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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2016 4:08 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
4.0- California & 4.0 - 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 2/15 thru Sun 2/21

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   

Pair of Storms To Target Hawaii
Less Direct Energy Possible for California

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 Monday, February 22, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 8.5 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 5.5 ft @ 9.0 secs from 171 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 14.4 secs from 321 degrees. Wind northwest 14-16 kts. Water temperature 60.6 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.5 ft @ 14.5 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.8 ft @ 14.9 secs from 262 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.5 ft @ 14.9 secs from 264 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 12.2 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 6.4 ft @ 12.2 secs from 290 degrees. Wind southwest 14-18 kts. Water temp 55.6 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Thursday (2/18) in North and Central CA waves were 1-2 ft overhead and chopped from southwest wind. Not surfable except at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high and chopped from southwest winds and not really rideable. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and semi textured and soft. Rideable but nothing more. Down south waves were flat and junked by northwest winds making chop. Hawaii's North Shore was getting windswell with waves head high or a little more and pretty junky from northeast trades. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wraparound windswell mixed with northeast windswell making for head high surf and chopped from northeast trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell from a gale just off California on Thurs (2/18) that was generating 26 ft seas was hitting the outer buoys and scheduled to impact the coast in the evening but buried in southerly wind. Follow on wave energy and improving winds are expected for the weekend. Then a fragmented gale is to develop over the north dateline region on Fri-Sat (2/20) with a secondary gale falling southeast from it Sun-Mon (2/22) generating seas in the 44 ft range just 600 nmiles north of Hawaii. Large raw swell to result. And another system is to develop on the dateline Mon-Tues (2/23) falling southeast with 40-43 ft seas aimed at the US West Coast and Hawaii. A slow improving storm pattern is suggested.

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

North Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Thursday AM (2/18) the jet was consolidated tracking off Japan with winds to 190 kts but ridging slightly northeast pushing to the dateline then loosing energy as it fell southeast into the Gulf of Alaska with winds fading from 150 kts, somewhat unorganized and weakening more but with a weak trough in the Central Gulf and another pushing over North California. There was limited support for gale development in the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours a series of small and weak troughs to push from the Gulf into North CA into Sat AM (2/20) while the bulk of the jet on the dateline gets more organized. There winds are to be in the 180-190 kt range settling southward to 38N pushing more or less flat over the dateline and reaching east to 150W (north of Hawaii) early Saturday (2/20). From there 180 kts winds are to be ridging north in the West Pacific then falling southeast carving out a big trough in the Western Gulf offering good support for gale development through Sun (2/21). Beyond 72 hours wind energy is to weaken over the length of the jet with the Gulf trough almost pinching off and the jet tracking hard north from a point north of Hawaii late Tuesday (2/23) pushing up into Alaska. But by Wednesday wind energy is to redevelop over the West Pacific with winds at 150-160 kts reaching from Japan to a point north of Hawaii running mostly flat west to east on the 35N latitude line with a trough starting to develop in the Western Gulf offering good support for gale development, and holding if not building into Thurs (2/25) with winds back to 190 kts over the dateline.

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (2/18) swell from a new gale that was still developing in the Gulf of Alaska was bound for California (see Gulf Gale below). Secondary fetch was developing behind it.

Over the next 72 hours another small gale is to develop behind the Gulf Gale. That gale was tracking through the Gulf on Thurs AM (2/18) generating a broad fetch of 30-35 kts northwest winds and seas 21 ft at 47N 153W. In the evening fetch is to fade to 30-35 kts from the northwest while falling southeast with seas 21 ft over a smaller area at 44N 148W. On Fri AM (2/19) 30 kt west winds to be just off the North CA coast generating 19 ft seas at 42N 140W and fading. The gale to dissipate from there while lifting northeast and moving into the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps some raw 13 sec period swell to result for North and Central CA over the weekend (Sat (2/20) : 7 ft @ 12-13 secs (8.5 ft), Sun: fading from 6 ft @ 13-14 secs (8 ft) from 290-300 degrees.

Another gale is forecast developing just south of the Western Aleutians and west of the dateline Thurs PM (2/18) generating 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 24 ft at 48N 177E. On Fri AM (2/19) a broad area of 30-35 kts west winds to persist with one pocket imbedded to 45 kts while racing east with seas building to 27 ft at 48N 173W. In the evening 30-35 kts northwest winds to loose coverage while falling into the Western Gulf with seas fading from 25 ft at 45N 165W. Fetch to be fading Sat AM (2/20) from 30-35 kts with seas 26 ft at 38N 169W aimed well at Hawaii. 30 kt northwest winds to continue falling southeast and fading in the evening generating 26 ft seas at 41N 153W aimed at the US West Coast east of Hawaii. But secondary fetch to develop northwest of the Islands on Sat PM (2/20) producing a small area of 45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 28 ft over a small area at 35N 174W. On Sun AM (2/21) this fetch is to building to 50 kts from the north-northwest targeting Hawaii well generating 33 ft seas at 33N 167W. More of the same is forecast in the evening with winds building to 55 kts and seas to 45 ft at 34N 161W just 700 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii. Fetch is to fade from 45 kts Mon AM (2/22) northeast of the Islands and seas 42 ft at 31N 155W mostly bypassing Hawaii targeting Baja. In the evening fetch is to fade from barely 45 kts now aimed due east with seas 37 ft at 33N 149W targeting Southern CA and Baja well (266 degs NCal, 278 degs SCal). Fetch fading Tues AM (2/23) from 35 kts with seas fading from 30 ft at 34N 142W (263 degs NCal, 278 degs SCal). The gale to dissipate from there. This is one to monitor, especially for Hawaii and Southern CA.

 

Gulf Gale
A small gale started developing in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Mon AM (2/15) with a small area of 35 kt west winds generating 21 ft seas at 43N 164W. Those winds fell southeast in the evening and held with seas building some to 22 ft at 42N 155W. Tues AM (2/16) the gale started developing more with winds 35 kts over a small area with seas 21 ft at 42N 149W. 30-35 kt northwest winds backed off some in the evening while tracking east with seas 20 ft at 41N 143W. Fetch started building while falling southeast on Wed AM (2/17) at 40 kts with seas 23 ft over a broader area at 42N 141W. In the evening fetch built to 40 kts approaching the North and Central CA coasts with seas 27 ft at 41N 137W targeting Central CA well (292 degs NCal). The gale was fading Thurs AM (2/18) poised to move onshore over North Ca and South Oregon with fetch 35 kts from the northwest with seas 23 ft at 39N 132W targeting North and Central CA (292 degs NCal). This system to move onshore from there. A good bit of raw swell to result from this system but also likely accompanied by weather relative to North and Central CA.

Swell was hitting buoy 46059 at 9 AM Thurs (2/18) with seas to 23 ft @ 14.7 sec and swell 18.1 ft @ 14 secs from 291 degs.

North CA: Swell arrival expected at 5 pm Thurs (2/18) building to 12.4 ft @ 14 secs (17 ft) near midnight. Residuals fading Fri AM (2/19) from 8 ft @ 13 secs (10.5 ft). Swell Direction: 285-292 degrees

South CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri AM (2/19) building mid-day to 5.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (7.5 ft). Residuals on Sat AM (2/20) fading from 3.0 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 292-297 degrees

 

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

 

Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (2/18) southwest winds were fading from 15 kts from Monterey Bay northward slowly turning more westerly and fading out by late afternoon. Patchy rain fading through the day to a point north of San Francisco. 18-20 inches of snow accumulated overnight for the Sierras and expected to be tapering off by sunset. Another front and low pressure system approaches Fri (2/19) with south winds 30 kts early in North CA but never exceeding 20 kts from San Francisco northward. Rain reaching south to Monterey Bay late afternoon. No snow for Tahoe. Clear Saturday with light winds except from the north 20 kts Pt Conception late as high pressure builds just off the coast there. Sunday north winds start to take over for North and Central CA strongest at Pt Conception (20 kts) and 10 kts for San Francisco as high pressure ridges inland over extreme North CA. SCal to remain protected. Light winds building in Monday afternoon as another low tracks well off the CA coast lifting northeast. More light winds for the entire coast Tues-Thurs (2/25) with the jet .cgiit aloft offering protection from a solid storm track reaching no further east than generally 130W (400 nmiles west of Central CA).

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 a small storm is forecast developing west of the dateline Mon AM (2/22) with 50 kt west winds and seas building from 42 ft at 44N 166E aimed east. 50 kt west winds to continue tracking east approaching the dateline in the evening with 43 ft seas at 44N 175E. Fetch to fade some Tues AM (2/23) at 45 kts on the dateline but more from the northwest now with seas 42 ft at 43N 180W targeting a bit east of Hawaii and more at the US West Coast. Fetch to rebuild to 50 kts in the evening with seas 44 ft at 41N 178W. On Wed AM 92/24) a small area of 45-50 kt northwest winds to start dropping towards the Islands generating 43 ft seas at 39N 172W. In the evening fetch to fade from 40 kts still falling southeast with seas 39 ft at 34N 165W targeting the Islands well. The gale to dissipate from there with winds 30-35 kts Thurs AM (2/25) and a broad area of 32 ft seas fading at 31N 158W targeting just east of Hawaii. Something to monitor.

Yet more gale energy is forecast developing on the dateline on Thurs (2/25) producing 40-45 kt west winds with seas on the increase.

  

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...

MJO/ENSO Update

Active MJO Moving into West Pacific
Kelvin Wave #5 Is Retreating - The End of El Nino is inSight

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).

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 event occurred, with another Kelvin Wave developing. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a paragraph that ties 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 (2/17) indicated modest west winds south of the equator from 165E to 175W south of 2S. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone from 2S northward. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds were 15-20+ kts south of 2S over the entire KWGA. Otherwise winds were calm but east at 17 kts north of 3N. Anomalies per the TAO array were modest from the west from 160E to 160W south of the equator and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued expressing itself weakly.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies were indicted in the KWGA starting 2/16, and and are to hold at moderate levels through 2/23, then fading some but not out. Actual winds per the GFS model are to continue from the west in the southern KWGA through Sat (2/20) at 18-22 kts then falling south but still not completely exiting the KWGA through Thurs (2/25). A somewhat more robust El Nino pattern should evolve. 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. The Active Phase of the MJO is to supposedly start positively enhancing westerly anomalies.

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 (2/17) a building Active Phase of the MJO signal was between New Guinea and the dateline while the Inactive Phase had dissipated. The Statistic model projects the Active Phase moving steadily to towards the dateline while fading slightly, reaching the dateline 7 days out then fading there but still present 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts a similar initial setup, but with the Active Phase slowly strengthening while holding stationary on the dateline 2 weeks out. This remains a significant improvement and suggest the Active Phase is to start enhancing El Nino over the next few days (2/21).
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderately Active MJO signal over the West Pacific. It is to slowly ease east and move from the West Pacific to the dateline 7 days out while holding it's energy, then fading there. The GEFS depicts the same generally pattern, but with the MJO strengthening as it tracks east not quite reaching the dateline 2 weeks out. We have moved past the Inactive Phase, and that the pattern is only going to get better from here forward. That is, west winds in the KWGA are to start being enhanced as the Active Phase moves to the dateline, fueling the jetstream.
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 effectively gone as of today (2/18). West wind anomalies are starting to build per the model. The Active Phase is to return fully by 2/26 with west anomalies in control and solid if not at WWB status near 3/2, holding solidly through 3/19 but di.cgiaced east near 165W 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. Still, they will help fuel the jetstream and therefore storm production. The model depicts west anomalies fading to almost nothing 3/22 with no coherent MJO signal expected beyond.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (2/18) Actual temperatures remain decent. A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 140W and holding with the 28 deg isotherm line steady at 120W. Anomaly wise things are fading. +2 deg anomalies are steady at 175W and points eastward but getting steadily shallower. +4 deg anomalies are easing east from 132W and delineate the core of the subsurface reservoir but are also getting shallow. +5 deg anomalies are retreating east from 114W eastward. No +6 degs anomalies are present. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m flowing east reaching east to 120W. The warm pool is loosing ground and quickly. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 2/12 the reservoir is trying to hold on with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a +5 deg core attributable solely to WWB #5 moving east from 100W-135W. +4 deg anomalies are retreating east from 142W. This remains a improvement over a month ago, but is no longer growing, and if anything is shrinking. No +4 deg anomalies were pushing to the surface just yet but were close near 105W. This newly developed Kelvin Wave #5 has put the end of this ENSO event on hold for now, but even it's end is in sight.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (2/12) The picture remains positive, but is on the decline. 0-+5 cm anomalies have rebuilt west covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 162W (steady for the moment). Peak anomalies at +15 are between 120W to 102W and loosing coverage. +10 cm anomalies are loosing coverage between 95W-145W. The subsurface warm pool has recharged as much as it's going to from Kelvin Wave #5 and is on the decline.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (2/12) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 151W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 144W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some from 139W.+2.0 deg anomalies are present between 101W-132W, easing east. No +2.5 deg anomalies were present. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is underway. Temps have dropped from Ecuador to the Galapagos to 0.5-1.0 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 surface 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 passed. We're just trying to hold off the emergence of La nina at this point.

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: (2/17) The latest image indicates temps continuing to cool here east of 100W except for a few random pockets to +2.25 degs. Actually, the number of these pockets has increased in the last 2 days. Still average temps were more in the +1.25-+1.5 deg range. A previous pocket of negative anomalies off Columbia has faded out. Lack of solidly warm water here indicates 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: (2/17) The latest image depicts this area is now in rapid decline. A broad area of +2.25 anomalies is between 120W to 160W but is loosing width and concentration, with most of the loses from 122W to 145W. All this warm water is attributable to Kelvin Wave #4 advecting west. Temps between 160W-180W are holding in coverage. +2.25 deg anomalies reach west to 172W. No +4 deg anomalies are indicated. Kelvin Wave #5 is expected to not add anything to the surface warm pool, only slow it's demise. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (2/16): A steady state pattern was depicted. No warming nor cooling is indicated.
Hi-res Overview:
(2/16) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building and westward di.cgiaced with most warm anomalies between 100W-175W. The mid-zoomed image depicts the vent port area contains only 2-3 deg anomalies, and then only in patches.
Most anomalies are concentrated from 110W to 173W (in the core of Nino3.4).

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 173E). The +0.0 anomaly line on the equator is at 140E (steady). +1.5 deg anomalies are retreating east to 180W. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 174W. No +3.0 deg or +3.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is solid but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (2/18) Temps continue fading from +0.661. We're about ready to stop reporting this area. Previously they peaked here for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously 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 (2/18) temps were steady today at +2.297, fading from somewhere in the +2.5 degs range since late Dec through Feb 11. 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), Temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: (2/18) Today's value continue a slow but steady decline, at +1.799. This pattern has been in effect since 1/16. Peak temps occurred 12/6 at +2.989, and +2.990 (11/28).

Nino3.4 Monthly Temps (January) The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of Jan are +2.27 (beating '98 which was +2.21 and '83 which was +2.13). December was +2.31 (beating 97 which was +2.23 and 82 at +2.21). November was adjusted up to +2.36 degs (beating the highest temp recorded in '97 Nov - +2.32 degs and beating '82 +2.03 degs). Oct temps were +2.03 degs. See updated graphs above. The ONI uses a 3 month running average.
ONI For 2015 for the 3 month period centered on Sept, Oct, Nov and Dec the values are: +1.8, +2.1. +2.2 +2.3. For the same period in '97 the values were: +2.0, +2.2, +2.3 and +2.3. And for '82 the values were: +1.5, +1.9, +2.1 and +2.1. This make this years El Nino the second strongest on record since 1950.

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


Pacific Counter Current:  As of 2/15 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 160E to 145W. East current was also present from Galapagos to 145W. Anomaly wise - One pocket of solid east anomalies was between 160E to 145W on the equator. Otherwise everything was effectively normal. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. El Nino is in solid decline based on this data.

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data depicts peak temps were reached at +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then faded slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Feb 1. Then a sharp decline started with temps down to +2.5 degs mid-Feb. The forecast indicates temps fading fast to +2.0 by 3/1, then steadily declining from there before stabilizing at +0.9 degs in July and starting to rebuild in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Jan Plume depicts temps peaked in Jan, at +2.8 degs. The consensus suggests temps to fall steadily from here forward, down to -0.7 by October.
See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (2/18): It was rising from -29.20. 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 and -40.20 on 2/17.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -10.95. The peak low was recorded on 1/26/16 at -24.89, with a secondary peak 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 from -13.28. 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. 
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): A neutral pressure pattern was near Darwin on 2/18 and is to hold for the next week or turn slightly towards higher pressure, but not much. 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 2/18 weak low pressure was starting to show south of Tahiti and a stronger low was centered well west of Tahiti. This low is to steadily track west while a new low builds just south of Tahiti on Mon (2/22) then slowly fading. The SOI is expected to be turning more negative based on the Tahiti contribution.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (2/18) Today's value was +1.17, down some over the past weeks. The most recent peak was +2.33 on 1/14. It also peaked at +2.40 on Sat (10/17) and was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling. 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.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Jan) These numbers were released Feb 5th and indicate the index increased slightly by 0.08 to +2.20, holding it in 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.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

North Pacific Jetstream (2/18) 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: This El Nino is the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based primarily on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the 2nd strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory, but there are still 2 months to go in the main Winter/Spring precipitation season. Based on surf, El Nino is having the expected affects producing 9 significant class swells in the North Pacific so far this season with more expected.

From a pure El Nino perspective, the peak of the event is over. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and the jetstream is still positively being reinforced by it. That in combination with the Active Phase of the MJO is still rendering El nino of significant positive influence on storm production and will continue to do so through mid-to late April. but after that, the jetstream and storm track will start to decline, primarily due to seasonal changes.

Then the focus turns to how quick and how much will the jet be affected for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool

****

External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave

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Local Interest

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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table

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