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.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 11.2 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 8.3 ft @ 14.9 secs from 327 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 2.7 ft @ 12.6 secs from 276 degrees. Wind south 2-4 kts. Water temperature 61.2 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.6 ft @ 13.0 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.9 ft @ 13.1 secs from 255 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.6 ft @ 14.0 secs from 267 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 8.2 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 5.7 ft @ 10.2 secs from 272 degrees. Wind southeast 14-16 kts. Water temp 57.7 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (3/3) in North and Central CA generic Gulf windswell was producing waves in the 1 ft overhead range and clean early. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high on the sets and clean and unremarkable. In Southern California up north surf was waist high with some chest high sets and and clean and reasonably lined up. Down south the same swell was producing waves at chest high and clean and mostly soft. Hawaii's North Shore was getting fading but still sizeable local swell with waves in the 10-12 ft range Hawaii and clean but pretty mixed up. At least the sun was out. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wraparound swell with waves 3 ft overhead and textured by light northeast winds.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a gale that originally targeted Hawaii last weekend into early this week then lifted northeast tracking towards the mainland with seas in the 28-30 ft range Wed-Thurs (3/3) is poised to hit the US West Coast later today. A weak system developed off Japan Tues-Wed (3/2) with 34 ft seas and is to track over the dateline Thurs-Fri (3/4) with 28-30 ft seas perhaps making for more swell for the Islands by Sunday (3/6). Remnants of that system are to be off California on Sun (3/6) generating maybe 26 ft seas, but less than 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast, resulting in much weather. Beyond and unfavorable jetstream configuration is to result in a rather.cgiacid swell production pattern. Maybe a gale to develop just northeast of Hawaii and targeting primarily Central CA on Thurs (3/10) with 26 ft seas, but that's it. Get what you can.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (3/3) the jet was consolidated from just off Japan over the dateline with winds to 190 kts then weakening some north of Hawaii but still holding together well while pushing into North California. No real troughs were present offering not much in terms of support for gale development down at the surface. Still, the potential was there. Over the next 72 hours the bulk of the wind energy in the jet is to move east positioned north of Hawaii on Saturday (3/5) at 170 kts with the tip of it ready to push onshore over Pt Conception. A mild trough is to be just west of the dateline and another in the Eastern Gulf, but both to be weak but building into Sunday offering limited support for gale formation. Back to the west the jet is to start loosing energy and .cgiitting over Japan. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to hold strong and consolidated in the East Pacific with winds 160 kts into Tuesday (3/8) with a trough over the US West Coast and much energy pushing into the coast support weather formation. The trough previously west of the dateline is to be almost north of Hawaii and generally weak offering little to support gale formation, while to the west the jet is to be weak and fragmented. This is likely due to the push east of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. By Thurs (3/10) the trough previously north of Hawaii is to be 900 nmiles off Central CA and building with 130 kts winds feeding it offering good support for gale development with a consolidated flow pushing into the North CA coast. But a large .cgiit is to be over the dateline supporting high pressure at the surface. There's some signs of consolidation developing back over Japan. It's too early to tell if this is the full onset of the Inactive Phase, or just a pause in the storm cycle. either way, weather looks likely for the US West Coast.
On Thursday (3/3) swell from a Fragmented Gale was fading in Hawaii (though still sizeable) and pushing towards the US West Coast (see Fragmented Gale below). Also a gale formed off Japan moving towards the dateline targeting Hawaii (see Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours another weak weather system is to develop off North CA on Sat AM (3/5) producing 35 kt west winds 1200 nmiles out and seas to 24 ft at 42N 148W. A broad area of 30-35 kts west winds to push east in the evening generating more 24 ft seas at 40N 140W targeting all of California. Additional west fetch at 35-40 kts to develop Sun AM (3/6) just off North CA generating seas of 26 ft at at 37N 138W targeting Central CA. The fetch is to be just off Cape Mendocino in the evening with seas to 28 ft 150 nmiles off the coast. Additional northwest fetch to hold just off the coast into Mon AM (3/7) at 35 kts with seas 24 ft targeting mainly Southern CA into the evening. Raw conditions seem likely nearshore for this entire window.
A gale formed off North Japan on Tues AM (3/1) generating a decent size area of 45-50 kts west winds with seas on the increase from 30 ft. By evening fetch was fading from 45 kts with seas building to 35 ft at 44N 159E. 40 kt west winds eased east Wed AM (3/3) with seas 29 ft at 44N 164E. Fetch faded to 35 kts in the evening with seas dropping from 26 ft at 40N 170E. 40 kt west winds reconsolidated Thurs AM (3/3) with seas holding at 28 ft at 37N 170E. 40 kt west winds to continue tracking east in the evening with seas to 31 ft at 37N 175E. Fetch fading from 30 kts Fri AM (3/4) with seas fading from 27 ft at 36N 175W targeting Hawaii well. This system is to fade from there. Possible modest swell for Hawaii if all goes as forecast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sat (3/5) building to 6 ft @ 16 secs late (9.5 ft). Swell peaking sunrise Sun (3/6) at 8.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (13 ft) fading slightly late. Residuals on Mon (3/7) fading from 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310-315 degrees
Fragmented West Gulf Gale
A fragmented gale started to develop on the dateline starting Sat AM (2/27) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas 23 ft at 43N 180W (dateline). In the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds held while falling southeast with seas 22 ft over a broad area at 38N 180W targeting somewhere between Hawaii and the US West Coast. On Sun AM (2/28) fetch built to 40 kts falling southeast over the dateline and seas building to 28 ft at 36N 178W. That fetch tracked east in the evening with 30 ft seas at 34N 173W with 900 nmiles of 25+ ft seas north of it targeting the Islands well. Fetch faded Mon AM (3/1) with 25 ft seas fading at 32N 165W targeting Hawaii. A secondary fetch of 45 kt northwest winds set up 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii tracking east and in the evening it was generating 32 ft seas at 34N 168W. On Tues AM (3/2) 35-40 kt northwest winds were fading north of the Islands generating 30 ft seas at 28N 162W targeting the Islands and just 450 nmiles out. Fetch and seas to fade from there. Larger raw swell possible for Hawaii building some on Tues (3/1) and heading up from there.
A new gale formed out of the remnants of the above fetch well west of North CA Tues AM (3/1) generating 50 kt northwest winds over a tiny area and a broader area of 30-35 kt northwest winds south of it producing 36 ft seas at 39N 158W with 30 ft seas south of it down at 29N 162W. The gale tracked east in the evening with 45 kts west winds and a broad area of 30-35 kt west winds south of it targeting all of California and especially Southern CA producing 32 ft seas at 40N 154W and 26 ft seas south to 29N 153W (271 degs SCal). The gale stalled 600 nmiles east of California on Wed AM (3/2) with 30-35 kt west winds over a broad area and seas 26 ft at 35N 150W and up to 30 ft up at 42N 151W. The gale faded some and consolidated in the evening with 35-40 kt west winds off North CA and seas at 28 ft at 43N 147W and to 25 ft down to 35N 145W (290 degs SCal). Additional fetch built into the gale on Thurs AM (3/3) with winds 40 kts from the west and seas 28 ft at 38N 143W (280 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). 30-35 kt west winds to hold in the evening just 900 nmiles off the CA coast producing 25 ft seas at 40N 138W (290 degs NCal) with 22 ft seas south to 35N 140W (281 degs SCal). A slow fade to set in Friday as the gale approaches California with seas dropping from 21 ft early at 40N 140W (290 degs NCal), then fading in the evening.
Raw local swell is to start arriving in North California Thurs PM (3/3) peaking Friday but continuing through the weekend. Southern CA to see the same pattern but di.cgiaced 24 hours, to Fri-Sun (3/6).
North CA: Sideband swell to reach North CA near sunset on Thurs (3/3) and building through the evening peaking early Fri (3/4) AM at 10.8 ft @ 16 secs (17 ft). Residuals on Sat (3/5) fading from 9.5 ft @ 14 secs (13 ft). Swell Direction: 275-280 degrees. A good amount of local lump intermixed.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri (3/4) building through the day peaking late at 5.3 ft @ 16 secs (8.5 ft) and bigger at exposed breaks. Swell fading some overnight and dropping Sat AM (3/5) from 5.3 ft @ 15 secs (7.5 ft). Residuals on Sun AM (3/6) from 3.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 280-290 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (3/3) weak high pressure was holding over Central California southward with light winds in control and a weak front just off Cape Mendocino with light south winds there. Light rain was modeled reaching south to San Francisco mid-day but there wa no sign of it. On Friday the next front is to be starting to move over the North Coast late with south winds building south to Point Conception late and mostly 10 kts everywhere except Cape Mendocino (20 kts). Light rain moving into all of North and Central CA mid-day and building overnight. South winds to build Saturday morning from Pt Conception northward at 20+ kts with rain for the North and Central coasts getting heavy late. Snow at higher elevations in the Sierra before sunrise building some through the day and snow levels falling. Snow building in the Sierra by 10 PM holding overnight. The bulk of the front to arrive before sunrise Sunday (3/6) with winds west 20 kts for the entire state. Rain in control from Santa Barbara northward moving into San Diego late AM. Snow fading for the Sierra by 7 AM Total accumulations 19-20 inches and maybe 30 at Kirkwood. A second low to move over Cape Mendocino late Sunday afternoon with southwest winds 20-25 kts over all of Central and North CA holding through the night. Snow starting at Tahoe 4 PM Sunday continuing through the evening. . Monday AM a northwest flow at 20 kts is forecast for the entire state building to 30 kts late. Rain all day all locations declining some by 4 PM. Light snow fading in the Sierra. Tues AM (3/8) north winds still in control all locations 30 kts early slowly fading to 20 kts late. No precip forecast. Wednesday winds to fade to calm while a new front builds off the coast and south winds 20 kts for North CA. Thursday the front is to dissolve with light winds everywhere. No precip. But a stronger low is to be building offshore.
All this is attributable to the Active Phase of the MJO moving east into the US West Coast.
On Mon PM 92/29) low pressure developed under New Zealand producing 30 ft seas aimed northeast at 58S 180W. Fetch held Tues AM (3/1) at 40 kts from the southwest generating 34 ft seas at 55S 174W aimed well to the northeast. Fetch is forecast fading from 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 51S 173W. Decent southern hemi swell is expected to result for Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Mon (3/7) late pushing 1.6 ft @ 19 secs with luck (3 ft). Swell building peaking mid-day Tues (3/8) at 2 ft @ 17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading some Wed (3/9) from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 190 degrees
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours a gale is to form north of Hawaii on Wed PM (3/9) falling southeast with 45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 22 ft at 37N 158W. On Thurs AM (3/10) the gale to track east from there with 40 kt west winds and seas building to 27 ft at 34N 147W. In the evening 45 kt west winds to continue from there with seas building to 28 ft over a small area at 32N 140W targeting Southern CA directly.
After that a slack weather pattern is forecast.
Beyond 72 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
More details to follow...
Surface Waters Warming from Galapagos Westward
The Last Strong Pulse of El Nino is Fading On Dateline as the MJO Dissipates and Moves East
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. But it was too little too late. There was not any real warm water left in the West Pacific to transport east. El Nino was in a steady collapse by mid-Feb with the subsurface warm reservoir in the East Pacific in steep decline with cool water ready to move in migrating from the west. 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 (3/2) moderate west winds were south of the equator from 170E to 150W mainly south of 5S and outside the KWGA. Otherwise east winds prevailed and strong over the entire zone from 3S northward. Anomalies were strong from the west from 160E to 150W south of the equator, with much of that south of 4S and neutral everywhere else. El Nino continued expressing itself modestly.
1 Week Forecast: West anomalies developed in the KWGA on 2/16, then built to near WWB status 2/23 and continued through 3/2. Today they had faded to just anomalies and those are expected to dissipate 3/8 with a dead neutral pattern taking hold. At that time positive influence of the jetstream will fade as will manifestation of El Nino. The only east anomalies that occurred in 2015 and 2016 (so far) in the KWGA were from 12/7-12/17 during an Inactive Phase of the MJO. For Now an El Nino pattern continues to hold control.
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)
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of Wed (3/2) a moderately 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 steadily fading, dissipating south of Hawaii 10 days out then gone 2 weeks out while the Inactive Phase moves well into the West Pacific at moderate strength. The dynamic model depicts the same thing, but with the Inactive Phase fading to almost nothing while moving east, with a dead neutral pattern in control 2 weeks out. This suggests El Nino influence of the jetstream fading as the Inactive Phase destructively integrates with it in 2 weeks (3/14).
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): The ECMF model indicates a moderately Active MJO signal over just east of the dateline. It is to fade over the next 2 weeks while tracking east over the Americas into the Indian Ocean reaching the Maritime Continent. The GEFS depicts the same general pattern. West winds/anomalies in the KWGA are to start fading as the Active Phase moves east of the the dateline region, with a weaker jetstream flow and weaker storm track forecast.
40 Day Upper Level Model: The Active Phase was weak over the East Pacific and forecast to move over Central America 3/13. The Inactive Phase is moving into the West Pacific and forecast to track east to Central America through 4/2. A weak Active Phase to return to the West Pacific 4/2.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): The Active Phase of the MJO is at peak intensity just east of the dateline with west wind anomalies fully in control in that area. This pattern to hold through 3/4 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 steadily and weak to modest by 3/7, holding for the foreseeable future driven my El Nino. The Inactive Phase is to take 3/13- 3/23 when the next Active Phase is to develop holding through 4/17. A bit of a pulse of west wind anomalies is forecast in the 4/7-4/22 timeframe.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/3) Actual temperatures remain decent but are fading. A large pocket of 29 deg temps were at depth between 140E to 155W and retreating but with the 28 deg isotherm line easing east now to 100W, the furthest east of this event. Anomaly wise things are collapsing. +2 deg anomalies are from 175W and points eastward but getting steadily shallower. +4 deg anomalies are moving east fast from 115W and very small in coverage. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface reservoir. No warmer temps remain. Cool subsurface waters are down at 150m and racing east now reaching the Ecuador Coast. The warm pool is is steep decline. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 2/27 the reservoir is fading but warm water is still flowing into it from near the dateline and a +5 deg core attributable solely to WWB #5 moving east from 100W-115W. +4 deg anomalies are retreating east from 125W. The subsurface reservoir is shrinking steadily. No +4 deg anomalies were pushing to the surface. 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): (2/27) 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 163W (steady for the moment). Peak anomalies at down to +10 cm anomalies and are loosing coverage between 112W-150W. The subsurface warm pool is declining, holding on barely thanks to weak Kelvin Wave #5.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (2/27) Temps are fading fast. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are fading from 132W and extending east to the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are retracting some from 126W. +1.5 deg anomalies are retracting some from 116W-106W. +2.0 deg anomalies are no longer 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, 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 will only slow the demise of El Nino. 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.
Hi-res Nino1.2: (3/2) The latest image indicates temps are building from the Galapagos westward with +2.25 deg anomalies building on the equator extending 3 degs north and south out to 130W. No clear warming is occurring east of the Galapagos other than a thin pocket along the coast of Peru. Perhaps for the first time during this ENSO event, the Kelvin Wave eruption area is moving closer to the Nino1.2 region, but still is not fully in it. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Hi-res Nino 3.4: (3/2) The latest image depicts this area is rapid decline other than between 120W to 130W, part of the Nino1.2 warming mentioned above. This is attributable to Kelvin Wave #5.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/2): Weak warming is occurring west of the Galapagos attributable to Kelvin Wave #5 with some cooling east of it thanks to the Upwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4.
Hi-res Overview: (3/2) 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-138W.
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)
Kelvin Wave #3 Eruption Evolution
(click to enlarge)
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 extending west to 172E and east to at least 95W. There is also a solid area of +2.0 deg anomalies extending from 176W (building) and now reaching east to 110W. No +2.5 anomalies are present. Overall the warm water signature is solid but on the decline in the west, but building some in the east.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/3) Temps started building some starting on 2/23, up to +1.264 today, rising from a recent low of +0.5 degs in mid-Feb. 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 (3/3) temps were steady today at +2.032. They fell below the +2.0 mark on 2/25 for the first time since when this El Nino first started developing, and below the +2.5 deg 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: (3/3) Today's value have stabilized at +1.899, up some from +1.848 (2/28), but otherwise 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 June and starting to rebuild in Oct. This would still be El Nino threshold temps. Hard to believe and is a minority opinion.
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 (3/3): It was rising some at -25.20. 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 and -49.10 on 2/29.
30 Day Average: Was falling from -22.15. 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 rising some at -16.83. 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. A recent low of
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 3/3 near neutral pressure was over Tahiti. Weak high pressure is to follow over the coming week. The SOI is expected to slowly start rising based on the Tahiti contribution and offer no further solid support to enhance El Nino or to fuel the jetstream as this Active Phase of the MJO dissipates. Its just too late in the season.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (3/3) Today's value was rising from +1.36. 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 '15-16 El Nino is still 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 (3/3) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. The jet looks very good and is forecast to hold for a few more day, but then move into rapid decline as the Inactive Phase of the MJO takes over the dateline region. From a surf standpoint, it's all down hill from here.
Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
(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. Solid precip is expected over the next week (3/3-3/10) as the Active Phase of the MJO moves east into California, but after that, it's over. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected affect producing 11 significant class swells in the North Pacific so far this season. The target is 16, but that appears ambitious.
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 with the Inactive Phase of the MJO scheduled to take over in the next 2 weeks, and the seasons moving towards Spring, the veracity of that influence will decline.
The focus now 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table