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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 7:31 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
2.5 - California & 2.5 - 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 10/19 thru Sun 10/25

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   

Another Gulf Gale Develops
North Pacific To Wake Up Next Week

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 Tuesday, October 20, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.0 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 2.2 ft @ 12.6 secs from 321 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 7.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 16.6 secs. Wind northwest 6-8 kts. Water temperature 71.8 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.7 ft @ 10.3 secs from 262 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.9 ft @ 15.2 secs from 224 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.0 ft @ 16.7 secs from 222 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.4 ft @ 9.1 secs with swell 5.3 ft @ 9.3 secs from 295 degrees. Wind northwest 10-14 kts. Water temp 63.7 degs.


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

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (10/20) in North and Central CA Gulf windswell was producing surf in the shoulder to maybe head high range at top spots with clean conditions but a fair amount of warble in the water. Down in Santa Cruz background southern hemi swell was producing surf in the chest high range on the sets at better breaks and clean. In Southern California up north Gulf windswell was producing surf in the waist to chest high range and pretty consistent but a little wonky even though conditions were clean. Down south southern hemi swell swell was producing waves in the chest high range and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northwest windswell in the chest high range at top spots on the sets and clean with light trades in effect. The South Shore was getting more southern hemi swell with waves head high and lined up and clean when they come. The East Shore had no real surf of interest with waves less than 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 a new small gale is starting to develop in the Northern Gulf of Alaska tracking east with seas forecast building to 28 ft on Wed (10/21) offering potential to generate swell for British Columbia down into the Pacific Northwest reaching south to Central CA. Southern hemi swell from a small but reasonably strong storm previously under New Zealand was hitting the US West Coast. And another southern hemi swell was in the water targeting Hawaii later in the work week and the US West Coast for the weekend. And 2 tropical systems were in.cgiay, one east of Hawaii and another in the far West Pacific.  

Looking at the forecast charts both tropical systems are to contribute to swell production in the days ahead with the West Pacific storm supposedly going extratropical while recurving east and moving over the dateline. El Nino has received a recent bump in  vigor with Westerly Wind Burst #4 fading but the resulting Kelvin Wave starting to to show on subsurface charts. Kelvin Wave #3 has done all it is going to and is on the decline. 

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

North Pacific

On Tues AM (10/20) the jet was consolidated but weak pushing due east off Japan with winds to 110 kts but fading some as it pushed over the dateline reaching the Central Gulf of Alaska, then ridged north pushing into North British Columbia. A bit of a backdoor trough was extending barely out over the Pacific over Southern CA, then moving back inland over North Baja. No troughs of interest were present but the consolidated flow was centered at 40N over the bulk of the Pacific, well south and suggestive of some influence by El Nino. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast but with a pocket of 160 kt winds building just west of the dateline on Thurs (10/22) perhaps supporting formation of a trough in the Gulf on Friday evening (10/23) offering some support for gale development there. otherwise a flat/zonal flow is to persist. Beyond 72 hours a more invigorated pattern is to develop with winds again building to 160 kts over the Western Gulf with a trough building there on Sun (10/25) and another trough building over the North Kuril Islands. Both are to be pushing east with the Gulf trough quickly pinching off and being non-productive but the Kuril Island trough holding together while reaching the dateline Mon-Tues (10/27) offering some support for gale development. And yet another trough is to be building over the Kurils.  It looks like the storm production machine is trying to get itself organized.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday AM (10/20) a nice little gale was winding up in the Western Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below). Two tropical systems of interest were being tracked, one east of the Philippines and another well southeast of Hawaii (see Tropical Update below).

Over the next 72 hours the Gulf Gale to be the main focus, but two other system are projected coming into.cgiay. A small pocket of tropical weather was racing over the dateline on Tues (10/20) and is to finally stall and try and consolidate off the North CA coast on Fri AM (10/23) generating 35-40 kt north winds targeting Hawaii. By Fri evening 35-40 kt northwest winds are to start wrapping into the gales south quadrant getting traction and generating 19 ft seas at 38N 142W targeting the US West Coast. 35-40 kt northwest winds to hold Sat AM (10/24) while lifting slightly northeast and approaching the North CA and Oregon coasts with seas building to 22 ft over a tiny area at 42N 140W (292 degs NCal and 850 nmiles out). The gale is to be lifting northeast in the evening with winds fading from 35 kts and seas 22 ft at 43N 134W (303 degs NCal). This system is to be moving into Oregon on Sun AM (10/25).  Something to monitor. 

Also another small fetch of  35 kt west winds is to be tracking through the Western Gulf just south of the Aleutians Fri (10/23) into Sat AM (10/24) with peak seas 22 ft over a tiny area at 50N 158W targeting the Pacific Northwest. Something to monitor.    

Gulf Gale
On Monday AM (10/19) a gale was trying to develop in the Northern Gulf with winds 30 kts in it's south and west quadrants and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By evening a fetch of 40 kt west and northwest winds were starting to circulate generating a small area of 20 ft seas up at 49N 160W targeting mainly British Columbia up into Alaska. By Tues AM (10/20) 40 kt northwest winds were holding aimed southeast with 26 ft seas taking root at 49N 154W aimed due east towards the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy down into Central CA (308 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading some but still near 40 kts Tues PM with seas building to 28 ft up at 51N 149W (311 degs NCal). By Wed AM (10/21) fetch is to be fading from 35 kts with the gale almost reaching the Canadian Coast. Seas fading from 26 ft up at 52N 143W (319 degs NCal) and moving out of the California swell window. This system is to be gone by evening. Possible swell to result for British Columbia down into the Pacific Northwest with decent utility class size even for Central CA if all comes to pass. Something to monitor.

  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 Storm Koppu was west of the Northern Philippines on Tues AM (10/20) with winds 60 kts and forecast to meander in this area, eventually lifting north towards Taiwan on Thurs (10/22).  No recurvature to the northeast is forecast meaning no swell production potential is expected for our forecast area. 

Typhoon Champi was 700 nmiles south of Central Japan on Tues AM (10/20) with winds 78 kts tracking north.  A steady turn to the northeast is forecast with Champi slowly weakening and accelerating in forward speed into Fri AM (10/23). At the same time a cold core low pressure system is to be building over the Kuril Islands, starting to absorb Champi.  See Long Term forecast for details.       

Hurricane Olaf was 1050 nmiles southeast of Hawaii on Tues AM (10/20) generating 130 kt winds tracking west-northwest. Winds to peak this evening at 135 kts, then slowly starting to fade while turning to the northwest, down to 110 kt Fri AM (10/23). Swell production is occurring targeting mainly the Big Island of Hawaii then targeting east shores of the other Islands as Olaf lifts north. Olaf is to be tracking due north on Sat (10/24) then turning north-northeast later Sunday moving to within 600 nmiles of Pt Conception by late Tues (10/27). Southwest swell generation possible relative to California depending on this storm eventual track. Something to monitor. 


California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues (10/20) high pressure at 1026 mbs was just offshore ridging northeast into Washington and generating the standard pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino resulting in north winds there at 25 kts with lesser winds at 15-20 kts off the entire CA coast. More of the same is forecast on Wednesday with reinforcing high pressure and stronger north winds forecast by Thursday wit winds pushing 30 kts over Cape Mendocino and 20 kts to San Francisco and 15 kts to Pt Conception. The gradient to rapidly dissipate Friday as low pressure builds off the coast. A light wind flow is forecast all day from Pt Arena southward. Light winds to continue Saturday and Sunday but with north winds 15 kt over Pt Conception on Sunday early building northward late. Light winds are forecast later Monday as massive local low pressure sets up off the coast. South winds building Tuesday as the low approaches.


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Tues AM (10/20) swell from a small storm previously south of New Zealand was hitting California (see Another New Zealand Storm below).  Another swell was in the water tracking northeast bound first for Hawaii and then California (see New Zealand Storm - 5th Swell below).

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch if interest is forecast.

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. 

California: Swell peaking Wed AM (10/21) at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft) Swell Direction: 214 degrees 


New Zealand Storm (5th Swell)
Another storm started 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 built to 55 kts from the west over a decent sized area but aimed due east with seas building from 45 ft at 57S 167E (200 degs HI, 215 degs CA and shadowed by Tahiti relative to SCal). 50 kt west winds continued Fri AM (10/16) pushing a little more northeast generating 47 ft seas at 56S 178E (195 degs HI, 210 degs CA and shadowed relative to SCal but NCal is to be barely clear). Fetch faded from 45 kts lifting slightly east-northeast in the evening with seas fading from 42 ft at 53S 170W (188 degs HI, 207 CA and shadowed in NCal, but clear in SCal). This system was gone after that with winds fading from 35 kts and seas from previous fetch fading from 34 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.       

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (10/22) building to 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell to peak on Fri (10/23) later at 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (4.0 ft). Swell to continue on Sat (10/24) at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft).Residuals on Sun (10/25) fading from 2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees

California: Expect swell arrival on Sat (10/24) pushing 1.6 ft @ 20 secs late (3.0 ft). Swell building Sun (10/25) pushing 2.3 ft @ 18-19 secs (4.0-4.5 ft).  Swell holding Mon (10/26) at 2.6 ft @ 17 secs early (4.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (10/27) from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 207-210 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 an interesting scenario is forecast. A cold core low is to be developing over the Kuril Islands trying to absorb Typhoon Champi in the far West Pacific  Sun-Mon (10/26). The gale is to have 50 kt northwest winds becoming exposed east of the Kuril Islands on Mon AM (10/26) generating 37 ft seas up at 46N 158E targeting Hawaii and continuing east into Tues AM (10/27) with more 37 ft seas forecast at 44N 175E at that time all aimed east. The remnants of Champi are to finally wrap into the north quadrant of this developing gale on Tues PM reinvigorating the fetch.  But the models are very dynamic concerning any specific outcome. Monitor this situation closely. 

And yet another gale is to develop off the Oregon Coast on Mon AM (10/26) and starting to absorb energy from Hurricane Olaf. A fetch of 45 kt northwest winds are forecast 1200 nmiles northwest of the North CA on Mon PM with seas building Tues AM (10/27) to 30 ft at 42N 143W targeting Central and North CA well. More to monitor. 

In short, it looks like the North Pacific is to be waking up.    

South Pacific

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

More details to follow...


Nino3.4 Daily Temps Reach New Peak
Kelvin Wave #3 Peaked on 9/19 - Kelvin Wave #4 Building

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 (10/20) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated weak west winds at 170E reaching to 175E over a small area on the equator.  Reviewing the GFS model 00hr image even that was a optimistic assessment. Anomalies were modest from the west from 165E to 160W, down much from massive anomalies a few days earlier. The strong WWB of the past 2 months has faded. Previously
a very strong WWB burst (third of the year) associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) occurred 6/24-7/17 and were followed by solid west anomalies for a 29 day window (7/19-8/19), or nearly 2 months of west anomalies or stronger. Then starting 9/2 strong west anomalies redeveloped with patches of westerly winds embedded holding to 9/17, then intensified again on 10/1 (to WWB status) holding to 10/18 and was comparable to the previous one in late June-early July, but lasting 6 weeks. 
1 Week Forecast: The CFS model indicates strong west anomalies are already developing near 165W (a bit east of the KWGA) and are to build west into Sun (10/25) with slack winds in the heart of the KWGA per the GFS model. The GFS does indicate west winds 10-12 kts starting Mon-Tues (10/27) on the dateline, but quickly fading. So for the next week, only west anomalies are forecast. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast. The thought is the anomalies are continuing to push warm water from the West Pacific to depth and the last 6 weeks worth of west winds/anomalies has set 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 (#3), the strongest of the year, started 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 #3, 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 held through 10/18, resulting in a yet another defined WWB event (#4) rivaling WWB #3 in June-July. 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 building 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 building 'MJO-like' active 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 (#4) has dissipated. No Active MJO signal is forecast for the near term and instead an Inactive MJO is signaled through 11/25. Modest west anomalies are projected in the east KWGA area building to the west from 10/20-11/24 courtesy of the base state of El Nino enhanced by a Rossby Wave. The net result is to still be westerly anomalies driven by the El Nino base state, just weaker than what has occurred in weeks past. The Active Phase of the MJO is forecast returning starting 12/1 driving stronger west anomalies aided by a Rossby Wave most of December with another WWB possible 12/15-1/5 and holding as the Active Phase continues into 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). WWB #4 is producing Kelvin Wave #4 (10/1-10/19) 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, pushing to 165W. This would shut down the warm water conveyor once anomalies start becoming centered at 170W, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay. At a minimum, 2.5 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: (10/17) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 134W and continuing to make limited daily east headway. The 28 deg Isotherm reaches east to 125W (steady). Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are fully bulging from 178W eastward and drifting east. +4 deg anomalies cover from 163W eastward (building west some), the direct effect of non-stop westerly anomalies in the Sept-Oct timeframe (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 +6 degs anomalies retrograded to 125W with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 145W to Ecuador. This pocket is now mainly 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 great scenario. Warm waters appears to be erupting west of the Galapagos per the hi-res subsurface animation (10/15) primarily near 105-115W with +3 deg surface movement of the warm pool from 150W to 100W (steady).  Slightly cooler water continues between the Galapagos and Ecuador, evidence of the westward di.cgiacement of this ENSO event. No +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (10/15) It is building depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170E (holding). Peak anomalies were +20 cm at 125W in one pocket (retreating some) and +15 cm anomalies extending from 95W to 157W and reaching from 5N to 5S. +5 cm anomalies are pushing into Ecuador while +10 cm anomalies were isolated from the Galapagos westward (evidence of the westward di.cgiacement of this El Nino event). 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 (10/15) it indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady between 180W and the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are holding easing east from 175W eastward (a major expansion west) attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are building to 156W (expanding some). A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 144W-->108W (retreating in the east). No +2.5 deg anomalies are present (yet). 1.5-2.0 anomalies continue pushing into Ecuador but with a building area of 1.0-1.5 anomalies encroaching from Ecuador to 90W. Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway in the west while di.cgiacement to the west is prevent extreme heating between the Galapagos and Ecuador. The focus remains westward di.cgiaced (but 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 so far 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. In fact, a careful analysis indicates it has peaked. 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 suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). And 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.  We revised it a few times since then, but looked back we've determined it was correct if not a little late (more below). But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month 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
(10/19) Overall the picture is solid. Warmer waters are building up into Central America and holding south into Peru while advecting west.  The big change over the past 2-3 weeks has been the increase in volume of warm water flowing into the Nino3.4 area. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water from the Galapagos west. 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 is fading out there, being r.cgiaced by neutral temp water. This is not a worry as 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 (10/19) things are improving. Over the past 5 days temps have built in coverage down the entire Peruvian Coast and up into Ecuador and a new pocket of +4 deg anomalies depicted west of Ecuador. A cool pocket previously east of the Galapagos is now moving over there and west. All this suggests the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward di.cgiaced, with occasional pockets of warmer water sneaking in, but not steadily. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since. Todays images is getting close to the 7/14 peak. But 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: (10/19) Anomalies have been steady since 10/2, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal.  Today's reading was +3.94 degs, a little above the recent norm. For the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is west of the 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 9/16 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 (10/19): A little warming has occurred in one small pockets east of  the Galapagos, with additional small warm pockets from there to the dateline but mainly near the dateline, and down the coast of Peru. This is the usual ebb and flow of El Nino.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(10/19) The latest image remains impressive and has held steady the past 5 days with a solid coverage of warm anomalies in the west end of this area. 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. Temps between 160W-180W continue  expanding in girth, and are now on par with peak levels from 9/16. Within the large warm pool, no pocket of +4 deg anomalies are present west of the Galapagos (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 Kelvin Waves #1, #2 and #3, though mostly attributable to #3. 
Hi-res Overview: (10/19) 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 weakened since 9/19, when it was peaking. A careful analysis of archived images indicates Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs  anomalies occurring at that time. The number and intensity of those eruptions warm pockets/vent ports has been fading since, and there are currently none in.cgiay (though there is a continuous +3 deg anomalies erupting, consistent with the hi-res subsurface warm pool analysis. Given that, We are saying Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 (we estimated 10/4). As those waters advect west, peak warming should therefore occur in Nino3.4 one month later, or 10/19 (right now). Still, a steady flow of +3 deg anomalies is venting and advecting. Looking at all the satellite imagery, that seems about right.  


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 (expanding west to 165E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its at 160E (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 163W (retracting some). A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies has reappeared at 115W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily Index Temps: (10/20) Temps are steady today at +2.014, have been steady the past week near 2.1 degs, down from a 5 day peak at +2.581 near 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 have reached a new all time peak for this event, climbing to +2.468 (10/20), up from +1.824 on 10/8, and beating the previous peak of +2.44 on 10/3. If today's temps held for a month, that would crush peak readings in the '82 and '97 events at their one month peaks. Just eyeballing the daily temps for the past 30 days, the running average seems centered about +2.1 degs.   having a new peak hit today is likely just coincidence, but roughly.cgiays well into the theory that Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on about 9/19.  The thought is Nino 3.4 temps are about peaked out now (until Kelvin Wave #4 starts to erupt and advect west). 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 at +2.44, and now bested on 10/20 at +2.4678. 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 10/20 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have supposedly already occurred on 10/1 at +2.15 degrees. +1.95 degs anomalies are 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 on Nov 8, then starting a fast fall. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peaking in Dec, later than what the model suggests.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Oct Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak temps between +2.3 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.45 occurring during Dec. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs, the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs and the mid-Sept between +2.1-2.5 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 (10/20): Was falling at -10.30. 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 rising some at -22.39. 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 (at -20 or lower).  
90 Day Average: Was falling from -19.28, tying the previous low. A record low of -19.28 occurred on 10/16 and was matched on 10/20. The previous record low was -18.56 on 9/16. 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 -19.28 on 10/16. 
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 fading over Southeast Aust on Tues (10/20), expected to start rebuilding by Thurs (10/22), then fading again by Sat (10/24) only to rebuild on Tues (10/27).     
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A weak local high pressure pattern was in control south of Tahiti but a short bout of weaker low pressure is expected by Thurs (10/22) but with weak high pressure again moving in on Sun (10/25) and holding. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. 

SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of slightly negative SOI values, but not strongly so.           
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 10/14-10/18, the south flow was still in.cgiay, but weak. Per the GFS model there is not strong sigh of a southerly flow developing for the next week.  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): (10/20) today's value faded some to +2.26, down from +2.40 on Sat (10/17), still exceeding the average as of late. It has been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) 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. Monthly ESPI values are as follows: July 3.76, Aug 2.34, Sept 2.1. We need to see values +3.0 or higher for the next 2 months to complete with '97.
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 (10/20) 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 (Updated 10/20): WWB #3 peaked on July 4, with the resulting Kelvin Wave peaking on Sept 19 west of the Galapagos, or a roughly 2.5 month travel time.  Likewise those warm waters advected into Nino3.4, peaking about one month later, or 10/20 (all evidenced by hi-res SST anomaly data and Nino3.4 indices). Theoretically this would be the peak of our El Nino event from an ocean perspective (and as projected by PDF corrected CFS model), with peak atmospheric influence occurring approximately 2 months later or 12/20. But yet another WWB has occurred (WWB #4) of near equal strength peaking on 10/17, which has resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. 

Using the same te.cgiate, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 1/2/2016 (westward di.cgiaced) with eruption port temps at +4-5 degs, and advecting into Nino3.4 and peaking roughly 2/2/2016 with peak atmospheric influence on approx 4/2/2016. This suggests peak atmospheric perturbation will occur in the window from 12/2/2015-4/2/2016, or well di.cgiaced later in the Winter as compared to the '97/98 event, and somewhat like the '82/83 event. 

In terms of comparative strength based on Nino3.4 temps, '97 peaked at +2.32 degs with 4 months of +2.0 degs anomalies and '82 at +2.21 degs with 2 months temps greater than +2.0 degs. 2015 is looking to produce a +2.1 degree one month average based on very rough data today, with a huge reservoir of +3-4 deg anomalies still venting to the surface and likely continuing for the next month of more, with yet another burst of warm water (Kelvin Wave #4) moving into position. 

The real question is: How much (if any) cooling will occur in Nino3.4 between the downslide up of Kevin Wave #3 and the ramp-up and peak of Kelvin Wave #4? Assuming steady state anomalies in Nino3.4 not falling below +2.0 degs in in that window, there could be 4 months of +2.0 anomalies in Nino3.4 (with higher peaks), providing a strong and long su.cgiy of energy to fuel jetstream enhancement and similar to '97 and besting '82. It's not just magnitude of the peak temps that make a difference atmospherically, but also the duration of those anomalies. The longer and stronger the anomalies, the greater the atmospheric response. At this time the expected atmospheric affects should be significant, though di.cgiaced somewhat later in the season. The above analysis is not a definitive statement, just informed speculation based on previous similar events.         

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool


External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave

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