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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Monday, November 9, 2015 6:30 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
3.7 - 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 11/8 thru Sun 11/14

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   

Gale Then Storm Forecast for North Gulf
Perhaps More Longer Term

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.

Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.


On Monday, November 9, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 6.6 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 12.7 secs from 337 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 14.8 secs. Wind northwest 14-18 kts. Water temperature 66.0 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.6 ft @ 14.8 secs from 263 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.2 ft @ 16.1 secs from 237 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.0 ft @ 16.5 secs from 249 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 12.8 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 7.6 ft @ 13.9 secs from 306 degrees. Wind west 10-14 kts. Water temp 59.0 degs.


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

Current Conditions
On Monday (11/9) in North and Central CA north angled Gulf swell was producing waves in the 3 ft overhead range to double overhead range and raw with south wind lump running through it. Down in Santa Cruz the same swell was wrapping in with surf maybe to head high but pretty torn up by south wind. In Southern California up north surf was maybe thigh high at the best spots and clean. Down south waves were waist high and pretty lumpy bordering on chopped from southerly winds. Hawaii's North Shore was see Gulf swell with sets in the waist to chest high range and clean but a little disorganized with what appears to be windswell running through it. The South Shore was getting New Zealand swell better than expected with set waves to head high and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated northeasterly windswell with waves 1-2 ft overhead 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 swell from the leftovers of a gale that redeveloped some in the Gulf of Alaska Fri (11/6) was hitting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. Two small southern hemi swells were also in the water hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast from a pair of gales that were near New Zealand. 

Looking at the forecast charts a small fetch from low pressure is forecast for the Northern Gulf on Tues (11/10) producing 18-20 ft seas that should result in windswell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. And a small storm is forecast for the Northern Gulf on Wed-Thurs (11/12) producing up to 40 ft seas targeting the Pacific Northwest. There's some sense that a gale might develop off the Pacific Northwest on Mon (11/16) too, but that is more a guess than anything solid at this early date. We're really waiting for the Inactive Phase of the MJO to dissipate in the next few weeks before a solid storm pattern develops. 

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

North Pacific

On Mon AM (11/9) the jet was mostly consolidated but di.cgiaced north, tracking east off the Northern Kuril Islands pushing just south of the Aleutians with one pocket of near 170 kt winds mid-way to the dateline while 120 kt winds were pushing just south of the Eastern Aleutians then fading and falling down down the immediate US West Coast. A bit of a trough was over North CA, with 90 kt winds falling into it but not strong enough to support gale development. In all no support for gale development was immediately discernible for the North Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of winds energy approaching the dateline is to race east into the Northern Gulf by Tues (11/10) fading to 130 kts but forming a bit of a trough there for 24 hours supporting low pressure development. And by Wed (11/11) a new pocket of wind energy is to build on the dateline reaching into the Gulf late at 120 kts building to 140 kts in the Gulf Thursday offering some support for gale development in the Northern Gulf. Beyond 72 hours a better scenario is projected with a respectable trough developing in the Western Gulf late Fri (11/13) with a sliver of 160 kt winds falling into it and building into Sat at 170 kts offering good support for gale development. By Mon (11/16) the jet is to pushing directly into Central CA the the core of the trough still holding in the Central Gulf. interesting possibilities if this develops as forecast. But back to the west the jet is to be very diffuse and mostly .cgiit with the strongest winds only 80 kts and tracking through the Bering Sea.  So for now the focus is to remain being the North Gulf. 

Surface Analysis
On Mon AM (11/9) swell from a gale and it's residuals in the Gulf was hitting Hawaii weakly and stronger in down the US West Coast, but is to be in decline by Tuesday. Otherwise strong high pressure at 1036 mbs was in the Southern Gulf trying to ridge into the US West Coast but being held at bay by a local trough of low pressure over North California. North winds at 20 kts were pushing over outer waters off Oregon and California. A second high at 1032 mbs was holding down the dateline region. No real swell producing weather systems were elsewhere in the North Pacific with the storm track going through the Bering Sea. 

Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to be migrating from the Eastern Bering Sea into the Northern Gulf on Tues AM (11/10) generating an elongated fetch of 30-35 kt west-northwest winds reaching to Vancouver Island later in the day. Seas are projected to barely 20 ft at 50N 145W at 18Z (311 degs NCal) then moving east and into British Columbia Wed AM (11/11). Windswell generation possible for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. 

Also a gale is forecast developing over the North Dateline region Tues PM (11/10) generating 45 kt winds but all landlocked in the Bering Sea and over or north of the Central Aleutians. That gale is to be tracking quickly east. By Wed AM (11/11) it is to be producing 55 kt northwest winds but again trapped mostly in the Bering Sea over the Eastern Aleutians, but with 50 kt west fetch starting to get a toe into the Gulf just south of the Aleutians. 30 ft seas building at 52N 163W (310 degs NCal). By Wed PM 50 kt west winds are forecast moving cleanly in the the Northern Gulf just south of the Eastern Aleutians with seas on the increase quickly to 40 ft at 54N 156W (312 degs NCal). On Thurs AM (11/12) a solid area of 45 kt west fetch is to be cleanly positioned in the Gulf tracking east and targeting North Canada with 35 ft seas at 55N 148W (319 degs NCal and well east of any track to Hawaii). Fetch is to fade in the evening from 40 kts off the North Canadian coast with seas fading from 35 ft at 55N 142W and outside the CA swell window, targeting only Oregon northward. Something to monitor. 

Dateline Storm Residuals
Residual fetch from the North Dateline Storm (above) was holding on in the Gulf Fri PM (11/7) producing a decent sized fetch of 35 kts northwest winds and a broad area 23 ft seas at 51N 148W (314 degs NCal). Fetch to hold but loosing coverage into Sat AM (11/7) with seas fading from 22 ft at 53N 147W (319 degs NCal). The gale is to be gone by evening with 20 ft seas fading at 51N 141W and outside the CA swell window.

NCal: 13-14 sec 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. Swell Direction: 310+ 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 Monday AM (11/9) weak local low pressure was inland over North CA and high pressure was north of Hawaii and west of California. A front associated with the inland low was pushing south through Central CA and expected to fade over Southern CA late. It was snowing lightly in Tahoe front with peak snow expected overnight Monday. A 10-15 kt south flow was in effect early for Central CA turning northwest with the passage of the front. By Tues (11/10) north winds are expected at 15-20 kts for the state including Southern CA and continuing Wednesday but pulling away from nearshore Southern CA. North winds continue at 15-20 kts Thurs (11/12) for all of North and Central CA then fading Friday a the strong high tries to ridge into Oregon CA late. There's almost a hint of a northeasterly flow for Central CA later. A very light flow is forecast for North and Central CA Saturday (11/14) with low pressure building offshore. That low to move into Cape Mendocino late Sunday with calm winds over Central CA early then building from the south. Rain for the SF Bay Area northward by late Sunday evening peaking sunrise Monday. Brisk north winds 15+ kts are forecast for North and Central CA on Monday. Modest snow for Tahoe on Monday.  


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Mon AM (11/9) small southern hemi swell from a gale off New Zealand on Sat (10/31) was fading in Hawaii and bound for California (see New Zealand Gale below). Also another gale followed behind on Mon (11/2) (see 2nd New Zealand Gale below) producing minimal swell that was starting to show in Hawaii and bigger than expected. Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest was forecast. 

Over the next 72 hours the model continue to suggest some sort of a gale is to develop in the Southeast Pacific Tues AM (11/10) generating 45 kt west winds building to 55 kt over a tiny area in the evening with seas building to 39 ft at 57S 126W. Fetch is to be fading while tracking fast east Wed AM (11/11) from 45 kts over a small area with seas fading from 39 ft at 55S 114W and east of the Southern CA swell window. Perhaps small sideband swell to result for Southern CA through most energy is to be targeting Chile. 

Otherwise 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.

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: 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 low pressure is to start building in the Gulf of Alaska on Sun AM (11/15) and also just off North CA in association with a building upper level trough there. Relative to North CA, a tiny fetch of 40 kt northwest winds is forecast tracking east through the day and impacting Cape Mendocino late with 20 ft seas at 38N 130W.   Raw local swell and weather is possible if this comes to pass. At the same time a broader area of low pressure in the North Gulf is to develop and by Mon AM (11/16) producing 35 kt northwest winds in pockets and seas building from 22 ft at 50N 152W  rapidly growing in coverage in the evening at 30-35 kts targeting North CA with seas 22 ft at 46N 145W.  Certainly some thing to monitor.  If nothing else, weather seems possible for North CA.   

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Kelvin Wave #3 Pulse #2 Builds West of 140W
Inactive MJO Phase Continues - To Fade in About 2 Weeks

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 Mon (11/9) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated calm to light east and west 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 one small are of 12-14 kts west winds developing at 170E (see New! East Kelvin Wave Generation Area Wind Model here). Anomalies were modest from the west from the dateline to 155W. Nice anomalies in a normal year, but weak compared to what has been normal for the past 6 months. Previously strong WWB #3 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 creating WWB #4 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 light west anomalies between the dateline and the Galapagos for the next week through Mon (11/16) with weak east anomalies in the far west KWGA fading out by 11/13. Actual winds per the GFS model are to be calm over the bulk of entire KWGA but west winds are projected holding near 170E in the heart of the KWGA at 11 kts and building to 13 kts by Thurs (11/12) then slowly fading and gone by Sun (11/15). 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 Mon (11/9) 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 10 days. The Dynamic model has it retrograding with a weak version of the Active Phase trying to set up in the KWGA 15 days out. The Statistic model has it easing east with a solid Active MJO Pattern over the Central Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific. Something is afoot, but the exact details are not discernible yet.  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of 'MJO-like' active signal starting to fade in the West Indian Ocean, and 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 depicts a very weak signal with no change forecast for the next 40 days.
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 at peak weakness and are to hold into 11/17. A Rossby Wave is passing through this region now through 11/18 but is having no effect. But by 11/25 the Active Phase of the MJO is to start moving into the far West Pacific with the Rossby Wave holding and westerly anomalies redeveloping. There's been some back and forth with the model regarding when decent force west anomalies will come to be, but the above seems to be the most reasonable solution. After that the Active Phase of the MJO is to hold into February with west anomalies steady with one better pulse around Dec 1 and another around New Years. 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 to be 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. The core of westerly anomalies are already easing east , and are to continue to do so any by the early Jan timeframe are expected to push to 165W and out of the the KWGA. 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 after draining all the warm water present in what is now a massive reservoir. That is typical timing for an El Nino from a gross level perspective. A more detailed timing estimate is provided below. 

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (11/7) Actual temperatures remain impressive but are getting confused by more sensor outages now in the East Pacific. The data is almost worthless. There are almost no active sensors left between 110W and 170W except a few at 150m. Using this data one can discern that a tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to about 131W. The 28 deg Isotherm is steady at 125W (guess). Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are bulging from 177W eastward and drifting east. +6 deg anomalies are in the east to 135W and pushing east.  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 (11/4) primarily at +3 degs from 150W to 95W (steady) with two +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface at 115W and 105W. 
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (11/40) Heights have upgraded again. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 179W (fading some). Peak anomalies at +20 cm are between 110W and 145W (steady). +15 cm anomalies extending from 105W to 150W 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: (11/4) has upgraded again (daily updates to the 5 day product) indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady between 170W and the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are easing east from 166W eastward attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are holding from 159W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are steady at 155W-->100W. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are holding between 148W->108W beating anything in Kelvin Wave #3 (40 deg/2,400 nmile coverage) . 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
(11/9) 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 gone, 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 but is not as defined as weeks past. Still very warm water extends 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 no longer building in strength and coverage over North Australia, and has lost concentration and coverage. This is not 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 (11/8) temps are weakening fast and not impressive from a Super El Nino perspective. The extent of +2.25 deg anomalies continue withering to just a steam between Ecuador an the Galapagos. No +4 deg anomalies are left. 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 nearly 4.0 months, and warming has not redeveloped to previous levels, di.cgiacement still remains the operative e.cgianation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (11/8) 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 +4.27 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 (11/8): Cooling is occurring from Ecuador over the Galapagos to 100W. There's no getting around it. Temps are steady elsewhere.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(11/8) The latest image is holding, and remains very impressive from an El Nino perspective. It appears the second pulse of Kelvin Wave #3 is fading some, but not bad. Girth of the area continues holding over the past 7 days with 4 pockets of +4 degs water embedded, but loosing a little bit of area. 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: (11/8) 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 developed from 10/28-11/8 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. 3 large +4 deg vent ports are strung between the Galapagos and 140W, with one of those running from 125W-145W unbroken. Very impressive. And this warm water is advected west. Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, but increased significantly starting 10/30. It has built in coverage in recent days, those lost some concentration. 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). But with the new vent ports developing 10/30, yet more warm water is tracking into Nino3.4, expected to peak near 11/24.  Looking forward to seeing the Nino3.4 monthly data. 


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 building to the west reaching unbroken to 175E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 178W. A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 110W-145W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (11/9) Temps are steady at +2.14 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 retreated slightly from the new all time high of +2.704 (11/5 12Z). Today's temps are 2.595. 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 11/6 the current was moderate to strong from the west and solid but all north of the equator. The current is pushing modestly west to east mostly north of the equator from 125E to 120W unbroken. There was 1 pockets of east current at 90W 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 150W. Others were scattered pockets of west anomalies on the equator too. There were no pocket of east anomalies indicated.  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 120E to 120W on and north of the equator with massive anomalies over the same if not larger area.    

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 has upgraded with a peak to +2.75 degs about now, then steady if not slowly backing off into Dec 1, then starting a fast fall from +2.5 degs. That makes sense for November, but makes no account for Kelvin Wave #4 what is expected to arrive around Christmas and then advect into Nino3.4 in late Jan 2016. For a one month peak we're guessing somewhere around +2.3 degs for Nov, fading some and then rebuilding to 2.2-2.3 in late January.
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 (11/9): Was rising some at -1.50. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14. 
30 Day Average: Was rising from -14.73. 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 steady at -17.59. 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 low pressure was over Southeast Aust on Mon (11/9) and forecast holding for the next 7 days. 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 11/9 high pressure was southeast of Tahiti and slowly moving east, with low pressure forecast south of Tahiti by Sat (11/14). 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): (11/9) today's value is falling at +1.40, and has been trending slightly 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, Oct 2.3. '97 had two peak values at +2.99 in Aug and +3.06 in Sept.  2015 had +3.7 in July followed by +2.33 and +2.20 in Aug and Sept and 2.3 in Oct. 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 (11/9) 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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