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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, January 14, 2016 6:21 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
4.6- California & 3.8 - 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 1/11 thru Sun 1/17

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   

Storm #5 Roaring Through Western Gulf
Solid Storm Pattern to Continue

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer
- 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).
Summer
- 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.
Summer
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

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

 

On Thursday, January 14, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.5 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 3.7 ft @ 9.8 secs from 316 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.5 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 3.2 ft @ 12.9 secs from 272 degrees. Wind northeast 6-8 kts. Water temperature 59.5 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 4.1 ft @ 12.8 secs from 269 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.6 ft @ 13.5 secs from 264 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.4 ft @ 12.8 secs from 275 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 8.7 ft @ 11.1 secs with swell 5.9 ft @ 11.6 secs from 276 degrees. Wind south 10-14 kts. Water temp 56.5 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Thursday (1/14) in North and Central CA declining swell from gales over the past days in the Gulf was still producing surf to 3 ft overhead with south winds on the increase making for sideshore lump and exposed breaks and in the chest high range and clean at less exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 1-2 ft overhead and glassy but generally soft. In Southern California up north surf was shoulder to head high and reasonably lined up and clean but soft. Down south waves were shoulder high or so and clean pushing down the beach. Hawaii's North Shore was getting residual sideband Gulf swell with waves in the head high to 2 ft overhead range and clean. A beautiful day. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was mostly flat and clean with no trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
The next solid storm was north of Hawaii on Thurs-Fri (1/15) tracking east with seas forecast building to 60 ft in the evening targeting the US West Coast well with solid sideband swell also expected for Hawaii. This is Storm #5. Secondary energy generating 26-30 ft seas in the Gulf is forecast right behind it through Sun (1/17) resulting in yet more but smaller swell. And a weaker local gale is to form off Oregon on Sunday AM (1/17) producing 40 ft seas before impacting British Columbia on Mon (1/18). And another broader system is forecast developing north of Hawaii on Mon (1/18) producing up to 24 ft seas then sweeping east starting to organize better Wed (1/20) off Oregon with seas to 34 ft. And yet another system is to develop off Japan tracking east Tues-Thurs (1/21) with seas up to 41 ft early in the window then fading as approaching the dateline. The swell production machine is very active.

The El Nino base state continues fueling westerly winds and imparting much energy to the jetstream.

SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Thursday AM (1/14) the jet was well consolidated flowing east off Japan with 170 kt winds reaching over dateline to a point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii, then fading some and no .cgiitting but looking like it wanted too. 110-120 kt winds were pushing into North CA and Southern Baja with a light wind pattern in between. A trough was developing in the Western Gulf supported by the stronger winds pocket feeding it from the dateline. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold in coverage from Japan reaching over the dateline to the Gulf forming a nice trough in the Gulf but winds speeds are to drop to 150 kts, offering good support for gale development in the Gulf into Friday (1/15). after that the jet is to flatten out running flat west to east on the 35N latitude line with winds generally 130 kts over it's width pushing mostly into North CA through Sun (1/17). No clearcut troughs are forecast. Beyond 72 hours winds to again build to 170 kts over the dateline forming a new trough in the Western Gulf but with weaker winds supporting it and tracking into the Gulf on Wed (1/20) again supporting gale development. And by Thurs (1/21) winds are to redevelop off Japan at 170 kts reaching to the dateline and building to 190 kts in that area late. Much more support for gale if not storm development likely in the Western Gulf.

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (1/14) residual swell from a series of gales was still hitting Hawaii and California, but down from days previous. But, a far stronger storm was churning through the Western Gulf (Storm #5) with solid swell expected to result (see Storm #5 below).

Over the next 72 hours another small storm is forecast developing off the Pacific Northwest on Sat PM (1/16) with 55 kt west winds and seas building to 40 ft at 41N 139W (750 nmiles off Cape Mendocino). By Sun AM (1/17) 50 kt west winds are to be just off Washington with 45 ft seas at 46N 133W targeting Oregon and Washington.By evening this system is to move inland over British Columbia. Backfill swell from this system to merge with swell already in the water from Storm #5 below.

And yet another gale is to be forming in the Central Gulf on Sat AM (1/16) generating a broad fetch of 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 30 ft at 41N 162W. Fetch is to hold into the evening with 32 ft seas at 44N 158W. 35-40 kt west winds to continue stationary in the Gulf Sun AM (1/17) generating seas of 29 ft at 39N 151W. A slow decline to set in from there. Yet more 17 sec period backfill swell to result.

Storm #5
A strong weather system started developing in the Southwestern Gulf Wed PM (1/13) producing 60+ kt west winds with seas building to 39 ft at 35N 175W about 1,200 nmiles northwest of Hawaii. By Thurs AM (1/14) the gale was tracking east with 71 kt west winds and seas building from 55 ft at 38N 165W targeting the US West Coast with sideband energy at Hawaii. In the evening winds to fade to 55 kts while the storms tarts lifting northeast with seas building to 59 ft at 40.5N 156W aimed east or directly at Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest. Secondary fetch to be generating 40 kt west winds southwest of the center of circulation. By Fri AM (1/15) this system is to be tracking up into the Northern Gulf with winds fading from 50 kts and seas dropping from 50 ft at 44.5N 151W targeting North CA and British Columbia northward. Secondary fetch is to be fading from 40 kts over a solid area aimed east with seas 36 ft from it at 35N 153W targeting Southern CA. By evening this system is to be gone but a large area of 30-35 kt west to be in control of the west and central Gulf all aimed east. 28-32 ft seas to be filling the Gulf. A very solid pulse of sideband swell is expected for Hawaii with more direct large energy for the US West Coast.

Hawaii (Oahu North Shore): Expect swell arrival just before sunrise Fri (1/15) with period 20 secs and size building fast. Swell to peak late morning at 14.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (25-26 ft Hawaiian) holding decently through sunset. Residual energy expected on Sat (1/16) fading slowly from 10.6 ft @ 15 secs (16 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading Sunday (1/17) from 8.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (11.5 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 324 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival Sat (1/16) early with period 25 secs and size tiny but building, pushing 8.4 ft @ 21 secs late (17.5 ft faces). Swell peaking overnight at 14.0-14.7 ft @ 19 secs (27-28 ft). Swell fading Sun AM (1/17) from 13.1 ft @ 18 secs (23.5 ft). Solid swell continues Mon (1/18) from 12.8 ft @ 15-16 secs (20 ft). Swell Direction: 284-290 degrees South winds to prevail through the swell window.

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival early Sun (1/17) with period 22 secs with size peaking at sunset at 7.0 ft @ 19 secs (13.0 ft). Swell holding decently overnight and still solid Mon AM (1/18) at 6.1 ft @ 17 secs (10.0 ft) and loosing nothing through the day. Solid to start fading at sunrise Tues (1/19) from 5.4 ft @ 15 secs (8.1 ft). Swell Direction: 288-294 degrees

 

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

 

Tropical Update
Tropical Depression Pali (formally at hurricane status) is fading on Thurs AM (1/14) near where it formed. It is to be gone by this evening. ,This system was produced by a Westerly Wind Burst driven by the Active Phase of the MJO integrating with El Nino.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thurs AM (1/14) another front was approaching the North CA coast with south winds to 20 kts north of San Francisco but light winds for the rest of the state south of Monterey Bay but building south to 20 kts Monterey Bay by sunset with the front dissolving there. Rain building from Pt Arena southward to San Francisco at sunset and south to Monterey Bay overnight. 16-20 inches of snow for Tahoe into Fri AM (1/15). Light winds forecast Friday until sunset when south winds build from Pt arena northward at 20+ kts as a large front approaches. Rain developing from SF northward by 10 PM. Saturday (1/16) south winds and rain to be the rule north of Monterey Bay holding through the day then clearing early evening. 8 inches of snow for higher elevations at Tahoe (5,000+ ft). Another front hits Sun AM from Monterey Bay northward with winds south 20+ kts and rain all day. Some snow for Tahoe starting Sun evening. Light winds and clearing skies early Monday (1/18) but another local front approaches in the evening with south winds 15+ kts and rain from Morro Bay northwards. Solid snow for the Sierra starting at 10 PM continuing overnight. Winds settling down everywhere Tuesday with snow for Tahoe fading near noon. Light winds continue Wed (1/20) with a front approaching late with south winds building in NCal reaching south to San Francisco early Thursday. Snow for Tahoe starting late.

South Pacific

Overview
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

 

QuikCAST's

 

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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours another gale is forecast developing Mon PM (1/18) over the southern dateline region falling southeast towards Hawaii generating 40 kt northwest winds and 25 ft seas near 35N 173W. The gale to expand Tues AM (1/19) with 30-35 kts northwest fetch over a broad area with 25 ft seas at 31N 165 targeting Hawaii well. This system to lift rapidly northeast into the Central Gulf in the evening producing a small area of 55 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft at 41N 157W targeting both Hawaii and the US West Coast. By Wed AM (1/20) 50 kt west winds to be in the Gulf with seas building to 39 ft at 41N 153W targeting the US West Coast. the gale is to start easing east in the evening and fading with fetch dropping from 45 kts and seas 37 ft at 42N 150W. Fetch is to be fading Thurs AM (1/21) from 40 kts with seas dropping from 32 ft at 42N 146W. More solid longer period swell to result if all goes as forecast.

Yet another gale is to be forming while tracking off Japan on Tues-Wed (1/20) generating 30 ft seas, but fading as approaching the dateline.

An active pattern is to persist.

  

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...

MJO/ENSO Update

Solid SST Warming Occurring Over a Broad Area of the Equator
Westerly Wind Burst On its Last Legs over Dateline/Equator Intersection

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 Wed (1/13) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate west winds from 170E to 160W mainly south of the equator attributable to Tropical Storm Pali. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, it depicted the same thing. Anomalies were strong from the west from 180W to 130W on and south and north of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued robustly expressing itself. Very impressive
1 Week Forecast: GFS anomaly model indicates west anomalies started 12/21, and built to WWB status on 12/27, and continued to build in velocity and coverage through 1/11, then started fading falling below WWB status on 1/15. This pattern is to slowly fade out through 1/19. Actual winds per the GFS model are to continue from the west in the southeastern KWGA through 1/17, then fade to neutral. A true El Nino pattern is in effect now. The only east anomalies that occurred this year in the KWGA were from 12/7-12/17, thanks to the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Fortunately that short bout ended quickly.

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 built to strong WWB status 12/29-1/15. 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

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 Wed (1/13) the Active Phase of the MJO signal was all but gone over the dateline with the Inactive Phase in the far West Pacific. The Statistic model forecasts the Inactive MJO slowly easing east reaching the dateline 8 days out and fading there 15 days out. The dynamic model has the Inactive Phase easing east but fading all the while, with a dead neutral pattern over the dateline-West Pacific region 15 days out. From an El Nino standpoint, the Active Phase is over and the expectation is the westerly anomalies generated by it will fade.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a weak Active MJO signal over the east Indian Ocean. It is to stall there and fade for the next 2 weeks. The GEFS depicts the same thing. This means that the supposed active pattern over the dateline is really just pure El Nino Active Phase holding it's position weakening slowly with no movement for the next 2 weeks.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts an Active MJO over the East Pacific easing east and gone by 1/17. We are ignoring this model.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is in supposedly in control of the dateline today and is to continue to make steady eastward progress with it fading out by 1/24. West wind anomalies are strong in the KWGA area but are to slowly fade through 1/18. The Inactive Phase to set up 1/25 holding into 2/16, with west anomalies weakening but not gone. The Active Phase is to return 2/24 with west anomalies again in control but weaker and holding through 4/10 but di.cgiaced east near 150W having no Kelvin Wave generation potential, typical of the mature phase of El Nino. that is, westerly anomalies slow track east until they migrate tot he East Equatorial Pacific.

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 that enhanced it starting 12/27.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (1/14) Actual temperatures remain decent (all sensors on-line). A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 138W easing east with the 28 deg isotherm line back at 119W No 30 deg anomalies remain. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are retreating from the dateline at 177W eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 135W eastward (steady today) and delineated the core of the remaining and weakening subsurface reservoir. +5 deg anomalies are back on the chart at 120W and points east. The core regions are mostly steady for the moment. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 1/8 the reservoir is in steady decline but with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a small core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 88W-105W (easing east and shrinking). This is an ok scenario but no longer great, with the core of the warm pool steadily shrinking. This is typical of the mature phase of El Nino. No +4 deg anomalies were erupting west of the Galapagos. Cool water is continuing to undercut the warm pool down at 125 meters and reaching east to 115W abut loosing some coverage. The beginning of the end is in sight.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (1/8) Heights are fading and moving east, but still at moderate levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are rebuilding west covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 180W (building some). Peak anomalies at +15 and +20 cm are gone. +10 cm anomalies are between 95W-145W and steady. The subsurface warm pool is discharging or at least substantially shrinking
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (1/8) is trying to rebuild. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies have rebuilt west previously at 141W and now to 175W, possibly an early effect of the current WWB and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are now moving west previously at 133W now at 152W, attributable to WWB #5. +1.5 deg anomalies are tracking east from 109W (fading). The formally large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies are gone now as are +2.5 deg anomalies. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is over and the Upwelling phase is taking hold. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is 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 lasted from 10/31 through 12/17 (6 weeks). 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 building over the KWGA with a solid WWB underway and might result in another Kelvin Wave. But it would not reach the reservoir for 2 months or about March 1. This might only extend the life of El Nino, or slow it's demise, but not add substantially to it. The peak of El Nino from a subsurface warming perspective has already passed.

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.  With the building Active Phase of the MJO on 12/27 -1/15 another weak Kelvin Wave might result, but it's almost meaningless at this point in the year.

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: (1/13) The latest image indicates +2.25 temps were spotty and shrinking in coverage. Most heat was north of the equator up into Central America. No +4.0 deg anomalies were present. 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: (1/13) The latest image depicts slowly fading coverage of +2.25 anomalies out at 155W. But the footprint continues building east of there from the Galapagos to 145W and at least 3-5 degs north and south of the equator. No +4.0 degs anomalies were depicted. Overall the pattern remains solidly impressive, but is showing signs of a slow decline from it's peak. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. Temps between 160W-180W are fading in coverage. +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to 167W, though they previously 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 (1/13): Solid warming is occurring over a modest area west of the Galapagos from 90W-105W. Marked warmth is building between 135W to 150W, where the WWB is.
Hi-res Overview:
(1/13) The El Nino signal is unmistakable and rebuilding. Interesting but the main focal point which has been the eruption ports west of the Galapagos are well back on-line with +4.0 degree anomalies in large patches between 90W to 140W. Those ports peaked first on 9/19, then more broadly on 11/19, then faded with no +4 deg anomalies remaining on 1/4, only to continue rebuilding today. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area rebuilding today with weak +4 deg anomalies in patches from 90W-105W, 115W-125W, and 130-142W. This is an impressive development.

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
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 (retracting to 172E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its off the charts though previously was at 140E. +1.5 deg anomalies are steady reaching unbroken to 180W. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 172W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is holding at 125-158W (building). No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is rebuilding and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (1/14) Temps are falling at +1.835, down from +2.001 (1/7), up from +1.608 degs on 1/7, up from +1.314 on 1/5, down hard from +1.836 on 12/27, 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 (1/14) temps are up slightly at +2.438, up from +2.248 (1/11), down from +2.397 on 1/7, down form +2.429 (1/2), up slightly at +2.466 on 12/27, 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: (1/14) Today's value was at +2.894, up from +2.609 (1/11), down from +2.858 (1/2), down from +2.732 (12/31), compared to +2.697 on 12/27, down 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 12/30 temps were falling in Nino4: +1.5, Nino34: +2.7 (steady), and falling in Nino3: +2.6. On 12/23 temps were falling in all regions: Nino4: +1.6, Nino3.4: +2.7 and Nino3: +2.7 degs. 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 (December) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of December was +2.37. November was adjusted up to +2.36 degs, 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 +2.03 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.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct and Nov the values are: +1.8, +2.0. +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.

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 +2.6 degs Jan 1 and projected falling to +2.5 on Feb1, then a steady decline from there falling and stabilizing at +0.0 degs in Sept.
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 (1/14): Was steady at -21.40. 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. Another peak of -38.50 occurred on 1/2.
30 Day Average: Was falling at -13.87. 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 falling some at -11.19 and is expected to continue falling. 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): A neutral pressure pattern was near Darwin on 1/14 and is to hold for the next week. It is relative 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 1/14 weak but broad low pressure was just west of Tahiti. This pattern is to hold with a new low pressure cell possibly setting up over Tahiti on 1/20 holding to 1/22. 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 negative SOI attributable mainly to low pressure over Tahiti.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (1/14) Today's value was building at +2.33 and likely topped out, up from +2.07 on 1/7 and up from +1.67 12/27, and has been on a steady rise for 4 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) (Dec) These numbers were released Jan 5th and indicate the index dropped by 0.19 to +2.12, putting it the third highest since 1950 behind the '82/83 and '97/98 El Ninos. Since it has not reached the +3.0 standard deviation level, it is NOT considered a Super El Nino, nor is it expected to reach that status. The Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. The top 6 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '15, '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.
North Pacific Jetstream (1/11) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks very good and is forecast to hold.

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

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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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