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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, October 24, 2015 10:57 AM
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
2.8 - California & 2.8 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 10/26 thru Sun 11/1

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   

Local Gale off CA
Storm Forecast for Gulf and Solid Gale for West Pacific

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.

 

On Sunday, October 25, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 3.2 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 2.0 ft @ 10.2 secs from 328 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 14.0 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 14.0 secs. Wind northeast 4 kts. Water temperature 70.2 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.4 ft @ 13.1 secs from 243 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 22.0 secs from 218 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.0 ft @ 10.9 secs from 212 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 8.0 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 6.1 ft @ 10.8 secs from 304 degrees. Wind northeast 4-6 kts. Water temp 63.9 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059 has been reactivated.
    Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.  
 

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Saturday (10/24) in North and Central CA Gulf swell was fading but still producing decent sized surf with waves head high to maybe 1 ft overhead and clean early and lined up but weak. Down in Santa Cruz new southern hemi swell from New Zealand was starting to produce small waves in the waist high.cgius range and clean. In Southern California up north local very limited Gulf swell was wrapping in producing waves maybe thigh high and swamped by tide. Down south New Zealand swell was occasionally showing producing chest high sets with long lines and clean conditions but also long waits. Hawaii's North Shore was small with surf not really rideable in the thigh to waist high range and a little warbled by northeast wind. The South Shore was still pumping with better than expected New Zealand swell producing waves 2-3 ft overhead and lined up and clean. The East Shore was getting swell from Hurricane Olaf with waves chest high and lightly chopped from trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific swell another small gale was off the extreme North CA coast producing 21 ft seas aimed well down into Central CA with swell expected shortly. And southern hemi swell that arrived bigger than expected in Hawaii generated by a small but strong storm previously under New Zealand was starting to tickle the buoys along the US West Coast. And 2 tropical systems continued in.cgiay, one southeast of Hawaii and another in the far West Pacific. Also of historical note, Super Hurricane Patricia unexpectedly e.cgioded early Fri (10/23) with sustained winds up to 175 kts, (202 mph) before hitting mainland Mexico. Extremely strong indeed fueled by up to 89 degree water just off the coast there.  

Looking at the forecast charts the big story remains a new gale forecast for the Western Gulf on Mon (10/26) producing up to 43 ft seas aimed mainly east but with swell possible for both the Islands and the US West Coast. At the same time another gale is to be building just off the Kuril Islands fueled by the merging of the tropical system in the West Pacific and a cold core low developing over the Kuril Islands on Mon (10/26) producing 41 ft seas aimed east with 30 ft seas hold till it reaches the dateline early Wed (10/28). Hawaii could do well from this one. So a good pulse of swell activity looks possible. After that things are to settle down, but possibly not long.

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

North Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Sat AM (10/24) the jet was consolidated but not tightly so pushing due east off Japan with winds building to 150 kts in one small pocket over the dateline, then fading and becoming a little more diffuse but still consolidated while pushing east eventually moving over the Pacific Northwest. A bit of a cutoff trough was in the Gulf but highly unimpressive. In all no clear support for gale development was occurring. Over the next 72 hours a new well defined but tight trough is to start developing in the far Western Gulf on Sun (10/25) being fed by a new pocket of 190 kts winds pushing down into it's apex offering good support for storm development. At the same time another strong trough is to be developing over the Kuril Islands easing east with 140 kts winds in its apex supporting gale development there. By late Mon (10/26) both troughs are to be fading while easing east. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to .cgiit in the far west with the northern branch ridging north over Kamchatka and into the Bering Sea on Thurs (10/29) then falling hard south over the dateline rejoining the main flow and forming a trough there with 130-140 kts winds pushing east-northeast from there in the consolidated portion of the jet moving through the Gulf and into North CA. The trough is to become better defined moving into the Western Gulf Fri (10/30) then becoming pinched off by Halloween (10/31). Modest odds for gale development to be supported by this trough. Back to the west winds are to start building off Japan to 160 kts with the .cgiit portion of the jet starting to collapse. Perhaps an improved pattern to result long term.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday AM (10/24) swell from a little early season gale originating from the Western Gulf of Alaska was fading. Two tropical systems of interest were being tracked, one well east of Taiwan and another well southeast of Hawaii (see Tropical Update below). And another small and weak gale was developing off the North CA Coast (see Another Small Gulf Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours the models have been teasing off and on about some sort of gale developing in the Gulf of Alaska starting on Sun (10/25). The latest run has the gale, actually a small storm building just south of the Eastern Aleutians Sun AM (10/25) producing 55-60 kt northwest winds over a small area and seas building from 29 ft at 49N 163W. By evening 55 kt west winds are to be falling south-southeast generating 43 ft seas at 46N 164W (352 degs HI, 298 degs NCal, 304 degs SCal). On Mon AM (10/28) 45-50 kt west winds to be holding in the Gulf aimed east with seas 43 ft at 42N 158W (369 degs HI, 291 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). 35 kt west fetch is to be fading fast Mon PM with a solid area of 36 ft seas at 43N 151W (294 degs NCal, 302 degs SCal). A quick fade to follow. A solid pulse of longer period swell is to result, with sideband energy for Hawaii and most targeting the US West Coast. Watch the models closely.

At the same time a cold core low is to be developing over the Kuril Islands trying to absorb Typhoon Champi in the far West Pacific on Sun (10/25). In the Am winds in the gold core system are to build to 55 kts but locked over the Kuril Islands with limited 50 kt fetch extending east of there with seas to 30 ft over a small area just east of the Central Kurils. In the evening more of the same is forecast winds wise but with those winds getting better traction on the small area of ocean east of the Kurils, with seas building to 37 ft at 45N 156E targeting Hawaii. By Mon AM (10/26) the gale is to have 45-50 kt northwest winds becoming decently exposed east of the Kuril Islands generating 41 ft seas up at 44N 158E targeting Hawaii (313 degs HI, 303 degs NCal) and continuing east into the evening with northwest winds fading in coverage from 45 kts generating 39 ft seas at 44N 162E (313 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). By Tues AM (10/27) fetch is to be holding while easing east with winds barely 45 kts half way to the dateline producing 37 ft seas at 42N 167E (312 degs HI, 298 degs NCal) all aimed east. Winds to be fading from 30-35 kts but over a large area in the evening with seas 33 ft at 40N 176E (313 degs HI, 293 degs NCal) targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. This system is to fade from there while moving to the dateline Wed AM (10/28) with seas fading from 27 ft at 40N 177W (321 degs HI). A nice pulse of longer period swell is possible for Hawaii if this were to come to pass with smaller energy for the US West Coast.

Also another small fetch of 35-40 kt west winds tracked through the North Western Gulf just south of the Aleutians Fri PM (10/23) with peak seas 20 ft over a tiny area at 52N 165W targeting the Pacific Northwest. But whatever swell was generated is to be buried by the Gulf storm (above).  

 

Another Small Gulf Gale
A small pocket of tropical weather that raced over the dateline on Tues (10/20) finally stalled and started to consolidate off the North CA coast on Fri PM (10/23) generating 35-40 kt north winds and starting to wrap into the gales south quadrant. 35-40 kt northwest winds were pushing into the gales south quadrant Sat AM (10/24) while lifting slightly northeast and approaching the North CA and Oregon coasts with seas building to 21 ft over a tiny area at 40N 140W (286 degs NCal). In the evening the gale is to be tracking east with winds fading from 35 kts and seas 20 ft at 41N 135W (294 degs NCal). This system is to be fading quickly moving into South Oregon down to Cape Mendocino on Sun AM (10/25) with no seas of interest remaining. Some swell is expected to result arriving in Central CA on Sun (10/25).

NCal: Expect swell arrival at 4 PM with period 13 secs and size building to maybe 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft) at sunset. residuals expected Mon AM (1026) fading from 5 ft @ 11 secs (5.5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 286-294 degrees

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

 

Tropical Update (as of Thurs AM 10/22)
Tropical Storm Champi was 600 nmiles southeast of Central Japan on Sat AM (10/24) with winds 60 kts tracking east-northeast. Champi is to continue slowly weakening and accelerating to the east-northeast into Sun AM (10/25) and getting absorbed into a cold core low pressure system building over the Kuril Islands.  See Short Term forecast for details.       

Hurricane Olaf was 600 nmiles east of Hawaii on Sat AM (10/24) peaking with 105 kt winds tracking north-northeast with seas supposedly to 40 ft. Swell production continued mainly targeting the Big Island of Hawaii but expected to start targeting east shores of the other Islands as Olaf lifts further north. Olaf is to be tracking north-northeast later Saturday and is to continue slowly.cgiodding on that heading with winds slowly fading, down to tropical storm status Mon AM (10/26) just 180 nmiles northeast of it's current position. It is to mostly hold in that area and slow die there. continued swell production seems likely for east shores of the Hawaiian Islands.  

Remnants of Super Hurricane Patricia were inland over mainland Mexico and of no interest. But Patricia is noteworthy in that before making land fall she produced sustained winds up to 175 kts (202 mph) 60-100 nmiles west and southwest of Manzanillo Mexico and had 140 kt (161 mph) winds on landfall Fri PM (10/23). Very powerful indeed.

 

California Nearshore Forecast
On Sat AM (10/24) low pressure was just off the North CA coast keeping high pressure at bay and making for a generally light winds flow for the state. Light winds to continue Sunday but with north winds 15 kt over Pt Conception late and starting to build north as the local low moves inland over South Oregon Sunday. Light rain for Cape Mendocino all day Sunday. Light winds are forecast Mon-Tues (10/27) as a large low pressure system sets up in the Gulf moving east brining light rain to North CA down to Bodega Bay over night Tuesday with sprinkles to the SF Bay Area Wed AM. The front from this low is to mostly dissolve off the coast Wed (10/28) with light winds forecast, then high pressure is to start building nearshore late with north winds 20 kts over Pt Conception and building north over night. High pressure builds Thurs (10/29) with north winds 20-25 kts for all of Central CA up to Pt Arena, but lighter north of there holding into Friday. By Saturday a light flow is to be in control as another low in the Gulf builds pushing southeast. Southern CA is to be protected from all of these winds.

   

South Pacific

Overview
Surface Analysis  
On Sat AM (10/24) swell from a solid storm previously under New Zealand was in the water fading in Hawaii but starting to arrive in California (see New Zealand Storm - 5th Swell below).

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch if interest is forecast. The season appears to be over.

New Zealand Storm (5th Swell)
Another storm started forming under New Zealand Thurs AM (10/15) generating 50 kts west winds over a small area aimed east and seas building from 29 ft at 57S 156E. In the evening winds built to 55 kts from the west over a decent sized area but aimed due east with seas building from 45 ft at 57S 167E (200 degs HI, 215 degs CA and shadowed by Tahiti relative to SCal). 50 kt west winds continued Fri AM (10/16) pushing a little more northeast generating 47 ft seas at 56S 178E (195 degs HI, 210 degs CA and shadowed relative to SCal but NCal is to be barely clear). Fetch faded from 45 kts lifting slightly east-northeast in the evening with seas fading from 42 ft at 53S 170W (188 degs HI, 207 CA and shadowed in NCal, but clear in SCal). This system was gone after that with winds fading from 35 kts and seas from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 52S 1621W (182 degs HI, 203 degs NCal and unshadowed, 204 degs SCal and unshadowed). Limited swell tracking northeast given the storms mostly easterly trajectory.       

Hawaii: Residuals on Sun (10/25) fading from 2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees

California: Swell building Sun (10/25) pushing 2.3 ft @ 18-19 secs (4.0-4.5 ft).  Swell holding Mon (10/26) at 2.6 ft @ 17 secs early (4.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (10/27) from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 207-210 degrees This forecast is likely on the low side.

 

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

 

QuikCAST's

 

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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no solid swell producing fetch is forecast. But some fetch is forecast in the Gulf with seas in the 18 ft range next weekend (10/31) generating windswell targeting the US West Coast.  

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no solid swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  Mult.cgie pockets of seas in the 29-31 ft range are forecast tracking under New Zealand, likely resulting in background swell for Hawaii and Southern CA. But it is to be swamped for the most part by swell coming from the Gulf and Dateline regions.

More details to follow...

MJO/ENSO Update

Nino3.4 Daily Temps Holding at Peak Levels
Kelvin Wave #4 Developing

The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).E.cgianation of data layout below: Major sections are organized in cause-and-effect sequence starting with wind conditions/forecasts for the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA - equatorial West Pacific) followed by subsurface ocean temperature conditions (i.e. monitoring for Kelvin Waves), then ocean surface temperature conditions (i.e Nino 1.2 and 3.4) followed by atmospheric co.cgiing analysis. The 1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data and is typically updated with each new forecast. The 2nd paragraph, where present, provides analysis and context and is updated as required.

Overview: A strong El Nino is developing. It began its lifecycle in late 2013 as a primer WWB and Kelvin Wave developed. Then in early 2014 a historically strong push by the Active Phase of the MJO resulted in a large Kelvin Wave, and anomalies continued in the Spring into early Summer transporting more warm water eastward. But the cycle faltered in July due to a protracted bout of the Inactive Phase of the MJO which enabled the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle to manifest driving cooler water east, muting warm water buildup along the Ecuador coast. Still the warm water pipe remained open, but surface temperatures near the Galapagos never recovered and any atmospheric momentum was lost. Then in early 2015, another historically strong push from the MJO occurred, effectively a repeat of the early 2014 event, invigorating the warm water transport process and, adding more heat to an already anomalously warm surface pool off Ecuador. That pool has been building steadily in spurts ever since. The paragraphs below describe the current status of various El Nino indicators, followed by a few paragraphs that tie all the pieces together and provide our analysis of what is to come.      

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis from TAO Buoys: As of Sat (10/24) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated no actual west winds in.cgiay. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, a small area of west winds at 12 kts was on the intersection of the equator and the dateline reaching east to 167W (see New! East Kelvin Wave Generation Area Wind Model here). Anomalies were moderate from the west from 175E to 145W and weak to 120W. Nice solid anomalies still. The strong WWB of the past 2 months has faded. Previously
a very strong WWB burst (third of the year) associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) occurred 6/24-7/17 and were followed by solid west anomalies for a 29 day window (7/19-8/19), or nearly 2 months of west anomalies or stronger. Then starting 9/2, strong west anomalies redeveloped with patches of westerly winds embedded holding to 9/17, then intensified again on 10/1 (to WWB status) holding to 10/18 and was comparable to the previous one in late June-early July, but lasting 6 weeks instead of 8.  
1 Week Forecast: The CFS model indicates strong west anomalies if not out and out west winds in.cgiay near 165W (a bit east of the KWGA) and holding into Thurs (10/29), then fading in coverage but still present but moving east to about 130, well east of the KWGA. The GFS indicates west winds at 8-12 kts holding on the equator/dateline region through Sun (10/25) then going calm. , but with west winds east of there, but outside the KWGA and therefore of no real interest. Calm winds to hold in the KWGA from then through the week (10/31). So for the next 2 days, another mini WWB is expected. with west anomalies following. No east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast. The thought is the anomalies are continuing to push warm water from the West Pacific to depth and the last 6 weeks worth of west winds/anomalies has set up a new distinct Kelvin Wave (#4), moving into the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos.    

A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May with weaker but still solid west anomalies continuing after that through 6/10. Anomalies faded to neutral for 8 days through 6/18 as the Inactive Phase of the MJO interfered with the pattern (the first such event of the year), then weak westerlies started again on 6/18. A significant WWB (#3), the strongest of the year, started on 6/26 peaking near 7/4 then held nicely through 7/17 (22 days), the result of a historically strong Active Phase of the MJO which produced a strong and large Kelvin Wave #3, the third this year and the strongest by far. Moderate westerly anomalies redeveloped 7/29 when a Rossby Wave started interacting with the building El Nino base state, enhancing the westerly flow, developing a mini-WWB at 175E through 8/5. And westerly anomalies continued through 8/19. That is nearly 2 months of non-stop anomalies if not out and out west winds (6/26-8/19). From 8/19-8/25 lesser westerly anomalies occurred and those were mainly east of the KWGA, with dead neutral anomalies in the West KWGA. West anomalies started rebuilding on 8/26 and turned to legit west winds up at 9N on 9/3 and held in some fashion up there into 9/29 while calm winds held in the KWGA proper.  And then strong west winds redeveloped in the Northeast KWGA on 10/1 and held through 10/18, resulting in a yet another defined WWB event (#4) rivaling WWB #3 in June-July. And another small WWB started further east on 10/22. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. We certainly have had a lot of that so far this year.  

Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here

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: As of 10/24: 
OLR Models: Indicate a dead neutral signal over the equatorial dateline region typical of a maturing El Nino. Both the Statistic and Dynamic model suggests an Inactive pattern is in.cgiay over the far West Pacific with no MJO pattern over the dateline and east of there, and that pattern is to hold for for the next 15 days. This is typical of the pattern when an El Nino base state strengthens.  of interest is an Active Pattern building in the central Indian Ocean and holding it';s position.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of building 'MJO-like' active signal building over the West Indian Ocean over the next 2 weeks, consistent with the OLR models above.  
40 Day Upper Level Model: It depicts a weak Inactive Phase in the far West Pacific tracking east. In reality, this pattern has been on the charts for weeks now and consistently fails to materialize. It is suspected the stronger El Nino base state is in control, but exhibits an Inactive-like MJO pattern over the far West Pacific, with an Active-like pattern over the dateline and points east of there, but not moving. The model thinks it's a real Inactive Phase in a normal year in the West Pacific and tries to move it east. Clearly that is not the case. We are ignoring this model.        
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): An Inactive MJO is forecast developing now in the west and tracking east 11/28. Modest west anomalies are projected in the east KWGA area now to 10/29 courtesy of the base state of El Nino enhanced by a Rossby Wave. After that a period of weaker west anomalies is forecast driven only by the El Nino base state 10/29-11/10. A Rossby Wave is to constructively interfere with the El Nino base state starting 11/13-11/28 resulting in stronger west anomalies in the KWGA. And then the Active Phase of the MJO is forecast returning starting 11/28 continuing more of the same strength west anomalies through December and January. That seems a bit far fetched, but this ENSO event has been unpredictable. The El Nino base state is now the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec). WWB #4 has produced Kelvin Wave #4 (10/1-10/19) with anomalies behind that continuing to fuel the subsurface warm reservoir into Dec. As of this run of the model, core westerly anomalies are to remain strong, but start easing east in the early Jan timeframe, pushing to 165W. This would shut down the warm water conveyor once anomalies start becoming centered at 170W, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay. At a minimum, 2.5 more months of west anomalies are forecast (per the model). Tropical systems have the best chance of constructively interfering (enhancing) westerly anomalies from here forward. We're on autopilot now.  It doesn't get any better than this unless you're back in 1997. This even clearly exceeds the '82 event.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (10/22) Actual temperatures remain impressive. A tongue of 29 deg temps are pushing east from 140E to 134W and continuing to make limited daily east headway. The 28 deg Isotherm reaches east to 125W (steady). Anomaly wise +2.0 degs anomalies are bulging from 178W eastward and drifting east. +4 deg anomalies cover from 165W eastward (steady), the direct effect of non-stop westerly anomalies in the Sept-Oct timeframe (WWB #4). A large warm reservoir at +5-7 deg above normal temps continue erupting into the Galapagos. That reservoir is holding coverage with peak +6 degs anomalies retrograded to 130W and shrinking with +5 deg anomalies extending east from 150W to Ecuador (expanding). This pocket is now mainly water from strong Kelvin Wave #3 and more warm water moving-in from the dateline (Kelvin Wave #4). The pipe is wide open and warm water continues falling to depth near the dateline and into this reservoir. This is a great scenario. Warm water appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos per the hi-res subsurface animation (10/20) primarily at +3 degs from 140W to 100W (shrinking some). No +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (10/20) It is holding depicting 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 170E (holding). Peak anomalies previously at +20 cm are no longer on the chart. +15 cm anomalies extending from 105W to 157W and reaching from 5N to 5S (steady). +5 cm anomalies are pushing almost to Ecuador but do not reach the casot. +10 cm anomalies were isolated from the Galapagos westward (evidence of the westward di.cgiacement of this El Nino event). All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight. This is a classic major El Nino setup.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (10/20) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are steady between 180W and the Galapagos. +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are holding easing east from 174W eastward (holding) attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are building to 160W (steady). A large pocket of +2.0 degs anomalies are at 153W-->108W (expanding in the west). No +2.5 deg anomalies are present). 1.5-2.0 anomalies are now no longer pushing into Ecuador (only 1.0-1.5 degs anomalies). The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway in the west while di.cgiacement to the west is preventing extreme heating between the Galapagos and Ecuador. The focus remains westward di.cgiaced (but nowhere near as much as '82).   

A strong Kelvin Wave impacted the Ecuador Coast in May-June with a second somewhat weaker one impacting it in June. The third and strongest so far is erupting, but somewhat westward di.cgiaced just west of the Galapagos and not as overtly strong as one would expect, being rather a steady bleed rather than a gully washer. In fact, a careful analysis indicates it has peaked. A previous pause in warming near Ecuador occurred starting mid August, attributable to the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, but ended on 9/20. The subsurface configuration suggested there were 2.5+ months of warm water in the reservoir (till Dec 15) and some of that water is extremely warm (7 degs above normal). And now Kelvin Wave #4 is developing, expected to extend the life of the reservoir. The peak of Kelvin Wave #3 was forecast to occur roughly on 10/4.  We revised it a few times since then, but looked back we've determined it was correct if not a little late (more below). But another equally strong WWB occurred peaking in 10/10 resulting in Kelvin Wave #4, which should peak 2.5 months later, or near 12/25 (nice Christmas present) and advecting west a month after that into Nino3.4 on 1/25. Typical of the character of this El Nino event, it is maddeningly slow and under whelming if viewed on a daily basis. But the overall impact, is marked and historically strong. And with the current WWB/Kelvin Wave in development, a more aggressive face of this El Nino is now appearing.  

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.
Satellite Imagery
Low-res:
(10/22) Overall the picture remains solid and is continuing to display better definition. Warmer waters are building up into Central America and holding south into Peru while advecting west.  The big change over the past 2-3 weeks has been the increase in volume of warm water flowing into the Nino3.4 area. The warm water signal covers the entire equatorial Pacific from the dateline eastward with embedded pulses of warmer water from the Galapagos west. The overall signature is the strongest of any point so far this year and of any time since mid-July 1997. Compared to '97, 2015 anomalies are warmer in the Nino3.4 region, but have less concentration and coverage in Nino1.2.  Coverage south of the equator is not growing any down the Peruvian coast, and cannot complete with '97 in that regard, but is still very solid. Along the West African Coast, cool water is all but fading out there, being r.cgiaced by neutral temp water. This is not a worry as the same thing happened during the '97 event. Very warm water continues off the US West Coast and is holding and extending west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Cool water is over North Australia extending north of New Guinea to the dateline (Maritime Continent) and getting cooler, typical of a strong El Nino. Warming water continues near Madagascar suggestive of a building Indian Ocean Dipole.  
Hi-res Nino1.2: Per the latest image (10/23) things are steady. Over the past 5 days temps have retreated along the Ecuador coast but are holding down the Peruvian Coast. A pocket of +4 deg anomalies is depicted holding west of Ecuador. A cool pocket previously east of the Galapagos is now moving over there and west. All this suggests 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. Today's images is getting close to the 7/14 peak. But given its been 3.0 months, and warming has not redeveloped to previous levels, di.cgiacement still remains the operative e.cgianation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (10/22) Anomalies have been steady since 10/2, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal.  Today's reading was +4.05 degs, a little higher than the recent norm. For the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is west of the Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (10/22): A little warming has occurred in one small pocket east of the Galapagos, with additional small warm pockets from there to the dateline. A large pocket of warming is developing between 140W and the dateline, and down the coast of Peru. Impressive and all attributable to Kelvin Wave #3.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(10/21) The latest image remains impressive and has built in girth over the past 7 days with a solid coverage of warm anomalies in the west end of this area. We are in a very good.cgiace, similar to where we were weeks ago (9/19) with a solid pool of warm surface water unbroken, advecting west from from the Galapagos at +2.25 degs reaching west to at least 160W. Temps between 160W-180W continue expanding in girth, and are now on par with peak levels from 9/19 if not beating it. Within the large warm pool, 3 pocket of +4 deg anomalies have reappeared west of the Galapagos at 116W and 95W and 92W (see previous image here 9/28 and 9/30). Previously +2.25 anomalies reached west to 133W on 7/16 and then 138W (7/31) pushing to 149W on 8/10 and 158W on 8/15 and filling the area to 160W on 8/30 solidly. But a breakup started on 9/5 at 155W, regrouped 9/15 and held to 9/23, faded some, but has now rebuilt and exceeded the original peak as of 10/2. This is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #1, #2 and #3, though mostly attributable to #3. 
Hi-res Overview: (10/22) Like the low-res image, the El Nino signal is unmistakable and the strongest since 1997, and stronger than anything in the satellite age prior to that. And it beats anything so far in this event too. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos has weakened since 9/19, when it was peaking, but that warm water has advected west. A careful analysis of archived images indicates Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs  anomalies occurring at that time. The number and intensity of those vent ports has been fading since, but are not over, occasionally reappearing. There were none on 10/19, but as of today 3-4 small ports are starting to reappear. Still, we are saying Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 (we estimated 10/4). As those waters advect west, peak warming should therefore occur in Nino3.4 one month later, or 10/19 (right now). Still, a steady flow of +3 deg anomalies is venting and advecting (with a few +4 deg pockets). Looking at all the satellite imagery, that seems about right.  

 

Historical Comparison of Strong El Nino's
(Based on Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp Anomalies)

Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & OISSTv4 (right) This years data valid through Sept.
Left image suggests 2015 is already the third strongest El Nino in recorded history (beat only by '82 and '97). The right image suggests it's the 6th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the strongest or 2nd strongest for this time of year.
Requisite Disclaimer - Current performance is no indication of future performance.
(Click to enlarge)

OISSTv2 data ERSSTv4 image

 

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 (expanding west to 165E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its at 150E (moving west). +1.5 deg anomalies are steady in the west reaching unbroken to 178E. There is also a fragmented area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 175W but with a break at 160W. A previous pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies has reappeared at 120W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (10/24) Temps are falling slightly at +1.843 and have been steady but creeping down the past week near 2.0-2.1 degs, down from a 5 day peak at +2.581 near 10/8. They bottomed out at +1.265 degs on 9/15, and have been slowly rebuilding ever since. This is consistent with what is being indicated in the hi-res Nino1.2 imagery. Previously temps hovered at +2.1 degrees early June then spiked reaching +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. Temps fell to +1.9 degrees on 7/27 and bottomed out at +1.0 degs on 8/20 at the height of the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle. Then temps started building to +1.3 on 8/26 and +1.7 by 8/29 and to +2.0 by 9/8 before falling, down to +1.265 degs on 9/15. They started rising after that as Kelvin Wave #3 started arriving, and are solid today.  
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Temps continue creeping up, reaching a new all time peak for this event at +2.512 (10/24 06z) besting the previous record of +2.468 (10/20), up from +1.824 on 10/8, and beating the previous peak of +2.44 on 10/3. The 30 day running average is at 2.0 degs with the Oct average at 2.1 degs. If those Oct readings were to hold they would be on par with '97 and '82. The new peak today is likely just coincidence, but roughly.cgiays well into the theory that Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on about 9/19.  The thought is Nino 3.4 temps are about peaked out now (until Kelvin Wave #4 starts to erupt and advect west). Previously temps were up from +2.037 on 10/1 and +2.077 on 9/17. The previous all time peak for this event was +2.24 degs on 8/23 (one day). That was crushed on 10/3 at +2.44, and now bested on 10/20 at +2.4678. By any standard we are at a Strong El Nino levels. We expect these temps to continue upward for the foreseeable future. (Note: These temps are ERSSTv.4 - biased low compared to OISSTv.2). 

SST Anomalies on 9/14/2015 and what is driving them from below
(Click to enlarge)

SST Image

This years event is westward di.cgiaced somewhat like the '82/83 super El Nino event, but not as strongly so. The main evidence for this is the continued eruption of Kelvin Wave #3 west of the Galapagos with weakened warming east of there.  This suggests the Walker circulation is not di.cgiaced as far east as in '97 but more like '82/83. Best analysis from upper level charts suggests it's core is at 120W. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.  

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 10/11 the current was moderate but not overtly impressive. The current is pushing modestly west to east only north of the equator from 125E to 140W, and still solid but fading while pushing west to 120W then fading out. A stream of weak to modest east current was in pockets over and just south of the equator from 90W to 140W. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were spread mostly north of the equator over the West Pacific, with a strong pocket north of the equator from 165E to 150W, then fading. One pocket of east anomalies was indicated on the equator at 140W.  But weak west anomalies were mainly in control on the equator from 130W to 110W. This is reasonably impressive as long as one does not compare it to '97, because if you do, there is no comparison. In '97 the current was raging east from 150E to 130W on and north of the equator.   

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 For the model run 10/24 for the Nino 3.4 region, peak temperatures for this event have supposedly already occurred on 10/1 at +2.2 degrees. +1.95 degs anomalies are to hold till Dec 1, then a big crash is to occur. Considering temps in Nino3.4 now and the size of the Kelvin Wave #3 below and developing Kelvin Wave #4, we suspect this projection is well on the low side. Uncorrected data looks more realistic suggesting a peak to +2.55 degs on Nov 8, then starting a fast fall. We'll venture a guess of somewhere around +2.3 degs for a one month peaking in Dec, later than what the model suggests.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Oct Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak temps between +2.3 degs (Statistical models), +2.5 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.45 occurring during Dec. The mid-July consensus was spread between +1.5-2.0 degs, the mid-Aug between +2.0-2.5 degs and the mid-Sept between +2.1-2.5 degs. See chart here - link. 

If one is to make a direct comparison of the 2015 event to '97 at this time of year based on the areal coverage of water temps, there is no comparison. '97 imagery leaves this years event in the dust. The '97 event built non-stop from this point forward (in terms of areal coverage). Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable to stronger anomalies in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2 and the coverage of warm waters is a worm in this area compared to '97s mammoth coverage. A clear and significant downgrade occurred in the Galapagos area 8/12-8/20 the result of a pause in upwelling of warm water in that region, a break between the first and second Kelvin wave eruptions and the third poised just off Ecuador. It finally looks like Kelvin Wave #3 is having a good impact in this area now (10/3) but it has hurt the overall coverage compared to '97. But compared to the other super El Nino in '82, this years event crushes it. We continue solidly.cgiaced between '97 and '82. There could be no better.cgiace to be.

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (10/24): Was falling from -14.80. 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. 
30 Day Average: Was rising some at -21.34. The peak low was recorded on 10/9 at -22.72, beating the previous peak low of -20.95 on 8/21, with the previous lowest at -20.49 on 7/18/15. This is exactly where we want to be (at -20 or lower).  
90 Day Average: Was falling from -19.12. A record low of -19.28 occurred on 10/16 and was matched on 10/20. The previous record low was -18.56 on 9/16. This is the critical threshold we've been anticipating (values -18 or lower), providing yet more evidence of strong atmospheric co.cgiing. We want to see it hold there, and that goal is looking more possible. It has been at or below -10.0 since early July and -15.0 since 9/4 and on a steady fall ever since. The 90 day SOI bottomed out at a low reading on 8/5 at -14.17, then beat it on 9/2 at -15.23, beating that on 9/16 at -18.56 and now -19.28 on 10/16. 
Trend (looking for negative SOI numbers, indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO or El Nino): The near term trend based on the daily average was indicative of a building El Nino base state. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steadily building El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): High pressure was fading over Southeast Aust Sat (10/24) but is to be rebuilding Tues (10/27) then fading some into the weekend (10/31).      
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): A weak low pressure cell was building south of Tahiti on Sat (10/24) and forecast holding if not slowly building for the next week Sat (10/31). This will push the SOI negative. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. 

SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of slowly building negative SOI values.           
SOI Analysis: During El Nino, the SOI functions as a measure of how well the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied. Current numbers suggest good co.cgiing though not great, but getting better footing slowly but steadily (notice the 90 day average trend). This pattern is to only change for the better as the El Nino base state builds as we move into Fall. A consistent 90 day average of -18 is our target, indicative of a strong El Nino.
Southern Hemi Booster Index (SHBI) Analysis (which is theorized to supercharge a developing El Nino): Per the past 5 day 850 mbs anomaly charts south flow was fading. Per the GFS model there is signs of a weak southerly flow in.cgiay and holding fro the next week. It is high pressure over Southeast Australia that sets up the required southerly surface flow in the Tasman Sea. South and southeast wind anomalies have been in this region off and on for weeks now (previous run 7/29-8/10, this run 8/13-8/18), then returning consistently 9/18 and in.cgiay up to today. The SHBI appears to only be slightly influencing El Nino development, but we have no hard numbers to confirm. 
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (10/24) today's value faded some to +2.07, steadily down from +2.40 on Sat (10/17), but still well within the average (which is well above normal). It has been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) with only minor fluctuation. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 
2.02 on 9/29. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate. Monthly ESPI values are as follows: July 3.76, Aug 2.34, Sept 2.1. We need to see values +3.0 or higher for the next 2 months to complete with '97.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Sept) The current ranking is up again, rising from +2.37 (Aug) to +2.53 (Sept) or up 0.16 standard deviations (65). The July MEI was 1.97 SD (65). At this same time in '97 the ranking was 3.00 SD (66) and in '82 it was 1.85 SD (62). So we continue between the '82 and '97 events but closer to '97, in strong El Nino territory presumably moving towards the Super El Nino range. The top 5 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '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. We've already beat all those. Suffice it to say we are somewhere between '82 and '97 in term of of atmospheric co.cgiing per this index. Most impressive.  
North Pacific Jetstream (10/24) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet has started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, looking decent but not exceptional yet. Previously (before 10/14) the jet has did not at all look to be influenced by El Nino, so this is an upgrade. Given the slow nature of this El Nino, the slow response by the jetstream should not be unexpected. 

Comparing the 2015 El Nino to '82 and '97
Full Sized Chart
(Click to enlarge)

Conclusion (Updated 10/20): WWB #3 peaked on July 4, with the resulting Kelvin Wave peaking on Sept 19 west of the Galapagos, or a roughly 2.5 month travel time.  Likewise those warm waters advected into Nino3.4, peaking about one month later, or 10/20 (all evidenced by hi-res SST anomaly data and Nino3.4 indices). Theoretically this would be the peak of our El Nino event from an ocean perspective (and as projected by PDF corrected CFS model), with peak atmospheric influence occurring approximately 2 months later or 12/20. But yet another WWB has occurred (WWB #4) of near equal strength peaking on 10/17, which has resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. 

Using the same te.cgiate, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 1/2/2016 (westward di.cgiaced) with eruption port temps at +4-5 degs, and advecting into Nino3.4 and peaking roughly 2/2/2016 with peak atmospheric influence on approx 4/2/2016. This suggests peak atmospheric perturbation will occur in the window from 12/2/2015-4/2/2016, or well di.cgiaced later in the Winter as compared to the '97/98 event, and somewhat like the '82/83 event. 

In terms of comparative strength based on Nino3.4 temps, '97 peaked at +2.32 degs with 4 months of +2.0 degs anomalies and '82 at +2.21 degs with 2 months temps greater than +2.0 degs. 2015 is looking to produce a +2.1 degree one month average based on very rough data today, with a huge reservoir of +3-4 deg anomalies still venting to the surface and likely continuing for the next month of more, with yet another burst of warm water (Kelvin Wave #4) moving into position. 

The real question is: How much (if any) cooling will occur in Nino3.4 between the downslide up of Kevin Wave #3 and the ramp-up and peak of Kelvin Wave #4? Assuming steady state anomalies in Nino3.4 not falling below +2.0 degs in in that window, there could be 4 months of +2.0 anomalies in Nino3.4 (with higher peaks), providing a strong and long su.cgiy of energy to fuel jetstream enhancement and similar to '97 and besting '82. It's not just magnitude of the peak temps that make a difference atmospherically, but also the duration of those anomalies. The longer and stronger the anomalies, the greater the atmospheric response. At this time the expected atmospheric affects should be significant, though di.cgiaced somewhat later in the season. The above analysis is not a definitive statement, just informed speculation based on previous similar events.         

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool

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

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