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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, January 28, 2016 7:18 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
4.5 - 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 1/25 thru Sun 1/31

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 #7 Targets California
Weaker Gale to Track Over Dateline

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 28, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 13.2 ft @ 16.7 secs with swell 10.8 ft @ 16.1 secs from 315 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.2 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 13.9 secs from 263 degrees. Wind northwestt10-12 kts. Water temperature 59.5 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.8 ft @ 13.8 secs from 265 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.5 ft @ 15.5 secs from 252 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.0 ft @ 15.2 secs from 273 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 9.9 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 7.0 ft @ 13.9 secs from 286 degrees. Wind northwest 4-6 kts. Water temp 57.0 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Thursday (1/28) in North and Central CA surf was being generated by residual Japan-Dateline groundswell producing surf in 8-10 ft range and clean and lined up but inconsistent. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 3 ft overhead and clean and lined up on the sets. In Southern California up north surf was head high on the sets and clean and lined up with decent form. Down south waves were chest high and clean but kinda funky with the bars less than ideal. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Swell #7 with waves in the 18 ft range (Hawaiian) early and relatively clean with light south winds. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around energy from the dateline with waves 3 ft overhead and clean early from light south winds.

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

Meteorological Overview
Residual swell from a gale that previously tracked from Japan over the dateline and into the Gulf Tues-Sat (1/23) was still hitting California. And swell from Storm #7 was still hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast. Beyond one last gale is forecast tracking across the Pacific for the coming week, but then things are looking to settle down some. The emergence of the Inactive Phase of the MJO is likely to have a negative impact on the storm track for a few weeks, so make the most of what you can get.

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

North Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Tuesday AM (1/26) the jet was well consolidated flowing east off Japan with winds to 210 kts in one patch there falling into a broad trough on the dateline down at 30N then ridging slightly and still consolidated to a point just off San Francisco at 133W, .cgiitting and moving inland pushing north up into Washington and south into South Baja. 160-180 kts winds were in the jet over the width of the North Pacific. Good support for gale development in the dateline trough. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to become a little better defined in the Gulf offering support for gale development into Sat (1/30) with 190 kts winds holding east of Japan but weaker from Hawaii eastward with a portion of the energy trying to .cgiit and push up into Alaska but not make it. The consolidated jet is to actually move onshore briefly over Central CA on Sat (1/30), the first time this season. Beyond 72 hours the consolidated flow is to continue pushing into California until Tues (2/2) then weakening. Back to the west the jet is to continue solid from Japan over the dateline to a point north of Hawaii with winds 180-190 kts through Tues (2/2), weakening to 170 kts by Thurs (2/4). A persistent trough to hold north of Hawaii through the period offering support for gale development. The mini-.cgiit pushing up to Alaska at 145W (associated with the Hawaiian trough) is to hold in some fashion, but only weakly. If anything, a secondary trough is to dig in off California on Thurs (2/4) offering hope for local weather.

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (1/28) swell from the Japan-Dateline Gale was still holding in California (see Japan-Dateline Gale below). Swell from Storm #7 has already peaked in Hawaii and is moving towards the US West Coast. This system is to be the main focal point swell wise for the next 72 hours (see Storm #7 below).

Over the next 72 hours yet another gale is to start developing just west of the dateline on Fri (1/29) (see Dateline Gale below). No other systems of interest are projected.

Japan-Dateline Gale
A gale formed while tracking off Japan on Tues-Wed (1/20). On Wed AM (1/20) a fragmented fetch of 30-35 kt westerly winds is to be in.cgiace off the coast generating 29 ft seas at 31N 154E targeting Hawaii. In the evening fetch was tracking east at 35 kts generating 26 ft seas at 35N 164E. 35-40 kt west winds were building Thurs AM (1/21) as the gale tracked east with 28 ft seas building up at 39N 162E. 40 kt west winds held in the evening tracking east with seas building to 32 ft at 39N 168E. Fetch held in coverage Fri AM (1/22) at 40 kts while easing east with seas building to 36 ft at 41N 173E. Fetch faded from 30 kts on the dateline in the evening with seas fading from 34 ft at 40N 179W. A secondary fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds developed south of the original core Sat AM (1/23) pushing over the dateline targeting Hawaii well with new seas developing and 27 ft seas from the original fetch fading at 42N 173W targeting Hawaii and now the US West Coast. More of the same occurred in the evening with 35 kt northwest winds in the secondary fetch producing 28 ft seas at 35N 171W. On Sun AM (1/24) 35-40 kt northwesterly fetch continued tracking east with 30 ft seas at 32N 171W targeting primarily Hawaii. Residual 35 kts northwest fetch tracked just 400 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii in the evening with 26 ft seas at 30N 162W. This system faded out after that.

Swell has already hit Hawaii and is starting to arrive along the US West Coast.

North CA: Secondary energy to arrive on Thurs AM (1/28) building to 10.3 ft @ 15 secs late (15 ft). Swell Direction: 291 degrees initially moving to 282 degs later

 

Storm #7
A gale developed while pushing off Japan on Sun (1/24) with winds building to storm status 55 kts late over a small area. By Mon AM (1/25) 55 kt west winds were approaching the dateline with seas 40 ft at 39.5N 170E (312 degs HI). The Jason-2 satellite passed right over the fetch and reported a 15 reading average of 42.3 ft with one reading to 46.8 ft, where the model suggested 40 ft seas. The model was under calling it slightly. On Mon PM 60 kt west winds were over the dateline tracking east-southeast with seas building to 50 ft at 40N 179W (319 degs HI, 292 degs NCal, 297 degs SCal) peaking 6 hrs later at 51 ft at 38.5N 174.5W (325 degs HI, 288 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). On Tues AM (1/26) a broad area of 50 kt west winds were racing through the Southwest Gulf generating 47 ft seas at 37.5N 170W (bypassing HI, 284 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed directly over the core of the fetch and reported a 15 reading average sea height of 48.4 ft with one reading to 54.5 ft where the model predicted 47-48 ft seas. In the evening winds were fading from 45 kts lifting northeast in the center of the Gulf of Alaska with seas fading from 38 ft at 39N 155W (284 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). The gale was fading from 40 kts Wed AM (1/27) in the northern Gulf with 34 ft seas up at 43N 148W targeting Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest. Fetch was gone by evening.

Solid long period swell is in the water an has peaked in Hawaii and and moving towards the US West Coast.

Hawaii: Swell still solid Thurs AM (1/28) fading from 9.5 ft @ 16 secs (15 ft Hawaiian). Residuals on Fri AM (1/29) fading from 6.9 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft). Swell Direction: 325 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival Thurs (1/28) mid-day with period 25 secs and size tiny but building maybe reaching the rideable size range at sunset 3-4 ft @ 22-23 secs (7.5 ft). Swell building steadily over night as period drops to 22 secs at 9 PM and then to 20 secs at 4 AM Fri (1/29). Swell peaking from early AM to near noon at 10.4-10.8 ft @ 18-19 secs (18.7-20.5 ft Hawaiian) with sets to maybe 12 ft @ 18-19 secs (22 ft Hawaiian). Period dropping to 17 secs just after sunset. Solid swell continuing Sat AM (1/30) fading from 9.5 ft @ 16 secs (15 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading out Sun AM (1/31) from 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.5 ft). Swell DIrection: 288-291 degrees

South CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri (1/29) AM with period 25 secs and size slowly building, pushing 3 ft @ 21-22 secs at sunset late. Swell peaking overnight but still very solid at sunrise Sat (1/30) at 5.2 ft @ 17-18 secs (9.0 ft), fading some through the day as period drops to 17 secs late. Swell fading Sun (1/31) from 3.6 ft @ 15 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 294-297 degrees

 

Dateline Gale
Yet another broad gale is to start developing just west of the dateline on Fri AM (1/29) producing a broad area of 30-35 kts northwest winds and seas to 23 ft at 37N 169E. This system is to building in the evening in coverage with northwest winds 30-35 kts targeting Hawaii well with seas pushing 25 ft at 36N 176E. 30-35 kt northwest fetch to hold into Sat AM (1/30) moving over the dateline with seas to 25 ft over a broad area at 35N 180W but extending northward to 45N (on the dateline). More of the same is forecast in the evening with fetch tracking east and building some to 40 kts with seas 28 ft up at 456N 176W and 23 ft down at 37N 175W. This system to fade from there with seas fading Sun AM (1/31) from 26 ft at 44N 169W.

Some 14-15 secs period swell to result for Hawaii with less size eventually reaching the US West Coast assuming all goes as forecast. Something to monitor.

 

  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 Thurs AM (1/28) weak high pressure was off Southern CA ridging northeast up into North and Central CA making for light winds. Light rain was from Pt Arena northward early expected sagging south to Bodega Bay by sunset. Friday a local low is to be pushing into the Pacific Northwest with a front reinforcing the rain line pushing it south to Monterey Bay in the AM producing a weak southwesterly flow down to Santa Cruz at 5+ kts. Snow developing late afternoon for higher elevations in Tahoe. High pressure is to try and set up off CA Sat (1/30) with northwest winds building from 5+ kts over North and Central CA early while a local low tries to start developing off the coast late. Rain clearing through the morning for Central CA. Moderate snow for Tahoe early fading steadily through the day. Total accumulation late Sat 16 inches most resorts to 30 inches for Kirkwood. Sunday the new local low is to start moving into the Central coast mid-AM producing 20 kt north winds along the North and Central Coast and southwest 15+ kts for Southern CA. Rain starting at sunrise from Monterey Bay southward to San Diego building through about noon. Heavy snow for the Southern Sierra with modest snow late in the day for Tahoe. Clearing all locations Monday AM with north winds 30 kts from San Francisco southward into Southern CA. Winds fading all locations through the day Tuesday (2/2) with light winds Wed and Thurs (2/4).

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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

  

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...

MJO/ENSO Update

Kelvin Wave #5 Continues Developing
Inactive MJO In Control Now

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 has developed. 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 built steadily in spurts, peaking in the Oct-Nov, timeframe, then began a slow decline. But even in Jan 2016, the strongest Westerly Wind Burst of the enter event occur, with another Kelvin Wave currently in development. 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 (1/27) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated mostly calm winds over a large area south of the equator from 140E to 140W. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone north of the equator. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, one small area of west winds at 17 kts was at 165E in the southern KWGA. Anomalies per the TAO array were weak to modest from the west from 160E to 150W on and south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued expressing itself, but weakly now.
1 Week Forecast: Very weak west anomalies are forecast over a small area on the dateline for the coming week and not impressive. Actual winds per the GFS model are to generally be calm mainly south of the equator and with east winds 15 kts north of the equator. Calm winds display as west anomalies on the anomaly charts (absence of east trades). A muted El Nino pattern is in effect now. The only east anomalies that occurred this year in the KWGA were from 12/7-12/17 during an Inactive Phase of the MJO. Fortunately that ended quickly.

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 (1/27) a modest Active Phase of the MJO signal was over Indonesia and a modest Inactive Phase signal over the dateline. The Statistic model forecasts the Inactive MJO slowly easing east moving to a point south of Hawaii and fading, then gone 15 days from now with a weak Active Phase of the MJO moving into the West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts a similar initial setup, but with both the Active and Inactive Phases remaining steady and building in strength 2 weeks out.
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 remain stationary and hold strength over the next 2 weeks. The GEFS depicts the same but with the Active Phase build strength. This all suggests any west winds currently in the KWGA are purely attributable to El Nino with no MJO influence. If anything, west anomalies are being muted by the Inactive Phase.
40 Day Upper Level Model: We are ignoring this model because it has consistently failed to be accurate.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Inactive Phase of the MJO is moving over the KWGA today (1/28). West wind anomalies are non-existent due to destructive interference by the Inactive MJO. The Inactive Phase is to continue into 2/18, with west anomalies muted through 2/10, then returning as the Inactive Phase starts to fade. The Active Phase is to return 2/20 with west anomalies again in control and solid holding through 3/13 but di.cgiaced east near 160W having minimal Kelvin Wave generation potential, typical of the mature phase of El Nino. That is, westerly anomalies slow track east until they migrate to the East Equatorial Pacific and the El Nino collapses. Interestingly, the model depicts west anomalies continuing through 4/27 but di.cgiaced east to 125W.

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 then the Active Phase that enhanced it starting 12/27. Now the Inactive Phase is setting up (1/28).

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (1/28) Actual temperatures remain decent (all sensors on-line). A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 139W easing east with the 28 deg isotherm line steady at 125W. Anomaly wise things have improved dramatically. +2 deg anomalies are steady at 172W and points eastward. +4 deg anomalies have rebuilt and are from 153W eastward and delineate the core of the rebuilding subsurface reservoir. +5 deg anomalies are rebuilding over a broader are from 145-121W. This is a major improvement. Cool subsurface waters previous down 150m to 120W have retreated to 160W. This is good news. Core regions are rebuilding for now. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 1/23 the reservoir is rebuilding significantly with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a shrinking core of +5 deg anomalies from Kevin Wave #4 still present at 100W but shrinking. But a broad area of +4-5 deg anomalies are depicted from 170W eastward in pockets. This is a huge improvement. No +4 deg anomalies were pushing towards the surface just yet. The end of this ENSO event has been put on hold for now.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (1/23) Huge improvement are evident here too. 0-+5 cm anomalies have rebuilt west covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170W (shrinking some). Peak anomalies at +15 have reappeared and are building, running from 150W to 125W and continuous. +10 cm anomalies have rebuilt between 100W-160W and steady. The subsurface warm pool is trying to rebuild.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (1/23) Temps are rebuilding. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading slightly from 168W, an early effect of the WWB #5 and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 164W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some from 163W.+2.0 deg anomalies are present between 125-151W. No +2.5 deg anomalies were present. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is over but the Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is beginning. Temps have dropped some near Ecuador to 1.0-1.5 degs, hopefully the extent of the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin wave #4. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Downwelling Phase should 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. A third erupted in the Sept timeframe, but 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. A pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, ending on 9/20. Another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which started erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 (much earlier than expected - due to it's westward di.cgiacement) 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. With WWB/Kelvin Wave #4, a more aggressive face of this El Nino appeared during the Oct-Nov timeframe. Then the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over on 10/31 holding into mid Dec, and with it the subsurface warm pool started discharging. Amazingly in sync with a building Active Phase of the MJO on 12/27 -1/15 another solid WWB occurred and Kelvin Wave #5 started building 1/20, likely extending the life of this El Nino.

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: (1/27) The latest image indicates +2.25 temps were all but gone east of 100W except in small patches and shrinking in coverage. Average temps were more in the +1.75 degs category. 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: (1/27) The latest image depicts an even distribution of +2.25 anomalies between 100W to 160W, but a little more concentrated from 120W west. Anomalies were 2-3 degs north and south of the equator. 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 growing. +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to 171W, though they previously were to the dateline on 12/14. No +4 deg anomalies are present. Warming is also occurring south of the equator near 170E and down to 20S. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Wave and #4. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (1/27): A steady state pattern was depicted.
Hi-res Overview:
(1/26) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building. The main focal point which has been the eruption ports west of the Galapagos, but they are gone now with no +4.0 degree anomalies depicted. 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 reappear 1/15, then dissipate 4 days later. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area contains only +3 deg anomalies, and then only in patches other than one small patch of +4 degs anomalies indicated at 138W.

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 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 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 between 137W-160W (fading). No +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is steady and impressive but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (1/28) Temps are stable at +1.421, up from +1.001 on 1/23, down from +1.835, down from +2.001 (1/7), up from +1.314 on 1/5, down hard from +1.836 on 12/27, down from +1.950 (12/22). 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 (1/28) temps are slowly fading from +2.453, declining from +2.738 (1/23) compared to +2.438 on 1/14, up from +2.248 (1/11), down from +2.397 on 1/7. The all time peak was reached at +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.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: (1/28) Today's value was down some at +2.339, down from +2.686 on (1/23), down from +2.913 (1/19), up some from 1/14 when it was +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 1/13 temps were falling as follows: Nino4: +1.3, Nino34: +2.6, Nino3 +2.8. On 1/6 temps were falling as follows: Nino4: +1.4, Nino34: +2.6, Nino3 +2.7. 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 1/11 the current was strong from the west on the equator in one small pocket on the dateline with generalized west current from there to 135E. East current was from the Galapagos to 160W. Anomaly wise - One pocket of solid west anomalies was between 170E to 160W on the equator. Otherwise everything was effectively normal. There were no pockets of solid east anomalies indicated.  This is somewhat impressive event compared to '97, because in '97, a massive La Nina signal was developing with hard east current over the entire equatorial Pacific with strong east anomalies in the east and on the dateline. Maybe we're setting ourselves up for a soft landing. That would be too good to be true.

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data depicts peak temps to +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then fading slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Jan1, then steadily fading from there to +2.5 on Feb 1, then a steady decline from there falling and stabilizing at +0.5 degs in Sept and starting to rebuild in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe.
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 (1/22): The SOI has not updated recently. On 1/22 it was steady at -28.10. 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 -20.48. 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 -12.65 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 1/26 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 1/26 weak low pressure was just south of Tahiti but is to fade in 48 hours. A neutral pressure pattern is to set up and hold if not building a little more towards a high pressure regime through Tues (2/2). The SOI should stay negative 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.
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a slowly rising SOI attributable mainly to higher pressure building south of Tahiti.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (1/28) Today's value was +1.98, down from +2.15 (1/23), down from +2.24 (1/21), and down from it's recent peak at +2.33 on 1/14. Previously it was up from +2.07 on 1/7 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 (1/26) 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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