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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, December 31, 2020 4:01 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
4.2 - California & 4.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' 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   

Swell #3 Hitting HI
Pushing Towards CA - Strongest Storm Ever Building Behind - Happy New Year

On Thursday, December 31, 2020 :

  • Buoy 233 (Pearl Harbor Entrance)/Buoy 239 (Lanai): Seas were 3.1 ft @ 15.4 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 14.8 secs from 279 degrees.
  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 9.0 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 6.8 ft @ 14.8 secs from 316 degrees. Water temp 78.4 degs.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 7.1 ft @ 6.2 secs with swell 6.0 ft @ 6.0 secs from 280 degrees. Wind at the buoy was northwest at 23-29 kts. Water temperature NA degs. At Harvest Buoy (071) primary swell was 6.4 ft @ 18.3 secs from 296 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 5.9 ft @ 6.7 secs from 269 degrees. At Oceanside (045) swell was 2.5 ft @ 7.7 secs from 261 degrees. Southward at Point Loma (191) swell was 2.1 ft @ 17.7 secs from 285 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 14.8 ft @ 15.4 secs with swell 8.4 ft @ 16.0 ft from 302 degrees. Wind at the buoy (012) was northwest at 18-23 kts. Water temp 51.4 degs (013), 51.6 degs (SF Bar) and 54.3 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 Thursday (12/31) in North and Central CA waves were 8-9 ft and pretty raw and lined up but mushed. Protected breaks were 1-2 ft overhead and lined up and closed out and pretty warbled. At Santa Cruz surf was 2-3 ft overhead on the sets and clean and lined up with offshore winds but a little uneven. In Southern California/Ventura waves were waist to chest high and lined up but pretty chopped with whitecaps outside. Central Orange County had sets at head high coming strongly from the north and clean with decent form. South Orange County's best summertime breaks were thigh to waist high and semi clean but a bit warbled and soft. North San Diego had sets at waist to chest high and cleanish with light winds and lined up but with a little warble intermixed. Hawaii's North Shore was starting to get new Gulf swell with waves 8-10 ft and lined up and building but pretty raw at more exposed breaks with winds from the east-northeast trades. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting waist high east windswell and chopped from modest east-northeast trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Thursday (12/31) in Hawaii swell was starting to show from a strong storm that tracked northeast from the southern dateline into the Gulf Wed-Fri (1/1) with up to 56 ft seas aimed east. That swell is pushing towards California too. And swell was still hitting California from a broad storm that developed over the dateline on Sat-Sun (12/27) pushing into the Northwestern Gulf on Mon (12/28) with seas peaking at 53 ft aimed east. Beyond another storm was developing over the North Dateline region Thurs-Sat (1/2) with up to 59 ft seas targeting mainly the Aleutians and points east of there. Remnant energy from that system is to push through the Northern Gulf Sun-Mon (1/4) with 26-30 ft seas aimed east. Another diffuse gale is to form tracking east through the Central Gulf Mon-Wed (1/6) with 30-34 ft seas aimed east. After that maybe a slow-down is to occur. But for now much swell looks possible.

See all the details below...


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

North Pacific

On Thursday (12/31) the jet was well consolidated pushing east off Japan with winds 210 kts forming a developing trough over the Western Aleutians offering support for storm development there. For there the jet lifted gently northeast to the dateline then fell south into a steep trough with it's apex 900 nmiles north of Hawaii being fed by 140 kts winds offering good support for gale development there then ridging hard north up into Central Canada before falling south down over and just inland of the US West Coast before pushing fully inland over North CA. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to push east and into the Pacific Northwest late on Fri (1/1) offering continued support for gale development the whole time. The trough over the Western Aleutians is to push east and lose definition on Sat (1/2) with support for direct gale development fading. But the jet at that time is to be fully consolidated running east over the entire North Pacific with winds 170-180 kts and quite impressive. And even by Sun (1/3) the jet is to still be consolidated over the entire North Pacific settling on the 38N latitude line with winds 160 kts still offering support for gale development though no direct troughs are forecast. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the jet consolidated running flat east to west on the 38N latitude lien with winds 160 kts in the west and 110-130 kts in the east but with no defined trough forecast. But by Thurs (1/7) winds are to again be building to 180 kts off Japan with a new broad trough starting to develop there. The future remains bright. .

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (12/31) from a broad storm previously over the North Dateline region was fading in Hawaii and hitting California (see Dateline Storm below). Of more interest was swell from a strong storm (Storm #3) was starting to hit Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast.

Over the next 72 hours another broad storm is to be building over the North Dateline region (See Possible North Dateline Storm below)

Dateline Storm
On Sat AM (12/26) a broad storm was developing over and just west of the dateline with 50 kt west winds and seas building from 38 ft at 43N 168.5E aimed east. In the evening the storm was building while tracking over the dateline with 55 kt west winds and seas building from 52 ft at 46.5N 179.5E aimed east. On Sun AM (12/27) west fetch was tracking east at 45 kts with seas 48 ft at 48.5N 173W aimed east. In the evening 40 kt west winds were over a broad area over the North Dateline region aimed east with seas 39 ft at 49.5N 175.5W aimed east targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast with secondary fetch south of it at 40 kts generating 33 ft seas at 37N 178E targeting Hawaii well. Fetch was fading Mon AM (12/28) at 35-40 kts from the northwest over a large swath of the dateline with 29-33 ft seas at 40N 178W but also reaching north to the Aleutians aimed east. In the evening fetch was fading from 30-35 kts from the northwest over a large area over the dateline with seas fading from 29 ft at 40N 179.5W aimed east. This system faded out from there. Possible steady solid swell to target both Hawaii and the US West Coast.

Hawaii: Swell fading on Thurs AM (1/31) from 6.6 ft @ 14-15 secs (9.5 ft) with new swell building over top. Swell Direction: 320-335 degrees

North CA: Swell holding Thurs (12/31) at 10.6 @ 16-17 secs (17.5 ft). Swell fading on Fri (1/1) from 8.9 ft @ 15-16 secs (13.5 ft). Swell Direction: 296-306 degrees and shadowed in the SF Bay Area with lesser energy later down at 290-292 degrees

Southern CA: Swell holding Thurs (12/31) at 3.7 @ 17 secs (6.0 ft). Swell fading on Fri (1/1) from 3.9 ft @ 16 secs early (6.0 ft) and still shadowed expect from only the most exposed breaks. Residuals being overrun by new swell after that. Swell Direction: 301-308 degrees and mostly shadowed


Storm #3
A strong storm developed on the Southern Dateline Tues PM (12/29) with 55 kt west winds and seas building from 43 ft at 36N 177W aimed east tracking east. The storm pushed east-northeast on Wed AM (12/30) with 55-60 kt west and northwest winds and seas building to 47 ft at 39.5N 168W aimed east. In the evening the storm was sweeping northeast with 55 kt west winds and seas 58 ft at 42.5N 161W aimed east positioned 1,200 nmiles north of Kauai. On Thurs AM (12/31) northwest winds were fading from 40 kts with seas 42 ft at 43N 154W aimed east. Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 40 kts with seas fading from 39 ft at 45N 148.5W aimed east. The gale is to dissipate after that on Fri AM (1/1) with winds fading from 35 kts and seas fading from 33 ft at 44N 142W aimed east. Large swell has resulted.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on late on Thurs (12/31) building to 10.4 ft @ 17 secs (17.5 ft) at sunset. Swell fading on Fri (1/1) from 8.1 ft @ 15-16 secs (12.5 ft). Dribbles on Sat (1/2) fading from 4.9 ft @ 13 secs (6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 320-325 degrees

North California: Expect swell arrival on Fri PM (1/1) with period 22 secs and building through the night. On Sat AM (1/2) swell to peak at 11.5 ft @ 18 secs (21 ft) holding through the day. Swell fading Sun (1/3) from 10 ft @ 15-16 secs (15 ft). Swell Direction: 287-295 degs focused on 292 degrees

South CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (1/1) with period 22 secs and building through the day to 4.3 ft @ 19 secs (8.0 ft) at exposed breaks only. Swell fading Sun (1/3) from 5.3 ft @ 16-17 secs early at exposed breaks (8.5 ft). residuals on Mon (1/4) fading from 4.0 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 292-299+ degs focused on 298 degrees


North Dateline Storm - Lowest Pressure of all Time
A new storm started developing west of the dateline Wed PM (12/30) producing 50-55 kt southwest winds and seas building from 32 ft over a diffuse area near 40N 167E aimed northeast. On Thurs AM (12/31) the gale build to storm status with pressure falling to 921 mbs, the lowest winter pressure ever recorded in a winter storm in the North Pacific. Winds were 65-70 kts (hurricane force) from the west just south of the Western Aleutians with the ASCAT satellite reporting winds to 85 kts (100 mph) and another unconfirmed report to 95 kts (110 mph). The storm was lifting northeast with seas building to 54 ft at 48.5N 172E aimed east and northeast. The fetch is to hold just barely south of the Central Aleutians in the evening with 55 kt west winds and seas building to 57 ft at 51N 177E aimed east. The storm is to fall southeast some on Fri AM (1/1) with 50 kt west winds over a broad area aimed east with 47 ft seas at 50N 175.5E aimed east. In the evening the gale is to be fading but still large with winds 45 kts filling the North Dateline region with 46 ft seas at 49N 179W aimed east. Fetch fading Sat AM (1/2) with pockets of west winds at 35-40 kts filling a good portion of the North Pacific with seas fading from 38 ft at 50N 177.5W. Residual fetch fading over the dateline and further south in the evening at 35-40 kts with seas fading from 29-31 ft over a broad area centered roughly at 4N 170W aimed east. This system gone after that. Possible swell mainly for the US West Coast but with secondary energy targeting Hawaii later. Something to monitor.

Hawaii: For planning purposes expect swell arrival on Sun (1/3) building to 5.9 ft @ 18-19 secs (10.8 ft). Swell building more on Mon (1/4) to 7.4 ft @ 16-17 secs late (12.0 ft). Swell fading some Tues (1/5) from 7.6 ft @ 15-16 secs early (11.5 ft). Swell Direction: 325-330 degrees Note that most energy was traveling on great circle path not directly aimed at the Islands.

Secondary fetch from this system is to redevelop slightly in the Central Gulf on Sun AM (1/3) with pockets of 35-40 kts west winds and seas building from 30 ft roughly at 43N 153W aimed east. Fetch is to push east and fading some in the evening from 35-40 kts with seas fading from 31 ft at 39.5N 148W aimed east. Fetch is to fall southeast on Mon AM (1/4) at 40 kts from the northwest off North CA with seas 31 ft at 38N 137W aimed east. In the evening additional strengthening is forecast with 45 kt northwest wind just off the Golden Gate producing 34 ft seas at 38N 129W. Raw swell likely to arrive along with weather for North and Central CA.


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


Tropical Update
No tropical weather system of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (12/31) high pressure again was trying to build behind the previous nights front with northwest winds 15 kts forecast all day for North CA and up to 20 kts for Central CA. Light lingering showers for North CA down to Monterey Bay early then rapidly clearing. Snow for Tahoe down to Yosemite clearing early morning. Fri (1/1) light north winds are forecast early for North and Central CA turning south for Cape Mendocino later at 10-15 kts. Rain developing for North CA down to the Golden Gate in the evening. Sat (1/2) light winds are forecast early turning south at 15-20 kts for Cape Mendocino later reaching down to the Golden Gate. Rain for the Golden Gate early gone mid-day and light rain for Cape Mendocino building late afternoon into the evening. Maybe some snow showers isolated to Tahoe early. Sun (1/3) south winds are forecast for North CA at 10-20 kts and light down to the Golden Gate and calm for Central CA early. Winds turning light south down to Monterey Bay later afternoon and 30 kts for Cape Mendocino later. Light to moderate rain down to the Golden Gate early then backtracking up to Pt Arena later. mainly for North CA early but showers lingering until sunset. Snow showers for Tahoe fading at sunset. Monday a solid front starts moving towards North CA early with south winds 15-20 kts from Big Sur northward and building to 20+ kts late afternoon for all of Central CA with low pressure just off the coast there. Northeast winds 10 kts for most of North CA later. Rain for all of North and Central CA early building through the day pushing into Southern CA overnight. Snow developing for all of the Sierra by midmorning building through the afternoon and likely blizzard conditions in the evening. Tues AM (1/5) northwest wind are forecast at 20 kts early for all of California North and South fading to calm for North CA later and 15 kts limited to the Pt Conception area as another front queues up off the North Coast. South winds for Cape Mendocino at 30+ kts in the evening. Rain fading mainly for Central and Southern CA early. Snow gone for the Sierra mid-AM. Wednesday (1/6) another front pushes into North CA with 30 kt south winds but light winds from the Golden Gate southward early. The front to sweep south to Pt Conception late afternoon with south winds 20+ kts. Rain for Cape Mendocino early pushing into Monterey Bay at sunset and Pt Conception overnight. Snow developing for the Sierra overnight sweeping south. On Thurs (1/7) high pressure and northwest winds at 20 kts are forecast for all of North and Central CA early fading to 10 kts for North CA in the afternoon. Rain and snow clearing early.

Total snow accumulation for the week for Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood and Mammoth at 37 inches, 39 inches, 41 inches, and 24 inches.

Freezing level up to 10,000 ft on Jan 1 then falling to about 6,000 ft and holding after that (7,000 ft during the day and 5,500 ft at night) through 1/10.

Snow Models: (Scroll down for resort specific forecasts). Updated!


South Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (12/31) no swell was in the water.

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing weather systems 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 starting Mon AM (1/4) another gale is forecast developing in the far Western Gulf with 40 kts west winds over a broad area with a core to 55 kts and seas building from 36 ft at 41.5N 171.5W aimed east. In the evening the gael is to shift east to the Central Gulf with winds 35-40 kts over a broad area aimed east with one pocket to 45 kts with seas 34-35 ft over an elongated area between 41N 156W reaching west to 45N 180W. Fetch is to hold Tues AM (1/5) in the Central Gulf at 35-40 kts from the west with seas 33 ft over a solid area at 42.5N 165W aimed east and filling the core of the Gulf of Alaska. This system is to be moving east in the evening with 35-40 kts west winds and seas holding at 30-34 ft centered at 43N 159W aimed east. Fetch fading Wed AM (1/6) from 35-40 kts in the Central Gulf with seas fading from 33 ft at 40.5N 150W. A long run of swell is possible from this system. .

And yet another system is to be possibly forming off Japan on Thurs (1/7) producing 45 kt west winds ands seas on the increase. Something to monitor.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.



MJO/ENSO Forecast


SOI 30-Day Average Building More Positive But Negative SSTs Weakening

MJO/ENSO Discussion
The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) 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.
And the El Nino/La Nino cycle (collectively know as ENSO - El Nino Southern Oscillation) is a less frequent (about once every 7 years) but more impactful cycle that affects world wide weather. Specifically, strong El Nino events promote storm production in the Pacific while La Nina events suppress storm production. These therefore have a significant impact on the production of swell and surf. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO and ENSO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for upcoming activity (or inactivity depending on the state and interaction of these two oscillations).

Overview: A double dip La Nina was in control 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 to declare El Nino and not coupled with the atmosphere. In January 2019, those warm waters were fading, but then rebuilt late in Feb associated with Kelvin Wave (#3). But as of early June 2019 warm water was fading and by August a tongue of cool water was tracking west on the equator from Ecuador over the Galapagos reaching to a point nearly south of Hawaii. El Nino was dead. A bit of a recovery occurred during Fall of 2019, with weak warm water building in the Nino 1.2 region, but cool water held in a pool off Peru and had not changed until March 2020. By April the cool pool pushed east and by May subsurface cool waters erupted off Ecuador, forming a well defined cool tongue that looked like the start of La Nina, holding into July 2020.

Fall/Winter 2020/2021 = 3.0/3.5 (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: It is assumed the PDO has moved to the warm phase in 2014 and that a weak borderline El Nino from 2018 faded out in the Fall of 2019. A La Nina like ocean temperature pattern developed in the equatorial East Pacific in the summer of 2019, then faded and returned to a neutral if not weak warm status during the Winter of 2019-2020 only to return stronger in the Summer of 2020. We have been suspecting a turn towards a La Nina like atmospheric pattern to develop in the late Winter/early Spring of 2020. Our best hope is that moderation from the warm phase of the PDO might tamp down development of a full blown La Nina as we move into 2020. But at this time that does not appear likely. Given all that, for the 2020 there is decent probability for development of La Nina meaning a reduced number of storm days and storm intensity during the summer season, resulting in a below normal level of swell, with swell being below normal duration and period. And by the Fall and early Winter of 2020/21, the number of storm days, intensity and duration of those storms should fade even more, resulting in depressed swell production. This pattern is expected to hold through the Spring of 2021.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast (KWGA - Kelvin Wave Generation Area - The area 5 degrees north and south of the equator from 170W to 135E)
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of (12/30) 5 day average winds were strong from the east over the Eastern equatorial Pacific continuing over the Central Pacific and stronger still from the east over the KWGA. Anomalies were neutral over the East equatorial Pacific continuing over the Central Pacific and strong easterly over the KWGA. (Note: These are 5 day average winds, so they lag what is happening today by about 2 days).
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): On (12/31) exceedingly strong east anomalies were filling the KWGA and reaching east to a point south of Hawaii. The forecast calls for more of the same through the model run ending on 1/7 with strong east anomalies in control reaching east only to a point south of Hawaii. Weak west anomalies are currently south of California to Ecuador with no change forecast.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: (12/30) a neutral MJO pattern was in control of the KWGA today. The statistic model projects a modest Active signal migrating west from over Bali starting to fill the KWGA at day 15 of the model run. The dynamic model suggests the complete opposite with the solid Inactive Phase building over the KWGA at day 15 of the model run.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (12/31) The statistical model depicts the Active Phase was non-existent over the Indian Ocean today and is to track east to the far West Pacific at weak status on day 15. The GEFS model suggests the Active Phase is to build weakly tracking east to the West Maritime Continent on day 15.
40 day Upper Level Model (assumed to be a statistical mode and 1 week ahead of what is occurring at the surface): (12/6) No Update. This model depicts a weak Active Phase (wet air) over the East Pacific tracking east while fading pushing into Central America on 12/21. A modest Inactive Phase was over the West Pacific and is to push east and into the Central America on 1/5. A weak Active Phase is to push into the West Pacific on 1/10 easing east at the end of the model run on 1/15. .
4 Week CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/30) This model depicts no MJO signal today with strong east anomalies over the core of the KWGA. The forecast indicates east anomalies are to hold strong for 2 more days then steadily weakening and almost neutral on 1/13 only to start rebuilding after that to moderate status through the end of the model run on 1/27. The low pass filter indicates perhaps some weakening in strength of high pressure over the KWGA at the end of the model run.
3 Month CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/31 - using the 4th/latest ensemble member): This model depicts a weak Active Phase over the KWGA today but with moderate to strong east anomalies in control focused over the dateline. The Active Phase is to quickly fade in the KWGA on 1/2 but with moderate east anomalies giving up some strength in the KWGA over the dateline through 1/16, only to return and build to strong status as a new weak Active Phase builds 1/18-3/10. Perhaps some weak west anomalies to build in the Central KWGA 2/18-3/5. A weak Inactive MJO is to return 3/10 holding through the end of the model run on 4/1 with mostly moderate west anomalies forecast west of the dateline and east anomalies on the dateline. The low pass filter indicates a high pressure bias is firmly in control over the dateline today with 3 contour lines reaching east to a point south of California and is to continue through the end of the model run with it's western periphery easing east to 160E at the end of the model run. A fourth contour line is to develop on 1/15 fading 3/29. A double contour low pressure bias is over the Indian Ocean today and is to build in coverage with a second contour lined holding through 3/10. No realistic change in the coverage or position of either is forecast. East anomalies that were previously solid in the Indian Ocean for over a year migrated east through the West Pacific to the East Pacific on 10/1 and have stabilized there.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/31) Today in the far West Pacific the 30 deg isotherm was gone. The 29 deg isotherm was steady at 162E today but building in depth. The 28 deg isotherm line was steady at 174E today. The 24 deg isotherm was backtracking to 128 from 122W today. Anomaly wise, warm anomalies +3 deg C were locked steady in the West Pacific pushing east to 165W at depth and moving no further east. A broad cooling pattern was controlling the entire equatorial Pacific with anomalies -2 degs C in the far East, but otherwise temps generally -1 deg C over the entire equatorial Pacific at depth. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/24 indicates the same thing. The GODAS animation appears to be 1 week behind the TAO data but also is more detailed and accurately modeled.
Sea Level Anomalies: (12/24) Negative anomalies were forming a wave pushing west from the Galapagos to the dateline on the equator at -10 cms continuous over that area with one pocket to -15 cms from 130-150W. Negative anomalies were -5 to -10 cms along the coast of Peru up into Ecuador and reaching north up to Baja and -5 cms into South and North CA. Looking at the big picture, negative anomalies were forming a massive triangle from Cape Mendocino to the intersection of the dateline and equator then into Southern Chile. No positive anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific, except from the dateline and points west of there. But the triangle was not as strong as weeks past but not substantially weakening either.

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: (12/30) The latest images indicate cold anomalies were on the equator from Ecuador west to the dateline and solid in density over that entire and large area. Two small pockets of colder anomalies were near the Galapagos but are fading compared to days past. Otherwise none were imbedded in that flow in the East and limited between 145-170W in the West and losing intensity even there. And the overall cool pool does not look as cold as weeks and months past. Cool anomalies were losing strength along the coasts of Chile and Peru with stray pockets of warming indicated. This clearly indicates a well developed version of La Nina filling the entire equatorial Pacific and down into Chile. But the overall cool intensity of that pool appears to be waning. We are past the peak of this event.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/30): Temps continue warming along Chile and Peru reaching west to 100W and fading some compared to days past. Only 1 small pocket of cooling was imbedded on the equator from Ecuador westward. The balance again looks like warming is taking the upper hand, just barely.
Hi-res Overview: (12/28) A stream of consistent cool water is well entrenched from Chile up to Peru and Ecuador then tracking west on the equator out to the dateline and west to New Guinea. But the trail of markedly cool anomalies previously imbedded in that flow is gone. The peak of La Nina has perhaps past.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/31) Today's temps were falling to -1.4171 after peaking near -0.9551 on 12/22. A previous peak of -0.595 occurred on 12/11. This area has been on a seesaw rising trend since early October. Temps were previously down to -2.138 on 8/13. The longterm trend has been steady but quite cold since June.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps:
(12/31) Temps were steady at -1.001 today after bottoming out at -1.654 on 11/3, beating the previous low of -0.945 on 9/22. The previous low before that was -0.733 on 9/10. Temps have been on a steady decline since 7/25. Overall the trend appears to be in a steep decline.

Click for Full Sized Image Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp (SST) Anomalies & Current SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (12/30) Today the model indicates temps steady at -1.00 degs after bottoming out in early Nov at -1.25 degs. The forecast depicts temps holding at -1.00 degs to mid-Jan then beginning to rise, rebuilding up to -0.4 degs in April and rising to -0.25 degs mid-July and stabilizing there. This is likely becoming a 2 year event in that even if temps were to return to normal in July it would take 3-5 months for the upper level circulation to respond in kind.
IRI Consensus Plume: The Oct 21, 2020 Plume depicts temps are at -1.10 degs today, and are to hold into Dec, then moderating and starting to rise some to -0.89 by Jan 2021 and then neutral by June. Most models are suggesting a moderate to La Nina returning to Neutral in the late Spring. See chart here - link.

Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) (negative is good, positive bad - this is a lagging indicator) (12/31): The daily index was rising to +32.12. The 30 day average was rising to +16.63. The 90 day average was rising to 9.93. This index is a lagging indicator.
ESPI Index (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive and/or rising is good, negative and/or falling is bad): June -0.67, May -0.46, April 2020 -0.69, March -0.09, Feb +0.65, Jan +0.42, This index was steady positive Aug 2018 through Feb 2020, and now is steady negative, but only weakly so.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation
Per NOAAs index recent values: Jan 2018 +0.29, Feb -0.19, Mar -0.61, April -0.89, May -0.69, June -0.85, July -0.09, Aug -0.43, Sept -0.46, Oct -0.75, Nov -0.78, Dec -0.12, Jan 2019 -0.18, Feb -0.50 Mar -0.23, April +0.10, May +0.14, June -0.11, July +0.44, Aug -0.14, Sept +0.05, Oct -0.96, Nov -0.28, Dec +0.01, Jan 2020 -1.17, This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO. No consistently solid negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington/JISAO index (Jan-Dec): Jan 2018 +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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Local Interest

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NBC News - Climate Change and Surfing:

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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table


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