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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, October 27, 2015 9:14 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
4.0 - California & 5.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 10/26 thru Sun 11/1

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   

Swell #1 Hits Hawaii
Bound for CA - Gale #2 Develops West of Dateline

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 27, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 11.9 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 8.6 ft @ 13.5 secs from 339 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 14.6 secs. Wind southwest 2 kts. Water temperature 70.9 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.1 ft @ 12.9 secs from 249 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.1 ft @ 14.9 secs from 212 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.7 ft @ 14.7 secs from 205 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 14.0 secs with swell 4.0 ft @ 9.1 secs from 309 degrees. Wind northwest 14-16 kts. Water temp 63.1 degs.


    Buoy 46059 has been reactivated.
    Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.
    Hi-res Buoys New!

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (10/27) in North and Central CA residual Gulf windswell was producing waves in the chest high.cgius range and chopped from northwest winds. Down in Santa Cruz the same windswell was producing waves in the shoulder to head high.cgius range and clean but warbled from too high a tide. In Southern California up north local limited Gulf windswell was producing waves in the waist high range on occasion and clean. Down south background southern hemi swell was producing chest high sets with decent lines and clean conditions but also too high a tide. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the first real solid swell of the season with Gulf swell producing surf at 11 ft Hawaiian but a little warbled early. The South Shore was still getting southern hemi swell with waves head high and clean and lined up. The East Shore was getting north swell too with waves 3 ft overhead but chopped from trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific swell from a gale in the Western Gulf on Mon (10/26) with 40+ ft seas was hitting the Islands solid and bound for the US West Coast. Residual swell from a previous gale off the CA coast was still providing waves over North and Central CA.  

Looking at the forecast charts another gale is churning off the Kuril Islands bound for the dateline and enhanced some as it absorbed Typhoon Champi producing up to 41 ft seas aimed east. Hawaii is expected to do well from this one. A bit of a break to follow with maybe a low off the Pacific Northwest late in the weekend producing 20 ft seas, and then another storm is forecast for the north dateline region a week out. The pattern is improving.  

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

North Pacific

On Tues AM (10/27) the jet was fragmented over Asia but most energy was tracking east on the 40N latitude line forming a bit of a trough over the dateline with 150 kt winds but on the east side of the trough rather than the more productive west side, resulting in limited support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere.  From there the jet continued east but fragmented 500 nmiles off Oregon with 50% of the wind energy tracking up into Alaska and the rest pushing into North CA.  In all a rather limited pattern supportive of gale development was occurring. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to actually build a little while tracking east into the Gulf of Alaska into Thurs (10/29) then quickly dissipate with a ridge instead building off the US West Coast with the jet lifting north and pushing into British Columbia by Friday. Back to the west and massive .cgiit in the jet is forecast just off the Kuril Islands on Fri (10/30) with alot of the energy tracking up into the North Bering Sea. This will stomp on any odds for gale development occurring for a bit. Beyond 72 hours the .cgiit is to persist focused on the dateline into Mon (11/2) but the .cgiit flow is to consolidate over the Pacific Northwest on Mon 911/2) while falling south forming a backdoor trough reaching south to Pt Conception on Tues (11/3). It will be all over land but might help generate some cold precipitation at elevation with luck. And back to the west a new trough is to be building just off the North Kuril Islands on Tuesday perhaps helping to support gale formation there. 

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday AM (10/27) swell from a storm that formed in the Gulf of Alaska was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Gulf Storm #1 below). At the same time a gale started building over the Kuril Islands tracking east (see Dateline Gale below).  

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

Gulf Storm #1
A small storm started building just south of the Eastern Aleutians Sun AM (10/25) producing a tiny area of 60 kt northwest winds with seas building from 34 ft at 48N 163W. By evening 50 kt west winds were falling south-southeast generating 43 ft seas at 45N 162W (352 degs HI, 297 degs NCal, 303 degs SCal). On Mon AM (10/28) fetch was fading fast from 40 kts from the west aimed east with seas fading from 37 ft at 43N 158W (359 degs HI, 293 degs NCal, 300 degs SCal). 35 kt west fetch was fading fast Mon PM with 27 ft seas at 42N 151W (293 degs NCal, 301 degs SCal). A quick fade followed. A solid pulse of longer period swell is to result, with sideband energy for Hawaii and most targeting the US West Coast. 

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tues midday (10/27) with period 19 secs and size building fast. Swell to peak near 7 PM at 9.0 ft @ 17 secs (15 ft Hawaiian). Swell to continue overnight fading Wed AM (10/28) from at 7.0 ft @ 15 secs (10.5 ft Hawaiian) early and fading from there.  Swell Direction: 350+ degrees    

NCal: Expect swell arrival on Wed AM (10/28) with period 18 secs and size building fast. Swell to peak near 1 PM at 8.5 ft @ 17 secs (15 ft Hawaiian). Swell to continue overnight fading from 7.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (11 ft Hawaiian)  early and fading from there.  Swell Direction: 293-296 degrees    

SCal: Expect swell arrival on Thurs AM (10/29) peaking mid-day at 3.7 ft @ 16-17 secs (6 ft faces). Residuals on Fri AM (10/30) fading from 2.9 ft @ 14 secs (4 ft faces) early. Swell Direction: 300-303 degrees

Dateline Gale (#2)
Also on Sun (10/25) a cold core low was developing over the Kuril Islands starting to absorb Typhoon Champi positioned a bit southeast of it in the far West Pacific. On Sun AM winds in the cold core system built to 55 kts but locked over the Kuril Islands with limited 50 kt fetch extending east of there with seas to 30 ft over a small area just east of the Central Kurils. In the evening more of the same occurred wind wise but with those winds were getting better traction on the small area of ocean east of the Kurils with seas building to 39 ft at 45N 153E targeting Hawaii. By Mon AM (10/26) the gale had 50 kt northwest winds becoming decently exposed east of the Kuril Islands generating 41 ft seas up at 44N 155E targeting Hawaii (313 degs HI, 303 degs NCal) and continuing east into the evening with northwest winds fading in coverage from 40-45 kts generating 37 ft seas at 43N 162E (312 degs HI, 301 degs NCal). By Tues AM (10/27) fetch was holding while tracking east at 40 kts half way to the dateline producing 34 ft seas at 41N 171E (313 degs HI, 296 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal) all aimed east. Winds to be fading from 35 kts but over a solid area in the evening with seas 31 ft at 39N 179E (317 degs HI, 291 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal) targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. This system is to fade from there while moving to the dateline Wed AM (10/28) with seas fading from 26 ft at 39N 173W (329 degs HI, 288 degs NCal, 293 degs SCal). A nice pulse of longer period swell is possible for Hawaii if this were to come to pass with smaller energy for the US West Coast.

Hawaii:  Rough data suggests swell arrival on the North Shore of Oahu on Thurs (10/29) with period 19 secs and size building to 6 ft @ 18 secs late (11 ft Hawaiian). Swell to peak at sunrise on Fri (10/30) at 8.7 ft @ 17 secs (15 ft Hawaiian) and holding well through the day. Swell Direction: 313 degrees   

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


Tropical Update (as of Tues AM 10/27) 
Olaf on Tues AM (10/27) was down to tropical storm status with winds 40 kts stalled mid-way between Hawaii and Southern CA and no longer offering any fetch of interest. It is to continue to decay and loose its identify in the next 36 hours holding roughly at its current position. No swell production forecast from it. 


California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues AM (10/27) a weak front associated with low pressure in the Gulf was poised off the Pacific Northwest with the trailing extending south to a point a bit off of Pt Arena CA.  A generally light wind pattern was in control of CA coastal waters. Light rain is expected to start moving inland from the front from North CA down to Bodega Bay over night Tuesday with sprinkles to the SF Bay Area Wed AM. The front from this low is to mostly dissolve off the coast Wed (10/28) with light winds forecast, then high pressure is to start building nearshore late with north winds 20 kts over Pt Conception and 15 kts up to Pt Arena by 4 PM Wed. High pressure builds Thurs (10/29) with north winds 20-25 kts for all of Central CA up to Pt Arena, building to the Oregon border later in the day and holding at 20 kts Friday. By Saturday a lighter north flow is forecast but still at 15 kts for all of Central CA then fading early Sunday as a new front moves in. Rain to start in North CA on Sunday AM reaching Monterey Bay late afternoon. then moving inland with light snow for Tahoe later afternoon. By Sunday evening north winds to again be the norm at 20 kts for all of North and Central CA building into Southern CA Monday AM and holding into Tuesday. Cold rain is forecast again starting north Monday AM pushing south to Pismo Beach in the evening with snow for Tahoe all day. 


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Tues AM (10/27) swell from a solid storm previously under New Zealand was hitting California and fading. 

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch if interest is forecast. The season appears to be over.


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 a gale is forecast developing just off the Canada coast on Sun AM (11/1) producing a broad swath of 30-35 kt northwest winds at 20 ft seas at 47N 138W (315 degs NCal)  initially targeting the Pacific Northwest with fetch pushing south to North Oregon with seas 20 ft in the evening at 44N 133W (315 degs NCal) and then fetch dropping from 30 kts on Mon AM (11/2) with 18 ft seas along the Oregon Coast and of no use to California other than Cape Mendocino. Possible north angled 13 secs periods well to result for exposed breaks in CA.

Also a small storm is to develop in the far Northwest Pacific on Tues (11/3) with 55 k northwest winds and seas 40+ ft over a small area targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast.  Something to monitor.   

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no solid swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  A gale is forecast to generate 36 ft seas on Sun (11/1) but aimed due east if not somewhat southeast. No swell of interest to result. 

More details to follow...


Nino3.4 Daily Temps Back Off Slightly
West Wind Holds on Dateline - For Now

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 (10/27) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated light west winds on the equator from 165W to the dateline. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, a small area of west winds at 12 kts was on the intersection of the equator and the dateline reaching east to 170W (see New! East Kelvin Wave Generation Area Wind Model here). Anomalies were moderate to strong from the west from the dateline to 160W and modest eastward to 145W and weak to 120W. Nice solid anomalies still. 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 instead of 8.  
1 Week Forecast:The CFS model indicates strong west anomalies between the dateline and 140W holding into Tues (11/2), then fading in coverage, though most of this is to be east of the KWGA. The GFS indicates west winds at 5-10 kts holding on the equator/dateline region through Thurs (10/29) then going calm. Calm winds to hold in the KWGA from then through 11/4. So for the next 2 days, another mini WWB is expected with west anomalies following. 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. And another small WWB started further east on 10/22. 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 wind monitoring model: West and East New!

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 10/24: 
OLR Models: Indicate a neutral signal over the equatorial dateline region typical of a maturing El Nino. But the Inactive Phase is to be getting awfully close approaching from the north. Both model depict this pattern holding for the next 8 days, then dissolving. Both the Statistic and Dynamic model suggests an Inactive pattern is in.cgiay over the far West Pacific and that pattern is to hold for for the next 15 days, typical of the pa classic El Nino base state circulation. Also an Active MJO Pattern is over the Central Indian Ocean and is to hold it's position if not easing east over the next 2 weeks. 
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of building 'MJO-like' active signal building over the West Indian Ocean and easing east over the next 2 weeks, consistent with the OLR models above.  
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): An Inactive MJO is supposedly starting to take control over the dateline region and is to track east 11/28. West anomalies are to reach peak weakness 11/1-11/7, then start rebuilding 11/11 as a Rossby Wave moves into the area with west anomalies rebuilding into 11/25, strengthening more 11/25 into 12/6 as the Active Phase of the MJO returns to the dateline area too.  The Active Phase of the MJO is forecast holding and continuing decent west anomalies through December and 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 has produced 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: (10/27) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 133W and continuing to make limited daily east headway. The 28 deg Isotherm is steady at 125W. Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are bulging from 178W eastward and drifting east. +4 deg anomalies cover from 153W eastward (moving east), the result of 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 +6-7 degs anomalies retrograded to 130W and rebuilding with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 140W to Ecuador (collapsing some). This pocket is a combination of water from strong Kelvin Wave #3 and the addition of 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 water appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos per the hi-res subsurface animation (10/20) primarily at +3 degs from 140W to 100W (shrinking some). No +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (10/20) It is holding depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170E (holding). Peak anomalies previously at +20 cm are no longer on the chart. +15 cm anomalies extending from 105W to 157W and reaching from 5N to 5S (steady). +5 cm anomalies are pushing almost to Ecuador but do not reach the coast. +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: (10/20) 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 174W eastward (holding) attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are building to 160W (steady). A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 153W-->111W (expanding in the west). No +2.5 deg anomalies are present). 1.5-2.0 anomalies are now no longer pushing into Ecuador (only 1.0-1.5 degs anomalies). The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway in the west while di.cgiacement to the west is preventing 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
(10/26) Overall the picture remains solid but is not getting any more defined. Warmer waters are building up into Central America but retracting from the coast down into Peru while advecting west.  The big change over the past 2-3 weeks remains a solid 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 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, but is still very solid. Along the West African Coast, cool water is all but 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. Cool water is building its strength and coverage over North Australia extending north of New Guinea and up into the Philippines and east almost to the dateline (Maritime Continent), 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 (10/26) things are steady but not impressive. Over the past 5 days temps have retreated along the Ecuador coast but are holding down the Peruvian Coast. A pocket of +4 deg anomalies is depicted holding east of the Galapagos. A cool pocket previously east of the Galapagos is gone. 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. Today's 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: (10/26) Anomalies have been steady since 10/2, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal.  Today's reading was +4.1 degs, and consistent with the recent norm. For the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is west of the Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (10/26): A little warming has occurred in one small pocket east of the Galapagos, with additional small warm pockets just west of the Galapagos extending to the dateline.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(10/26) The latest image remains impressive and has built in girth over the past 7 days with a solid coverage of warm anomalies in the west and east ends of this area. We are in a very good.cgiace, and have beat the previous peak set on 9/19 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 and building in girth. Temps between 160W-180W continue about stationary and are on par with peak levels from 9/19 if not beating it. Within the large warm pool, 3 pocket of +4 deg anomalies are holding west of the Galapagos at 120W, 115W and 98W (see previous image here 9/28 and 9/30). This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #1, #2 and #3, though mostly attributable to #3. 
Hi-res Overview: (10/26) 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. And it beats anything so far in this event too. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos has weakened since 9/19, when it was peaking, but that warm water has advected west. 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 vent ports has been fading since, but are not over, occasionally reappearing. There were none on 10/19, but as of today 3 small ports are in.cgiay. Still, 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 (with a few +4 deg pockets). 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 150E (steady). +1.5 deg anomalies are steady in the west reaching unbroken to 180W. There is also a fragmented area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 175W but most concentrated from 145W to 100W (shrinking dramatically). A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies has reappeared at 117W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (10/27) Temps are falling hard, down at +1.026 today and down from +1.843 on 10/23, 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 CDAS Index Temps: Temps have fallen a little today at + 2.203, dropping some from the all time peak for this event at +2.512 (10/24 06z) besting the previous record of +2.468 (10/20), up from +1.824 on 10/8, and beating the previous peak of +2.44 on 10/3. The 30 day running average is at 2.0 degs with the Oct average at 2.1 degs. If those Oct readings were to hold they would be on par with '97 and '82. The new peak 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 10/27 the current was moderate from the west but not overtly impressive. The current is pushing modestly west to east mostly north of the equator from 125E to 120W, with a large pocket of solid westerly velocity from 165E to 140W. There were 2 pockets of east current at  90W and 120W but tiny in coverage. 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 120W but a little fragmented, then fading. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated south of the equator at 125W and another at 140E.  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:
 We are disregarding this charts from here forward. The last run we reviewed run on 10/24 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have supposedly already occurred on 10/1 at +2.2 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 we continue monitoring.  It looks more realistic suggesting 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 average 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 (10/24 - HAS NOT UPDATED): Was falling from -14.80. 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 -21.34. 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 -19.12. 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 Tues (10/27) but is forecast to weakly rebuild by Thurs (10/29) then fading some by Sat (10/31) wit no strong return indicated.  It looks like the Inactive Phase of the MJO really is in.cgiay in some very weak form.       
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 10/27 a weak low pressure cell continued building south of Tahiti and is forecast holding if not slowly building until Thurs (10/29). This will push the SOI negative. high pressure is to start building there after into Mon (11/2), then falling some. 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 slowly building negative SOI values.           
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 south flow was fading. Per the GFS model a weak southerly flow is in.cgiay and forecast to hold into Sun (11/1), then fading for a day or two only to return by Tues (11/3).  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): (10/27) today's value faded some to +1.90, and has been trending down since a reading of +2.40 on Sat (10/17), but still well within the average of late (which is well above normal). 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 (10/27) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet has started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, looking decent but not exceptional yet. Previously (before 10/14) the jet has did not at all look to be 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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