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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Sunday, December 27, 2015 3:33 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
3.2 - California & 4.2 - 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 12/28 thru Sun 1/3

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   

Series of Gales Forecast on Dateline/West Gulf
MJO Turning Active

Stormsurf would like to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It's been a great year for us with many upgrades to the site i.cgiemented and more to come. Thanks so much for all your support. Forecasts will be updated over the holidays as time permits giving us some time to enjoy a much needed break. Then it will be back to business as usual after New Years. Hope you score good waves or snow over the Holidays!

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, December 27, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 8.0 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 4.8 ft @ 13.3 secs from 317 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 3.0 secs with swell 1.3 ft @ 10.6 secs from 232 degrees. Wind northeast 14-16 kts. Water temperature 60.8 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.7 ft @ 11.4 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.1 ft @ 11.4 secs from 266 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.7 ft @ 12.7 secs from 283 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 11.9 secs with swell 2.8 ft @ 11.0 secs from 315 degrees. Wind northeast 12-14 kts. Water temp 55.9 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Sunday (12/27) in North and Central CA residual Gulf swell was chest high on the sets and clean making for small but fun surf. The smallest it's been in weeks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high and clean and swamped by tide. In Southern California up north surf was thigh to waist high on the sets and clean but generally weak. Down south waves were near flat and breaking on the beach but clean with clear skies. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the start of West Gulf swell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and clean and well rideable. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves head high and some wrap around northwest swell but chopped by east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
No swell was hitting the US West Coast with surf the smallest it's been in a long time, especially north of Pt Conception. But Hawaii was getting the leading edge of sideband energy from the next swell generated Fri-Sat (12/26) in the Northwestern Gulf with seas in the 33 ft range.

Beyond a small gale is forecast to develop on the dateline Mon (12/28) tracking northeast and fading Tues (12/29) with up to 32 ft seas but only over a small area. Then a broad area of disturbed weather is to set up much further south on the dateline Wed (12/30) moving into the Western Gulf Fri (1/1) generating 24-26 ft seas targeting Hawaii well. And a stronger system is to follow in it's wake Sat-Sun (1/3) generating 43 ft seas aimed east in the Western Gulf offering good hope for mainline locations.

Longer term the models continue suggesting the Active Phase of the MJO is migrating east and currently positioned in the far West Pacific with the Inactive Phase all but gone and east of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Destructive interference of the El Nino base state has faded and a much more favorable pattern with constructive interference is starting to result. A significant upgrade of the North Pacific jetstream is in progress and expected to build in the coming week.

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

North Pacific

On Sunday AM (12/27) a consolidated and strong jet was flowing east off Central Japan with winds 200 kts on the 37N latitude line reaching the dateline and almost starting to form a trough there, then .cgiitting with the northern branch ridging slightly northeast then falling southeast off the US West Coast and consolidating with a weak trough just off Oregon and poised to move onshore there. The southern branch was falling southeast over Hawaii then tracked northeast again joining the main flow over Central CA and moving onshore there. Perhaps a little weather to result for the Pacific northwest down into California but no obvious support for gale development was in.cgiay. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of strong winds currently off Japan is to move to the dateline by Wed (12/30) with winds in the 190 kt range with the jet well consolidated reaching to 145W (northwest of Hawaii) before .cgiitting. a solid trough is projected developing in the Western Gulf on Tues (12/29) offering great support for gale if not storm development. A large .cgiit is to be east of the .cgiit point covering the entire US West Coast and well up into Canada providing high pressure and dry conditions under it. Beyond 72 hours winds are to hold in the 160-170 kt range on the dateline with another trough setting up in the Western Gulf Fri-Sat (1/2) again offering good support for gale development there and putting pressure on the .cgiit point moving it to 137W. And by Sun (1/3) winds to regroup in the jet just east of the dateline to 180 kts with the .cgiit point moving to 130W with yet another trough looking to set up in the Western Gulf and weather poised just 500 nmiles off the US West Coast with the main jet energy pushing into Baja. the jet is to be fully consolidated elsewhere all the way back to Japan and looking very much like the classic El Nino configuration, courtesy of the return of the Active Phase of the MJO and constructive interference with the El Nino base state. We'll see what actually happens, though most all models are now consolidated around some flavor of this outcome.

Surface Analysis
On Sunday (12/27) swell from a gale that previously developed in the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska was starting to hit Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Northwestern Gulf Gale below). Otherwise an anemic surf pattern was in control of the US West Coast but scheduled to upgrade as the above swell pushes east.

Over the next 72 hours a stormier pattern is to set up on the Dateline and Western Gulf regions associated with a strengthening jetstream pattern there. A small fetch of 45 kts west winds is to develop Mon AM (12/28) on the dateline producing a small area of 33 ft seas at 46N 178E aimed east. 40-45 kts west winds to persist in the evening generating more 30 ft seas at 47N 174W aimed east. Fetch is to fade from 35 kts Tues AM (12/29) with seas fading from 28 ft at 47N 176W. Small 16 sec period sideband swell is possible for Hawaii with more direct energy for the US West Coast. But small is the operative word given the small size of the fetch and relative long distance to both Hawaii and the US West Coast.

A broader but less defined area of 45 kt west winds are to develop well south and just east of the dateline Wed AM (12/30) producing 27 ft seas at 38N 174W targeting mainly Hawaii. That fetch is to track northeast in the evening still at 45 kts generating near 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 40N 162W targeting mainly the US West coast with a broad fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds west of there extending from the Kuril Islands over the dateline generating a large area of 20-22 ft seas targeting Hawaii from 36N 178E (310 degrees). On Thurs AM (12/31) 55 kt west winds to be lifting northeast through the Gulf generating 36 ft seas at 46N 152 targeting the US West Coast (300 degrees NCal). And 30-40 kts west fetch is to be over the dateline generating 24-26 ft seas targeting Hawaii at 34N 168W (320 degs HI) and 43N 171E (315 degrees). In the evening the majority of fetch is to be falling southeast towards Hawaii at 35-40 kts generating 28 ft seas at 38N 178W (319 degs HI). 35-40 kts west fetch is to track north of Hawaii on Fri AM (1/1) generating 26 ft seas at 38N 167W (335 degs HI, 285 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal). Also a secondary fetch of 55k west winds are to develop in the Gulf generating a tiny area of 40 ft seas at 46N 150W targeting the US West Coast (300 degs NCal). 40 kt westerly fetch to persist in the evening north of Hawaii generating 27 ft seas at 35N 160W targeting mainly the US West Coast (278 degs NCal, 25 degs SCal). A new low is to evolve from this fetch off the US West Coast Sat AM (1/2) producing 40 kt northwest winds and 27 ft seas at 33N 152W (280 degs SCal) persisting into the evening targeting SCal. Nothing super focused to result from this system, but steady generic swell is possible for all locations if this.cgiays out as forecast.


Northwestern Gulf Gale
Low pressure tried to get a foothold over the dateline region late Tues (12/22) but was deflected north fast by high pressure locked north of Hawaii. This low moved over the North Dateline region Wed PM (12/23) with the core of the low in the Southern Central Bering Sea. It finally stall and started to get organized over the Central Aleutians Thurs PM (12/24) generating a broad fetch of 40-45 kt west-northwest winds over the dateline reaching southeast and just south of the Aleutians with seas building to 25 ft at 50N 178E targeting Hawaii (333 degs) and the US West Coast (306 degs NCal). Christmas morning a solid fetch of 45-50 kt northwest winds were in the far Western Gulf with 30 ft seas developing over a modest sized area at 49N 175W (341 degs HI, 305 degs NCal). In the evening 40 kt west-northwest winds were starting to track east generating 33 ft seas at 49N 167W (347 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). Fetch was fading from 35 kts in the Western Gulf Sat AM (12/26) generating 28 ft seas at 46N 163W (356 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). Possible solid swell mainly for the US West Coast with sideband energy for HI.

Hawaii: Expect preliminary swell arrival on Sun AM (12/27) at 4.8 ft @ 13 secs (6 ft). But this is from fetch that was not associated with the core of the storm. Core swell to arrive starting at sunset at 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft). Swell to peak over night and still be solid Mon AM (12/28) at 6 ft @ 15-16 secs (9 ft) fading some later. Residual swell to fade out Tues AM (12/29) from 3 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 333-345 degrees

North CA: Expect preliminary swell building Mon (12/28) to 4.5 ft @ 14 secs later (6 ft) with longer period energy building underneath late. Core swell building over night peaking Tues (12/29) sunrise at 7.7 ft @ 15-16 secs (11.5 ft) but shadowed in the SF Bay Area. period dropping some through the day. Residuals on Wed (12/13) fading from 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 300-305 degrees


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


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday AM (12/27) a light wind pattern was in control of California early with a front pushing down the coast with north winds 15 kts after dark mainly north of Pt Arena. Light rain pushing south to San Francisco late. Monday northwest winds to be 15 kts for all of North and Central CA with no rain forecast. Northwest winds at 15 kts are forecast Tuesday (12/29) with offshore winds possible nearshore in the SF Bay area. Light winds forecast everywhere Wednesday through Friday turning southeast Saturday and building Sunday with a broad low pressure system just offshore.


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell producing weather systems were occurring in the South Pacific.

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 more focused storm is forecast developing on the dateline Sat AM (1/2) generating 50 kt northwest winds and seas building. Winds to build to 55 kts in the evening while the storm lifts east-northeast in the Western Gulf generating 36 ft seas at 44N 170W targeting mainly the US West Coast. This storm to stall there Sun AM (1/3) generating 50 kts west winds and 43 ft seas at 47N 166W targeting the US West Coast and Canada. This system to rapidly fade from there. Something to monitor.

Another gale is to be building off North Japan Sun evening (1/3) with 45 kts west winds offering yet more swell potential.

It looks like a good storm cycle is setting up.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


MJO Trending Favorably
Westerly Wind Projection Improves for KWGA

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 Sat (12/26) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds from 155E to 165W mainly south of the equator. Moderate east winds were north of the equator from 160E eastward. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds at 15 kts were south of the equator in the west KWGA building to 33 kts in the Southeast KWGA. Impressive. Anomalies were moderate to strong from the west from 155E to 160W on and south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino was starting to show itself again.
1 Week Forecast: The GFS model indicates west anomalies in.cgiay from 150E east to 160W and forecast to build both in velocity and width to 12/28 indicating a legit WWB, fading slightly then rebuilding again on 1/2 but di.cgiaced west to 165E. A legit El Nino/WWB pattern is forecast to reemerge. Actual winds per the GFS model are to continue from the west in the southern KWGA 22+ kts through 1/1 then fading to the 16-18 kt range and continuing through 1/4. A true El Nino pattern is projected. No east anomalies had occurred this year in the KWGA through 12/7, then materialized no thanks to the Inactive Phase of the MJO and held into 12/17. Fortunately that bout ended with westerly anomalies back in.cgiay thereafter.

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 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared with west anomalies dead through (11/23). This slackening of the anomalies will likely usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle after Kelvin Wave #4 terminates its eventual eruption in the vicinity of the Galapagos starting 2.5 months later or near 1/15/16. Starting 11/20 a weak west anomaly pattern set up near the dateline and held to 12/7, then fading with weak east anomalies taking hold till 12/17 courtesy of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. West anomalies started redeveloping on 12/17 and were building through today. 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 Sat (12/26) the Inactive MJO signal was all but gone over the equatorial area south of Hawaii with the Active Phase over New Guinea and moving east. The Statistic model forecasts the Active MJO moving well into the West Pacific reaching the dateline 2 weeks out while a strong Inactive Phase builds in the Indian Ocean.  The dynamic model depicts the same thing. The two models are in sync. From an El Nino standpoint, it should begin to start expressing itself in the next few days as the Inactive Phase fades completely over the equatorial dateline region and destructive interference dissipates. If anything, El Nino should be super charged by constructive interference of this developing Active Phase. This is very good news.  
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderate Active MJO signal in the West Pacific tracking east and fading over the America 2 weeks out. The GEFS is depicting a similar pattern too with it moving from the West Pacific and stalling on the dateline 2 weeks out. The preferred outcome is that of the GEFS.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a Active MJO over the West Pacific easing east through 1/8. That is not believable. We are ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is building on the dateline today and is to continue to make eastward progress with it peaking near Jan 6. West anomalies are moderate in the KWGA area with no Rossby Wave in.cgiay and are to build through 1/6 at WWB status, then fading into 1/21 as the MJO moves east and out of the KWGA. The Inactive Phase to set up 1/24 holding into 2/10, with west anomalies weakening but not gone. The Active Phase is to return 2/16 with west anomalies again in control at WWB status through the end of March but di.cgiaced east near 170W, typical of the mature phase of El Nino.

It is obvious that the MJO is not dead, regardless of theories which suggest it should be during strong El Ninos. That evidence is the presence of the Inactive Phase that destructively interfered with the El Nino base state (12/7-12/17) and now the Active Phase developing 12/27.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/27) Actual temperatures remain impressive and believable with all sensors on-line. An area of 30 deg temps were at depth from 175E to 158W (shrinking) with the 28 deg isotherm line barley holding at 120W. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 137W eastward (moving east fast). No 6 degs anomalies remain. +5 deg anomalies are from 130W eastward (moving east). The core regions are mostly steady for the moment, but are fading in intensity. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/19 the reservoir is in great shape with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a large core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 85W-135W (steady). This is a great scenario. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos at +4 degs near 110W. Cool water is continuing to undercut the warm pool though down at 125 meters and reaching east to 130W.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (12/19) Heights are fading and moving east, but still at high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are retracting east and covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 175W (steady). Peak anomalies at +20 cm have vanished. +15 cm anomalies are fading extending from 95W to 135W and reaching from 5N to 5S (shrinking). +10 cm anomalies are pushing to Ecuador but not really tracking south down the Peruvian Coast, as would be expected during a typical El Nino.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (12/19) is shrinking but still impressive levels indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady at 159W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are moving east from 143W attributable to WWB #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are tracking east from 136W (fading). A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are steady at 127W into Ecuador. And +2.5 deg anomalies are all but gone with one pocket at 113W. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 continues in the east but is fading steadily. This El Nino remains slightly westward di.cgiaced. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also evident in the west (just east of the dateline) with the eastward retreat of of all temperature bands, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which started 10/31 and continued into 12/17. Previous signs of perhaps a new Kevin Wave (#5) are no longer present. The current thinking is that the warm subsurface reservoir is discharging, or at at least fading commensurate with a pending Upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. But the Active Phase of the MJO is now building over the KWGA and might result in another Kelvin Wave. Still the peak of El Nino from a subsurface warming perspective has already passed and any additional warming will serve mainly to extend the life of El Nino.

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. But it appeared to start erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 peaking 11/17. 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. With the WWB/Kelvin Wave #4, a more aggressive face of this El Nino appeared during the Oct-Nov timeframe. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over on 10/31, and with it the subsurface warm pool started discharging, with no significant westerly anomalies nor warm surface water left in the West Pacific to be driven to the east in the form of a Kelvin Wave.  Perhaps with the building Active Phase of the MJO on 12/27 another weak Kelvin Wave might result.

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: (12/26) The latest image indicates temps were solid but not coverage nor intensity. Basically a steady state pattern was in.cgiay. No +4.0 deg anomalies were present. +2.25 anomalies covered from just off the coast of Ecuador to the Galapagos steady width, and building up into Costa Rica, but not overtly impressive. This continues to indicate 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.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (12/26) The latest image depicts shrinking coverage, but still impressive. Coverage of +2.25 deg anomalies is not as thick north to south as last week mainly east of 150W, but is holding nicely west of there. Peak temps at +4.0 degs are loosing coverage near 110W. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive, but continues a slow decline from it's peak. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. Temps between 160W-180W are shrinking also, with +2.25 deg anomalies reaching west to only 172W where they were to the dateline on 12/14. No +4 deg anomalies are present. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #3 and #4. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/26): Moderate warming is occurring over a broad but spotty area down the South American Coast off Chile and Peru and north of the equator up into Central America. Also temps are on the increase on the equator from the Galapagos to 113W. There no serious thought Nino 1.2 is going to build any more than it has.
Hi-res Overview:
(12/26) The El Nino signal is unmistakable. The main focus continues to be eruption port that developed starting 10/28 west of the Galapagos and continue today. Those ports peaked on 11/19, not as intense as a previous peak on 9/19, but covering a larger area. Today the warmest temps have far less coverage than the November peak and continue to fade. As of 12/26 one little pocket of +4 deg anomalies remained at 130W to 135W where it previously covered from 100W to 140W. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area fading and loosing some intensity with +4 deg anomalies from 128-135W Hints of +4.0 anomalies exist just west of the Galapagos too. It's still impressive.

Kevin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, then redeveloped and increased significantly starting 10/28 and peaked on 11/23. That peak was attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. A slow fade is occurring now as Kelvin Wave #4 dissipates.


Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
Updated! Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through November.
Both images/datasets suggest this is the warmest the NINO3.4 region has ever been. Now the question becomes: Will that translate in weather and swell? If the theory that temps in this area translate in stormier weather, then the answer is obvious.
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 near 145E (steady and well west). +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 175E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 177W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is steady from 108W-165W. No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is steady and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/27) Temps are falling slightly from +1.836, down from +1.950 (12/22), down from +2.088 (12/15), down from +2.387 12/11, holding there since 11/30, up from +1.708 11/19, down from +2.106 (11/5), 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: Today (12/27) temps are down some at +2.466 down from +2.708 (12/22), up from + 2.517 (12/19), up from +2.416 (12/15), falling slowly but steadily from +3.022 (12/3) and up from +2.967 (12/1), steady from +2.980 (11/27), up slightly from +2.900 on 11/23, down 15 hundredths from 11/20 at +2.915, down one tenth of a degree from the all time peak of +3.041 on 12z 11/19. This temp beat the previous all time high of +3.028 degs (12Z 11/17), up from + 2.986 as of (12Z 11/15) Nov 15. Overall temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21. and are right at +2.9 or greater since 11/13. Very Impressive. 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.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: The '97 El Nino peaked in this region at 3.6-3.7 degs mid-Nov to mid-Dec (OISSTv2). That is the goal. Today's value was down slightly at +2.697 from +2.753 (12/22), up from +2.671 (12/19), up barely from +2.655 (12/15), down from +2.882 (12/12), steady since (12/10) when it was +2.942, down some from (12/8) when it was +2.988 and stead compared to the 12/6 value of +2.989, up slightly form +2.919 (12/3), up from +2.905 (12/1), down slightly from +2.990 (11/28) up from +2.855 (11/23), up some from + 2.799 on 11/21, and down from +2.957 on 11/19. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97 in this region.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 12/16, temps were steady at +2.9 degs in both Nino3 and 3.4 and +1.7 in Nino 4. 12/9 was down slightly at +2.8 (Nino3.4) and +2.9 (Nino3). On 12/2 they were +2.9 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), down from 11/25 when they were +3.0 (in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), and down from the peak of +3.1 on 11/18, up from 11/11 when temps in Nino3 and 3.4 were both +3.0 degs. On 11/4 they were both +2.8. In '97 (11/26) peak temps in Nino3.4 reached +2.8. So we have beat that mark. But Nino3 temps in '97 reached +3.6-3.7 degs. We still have +0.6 degs to go. Insert Subsurface/Surface image here 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. 
Nino3.4 Monthly Temps (November) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of November were released 12/3 and came in at +2.34 degs C (ERSSTv4), beating the highest temp recorded in '97 (Nov - +2.32 degs) and beating the peak of the '82 El Nino (Dec +2.21 degs). And this years Oct temps were adjusted upwards to +2.0 degs. See updated graphs above. As of right now for a one month average, this put this years El Nino stronger than '97 and therefore the strongest ever (based on a one month SST reading). The ONI uses a 3 month running average. That is the final determiner. Very interesting.

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(Click to enlarge)

SST Image

Given the westward di.cgiacement in this years El Nino, we are interested in the relative effect on the jetstream as compared to previous strong ENSO events.  That's is, how does one compare eastward versus westward di.cgiaced El Nino events. This years El Nino has relatively weak Nino1.2 anomalies compared to '82 and '97, but much warmer in Nino4.  Do Nino3.4 temps accurately take that difference into account? We decided to find out. First we made an assumption: It is the total volume of warm water in the equatorial East Pacific, not just in Nino3.4 that defines the magnitude of the resulting El Nino atmospheric response. Whether that water is eastward or westward di.cgiaced, it makes no difference, as long as one can measure the total heating footprint, the bulk atmospheric response should be the same, just the center of core storm production would be either more east or west di.cgiaced.Next we needed to determine how to measure total heating footprint. There is a good historical record for anomalies in Nino1.2 (spanning 10 degrees longitude - 80W-90W), Nino3 (spanning 60 degrees - 90W-150W) and Nino4 (50 degrees - 150W to 150E).  If one performs a weighted average of the SST anomalies for the 3 zones, a composite anomaly can be obtained. So we did that for recent strong El Nino events. The results indicate a pattern very similar to si.cgie Nino3.4 analysis, that this years event is in the top 2 for this time of year and the top 3 of all time (discounting the more historically correct 'centered' data). Here's the data:

Note: ERSSTv4 'centered' data is not available for Nino1, 3 and 4 regions, only Nino3.4.

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 12/6 the current was strong from the west north of the equator from 125E to 130W with solid pockets on the equator at 130-160E and 170W. Anomaly wise - One pocket of solid west anomalies were between the dateline to 160W on the equator. Otherwise everything was normal. There were no pocket of east anomalies indicated.  This is somewhat impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was solidly east from 170E to 130W mostly north of the equator with anomalies very strong from 165E to 120W on the equator.    

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 This data is worthless. We are not reporting on it anymore.
Uncorrected Data depicted peak temps to +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then fading slightly to early December, then falling to +2.5 degs Jan 1 and projected on a steady decline from there but not falling to +0.0 even by Sept 1.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Dec Plume depicts temps peaked in early Nov, at +2.9 degs. the consensus suggests temps to fall steadily from here forward, down to 0.0 by august and then going slightly negative from there.
See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (12/27): Was falling from -2.80. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. A peak reading so far in this 2015 event was -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4 and then -42.20 on 10/14 and -47.50 on 12/3. 
30 Day Average: Was rising from -9.06. 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 some at -11.09. 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. 
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): Tropical low pressure was locked over Darwin on 12/27 but high pressure was finally starting to show over Southeast Australia. But the high is to exit east on Thurs (12/31) with a weak non-tropical low pressure pattern continuing over Darwin through Sun (1/4). We're dying to see high pressure take over East Australia. But the Active Phase of the MJO in the far West Pacific needs to move further east and be r.cgiaced by the Inactive Phase for that to occur. It is high pressure over Australia in NHemi winter months that is the preferred pattern for El Nino development in the Pacific.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 12/27 weak low pressure was finally starting to develop over and west of Tahiti. This pattern is to hold for the coming 7 days with a broad low pressure pattern developing just west of Tahiti and very slowly easing east. This is the coming of the Active Phase of the MJO. The SOI should start falling based on the Tahiti contribution. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're seeing perhaps a start of that pattern.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a steady state SOI with values holding neutral for the next week. The Inactive Phase of the MJO in the West Pacific has been having significant impact. Hopefully that is poised to change a week out.        
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (12/27) Today's value was up some at +1.67 and has been on a steady rise for 2 weeks now. This is a good sign. On 12/15 it was at +1.17, down from +1.25 (12/10), after rising through 12/8 to +1.37, up from +0.89 (12/1), up from +0.57 (11/23), down from +0.97 (11/15). This is a good trend suggesting that perhaps we're recouping from the lowest we've seen it on 12/1. Maybe the Inactive MJO in the Pacific is fading. But it is also typical for the ESPI to start falling as we move into Winter. This is primarily a summer and early Fall index during El Nino years. 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) (Nov) The current ranking is up some, at +2.31, up barely from +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 3rd strongest El Nino ever, and equivalent to 1982 for this time of year. 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 (12/27) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks decent but not exceptional constrained by when the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over and has had a dampening effect. But that is to start changing 5 days out.

Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
Full Sized Chart
(Click to enlarge)

Conclusion: 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.  But, coverage of warmer than normal water and it's affect on the atmosphere is not limited to just the Nino3.4 area. Nino3 and Nino1.2.cgiay a role. It's is the total areal coverage of the warm water footprint that defines the impact on the atmosphere. Temps in Nino3 in this years event are at +3.0 degs, but peaked at +3.7 degs in '97. Conversely temps in Nino 4 in this years event beats temps in '97. All graphed out, one gets the sense that '97 and 2015 are very different events, but similar in total atmospheric effect. 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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