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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, November 5, 2015 5:18 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
3.5 - California & 2.0 - 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 11/1 thru Sun 11/7

Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

Small Dateline Storm Moving to Gulf
Focus Turns to North Gulf

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
- Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.


On Thursday, November 5, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.4 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 4.0 ft @ 9.1 secs from 41 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 9.0 secs with swell 1.1 ft @ 14.3 secs. Wind east 12-14 kts. Water temperature 66.9 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.4 ft @ 10.4 secs from 254 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.2 ft @ 15.4 secs from 220 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.1 ft @ 11.3 secs from 275 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 6.0 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 4.8 ft @ 8.9 secs from 310 degrees. Wind northwest 10-12 kts. Water temp 60.1 degs.


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

Current Conditions
On Thursday (11/5) in North and Central CA residual relatively local short period north windswell was producing waves in the chest high range on the face at exposed breaks and clean early. Down in Santa Cruz the same swell was not getting in and there was not other swell of interest in the water. Surf was waist high on the sets and clean but lurpy from to much tide. In Southern California up north surf was thigh to waist high on the sets and clean with light offshore winds in control. Down south the same swell was in the waist high range and clean but weak coming from the north. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat and clean. Nothing really rideable. The South Shore was getting some wrap around swell at exposed breaks with waves thigh to waist high and clean. The East Shore was getting trade wind generated northeasterly swell with waves head high and chopped by trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific no real swell is in the water for Hawaii or California other than that mentioned below.

A small storm developed over the north dateline region on Wed (11/4) producing up to 43 ft seas and was tracking east towards the Northern Gulf of Alaska Thurs (11/5) with seas fading from 36 ft and is to push into the Gulf Friday (11/6). Some swell to result for all if this does as forecast, but most energy to target the US West Coast and Canada. Some residual fetch is to persist off British Columbia on Sat (11/7) producing up to 22 ft seas aimed southeast, then fading out. Another weak gale is forecast for the Northern Gulf on Wed (11/11) with seas 25 ft, with perhaps another gale behind that over the same area on Thurs (11/12) with 39 ft seas. So there is hope, but overall the pattern is not extraordinary. Unexpectedly the Inactive Phase of the MJO is dampening gale production potential. During a strong El Nino, it is very uncharacteristic for the MJO to be present, either active or inactive.  

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

North Pacific

On Tues AM (11/3) the jet was weakly .cgiit pushing off Asia with most energy taking a route pushing over the North Kuril Islands with winds to 130 kts tracking over the Aleutians dipping into a trough over the Western Gulf with winds 110 kts there, then ridging up into Alaska. There was some support for gale development in the West Gulf trough. Eastern Aleutians. A weaker stream was also tracking west off Japan at 80 kts merging with the main flow in the Western Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the same general pattern is to hold but with the Gulf trough falling southeast being fed by 120 kt winds and pushing into extreme North CA late Sunday evening (11/8). Continued support for gale development possible in the Gulf. Back to the west a healthy consolidated 110-120 kt flow is to continue tracking over the Aleutians ridging some over the Eastern Aleutians before falling into the aforementioned trough. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to start falling south tracking off Japan by Tues (11/10) ridging steadily northeast before falling into a newly developing trough in the extreme Northern Gulf being fed by 130 kts winds and pushing into British Columbia 24 hours later. Limited support for gale production possible. And yet a stronger pocket of 160 kts winds are to be pushing into the Northern Gulf on Thurs (11/12) carving out another small trough offering more support for gale development. The pattern seems very focused on the Eastern Gulf for now, consistent with what appears to be the Inactive Phase of the MJO. At least the .cgiit jet is forecast to turn consolidated. But the track is still biased well to the north up around 50N rather than the more southerly route down at 40N. That's a 600 nmile northward di.cgiacement.

Surface Analysis
On Thurs AM (11/5) high pressure at 1032 mbs was just east of North Japan stretched east to and point just off North CA but weaker there, down to 1024 mbs. The storm track was di.cgiaced north running over the Aleutians. A solid gale was in that track, over the Eastern Aleutians producing northwest winds at 45 kts (see North Dateline Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.

Over the next 72 hours residual fetch from the North Dateline Gale are to try and hold on in the Gulf Fri PM (11/7) producing a decent sized fetch of 35 kts northwest winds and 25 ft seas at 51N 148W (314 degs NCal). fetch to hold but loosing coverage into Sat AM (11/7) with seas fading from 24 ft at 53N 147W (319 degs NCal). The gale is to be gone by evening. 13-14 secs period north angled energy to reach North CA by 10 PM Sunday (11/8) mixing with existing fading longer period energy from the dateline. Swell tentatively targeted to peak on Mon AM (11/9) at 7 ft @ 14 secs (9.5 ft) but shadowed in the SF Bay Area.

North Dateline Gale
On Tues PM (11/3) a small but reasonably strong storm started building west of the dateline and a bit south of the Western Aleutians with winds building from 45 kts over a small area lifting northeast. By Wed AM (11/4) this system was developing more over the North Dateline region with winds to 55+ kts from the northwest just south of the Aleutians and seas building from 39 ft at 48N 179E. In the evening 45 kt west winds were holding just south of the Central Aleutians aimed east with 42 ft seas at 49N 173W. On Thurs AM (11/5) fetch as pushing into the Western Gulf at 45 kts over a small area and partially obscured over the Eastern Aleutians with seas barely 36 ft at 52N 165W targeting mainly the US West Coast with sideband energy down into Hawaii. In the evening 40 kt northwest fetch is to move into the Gulf of Alaska generating 33 ft seas at 52N 159W targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest and points north of there. Fetch is to fade from 35 kt Fri AM (11/6) in the North Gulf with seas fading from 27 ft at 51N 151W targeting Canada down to North CA. The bulk of this system is to fade from there. This system is to be generally small and well to the north meaning swell is to be pretty north angled relative to the US West Coast and producing only sideband energy relative to Hawaii.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sat (11/7) in the early morning hours before sunrise and building to 3.3 ft @ 17 secs at sunrise (5.5 ft). Swell peaking mid-day at 4 ft @ 16 secs (7 ft faces). residuals on Sun (11/8) fading from 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 330 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat (11/7) near sunset with period 20 secs and size tiny if even noticeable. Swell building overnight as period falls, down to 17 secs near 8 AM Sun (11/8) and size 5.4 ft @ 17 secs (9 ft) but shadowed in the SF Bay Area. Size creeping up through noon and peaking at 6 ft @ 16-17 secs (10 ft) and still shadowed. Lesser period energy to start arriving from when the gale supposedly redevelops in the Gulf on Fri (11/6). Swell Direction: 304-306 degrees

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


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (11/5) high pressure at 1026 mbs was fading well off the off Central California coast with low pressure starting to build into the Gulf of Alaska with a light wind flow (10 kts or less) in effect nearshore. More of the same is forecast Friday and Saturday though maybe 15 kt north wind isolated to Big Sur down to Pt Conception. Light rain for North CA on Sat PM (11/7) pushing south. High pressure is to be building in the Southern Gulf on Sunday at 1040 mbs ridging east, barely being held at bay by fading low pressure moving east into British Columbia. A front from the BC low is to push south to the SF Bay Area Sun AM fading over Central CA late. Snow developing for Tahoe by 4 PM building over night with light snow into Tuesday. By Sunday evening 15 kt northwest winds to be in control over all of North and Central California with more of the same forecast Monday but up to 20 kts from Big Sur down to the Channel Islands and nearshore Southern CA. This situation to most hold Tues (11/10) but pulling away from nearshore Southern CA. North winds continue at 15 kts Wed (11/11) for all of North and Central CA building to 20 kts Thursday. This is a classic Inactive MJO Phase pattern.


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Thurs AM (11/5) small southern hemi swell from a gale off New Zealand on Sat (10/31) was bound for Hawaii and California (see New Zealand Gale below). Also another gale followed behind on Mon (11/2) (see 2nd New Zealand Gale below).  

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

New Zealand Gale
On Sat AM (10/31) a nice little gale developed generating 40 kt southwest winds lifting northeast just east of New Zealand generating a solid area of 27 ft seas at 48S 174W. In the evening 40 kt southwest winds were fading tracking northeast with seas at 30 ft at 46S 168W targeting Tahiti well. This gale faded after that.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (11/7) at 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3 ft) holding through the day. Residuals fading on Sun AM (11/8) from 2.2 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 192 degrees

SCal: Expect swell arrival on Tues (11/10) at 1.6 ft @ 15 secs (2.5 ft faces) fading Wed (11/11) from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 214 degrees


Second New Zealand Gale
A gale formed south of New Zealand on Sun PM (11/1) generating 45 kt west winds over a small area with seas building to 35 ft at 59S 167E. On Mon AM (11/2) 40 kt west winds held while easing east with seas fading from 32 ft at 58S 175E. Fetch was fading in coverage from 40 kts in the evening with seas 32 ft at 57S 177W. Winds were down to 35 kts over a broad area Tues AM (11/3) with seas fading from 31 ft at 56S 173W aimed mainly east. No additional fetch of interest is forecast.

Limited sideband swell is possible for Hawaii with more direct but still not great size for Southern CA.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Mon (11/9) at 1.2 ft @ 18 secs late (2 ft). swell peaking Tues (11/10) at 1.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees

SCal: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (11/12) at 1.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 205 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 weak low pressure is forecast developing in the Northern Gulf on Tues AM (11/10) generating 30-35 kt west winds , getting traction and moving east with 35 kt northwest fetch in.cgiay by evening generating 22 ft seas at 53N 154W. 35-40 kt west winds to track east into Wed AM (11/11) with seas to 25 ft at 52N 144W and mostly out of the NCal swell window (320 degs). fetch is to be moving inland over North British Columbia in the evening with 22 ft seas outside the CA swell window and pushing into Canada. Something to monitor.

A far stronger storm is forecast moving into the North Gulf right behind the above gale on Thurs AM (11/12) generating 50 kt west fetch and seas to 39 ft at 51N 156W (310 degs NCal and well east of any track to Hawaii). Something to monitor.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Kelvin Wave #3 Pulse #2 Fading Slightly
October MEI Values Back Off Some While Nino3.4 Indices Rise

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 Thurs (11/5) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated calm to light east winds on the equator in the Kevin Wave generation Area (KWGA). Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, light winds were over the bulk of the KWGA with no west winds indicated, and light east winds to 10 kts over the northern portion of the KWGA (see New! East Kelvin Wave Generation Area Wind Model here). Anomalies were modest from the west from the dateline to 150W and weak eastward to 140W. Nice anomalies in a normal year, but pretty weak compared to normal for the past 6 months. 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 was 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 very light west anomalies between the dateline and the Galapagos for the next week through Thurs (11/12) with weak east anomalies in the far west KWGA. Actual winds per the GFS model are to be calm over the bulk of entire KWGA but east at 7-8 kts near 145E Mon-Thurs (11/12), then dying. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none of real interest 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. But with the Inactive Phase of the MJO appearing, warm water transport will be significantly reduced, at least for a while.    

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 through 10/30. 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:  
OLR Models: As of Thurs (11/5) an Inactive MJO signal was over the equatorial dateline region, atypical of a strong El Nino. Both the Statistic and Dynamic models depict this pattern holding for about the next 15 days. The Dynamic model has it retrograding with the Active Phase trying to set up in the KWGA 15 days out. Also a solid 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. The Statistic model has it moving into the West Pacific 15 days out. That is not believable, at least not in a pure sense. But seeing how some form of weak Inactive Phase is being manifest in the jetstream today, perhaps it is not unrealistic to have some mild enhancement from an Active Phase a month out.  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of 'MJO-like' active signal peaking in the West Indian Ocean today, then collapsing and making no real eastward progress over the next 2 weeks, generally consistent with the OLR models above.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model has all the sudden changed it's configuration. It depicts a very weak Inactive Phase in the far West Pacific tracking east with a very weak Active pattern moving into the West Pacific late Nov. This model has been well off the mark for months and we've written it off. But maybe it's getting a better handle on things now.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): An Inactive MJO is in control over the dateline region and is to track east through 11/23, consistent with the models above. West anomalies are now at peak weakness and are to hold into 11/15. A Rossby Wave is to pass through this region starting 11/18 perhaps feeding west anomalies weakly. But by 11/25 the Active Phase of the MJO is to start moving into the far West Pacific with westerly anomalies strengthening. There has been some back and forth with the model regarding when decent force west anomalies will come to be, with the range anywhere from early December to Christmas and holding in some fashion into January but with with the MJO fading mid-January. That seems a bit far fetched, but given what's occurring in the KWGA area now (Inactive Phase influence) and what is forecast the next few weeks, it seems.cgiausible that a mild MJO-like influence (both Inactive and then later Active) is possible and reasonable. Still, the El Nino base state is 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.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (11/5) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 131W and continuing to make limited daily east headway with a small pocket of 30 degs present now. The 28 deg Isotherm is steady at 125W. Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are bulging from 177W eastward and drifting east. +4 deg anomalies cover from 158W eastward (steady), the result of WWB #4. A large warm reservoir of 5+ degs anomalies is building in coverage from 151W. That reservoir has peak anomalies at +6-8 degs C building west to 145W and with +5 deg anomalies extending east to the Galapagos. This pocket is a combination of water from strong Kelvin Wave #3 and the slow 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 (10/30) primarily at +3 degs from 140W to 95W (steady). No +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface but they are very close at 110W.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (10/30) Heights have upgraded again. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 179W (fading some). Peak anomalies have reappeared at +20 cm between 110W and 140W (expanding). +15 cm anomalies extending from 105W to 157W and reaching from 5N to 5S (steady). +5 cm anomalies are pushing to Ecuador and 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: (10/30) has upgraded again (daily updates to the 5 day product) indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady between 175W and the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are holding easing east from 169W eastward attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are holding from 160W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are expanding at 156W-->105W. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are expanding between 145W->110W rivaling Kelvin Wave #3. 1.5-2.0 anomalies are 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 slightly 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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
(11/5) Overall the picture remains solid and getting more defined. Warmer waters are building up into Central America but retracted slightly from the coast of Peru while advecting west.  The big change over the past 2-3 weeks remains a solid increase in volume/concentration 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 'the blob' 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 (11/4) temps are weakening and not impressive from a Super El Nino perspective. Over the past 5 days temps have faded some nearshore to Peru and off Ecuador. A pocket of +4 deg anomalies is depicted fading while impacting the Galapagos. 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. 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: (11/4) Anomalies were steady between 10/2-10/26, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal, but then moved into the +4.0-4.3 range.  Today's reading was +4.4 degs, driven by the aforementioned hot pocket impacting the area. But for the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is focused west of the Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (11/4): Modest warming is occurring well off the Chilean Coast and around the immediate Galapagos, but with a broad area of warming occurring between 150W to the dateline.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(11/2) The latest image has upgraded slightly again, and remains very impressive if not getting more that way from a Super El Nino perspective. It appears Kelvin Wave #3 is reenergizing it's eruption. Girth of the area continues holding over the past 7 days with 4 pockets of +4 degs water embedded. This is great news, and we are exceeding peak coverage at any time previous, including 9/19. Temps between 160W-180W continue surging west while loosing a little girth and are beating peak levels from 9/19. 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: (11/4) 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, especially considering the new eruptions ports that have developed in the past 10 days. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos is not as intense as the peak at 9/19, but is covering far more area. 5 large +4 deg vent ports are strung between the Galapagos and 140W, erupting in Nino3.4 Very impressive. And this warm water is 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 faded, but increased significantly recently. There were none on 10/19 but as of 10/30, the picture significantly upgraded and has faded some, but still most solid on 11/4. We can't stress enough the importance of this upgrade and the effect this will have a few weeks out as it advects west into Nino 3.4 proper. 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 mult.cgie +4 deg pockets in.cgiay). 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)

Updated! Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through October.
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 4th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the 2nd or 3rd strongest for this time of year, a bit of downgrade from last month when it was in the top 2.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
(Click to enlarge)

OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image


Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
(click to enlarge)


Other Sources
TAO Data: +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 off the charts but was formally at 140E (steady and well west). +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 (but we suspect there are data errors here driven by mult.cgie buoys in the array being inoperable). A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 110W-140W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (11/5) Temps are on the rise after previously falling hard, up to +2.21 today. Previously temps peaked for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously spiked at +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded, then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again at +3.0 degs on 7/22.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Temps have reached a new al time high at +2.704 today (11/5 12Z). The previous peak for this event was 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 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 about now, then steady if not slowly backing off into Dec 1, 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. But Kelvin Wave #3 is having a good impact west of this area (9/19-11/3) 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 (11/5): Was falling some at -13.80. 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 from 16.47. 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 rising from -17.62. 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 fading 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): Weak high pressure was over Southeast Aust on Thurs (11/5) and forecast to fade into Sunday. More low pressure is forecast by Mon (11/9) and no high pressure is forecast till maybe Fri (11/13). It looks like the Inactive Phase of the MJO really is having a negative impact on El Nino.       
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 11/5 weak low pressure was south of Tahiti and moving southeast away from it with a new weak high pressure system forecast developing south of Tahiti Sun (11/8) and holding into Fri )11/13). This is not surprising given the Inactive MJO Phase in control now. This will keep the SOI a bit higher than what it has been of late. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're not seeing that.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of SOI values moving to neutral. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having some impact.           
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 there was no evidence of a south flow in.cgiay. Per the GFS model no real south flow is projected. 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 through 10/25, then fading. 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): (11/5) today's value is falling at +1.58, and has been trending down driven by the Inactive MJO. The recent high value was +2.40 on Sat (10/17). It had 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) (Oct) The current ranking is down some, falling to +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. still this MEI value has the 2015 event as the second strongest El Nino ever for this time of year, and the third strongest ever. So we continue mid-way between the '82 and '97 events, 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 (11/5) 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. But it appears the Inactive Phase of the MJO, no matter how slight, is having a dampening effect and will continue for the next 2 weeks.  

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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