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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Sunday, November 15, 2015 8:50 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
3.0 - 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 11/15 thru Sun 11/21

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

Weak Gale Forecast off Pacific Northwest
Nino3.4 Anomalies Reach Levels Comparable to '97

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 Sunday, November 15, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 6.9 ft @ 7.7 secs with swell 4.7 ft @ 8.4 secs from 44 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.3 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 14.6 secs. Wind northwest 6-10 kts. Water temperature 64.4 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.3 ft @ 13.7 secs from 258 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.7 ft @ 15.3 secs from 220 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.6 ft @ 15.7 secs from 249 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 11.2 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 6.9 ft @ 13.9 secs from 313 degrees. Wind northwest 23-30 kts. Water temp 58.6 degs.


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

Current Conditions
On Sunday (11/15) in North and Central CA north angled Gulf swell was producing waves in the 3 ft overhead range and destroyed with north winds in control. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and relatively clean but pretty lumpy. In Southern California up north surf was waist to chest high at the better breaks and clean and lined up, wrapping in from the Northern Gulf. Down south waves were chest high and pretty lumped up from southwest wind. Hawaii's North Shore was flat to thigh high and clean, getting wrap around windswell from the northeast. The South Shore was small with leftover background southern hemi reverberations generating 2 ft surf with clean conditions but with brisk trades early. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated northeasterly windswell with waves 1 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 residual swell from a gale that tracked through the Northern Gulf was hitting California and on the way down. 

Looking at the forecast charts a small gale remains forecast to develop off the Pacific Northwest on Mon (11/16) generating 23 ft seas.  And a second gale is to track over the dateline Mon-Tues (11/17) generating 27 ft seas aimed south and just barely at Hawaii. Longterm there some suggestions the Northern Dateline region might become active, but no certain outcome is stabilizing on the models just yet.

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

North Pacific

On Sunday AM (11/15) the jet was confused, .cgiit while pushing off Siberia with winds only 60 kts but somehow forming one small semi cutoff trough just west of the dateline offering weak support for gale development. From there the jet .cgiit strongly again with the northern branch tracking east through the Northern Gulf with winds building to 160 kts falling into a small steep trough that was pushing south and over San Francisco offering support for low pressure there and mostly a weather producer. The southern branch was tracking east over and just south of Hawaii and then into Central Baja. In all, a very non-productive jetstream configuration was apparent. Over the next 72 hours the mini-trough in the west is to push over the dateline and reaching a point 1,000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii on Tues (11/17) dissipating there and no longer offering support for low pressure development. Overall the jet is to start consolidating over Asia but be .cgiitting mid-way to the dateline, and remain well .cgiit over the rest of the North Pacific through Wed (11/18). the .cgiit point is to be 145E. Beyond 72 hours the .cgiit pattern is to hold with most energy in the northern branch of the .cgiit starting at the dateline then tracking up into the Bering Sea and the into the extreme Northern Gulf by Sat (11/21) offering nothing in terms of a trough or support for gale development. By Sun (11/22) the .cgiit point is to reach east to 170E with 140 kt winds pushing east in the consolidated portion of the jet with something that almost looks like a trough trying to set up off Kamchatka. But the .cgiit flow is to dominate the east with the influential northern branch running over top of the Aleutians and into Alaska then down the inland Pacific Northwest Coast joining the southern branch inland which is to continue running east over Hawaii over Nevada. So for now we remain.cgiagued by the Inactive Phase of the MJO, reducing energy to the jet and causing it to .cgiit.

Surface Analysis
On Sun AM (11/14) residual swell from a storm previously in the Northern Gulf of Alaska was still hitting the California coast but being blown to bits by north winds that developed behind a front that was working it's way down the California coast. Hawaii remain locked in no-mans land from a swell generation perspective, at least for the time being, with all the activity tucked up in the Northern Gulf. Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs was now sitting in the Central Gulf enhancing trades for Hawaii and driving north winds down the CA coast. But, relative to Hawaii, a gale low was approaching the dateline (see Dateline Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours the Dateline Gale is to be the main area of interest. But a gale low is to start building in the Gulf of Alaska on Sun AM (11/15) producing 35 kt southwest winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By evening 40-45 kt west winds are to be over a small area generating 22 ft seas at 48N 147W targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest. By Mon AM (11/16) it is to continue tracking east and be off Washington producing 35 kt west winds over a small area with seas 22 ft at 47N 138W, then moving inland over the Pacific Northwest in the evening. Maybe some 13 sec period sideband swell to result for California, with more direct but raw energy for the Pacific Northwest. Something to monitor. 

Dateline Gale
A low pressure system developed off Japan on Sat (11/14) tracking east with strong high pressure building northwest of it setting up a gradient and generating  a sliver of 45 kt north-northeast winds aimed at open ocean with seas to 28 ft at 37N 175E Sun AM (11/15) but not targeting our forecast area.  The gale is to track east  By Monday PM (11/16) the fetch is to be at 40 kts positioned 1,000 nmiles -northwest of Hawaii generating a broader area of 27 ft seas at 36N 174W with potential sideband energy targeting the Islands.  Fetch is to fade from 35-40 kts Tues AM (11/17) with seas fading from 22 ft at 40N 163W and targeting the Islands decently with sideband swell. 40 kt northeast fetch is to hold north of Hawaii into Tuesday evening with 23 ft seas at 42N 160W then dissipating. Perhaps some decent sized 13-15 sec period swell to result for north shores of the Hawaiian Islands if all goes as forecast.

Hawaii : rough data for.cgianning purposes suggests swell arriving on Wed (11/18) pushing 5.4 ft @ 14 secs late (7.5 ft). Swell fading some overnight with residuals Thurs AM (11/19) fading from 3.6 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.5 ft) early. Swell Direction: 310 degrees moving to 340 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 Sunday AM (11/15) a front was pushing south down the California Coast providing a little rain. But directly behind that front strong high pressure was moving in (at 1032 mbs centered 1100 nmiles west of San Francisco) generating 25-30 kt north winds and horrendous surf and boating conditions. Snow was starting to develop in the Sierra and expected to provides accumulations of 4-9 inches at the ski resorts, but cleared out by 5 AM Monday.
Strong north winds at 30 kts are forecast for Central and South CA on Monday AM but easing in the North with low pressure approaching the Pacific Northwest. On Tuesday high pressure is to be ridging into North CA with a light winds flow there and north winds continuing at 15-20 kts for Monterey Bay down to Pt Conception, but perhaps northeast nearshore early. SCal is to be back to a light local flow. The high is to retrograde some to the west on Wednesday with north winds 20 kts for outer waters of Central CA up into North CA continuing Thursday (11/19) then weakening but still north at 15 kts Friday mainly for Central CA. reinforcing high pressure to move in Sat (11/21) later with north winds again up to 20 kts from Pt Conception northward building to 35 kts off Bodega Bay on Sunday (11/22) and 20 kts down to Pt Conception. A real mess.   No precipitation is in the forecast except for showers in extreme North CA Tues-Sat (11/21).  

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell producing weather systems were occurring in the South Pacific. A gale previously in the far Southeast Pacific has produced no swell pushing towards Southern CA and instead was targeting only South America.

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


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




Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a small gale low is to develop just south of the Western Aleutians off Kamchatka Wed PM (11/18) generating a tiny area of 45 kts west winds and seas 28 ft at 52N 175E. Fetch is to hold at 40 kts into Thurs AM (11/19) tracking east with seas 27 ft pushing over the dateline just south of the CEntral Aleutians at 50N 178W then dissipating. Tiny swell possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast.

Beyond a broader and stronger gale is forecast developing off Japan lifting fast to the northeast Thurs-Fri (11/20) generating 40-45 kts southwest fetch and seas to maybe 28 ft later Friday in the Northern dateline region, but that is a reach at this early date. And yet a third gale is to develop in the same area Sat-Sun (11/22) with 50 kt west winds and seas building to 36 ft aimed better at Hawaii and the US West Coast, but still only over a small area. At least there's some hope on the charts.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Nino 3.4 CDAS Temps Off the Chart
Incredibly Impressive Warm Temps Extend Across the Equatorial Pacific

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 Sun (11/15) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated calm to light west winds in the Kevin Wave generation Area (KWGA) with only moderate pocket at 165E. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds were over the bulk of the KWGA with one pocket to 15 kts at 168E and another at 15 kts at 138E (see New! East Kelvin Wave Generation Area Wind Model here). Anomalies were rebuilding and modest from the west from 155E to at least 160W (sensors were down at the surface at 160W). We're rebuilding a little traction after the loss of west anomalies from 10/31-11/9. 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 forecast in the KWGA from 150E and east of there to the Galapagos for the next week through Suns (11/22). Actual winds per the GFS model are to be calm over the bulk of entire KWGA but west winds remain projected holding between 150E to 170E in the heart of the KWGA at 12-15 kts through Tues (11/17). Calm winds to continue after that into Sat (11/21). But east winds at 10-12 kts are forecast near 170E on Sun (11/22). So far 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 those waters are to migrate into the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos. But the volume and velocity of that warm water migration faded significantly at the end of WWB #4 on 10/19, through west anomalies continued to 10/30 mainly in the vicinity of the dateline. By 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle will likely result as Kelvin Wave #4 terminates its eventual eruption in the vicinity of the Galapagos starting 2.5 months later or near 1/15/16.       

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. But by 10/30 the Inactive Phase of the MJO Cycle caused neutral winds to develop in the KWGA and east anomalies reaching to 150E. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. 

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 Sun (11/15) 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 retrograded now over the far West Pacific but stopping at the dateline and remaining that was for the next 15 days. The Statistic model has it fading and easing east with a solid Active MJO Pattern over the Central Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific 15 days out. We're not sure that is going to occur. One would expect west anomalies to start easing east and holding velocity rather than dying outright. this is a strange situation.    
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of 'MJO-like' active signal rapidly fading in the West Indian Ocean. No eastward progress is expected over the next 2 weeks, generally consistent with the OLR models above. This leads us to believe that perhaps whatever Inactive MJO signal was trying to dominate the Pacific, could start begriming to decline with the more typical El Nino base state begriming to re-emerge.
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 12/5, consistent with the models above. West anomalies are to start rebuilding into Nov 25 enhanced by a Rossby Wave that is starting to pass through this region and is to continue into 12/10 having a slightly positive effect on west wind anomaly production. By 12/7 the Active Phase of the MJO is to start moving into the far West Pacific with the Rossby Wave fading and westerly anomalies redeveloping decently in the West KWGA. 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 Jan 14 with a possible westerly wind burst developing around Christmas mainly from the dateline eastward till Jan9. . 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 should be the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now supposedly in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec), but the westerly anomaly pattern is weak given all the other signals. Still the eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 is impressive and WWB #4 produced Kelvin Wave #4 (10/1-10/19 with west anomalies to 10/30) that will fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into mid-Jan. But the core of westerly anomalies are already easing east, and are to continue to do so into the early Jan timeframe, when they are expected to push to 165W and out of the the KWGA. This would shut down the warm water conveyor, 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: (11/15) 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. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 11/9 the reservoir is in great shape with warm water still flowing into it near the dateline and into this reservoir. This is a great scenario. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos primarily at +3 degs from 160W to 100W (steady) with two +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface at 115W and 102W. 
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (11/9) Heights have downgraded some, from ridiculous high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 175W (fading some). Peak anomalies at +20 cm are between 110W and 140W but with a little gap in there. +15 cm anomalies extending from 100W to 155W 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: (11/9) is steady at very impressive levels (daily updates to the 5 day product) indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are shrinking from 165W to the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are easing east from 160W eastward attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are easing east from 155W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies easing east from 151W-->97W. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are easing east between 145W->105W beating anything in Kelvin Wave #3 (with a 40 deg/2,400 nmile width). 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).  But Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also evident in the eastward retreat of of all temperature bands, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which started 10/31 and continue to date.  

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 looking 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
(11/12) Overall the picture remains solid but is not getting any more defined. Warmer waters are not building along the Central America Coast and are retracted slightly from the coast of Peru and Ecuador and 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 if not completely closed off. This is atypical 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 (11/14) temps are weak and not impressive. The extent of +2.25 deg anomalies has actually improved some since 11/8 but remains just a fragmented steam between Ecuador an the Galapagos. No +4 deg anomalies are present. 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: (11/14) Anomalies were steady between 10/2-10/22, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal, but then moved into the +4.0-4.3 range starting 10/23.  Today's reading was +4.00 degs, consistent with the average since 10/23 . 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 (11/13): Warming is occurring between Ecuador to the Galapagos and just west of the Galapagos. Temps are steady elsewhere but warming slightly at 105W, 130W and at 170W.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(11/14) The latest image continues improving to impossible levels, if that is possible, and remain very impressive. The second pulse of Kelvin Wave #3 has increased again. In the past week girth of the area continues to build with an almost continuous medium strength core of +4 degs water embedded from 100w to 160W. This is unbelievable on a historical level and great news, exceeding peak coverage at any time previous including the records breaking '97 El Nino. Temps between 160W-180W continue surging west with a build area of pixels into the +4 deg range at 160W (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: (11/13) 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. It even beats '97 in the Nino3.4 region. The main focus continues to be the new eruptions ports that developed starting 10/28 and continue today (11/13). 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 a huge area. There is a continuous string of +4 deg anomalies from 118W to 142W on the backed off view, not just individual vent ports with additional pockets from100W-120W. Other imagery depicts And almost continuous stream of +4 deg anomalies from 100-142W with +5 deg anomalies at 102W and 122W.This is off the charts 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 and are still on the upswing as of 11/11. 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 11/30 or later, and kevin Wave #4 is still to erupt.  Looking forward to seeing the Nino3.4 monthly data for November when it posts.  


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.
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OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image


Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
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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 172E (expanding). There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 178W but the failure of some buoys makes any additional analysis suspect. A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 110W-130W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (11/15) Temps are falling some at +2.106, down form +2.422 on 11/1. 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 reach yet another new all time high of + 2.986 as of 12Z Sun Nov 15. This continues the upward trend with previous peaks at +2.780 (12z Nov 12) up from +2.704 (11/5 12Z). And more previous peaks for this event were: +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.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990) were also spiking at +2.8 (11/4), equivalent to the highest reading in '97 (11/26). We certainly appear poised to smash that record with this weeks reading.

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
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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 110W. 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:
 This data has been upgraded again.  The run on 11/15 for the Nino 3.4 region depicts peak temp occurring now at +2.75 degrees. A quick crash is to occur thereafter with temp down to +1.85 degs by Jan 1.
Uncorrected Data has upgraded depicting peak temps to +2.75 degs now and holding into Dec7, then steady if not slowly backing off falling from +2.45 degs Jan 1. 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.
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. Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable if not stronger anomalies and areal coverage in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2. 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 and no recovery has occurred. But Kelvin Wave #3 is having an amazing impact west of this area (9/19-11/11). If a super El Nino is defined purely by water temps in Nino3.4, then we are there.  But if the total areal coverage of warmer than normal waters is taken into account in Nino1.2, then we are below the thresholds set for both '82 and '97. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (11/15): Was steady at 0.90. 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 -9.15. 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 at -15.93. 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 being driving by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a fading El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): Weak low pressure was over Southeast Aust on 11/15 and forecast holding till Sat (11/21) when weak high pressure again returns to the area. It looks like the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to continue having a negative impact on El Nino till at least then.       
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 11/15 weak high pressure was southeast of Tahiti and slowly moving east but forecast to hold through Sat (11/21) driven by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. By Sun (11/2) the high is to finally move east out of the picture. 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 the positive range. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having significant 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 until Sat (11/21). At that time perhaps the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to start loosing it's grip. 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): (11/15) today's value is falling at +0.97, the lowest we've seen it since we started following it in July and has been trending slightly down driven by the Inactive MJO. The most 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 (11/15) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, looking decent but not exceptional. But then the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over and has had a dampening effect and will continue to do so till the Inactive Phase is over.   

Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
Full Sized Chart
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Conclusion (Updated 11/12): 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 10/19. Peak atmospheric influence should occur approximately 2 months later or 12/20. Then WWB #4 developed of near equal strength, peaking on 10/15, which resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. Using the same te.cgiate, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 12/30/2015 (westward di.cgiaced), and advecting into Nino3.4 and peaking roughly 1/30/2016 with peak atmospheric influence on approx 3/30/2016. 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. The Inactive Phase of the MJO took control 10/31, and is expected to usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin wave Cycle starting 1/31/16. The resultant slackening of peak water temps won't reach Nino3.4 till 3/1, and won't hit the atmosphere till 5/1.  By then, the effective lifecycle of El Nino for the Winter of 2015-2016 will be over. And any westerly anomalies projected for the KWGA in the Dec-Jan 2016 timeframe will contribute nothing to Kelvin Wave production and jetstream a.cgiification just due to the time it will take for a resulting Kelvin Wave to migrate east. But those anomalies could help the atmosphere like the Active Phase of the MJO does, fueling jetstream energy. That is the primary contribution of westerly anomalies from here forward.   

In terms of comparative strength based on Nino3.4 temps, 2015 is in the same ballpark based on OISSTv2 weekly data. Based on ERSSTv4 data (a more conservative data source) '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 anomalies still venting to the surface and Kevin Wave #4 still migrating east.  

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? Based on current data, Kelvin Wave #3 has surprisingly reinvigorated itself in late Oct/Nov and exceeded its earlier peak in Sept. The longer it holds on, the greater the likelihood that not dip in temps will develop before Kevin Wave #4 erupts. Assuming steady state anomalies in Nino3.4 (not falling below +2.0 degs during 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.    

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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