mid-Oct, and another Kelvin Wave results, it would not arrive in Ecuador till mid-Jan, 2016, and not reach NIno 3.4 till mid-Feb that would mean a total duration of El Nino temps in the Nino3.4 region of 16 months. The character of this even is slow and steady but persistent. That is a good thing, in that it could slow the inevitable transition to La Nina until later in the winter of 2016-2107. And all data suggest this one is in the same league as both '97 and '82, just different in it's evolution. There no guarantee of this outcome, but all data suggests this is the trajectory we are on.

With the jetstream starting to come online, the final transition in the atmosphere appears to be underway. Still any direct influence from El Nino will probably occur later in the Fall rather than earlier. Continue preparations. 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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