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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 7:05 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
4.4 - California & 3.3 - 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 12/10 thru Sun 12/16

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   

Kamchatka Swell Hitting HI - Gulf Swell for CA
North Pacific Forecast to Pump

On Wednesday, December 12, 2018 :

  • Buoy 233 (Pearl Harbor Entrance)/Buoy 239 (Lanai): At Barbers Point seas were 3.8 ft @ 16.7 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 16.8 secs from 314 degrees.
  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 7.6 ft @ 16.7 secs with swell 4.2 ft @ 17.1 secs from 326 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.0 ft @ 9.1 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 10.2 secs from 245 degrees. Wind at the buoy was east at 10-14 kts. Water temperature 62.1 degs. At Ventura (Buoy 111) swell was 3.2 ft @ 8.3 secs from 266 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 1.8 ft @ 12.3 secs from 260 degrees. At Oceanside (045) swell was 4.0 ft @ 10.0 secs from 267 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma (191) swell was 4.3 ft @ 10.2 secs from 278 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 10.4 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 5.7 ft @ 10.1 secs from 304 degrees. Wind at the buoy (013) was northwest at 16-20 kts. Water temp 57.7 degs (042).

See Hi-Res Buoy Dashboards (bottom of the page)

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.

Current Conditions
On Wednesday (12/12) in North and Central CA residual swell from a gale previously in the Gulf is still hitting with waves 1-2 ft overhead and clean but with a raw character to it. Protected breaks were head high to 1 ft overhead and clean with no wind but a bit closed out. At Santa Cruz surf was chest to maybe head high and clean and lined up but weak. In Southern California/Ventura surf was chest to head high with some bigger peaks on the outside and clean and lined up but a little shifty and not well groomed. In North Orange Co surf was waist high on the sets and mostly clean but generally weak breaking just off the beach with light south winds adding some texture. South Orange Country's best breaks were knee to thigh high and textured from south wind. In North San Diego surf was waist high at beach breaks and up to head high at reef breaks and clean but soft. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new Kamchatka swell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead with light winds and mostly glassy conditions but with some lump in the water and not real well organized. The South Shore was flat to thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at head high and chopped from moderate east-northeast trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Wednesday (12/12) swell was fading in California from a modest gale that tracked through the Gulf of Alaska Fri-Sat (12/8) with up to 35 ft seas. Also swell was hitting Hawaii from a storm that developed off the Northern Kuril's on Sat (12/8) with seas to 44 ft aimed east, then faded while tracking over the North Dateline region. That storm faded over the dateline, then redeveloped in the Northwestern Gulf on Mon (12/10) with seas to 31 ft and continue east Tues (12/11) with seas fading from 31 targeting mainly Canada. Swell from that system is pushing towards the US West Coast now. Another small gale to develop right behind in the Gulf on Wed (12/12) with 31-32 ft seas aimed east. Of far more interest is a strong storm forecast developing while moving from west of the dateline Thurs (12/13) with 44 ft seas aimed east then into the Western Gulf to for the Central Gulf on Fri-Sat (12/15) with up to 51 ft seas aimed east then lifting northeast into the Northern Gulf on Sun (12/16) with seas fading from 44 ft. And now another strong one is to develop on the dateline on Sun (12/16) with 50 ft seas tracking east into the Western Gulf on Mon (12/17) with seas fading from 48 ft then dissipating 1100 nmiles off North CA on Tues (12/18). A warming equatorial Pacific continues to apparently feed the storm track. The key is to monitor whether the storm track holds over the next 2 weeks while the Inactive Phase of the MJO moves through the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA), or whether it fades out. If it holds decently, that will be an indicator that perhaps those warming waters are starting to coupling with the atmosphere, and helping to set up a longer term pattern favorable for storm development. If not, then the storm track was fed solely by the Active Phase of the MJO moving over the Eastern Equatorial Pacific.

See all the details below...


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

North Pacific

On Wednesday AM (12/12) the jet was consolidated with winds 150 kts pushing off Japan tracking east and holding the whole way across the North Pacific running east on the 43N latitude line with two pockets of winds to 160 kts eventually pushing into Oregon and Washington. A gentle broad trough was trying to develop in Northwestern Gulf of Alaska offering some support for gale development there. Over the next 72 hours winds to build to 180 kts in the Central Gulf stating Wed PM feeding the aforementioned trough and offering a window for gale development there, with the trough pushing east while getting pinched and into Vancouver Island on Fri (12/14). Starting Fri (12/14) more wind energy is to be building on the dateline at 170 kts with yet another trough developing on the dateline pushing east into the Western Gulf and that trough digging deep into Saturday (12/15) over the Central Gulf starting to be fed by 190 kt winds offering great support for gale if not storm development. That trough is to push east impacting the US West Coast late Sun (12/16) into early Mon (12/17). Beyond 72 hours the jet is to still be consolidated pushing east on the 35N latitude line reaching the whole way into Northern CA/Oregon with a new trough starting to develop on the dateline Sun AM (12/16). It is forecast to track east filling the Western Gulf on Mon (12/17) then starting to pinch some later Tues (12/18) in the Central Gulf offering great support for gale if not storm development. That trough is to fade lifting north on Wed (12/19) but with a solid consolidated jet still tracking east off Japan on the 36N latitude line pushing the whole way across the North Pacific. A very prolific pattern is suggested offering great support for gale development. In short, a progressive gale pattern is forecast centered over the Gulf of Alaska, even though the Inactive Phase of the MJO is taking control. This remains great news if it materializes.

Surface Analysis
On Wednesday (12/12) swell from a gale that developed in the Western Gulf of Alaska was fading in California (see Gulf Gale below). Also swell from a gale that developed off Kamchatka was starting to hit Hawaii and then rebuilt and swell from that is moving towards California (see Kamchatka/Gulf Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours 3 systems of interest are forecast (see North Gulf Gale, Local CA Gale and West Gulf Storm #3 below).

North Gulf Gale
Another gale started developing in the Northwestern Gulf Tues PM (12/11) with 45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 32 ft over a small area at 47N 166.5W. On Wed AM (12/12) the gale was building while tracking east with northwest winds building to 45 kts and seas 31 ft over a modest sized area at 47.5N 154.5W aimed east (303 degs NCal). In the evening the gale is to lift northeast fast with 50-55 kt northwest winds forecast in the extreme Northeastern Gulf with seas 34 ft at 53N 142W aimed east (well east of the CA swell window). On Thurs AM (12/13) the storm is to be impacting the Central Canadian coast with 36 ft seas hitting there. North angled swell expected for North and Central CA but likely buried in swell from another local system developing off the coast there on Fri (12/14) (see below).


Local CA Gale
A local gale is forecast developing Thurs AM (12/13) 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco with 40-45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 25 ft at 37.5N 152W. In the evening the gael is to race northeast with northwest winds to be 35 kts off Cape Mendocino aimed southeast with seas building from 26 ft at 36N 140W aimed southeast. On Fri AM (12/14) the gale is to be lifting north fast off Washington with 45 kt north winds and 27 ft seas at 44N 132W aimed east (315 degrees SF). This system is to be inland in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 20 ft impacting Cape Mendocino and into San Francisco Sat AM (12/15). Something to monitor.

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat (12/15) mid-AM pushing 9.5 ft @ 14-15 seas (13.5 ft). Swell fading Sun AM (12/16) from 6.0 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 300-315 degrees


West Gulf Storm #3
A storm is to be building just west of the dateline Thurs AM (12/13) producing 55-60 kt west winds positioned decently to the south and tracking east with seas building from 38 ft over a small area at 41.5N 165E aimed east. In the evening 55 kt west winds are to be pushing east on the dateline and seas building to 45 ft at 42N 176.5E aimed east. The storm is to track east fast and building in the Western Gulf on Fri AM (12/14) with 55 kt west winds in it's core embedded in a broad area of 45-50 kt west winds and seas 49 ft at 42.5N 170.5W aimed east. In the evening northwest winds to fade from 50-55 kts over a solid area in the Central Gulf with 54 ft seas at 43N 160.5W. The storm is to be pushing east Sat AM (12/15) and fading with 45 kt west winds and seas 51 ft at 43N 152W aimed east. In the evening winds are to be fading and lifting northeast at 45 kts still over a solid area with 42 ft seas at 43N 146W. The gale is to be fading Sun AM (12/16) in the Northern Gulf with winds dropping from 35-40 kts and seas fading from 39 ft at 47N 144.5W. Large long period raw swell is possible for the US West Coast with more managed sideband swell for the Islands. Something to monitor.


Gulf Gale
A new fetch of northwest winds started building over the North Dateline into the Western Gulf on Thurs PM (12/6) with northwest winds 45 kts solid over a decent sized area aimed east-southeast with seas building from 30 ft over a small area at 49N 175.5W aimed southeast. Fri AM (12/7) northwest winds were 45-50 kts over a moderate sized area aimed southeast falling southeast in the Western Gulf with seas building to 35 ft @ 44N 166.5W. In the evening fetch fell southeast fast at 35 kts with 30 ft seas at 45N 159W aimed southeast. On Sat AM (11/8) fetch was over the Southern Gulf aimed more east and fading from 30 kts with seas 27 ft at 40N 152W aimed southeast. In the evening the gale is to be lifting north positioned 450 nmiles off Vancouver Island with northwest winds 30-35 kts and seas 25 ft at 38N 150W aimed southeast. In the evening the gale is to be gone with residual seas fading from 21 ft at 37N 145W aimed southeast targeting California swell. Another bout of larger rawer swell is possible for California and smaller less direct energy from Hawaii.

North CA: Residuals on Wed AM (12/12) from 4.5 ft @ 12 secs (5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 286-298 with most energy from 295 degrees

South CA: Swell fading Wed (12/12) fading from 3.4 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft). Residuals on Thurs AM (12/13) from 2.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 291-303 with most energy from 299 degrees


Kamchatka/Gulf Gale
Another gale started developing Fri PM (12/7) just off the Northern Kuril's producing a modest sized area of 45-50 kt west winds getting traction on the oceans surface with seas building. On Sat AM (12/8) 55 kt west winds were pushing off the North Kuril's with seas 42 ft at 48N 160E. In the evening the storm faded while tracking east off Kamchatka with winds 45 kts from the west and seas fading from 40 ft at 49N 167E. The gale faded from there Sun AM (12/9) with winds dropping from 35-40 kts with seas fading from 31 ft at 49N 176E. Remnants of this system reorganized some while pushing east over the dateline into the Northwestern Gulf Sun PM with winds 35 kts from the west and seas 29 ft over a broadish area straddling the dateline at 48N 179W aimed east. On Mon AM (12/10) the gale was trying to become more cohesive with west winds 35 kts in the Western Gulf with seas building from 29 ft at 48N 171.5W. In the evening west winds to push east while building to 40 kts from the west in the Gulf with seas building to 31 ft at 46.5N 165W aimed east at the Pacific Northwest. The gale is to build Tues AM (12/11) in the Northeastern Gulf with northwest winds 35-40 kts with seas 31 ft at 47N 152.5W aimed east. The gale is to fade while pushing east from there over the Eastern Gulf with west winds 30 kts and seas fading from 29 ft up at 50N 142W and north of the North CA swell window targeting only Canada. Swell possible for the Pacific Northwest down to Pt Conception.

Hawaii: Swell building from the Kamchatka component of the gale overnight pushing 5.2 ft @ 16 secs mid-AM Wed (12/12) (8.0 ft) and holding through the day. Swell fading Thurs AM (12/13) from 4.3 ft @ 14 secs (6.0 ft). Swell fading out from there. Swell Direction: 320 degrees

North CA: Possible Gulf portion of the swell arrival on Thurs (12/13) pushing 8.5-9.5 ft @ 16 secs (13.5-15.0 ft) but shadowed in the SF Bay area. Swell fading Fri AM (12/14) from 7.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (11 ft) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 300-305 degrees

Southern CA: Gulf swell peaking just before sunrise on Fri (12/14) at 4.1 ft @ 16 secs (6.5 ft) mainly only at exposed breaks. Residuals on Sat (12/15) holding at 3.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 305-311 degrees


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


Tropical Update
No tropical weather systems of interest are forecast.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Wednesday AM (12/12) high pressure was off California driving north winds at 15-20 kts mainly just off the coast of North and Central CA and lighter (10 kts) nearshore. Thurs (12/13) light winds to be in control for the entire state as a local gale builds just off the coast. No precipitation forecast. Fri (12/14) the local low is to be off Oregon with a front pushing into Cape Mendocino with south winds 30 kts there and 15 kts down to maybe the Golden Gate mid-day. Rain pushing south to Monterey Bay late evening then dissolving. No real snow for Tahoe. Saturday light winds are forecast everywhere with a front building off the coast and south winds 15-20 kts for Cape Mendocino late afternoon and 10 kts for San Francisco but calm south of there. No rain forecast. Sunday (12/16) the front is to be pushing south to Monterey Bay with south winds 25-30 kts down to there late afternoon and stalling with south winds 15 kts to Morro Bay. Rain developing at sunrise for all of North CA through the day pushing solid into Big Sur by mid-evening. No snow forecast. Monday (12/17) weak high pressure is to move in behind the front while another front builds off the coast with northwest winds 10 kts down to Monterey Bay and 15 kts south to Pt Conception. Rain fading for North and most of Central CA and fading mid-AM over Pt Conception. Light snow through the day for the Sierra. Tuesday (12/18) a front is to stall just north of Cape Mendocino with south winds there 15 kts and calm south of there but north 15 kts for Pt Conception. Wednesday (12/19) steady northeast winds forecast at 10 kts for the entire coast early fading mid-day. No precip. Total snow accumulation for for the week for North Lake Tahoe 1-3 inches and 4 inches for Mammoth.


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell of interest was in the water.

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are 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 yet another strong storm is to be building west of the dateline Sat AM (12/16) with 50-55 kt west winds over a small area and seas building from 38 ft at 40N 165E aimed east. In the evening the storm is to be approaching the dateline with 55 kt west winds and seas building from 48 ft at 42N 173.5E aimed east. On Sun AM (12/16) 50 kt west-northwest winds are forecast pushing east with 52 ft seas at 42.5N 178.5W aimed east. The storm is to track east in the evening and moderating with 45 kt west winds and seas 50 ft at 42N 170W aimed east. On Mon AM (12/17) the storm is to be in the Western Gulf and fading with 40-45 kt west winds and seas fading from 44 ft @ 44.5N 165W aimed east. In the evening the gale is to be fading with 40 kt west winds and seas fading from 41 ft at 40N 157W aimed east. The gale is to fade from there.

Quite a series of storms are forecast if one is to believe the models. This is the most impressive run we've seen in 3 years.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.


MJO/ENSO Forecast


Atmosphere Continues ENSO Neutral - Kelvin Waves #2 & #3 Merging

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 equator it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slackening if not an outright reversing trade winds while enhancing 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 planet, 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 in the Pacific help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. Wind anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) are key for understanding what Phase the MJO is in over the Pacific. The KWGA is located on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south (or on the equator from New Guinea east to the dateline). West wind anomalies in the KWGA suggest the Active Phase of the MJO in the Pacific, and east anomalies suggests the Inactive Phase. In turn the Active Phase strengthens and the Inactive Phase weakens the jetstream, which in turn enhances or dampens storm production respectively in the Pacific.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).

Overview: La Nina started developing in early 2016, but westward displaced and generally weak. And by March 2017, it was gone with suspicious warming developing along South America and over the Galapagos to a point south of Hawaii. By May the atmosphere returned to a neutral configuration but then in July east anomalies started building in the KWGA and have not stopped, with cold water upwelling over the the Nino1.2 and 3.4 areas, indicative of La Nina. A double dip La Nina was in control and continued through the Winter of 2017-2018. But warming started building along the South and Central American coast in early March 2018 associated with two upwelling Kelvin Waves, and continued trying to build over equatorial waters over the Summer and Fall, but not enough yet to declare El Nino and not coupled with the atmosphere.

Fall/Winter 2018 = 6.0 (California & Hawaii)
Rating based on a 1-10 scale: 1 being the lowest (small and infrequent surf conditions), 5 being normal/average, and 10 being extraordinary (frequent events of large, long period swells)

Rationale: Assuming the PDO has moved to the warm phase and that El Nino does not develop as strong as previously forecast, and assuming and an ocean-atmospheric coupling becomes weakly established in the January timeframe and ocean temperature anomalies in Nino3.4 build to the +0.6 deg range, there is good probability for slightly enhanced storm production in the North Pacific starting in the late Nov timeframe (specifically the Gulf of Alaska and Dateline regions) with slightly increased intensity in number of storm days and storm intensity, resulting in slightly increased odds for larger than normal swell, with increased duration and higher than normal period. This should be significantly better than the past 2 winter seasons.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of (12/11) 5 day average winds were strong from the east over the Eastern equatorial Pacific to the dateline, then fading and mixed both light east and west over the KWGA. Anomalies were moderate east over the far East equatorial Pacific turning neutral east of there then weak to modest westerly from the dateline and into the KWGA.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): On (12/12) weak east anomalies were in the far western KWGA with a small area of west anomalies on the dateline and strong east anomalies building east of there. The forecast is for this situation to generally hold, with light east anomalies fading on 12/16 in the west KWGA and being replaced by weak west anomalies and strong west anomalies building and holding solid on the dateline through the end of the model run on 12/19. There's no obvious support for storm development with what appears to be an Inactive MJO setting up.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: (12/11) The Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the KWGA. The statistical model indicates the Inactive Phase is to ease east and over the dateline at day 5 and nearly out of the KWGA at day 10 with the Active Phase of the MJO moving in to the far West Pacific and becoming more entrenched at day 15. The dynamic model indicates the same thing but with the Inactive Phase not moving quite as fast to the east and still partially lingering over the dateline at day 15 while the Active Phase slowly builds in the far West Pacific. The 2 models are generally in sync.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (12/12) The ECMF model depicts the Active Phase of the MJO was moderate over the East Indian Ocean. It is to track east steadily at moderate strength and is to be over the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out while fading some there. The GEFS model depicts the same thing. The 2 models are generally in sync.
40 day Upper Level Model: (12/12) This model depicts a modest Active Phase of the MJO over the Eastern Pacific moving inland over Central America on 12/27. An Inactive signal is over the far West Pacific tracking east and is to move over the East Pacific and into Central America on 1/12. A very weak Active Phase of the MJO is to build in the West Pacific 1/16 tracking east and disintegrating with literally no MJO signal at the end of the model run on 1/21/19.
4 Week CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/11) This model depicts moderate to strong west anomalies were over the dateline and are forecast to fade some in the next few days, but basically holding at moderate strength from 12/13 to the end of the model run at 1/8.
3 Month CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/12) This model depicts weak west anomalies were over the core of the KWGA with east anomalies on the dateline. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was building in the KWGA and expected to hold through 12/23 with mainly patches of weak west anomalies forecast in the KWGA. After that a stronger Active MJO pattern is to develop 12/24 through 2/1 with west anomalies building in coverage filling the KWGA, but not to WWB status as previously forecast. A weak Inactive Phase to follow starting 2/2 through the end of the model run on 3/11 but with west anomalies still in control. The low pass filter indicates a low pressure bias is fully in control of the KWGA centered on the dateline reaching east over California and forecast holding through the end of the model run. A third contour line is to fade from 12/19-1/10 then reappear thereafter. It appears from this model that El Nino is in control, but we know from other data this is not the case. The atmosphere and ocean are trying to become coupled towards El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, but there's no objective evidence of it yet. And If it hasn't happened yet (by Dec 15), it's doubtful there will be significant weather influence, even if it does develop during this winter cycle. And this model is not suggesting they will become coupled, with the MJO cycle active, and not muted as it would be during a strong El Nino. Still this pattern is to slowly become more favorable to support storm production in the Pacific regardless of whether El Nino develops, because the atmosphere is still turning from a La Nina pattern (that has been entrenched for the past 2 years) at a minimum towards a neutral one. Our assumption is a normal Winter pattern will result, or perhaps slightly enhanced, but nothing more.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/12) Today in the far West Pacific water temps are 30 degs and building coverage (after previously falling west reaching east to only 172E on 12/5) reaching east and steady at 175W. The 28 deg isotherm line had retrograded west to 160W mid-Nov, then moved east again and stable today at 154W. The 24 deg isotherm was 125 meters deep at 140W then getting shallower east of there but pushing into Ecuador. 25 meters down. Anomaly wise, warm anomalies are filling the entire subsurface Pacific with temps rebuilding in the West Pacific at +4 degs at 170W (Possible Kelvin Wave #3). And temps are now stable at +3-4 degs east of there then whole way into Ecuador. It appears Kelvin Wave #2 is merging with new Kelvin Wave #3. We were thinking the peak of the Kelvin Wave cycle for this supposed El Nino has already occurred associated with Kelvin Wave #2, but upwelling over Ecuador looks poised to continue nonstop for the next 4 months with the development and merging of Kelvin Wave #3 with Kelvin Wave #2. So there;s great surface oceanic warming potential to feed jetstream core energy through the entirety of the 2018/2019 winter cycle. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/4 paints the same picture with the Kelvin Wave #2 in the East Pacific from 130W pushing into Ecuador with temps peaking at +5.0 degs at 100W and modest warming building at +3 degs under the dateline associated with Kelvin Wave #3. Kelvin Wave #2 was breaching the surface from 90W to 155W solidly with secondary warm anomalies west from there to 165E. The GODAS animation appears to be 1 week behind the TAO data but also is more detailed and accurately modeled.
Sea Level Anomalies: (12/4) Positive anomalies were solid from the interior Maritime Continent tracking east (+5-10 cms), extending east over the area north of New Guinea at +5 cms with a new core to +10 cms centered at 170E. East of there continuous +5 cms anomalies were in place over the equator the whole way into the East Pacific and Ecuador. Kelvin Wave (#2) was steady from 150W to Ecuador and branching north to Baja and south to Southern Peru along the coasts there, a good sign.

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
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (12/11) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate temps were warm in a Kelvin Wave pattern straddling 5 degrees north and south of the equator from Ecuador west to the dateline, with only one stronger warm pocket on the dateline. Otherwise just generic warming was indicated. And these temps were slightly cooler than days past and appear to be steadily loosing their core warmth. There is a steady stream of moderate warming along the coast the immediate coasts of Chile and Peru and Ecuador and a bit weaker reaching north to Central America, but nothing indicative of a strong trend towards El Nino, and more just like a modest El Nino. Generic warm anomalies were north of the equator from Central America and south of Mexico building out to Hawaii and the dateline. But a pocket of cool waters was solid and steady elongated east to west off Peru to 130W. Overall the pattern looks weakly like El Nino, but also like La Nina (given the cool pockets off Peru) with no solid warming branching north and south along the Central and South American coast, suggesting this developing El Nino is only weakly in control and still fragile at best in the East Equatorial Pacific as it has been for weeks.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/11): A modest stream of cooling waters was indicated on the equator from the Galapagos to 140W. But a broad area of warming was building along the coast of Chile and Peru extending well out to sea, presumably due to fading trades there, not related to Kevin Wave impaction in Ecuador. Overall a steady pattern is indicated.
Hi-res Overview: (12/11) Weak warm water was along the immediate coast of Chile and Peru. Otherwise moderate warm water was on the equator from Ecuador over the Galapagos building out to the dateline. We have turned the corner from a cool regime a year ago to a warm regime now. And one could kinda think we are moving towards a El Nino pattern just looking at the surface temps. But that would be a false conclusion because the warm signal on the surface should be much stronger at this time of the year if El Nino were truly developing. We are in an ENSO neutral pattern biased warm and likely only going to move to a minimal warm regime, likely not reaching full El Nino status this winter.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/12) Today's temps were rebuilding at +1.065 after falling to +0.212 on 12/3, after they built to +1.534 on 11/27. That peak on 11/27 was the all time high for this event in this region. A warming trend is steadily building.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps:
(12/12) Today temps were falling hard to +0.430 after rising to +1.050 degs on 12/6 and previously in the +0.5-+0.6 range since 11/12. The all time high for this event was +1.45 on 11/5, beating the previous peak temps of +0.795 on 10/9, and +0.649 on 9/27, and that beating the previous peak at +0.490 on 7/2. Overall temps are noodling around at +0.5 to +0.9 degs above normal adding suggesting some sort of minimally weak El Nino is trying to develop, but nothing serious.

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CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (12/11) The model indicates temps were at +0.9 degs in mid-Nov (which isn't even close to reality - they were actually about +0.5) then rising some to +1.05 on Dec 1 (in reality +0.6 degs) and then forecast building to +1.25 by Feb 1 nd to +1.4 degs in early April 2019, falling to +1.00 degs into July 2019 and steady from there into Aug. If one is to believe the model then one would assume that El Nino is to build in the Winter of 18/19. But given all the data we've seen, we believe odds of weak El Nino are more likely. Most models are suggesting a turn to weak El Nino conditions by late Fall. It's not certain we're there yet.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Nov Plume depicts temps are to slowly rise from here, to +1.00 degs in November and +1.0-+1.1 degs through Feb 2019, then slowly fading to 0.71 in July. See chart here - link. There's a 90% chance of a weak El Nino developing through January.

Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) (negative is good, positive bad) (12/12): The daily index was rising to +13.39. The 30 day average was falling some at +2.36 suggesting a neutral MJO. The 90 day average was rising some at 0.46, rising the past 3 weeks and no longer negative and the highest its been in months. The 90 degree average turned negative for the first time in a year on 6/30 suggesting a neutral ENSO pattern was building in the atmosphere. Unfortunately we have made no progress from there towards a negative El Nino pattern and if anything, have moved back to a positive regime.
ESPI Index (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive and/or rising is good, negative and/or falling is bad): (12/12) The index has risen slightly from at +0.03 on 12/3 to +0.24 today, just barely positive and not as strong as it should be if El Nino were developing. Typically El Nino peaks in late December. If that is the case in this years event, then there's no way we're going to move into a legit El Nino this winter. It was down to -0.22 the week of 10/22, after having risen to +0.39 on 10/10, the highest so far this event. This suggests that precip and evaporation are normal, and not above normal as one would expect if El Nino were in play. We are in an ENSO neutral pattern. The reading from 8/14 (+0.11) was the first time it's turned positive in a year.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO is weakly positive, even though La Nina is in play.
Per NOAAs index recent values: June 2017 +0.21, July -0.50, Aug -0.62, Sept -0.25, Oct -0.61, Nov -0.45, Dec -0.13, Jan 2018 +0.29, Feb -0.19, Mar -0.61, April -0.89, May -0.69, June -0.85, July -0.09, Aug -0.42, Sept -0.42. This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO, even with La Nina, because the warm PDO appears to be dampening the effects of La Nina. No consistently solid negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington/JISAO index (Jan-Dec): June 2017 +0.79, July +0.10, Aug +0.09, Sept +0.32, Oct +0.05, Nov +0.15, Dec +0.50, Jan +0.70. Feb +0.37, Mar -0.05, April +0.11, May +0.11, June -0.04, July +0.11, Aug +0.18, Sept +0.09. No real negative readings have occurred since Dec 2013
The PDO turned from a 16 year negative run (Jan 98-Feb 2014) in early 2014 and has been positive ever since (other than a few months of negative readings in Fall 2016, the result of a turn towards La Nina). Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data strongly suggests that could be a possibility. By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

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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