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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, February 25, 2016 9:13 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
4.4- California & 5.0 - 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 2/22 thru Sun 2/28

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 #11 Slams Hawaii
Models Suggest More to Come

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, February 25, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 17.2 ft @ 20.0 secs with swell 12.3 ft @ 18.8 secs from 316 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.9 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 4.6 ft @ 16.0 secs from 267 degrees. Wind north 0-2 kts. Water temperature 59.7 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 7.9 ft @ 15.7 secs from 262 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 5.8 ft @ 15.7 secs from 263 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 7.1 ft @ 16.6 secs from 269 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 11.2 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 8.5 ft @ 14.9 secs from 261 degrees. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temp 56.8 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Thursday (2/24) in North and Central CA Swell #10 was still producing solid surf, with waves 12 ft on the face and some bigger sets and clean but a bit raw. Protected breaks were head high.cgius and clean. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 3-4 ft overhead on the sets and clean and lined up, but soft. In Southern California up north Swell #10 was producing surf was 3-4 ft overhead with bigger sets to double overhead and well lined up and pumping with clean conditions. Down south north swell was producing waves at 2-3 ft overhead on the sets and clean but not particularly impressive. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Swell #11 with occasional large sets in the 20 ft Hawaiian range and clean but with underlying lump. The Eddie is a GO. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wraparound swell making for 18 ft faces and pretty hacked by northeast wind.

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

Meteorological Overview
Storm #11 peaked out late Monday evening (2/22)with seas at 49 ft. Swell is hitting Hawaii now and bound for the US West Coast. A far smaller gale is forecast for the Gulf of Alaska on Sat (2/27) with 26 ft seas aimed east. Another gale is forecast on the dateline on Sun (2/28) with 28 ft seas targeting the Islands with secondary fetch generating 32 ft seas on Tues (3/2) just northwest of Hawaii then tracking fast east and rebuilding to storm status with seas to 45 ft seas just 600 nmiles off Central CA. And yet a stronger storm is projected on the dateline on Wed (3/3) with seas to 54 ft. So two more significant class storms are possible in the next week. We continue on a roll thanks to the Active Phase of the MJO.

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

North Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Thursday AM (2/25) the jet was consolidated tracking east off Japan with winds to 190 kts falling into a trough with it's apex positioned 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii then .cgiitting at 140W with the northern branch pushing up into British Columbia and the southern branch tracking towards the equator. There was great support for gale development in the Gulf trough. Over the next 72 hours wind energy from the dateline at 180 kts is to build east reaching a point north of Hawaii by Sat (2/27) with a new trough building into the Gulf and the .cgiit point moving east to 133W. And by Sunday (2/28) the Gulf trough is to start fading but a new trough is to start building just west of the dateline fed by 180-190 kts winds originating off Japan. Great support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours 190-200 kt winds are to continue on the the dateline falling gently into a building trough in the Western Gulf Mon (2/29) continuing to support gale development, then slowly fading as the trough eases east pushing into Central CA on Thurs (3/3).

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (2/25) swell from Storm #10 was hitting California, but on the way down everywhere but the southern end of the state (see details in Storm #10 below). Storm #11 was fading north of Hawaii (see details below - Storm #11).

Over the next 72 hours a fragmented gale is to develop in the Western Gulf on Fri AM (2/26) with winds 35-40 kts generating 24-225 ft seas at 40N 172W. 35-40 kt west fetch is to briefly consolidate in the Gulf generating 26 ft seas at 37N 158W targeting mainly the US West Coast. 35-40 kt west fetch is to start lifting northeast on Sat AM (2/27) producing seas of 28 ft at 43n 152W. The gale is to fade in the evening with winds dropping from barely 35 kts with seas 26 ft at 43N 144W. A decent pulse of 15 sec period swell is possible for North CA and the Pacific Northwest for later in the weekend.

A second fragmented gale to develop on the dateline starting Sat AM (2/27) with 35 kt northwest winds and seas 26 ft at 45N 180W (dateline). In the evening 35 kt northwest winds to hold with seas 26 ft at 44N 177W targeting somewhere between Hawaii and the US West Coast. On Sun AM (2/28) a secondary low to develop south of the original fetch with 45 kt west winds and seas 26 ft at 37N 178W. That fetch to track west in the evening with 28 ft seas at 34N 170W with 900 nmiles of 25+ ft seas north of it targeting the Island well. More of the same is forecast Mon AM (3/1) with 24 ft seas fading at 33N 160W. A tertiary fetch of 45-50 kt fetch to set up 750 nmiles north of Hawaii in the evening with 30 ft seas building at 33N 165W. On Tues AM (3/2) 40 kt northwest winds to hold north of the Islands generating 32 ft seas at 29N 161W targeting the Islands.

Storm #10
A
secondary fetch from a previous gale over the North Dateline region developed northwest of the Islands on Sat PM (2/20) producing a small area of 40 kt northwest winds and seas building from 26 ft over a small area at 35N 178W. On Sun AM (2/21) this fetch began building with 55 kt north-northwest winds targeting Hawaii well generating 34 ft seas at 33N 168W (320 degs HI). the Jason-2 satellite passed over the west quadrant of this system and reported seas of 28.8 ft with one reading to 33.1 ft where the model suggested 30 ft seas. The model was on track. Winds built to 60 kts in the evening with seas to 46 ft at 32N 160W just 700 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii (350 degs HI, 268 NCal, 280 degs SCal). Fetch was fading from 45 kts Mon AM (2/22) and tracking east rather than southeast with seas 42 ft at 34N 153W mostly bypassing Hawaii and targeting Baja up into Southern CA (269 degs NCal, 280 degs SCal). In the evening fetch is to fade from 40 kts still aimed due east with seas 37 ft at 36N 148W targeting Central CA down into Baja well (275 degs NCal, 286 degs SCal). Fetch is to be all but gone Tues AM (2/23) dropping from 30 kts with seas fading from 30 ft at 38N 142W (280 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). The gale to dissipate from there. Solid raw swell expected for Hawaii with lesser size and less direct energy for California.

Southern CA: Residuals on Fri AM (2/26) fading from 3.8 ft @ 14 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 278-280 degrees

 

Storm #11
Another strong storm was developing west of the dateline Mon AM (2/22) with 50 kt west-northwest winds and seas building from 42 ft at 44N 167E aimed east. 55 kt west-northwest winds continued tracking east approaching the dateline in the evening with 47 ft seas at 43N 175E (297 degs NCal, 302 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the east end of the fetch at 06Z Tues and reported seas at 42.6 ft with one reading to 49.8 ft where the model indicated seas at 42 ft. The model was on track. Fetch faded some Tues AM (2/23) at 50 kts on the dateline but more from the northwest now with seas 47 ft at 41N 180W targeting a bit east of Hawaii and more at the US West Coast (293 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). Fetch faded slowly from the northwest at 45 kts in the evening with seas 42 ft at 40N 173W (291 degs NCal, 296 degs SCal). On Wed AM (2/24) a small area of 40-45 kt northwest winds continued dropping towards the Islands generating 39 ft seas at 37N 168W (283 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite confirmed seas at 38.0 ft with one reading to 43.9 ft where the model projected 38-39 ft seas. The model was right on track. In the evening fetch faded from 35 kts still falling southeast with seas 34 ft over a broad area at 36N 162W targeting the Islands but also the US West Coast (278 degs NCal, 286 degs SCal). The gale was dissipating from there Thurs AM (2/25) with seas fading from 29 ft at at 34N 155W targeting North Baja into Southern CA.

Hawaii: Swell arrived earlier than expected and by 2 AM Thurs (2/25) period was 20 secs and size building fast. Swell to start peaking at 8 AM local time as period hits 18 secs holding well through the day as period drops towards 17 secs. Pure swell 12.2-12.7 ft @ 17-18 secs (20.7-22.9 ft Hawaiian) with sets to 15.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (26.8 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 321-335 degrees Wind east-northeast 8 kts early building to 10 kts late AM.

North CA: Expect long period forerunners arriving at sunset Fri (2/26) building to 8.4 ft @ 18-19 secs just after sunset (15.5 ft). Swell peaking before sunrise Sat (2/27) and holding at 10 ft @ 17 secs just after sunrise (17 ft) holding decently through the day. Residuals fading Sun (2/28) from 7 ft @ 15 secs (10.5 ft). Swell Direction 291-297 degrees with lesser energy to 280 degs

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat (2/27) before sunrise building through the day reaching 4.5 ft @ 18-19 secs later (8.0-8.5 ft). Swell peaking early morning Sun (2/28). Swell at sunrise to be 5.1 ft @ 16-17 secs (8.0-8.5 ft) slowly fading through the day but with period not going below 16 secs. Residuals fading some on Mon AM (2/29) from 3.4 ft @ 15 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 296-302 degs with lesser period energy down to 286 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 (2/25) weak high pressure was holding off the coast with light northwest winds 10 kts over outer waters, and less nearshore. More of the same is forecast on Friday. Then high pressure is to get a little stronger on Saturday with northwest winds 20 kts over Pt Conception and reaching north to Monterey Bay late at 15 kts and holding Sunday. The high is to gain ground on Monday with northwest winds 15-20 kts over all of North and Central CA. On Tues (3/2) a front is to be approaching the coast with calm winds early over North and Central CA and north winds holding over Pt Conception. South winds to build in Wednesday for North CA down into Central CA holding Thursday (3/4).

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 yet another gale is to develop off the California coast generating 50 kts west winds on Wed AM (3/3) with seas building from 40 ft at 37N 147W. Winds tracking east in the evening with seas building to 44 ft at 37N 140W. Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts Thurs AM (3/4) with seas fading from 40 ft at 37N 133W 500 nmiles off the Central CA coast. Large raw swell possible for California.

And yet another storm is forecast developing west of the dateline on Tues AM (3/2) producing 60 kt west winds with seas building to 37 ft at 40N 164E. This system to track towards the dateline with winds holding in the evening with seas building to 52 ft at 42N 171E. 50-55 kt west winds to push to the dateline Wed AM (3/3) with seas building to 53 ft at 42N 179W. Fetch fading from 45 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 47 ft at 41N 172W. This system is to continue east from there, steadily fading.

 
South Pacific

Beyond 72 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

More details to follow...

El Nino Reaching Its Prime Atmospherically
Kelvin Wave #5 Starting to Show Just West of Galapagos Islands

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 (2/24) indicated moderate west winds south of the equator from 160E to 170W south of 2S and holding coverage, with stronger west winds south and outside the KWGA. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone from 2S northward. Anomalies were moderate from the west from 160E to 150W south of the equator, with much of that south of 5S and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued expressing itself modestly.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies developed in the KWGA on 2/16, and holding through 2/23, then built to near WWB status and continued through 2/25. They are forecast to build in strength and coverage 2/26-3/1 mainly between 160-175E and positively influencing the jetstream and feeding the manifestation of El Nino. The only east anomalies that occurred in 2015 KWGA were from 12/7-12/17 during an Inactive Phase of the MJO.

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 (2/24) a moderately strong Active Phase of the MJO signal was over the dateline while the Inactive Phase was strong in the Indian Ocean. The Statistic model projects the Active Phase moving steadily east while fading slightly, dissipating south of Hawaii 2 weeks out while the Inactive Phase moves into the West Pacific at moderate strength. The dynamic model depicts a similar initial setup, but with the Active Phase slowly fading while while holding stationary on the dateline two weeks out. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue enhancing El Nino for the next 1-2 weeks (through 3/12).
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderately Active MJO signal over the dateline. it is to fade over the next 2 weeks while tracking east over the Americas. The GEFS depicts the same generally pattern, but with the MJO fading as it stalls over dateline over the next 2 weeks. West winds in the KWGA are to continue being enhanced as the Active Phase moves over 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 Active Phase of the MJO is building over the dateline with west wind anomalies fully in control in that area. This pattern to hold through 3/15 with west anomalies in control and solid if not at WWB status but di.cgiaced east near 165W having minimal Kelvin Wave generation potential, typical of the mature phase of El Nino. Still, these anomalies will help fuel the jetstream and therefore storm production. The model depicts west anomalies fading to almost nothing 3/18 with no coherent MJO signal expected until maybe 3/31 when a weak Active Phase is to redevelop.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (2/25) Actual temperatures remain decent but are fading. A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 146W and retreating with the 28 deg isotherm line barely hanging on at 120W actually gaining a little ground to the east. Anomaly wise things are fading fast. +2 deg anomalies are from 170W and points eastward but getting steadily shallower. +4 deg anomalies are moving east fast from 119W and delineate the remaining core of the subsurface reservoir while shallow. No warmer temps remain. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m and racing east at 112W. The warm pool is loosing ground quickly. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 2/17 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 103W-127W. +4 deg anomalies are retreating east from 133W. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. 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):  (2/17) The image depicts the warm pool in decline too. 0-+5 cm anomalies are holding for the moment at covering the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 162W (steady for the moment). Peak anomalies at +15 are over a fading and tiny area at 120-130W. +10 cm anomalies are loosing coverage between 105W-150W. 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: (2/17) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 142W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 135W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some from 129W.+2.0 deg anomalies are present between 110W-120W, easing east. No +2.5 deg anomalies were present. The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #5 is wrapping up. Temps have dropped from Ecuador to the Galapagos to 0.5-1.0 degs and moving east, hopefully the extent of the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4. This El Nino remains westward di.cgiaced. The Downwelling Phase should reach the surface 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: (2/25) The latest image indicates temps continuing to cool here east of 100W except for a few random pockets to +2.25 degs which are building along the coast of Peru. Still average temps were more in the +1.25-+1.5 deg range. 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: (2/25) The latest image depicts this area is rapid decline. +2.25 anomalies cover a thin area between 100W to 120W but are loosing width and concentration. This could be waters attributable to Kelvin Wave #5, though it is not expected to add anything to the surface warm pool, only slow it's demise. 
Hi-res 7 day Trend (2/24): rapid warming is occurring between 90W to 110W, possibly attributable to Kelvin Wave #5.
Hi-res Overview:
(2/24) The El Nino signal is unmistakable but is no longer building and showing signs of finally moving to the east with most warm anomalies now between 90W-160W. The mid-zoomed image depicts that 2-3 deg anomalies have built to the Galapagos
concentrated from 102W to 160W (in the core of Nino3.4 and building some into Nino1.2).

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. The +0.0 anomaly line on the equator is not present (formally at 140E). +1.5 deg anomalies are retreating east to 178W but extend east to 98W. There is also a solid area of +2.0 deg anomalies extending east from 169W (holding). +2.5 anomalies are present in one pocket at 159W to 148W. Overall the warm water signature is solid but on the decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (2/25) Temps are building some at +0.859. 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 (2/25) temps were fading today at +1.974, falling below the +2.0 mark the first time since when this El Nino first started developing. And below the +2.5 degs range that was reached in 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: (2/25) Today's value have stabilized at +1.793, declining 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 +0.75 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 (2/25): It was rising some from -25.70. Of note: The 97 El Nino had daily values at -40 to -50 in early Nov with one spurt to -76 Jan 30-31st. Notable deep readings in this 2015-16 event were: -49.70/-46.60 on Oct 3 & 4, -42.20 on 10/14, -47.50 on 12/3, -38.50 on 1/2, -40.20 on 2/17. Then the peak of this event occurred 2/22 at -50.30.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -14.53. 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 -16.16. 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 2/25 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 2/25 low pressure was over Tahiti. Relative to Tahiti low pressure is to hold in the area then build more Fri-Sat (2/27) peaking on Sun (2/28). The SOI is expected to be turning more negative based on the Tahiti contribution.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (2/25) Today's value was +1.17, holding over the past week. 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 (2/25) 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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