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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2015 6:16 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
3.0 - California & 2.0 - 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 11/15 thru Sun 11/21

Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

Weakly Improving Gale Pattern This Week
Significant Change Possible 2 Weeks Out

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 Tuesday, November 17, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.6 ft @ 9.1 secs with swell 3.7 ft @ 8.0 secs from 40 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 11.0 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 12.4 secs. Wind northwest 10-14 kts. Water temperature 63.0 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.4 ft @ 11.3 secs from 254 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.8 ft @ 11.2 secs from 290 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 4.0 ft @ 12.2 secs from 279 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 6.6 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 4.3 ft @ 9.4 secs from 301 degrees. Wind northwest 14-18 kts. Water temp 55.8 degs.

    Notes

    Buoy 46059
    Pt Reyes buoy 029 scheduled for reactivation.  
    Hi-res Buoys New!

PACIFIC OVERVIEW
Current Conditions
On Tuesday (11/17) in North and Central CA a mixture of residual Gulf windswell and local windswell was producing waves in the chest high range and clean early. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high and clean and weak. In Southern California up north surf was waist to maybe chest high at better breaks and clean but weak, wrapping in from the Gulf. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was flat too and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated northeasterly windswell with waves head high and chopped by trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
For the North Pacific small sideband swell is in the water moving towards North California from a small gale that developed off the Pacific Northwest on Mon (11/16) generating 22 ft seas.

Looking at the forecast charts a gale is tracking over the dateline Mon-Tues (11/17) generating 24-25 ft seas aimed south and just barely at Hawaii. Small swell is expected to result there. Longterm perhaps an improving pattern is to develop. First a small gale is to track through the Northwestern Gulf on Fri-Sat (11/21) generating 26 ft seas aimed mainly at Canada. But then a stronger small storm is to develop off the Kurils on Sun (11/22) producing 37 ft seas aimed east offering small swell for all. And beyond there's suggestions the West Pacific might wake up with another gale developing off Japan and a tropical system recurring northeast. It looks like maybe we're finally rounding the corner.

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

North Pacific

Overview
Jetstream
On Tuesday AM (11/17) the jet was trying to consolidate over North Japan with winds 140 kts but then instantly .cgiit pushing off the coast and was well .cgiit over the dateline with the northern branch running over the Aleutians and up into the Bering Sea while the southern branch dipped south down to 30N and neither had any velocity of interest. East of there the jet consolidated off British Columbia moving inland just north of Vancouver Island with winds to 150 kts. In all there was no support for gale development by the jet in lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the well .cgiit portion of the jet is to move east and the .cgiit point which today is just off Japan is to move east to 170E by later Fri (11/20). More energy is to be moving into the northern branch of the jet with winds up to 150 kts but generally tracking over the Eastern Aleutians then into the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska. Beyond 72 hours that energy is to fall south some in the Northern Gulf perhaps supporting gale development there on Sat-Sun (11/22) but nothing significant. At that time the non-.cgiit portion of the jet is to be making steady eastward progress with a trough starting to develop off the Kuril Islands on Sun (11/22) with 160 kt winds pushing off Japan to 170E and building to 190 kts on Monday reaching to the dateline offering good support for gale if not storm development. The .cgiit point is to be on the dateline. East of there a very .cgiit pattern and no support for gale development is expected other than a flukey backdoor trough forecast pushing off British Columbia reaching south to a point off North CA. Maybe some local weather to result. Back to the west a more healthy consolidated jetstream flow is forecast over the West Pacific reaching to 170W with 160 kt winds in.cgiay. Perhaps an improving pattern is to set up long term.

We've taken a look at some long term models and in-fact the jet is to be running consolidated flat west to east on the 40N latitude line reaching a point just off North CA by 11/29 with a much improved storm pattern by then. Perhaps the first true hints of El Nino will develop in the 12/1 timeframe in the jet.

Surface Analysis
On Tues AM (11/17) weak residual swell from weather in the Northern Gulf of Alaska was still hitting the California coast mixed with local windswell generated by high pressure just off the coast. Hawaii has no swell in the water but the outlook is improving with a weak gale moving into the Hawaiian swell window to the north (see Dateline Gale below). Also weak swell from a low off Oregon on Mon (11/16) was moving towards North and Central CA (see Gulf Low below). Otherwise high pressure at 1032 mbs was sitting 600 nmiles off Central CA ridging into North CA generating north winds 20+ kts nearshore along the Central CA coast then turning to east winds at 20-25 kts reaching to within 300 nmiles of Hawaii producing east windswell.

Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to race from Japan on thurs (11/19) to the Western Gulf on Fri AM (11/20) just south of the Eastern Aleutians producing 40 kt southwest winds and seas building to 24 ft at 47N 176W. The jetstream is to be pushing this one fast to the east. By evening 45 kt west winds are forecast clear of the Eastern Aleutians generating 26 ft seas at 53N 163W (310 degs NCal) and targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest and points north of there. 45 kts west winds to hold Sat AM (11/21) tucked up in the extreme Northern Gulf generating 28 ft seas at 56N 150W targeting mainly north Canada and outside the North CA swell window. Maybe some sideband swell to result for North CA next week but mainly targeting the Pacific Northwest.

Dateline Gale
A low pressure system developed off Japan on Sat (11/14) tracking east with strong high pressure building northwest of it setting up a gradient and generating a sliver of 45 kt north-northeast winds aimed at open ocean with seas to 27 ft at 38N 175E Sun AM (11/15) but not targeting our forecast area.  The gale was tracking east.  By Monday PM (11/16) the fetch was at 40 kts positioned 1,100 nmiles northwest of Hawaii generating a broader area of 24 ft seas at 37N 174W with potential sideband energy targeting the Islands.  Fetch is to be fading from the northeast at 40 kts Tues AM (11/17) with seas still 25 ft at 41N 164W and targeting the Islands decently with sideband swell. 35-40 kt northeast fetch is to be fading from the northeast positioned due north of Hawaii on Tuesday evening with 23 ft seas at 41N 165W then rapidly dissipating. Perhaps some decent sized 14 sec period swell to result for north shores of the Hawaiian Islands if all goes as forecast.

Hawaii : Rough data suggests swell arriving on Wed (11/18) pushing 5.0 ft @ 13-14 secs late (6.5 ft). Swell fading some overnight with residuals Thurs AM (11/19) fading from 3.3 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.0 ft) early. Weaker remnant energy on Fri AM (11/20) at fading from 3 ft @ 11-12 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310 degrees moving to 340 degrees    

 

Gulf Low
A low pressure system started developing in the Gulf of Alaska on Sun AM (11/15) producing 35 kt southwest winds and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By evening 40 kt west winds were over a small area generating 22 ft seas at 48N 149W (308 degs NCal) targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest. By Mon AM (11/16) it continued tracking east and was off Washington producing 35 kt west winds over a small area with seas 22 ft at 47N 140W (310 degs NCal), then moving inland over the Pacific Northwest in the evening.

North CA: Swell arrival expected on Wed AM (11/18) pushing 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft faces) holding through the day. Residuals fading Thurs AM (11/19) from 6 ft @ 11-12 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310 degrees   

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

 

Tropical Update
On Tues AM (11/17) Tropical Storm 27W was developing 600 nmiles northeast of New Guinea with winds 40 kts tracking west-northwest. This track is to hold with steady strengthening forecast with this system reaching typhoon status Fri AM (11/20) about 200 nmiles south of Guam. Steady strengthening is forecast with winds to 100 kts by Sun AM (11/22) and this system holding it's heading. The GFS model has this system turning north and northeast by Tues (11/24) positioned 600 nmiles south of Central Japan. Something to monitor. And this speaks to a potential return of the El Nino base state generated westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area.
 

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tues AM (11/17) high pressure at 1032 mbs was 600 nmiles west of Central CA ridging northeast into North CA. Light winds were over the northern portion of the state but north winds at 15+ kts were over Southern Central CA.
Light rain was over extreme North CA. The high is to lift north some on Wednesday with north winds 20 kts for outer waters of Central CA moving up into North CA and into nearshore waters continuing Thursday and Friday (11/20). More high pressure is to be building in the Southern Gulf Sat (11/22) with north winds 10 kts early for the northern portion of the state and 20 kts for southern Central CA but finally relenting on Sunday with a light winds flow for all then. More of the same is forecast Monday while a backdoor front builds to the north, quickly sweeping south on Tues AM (11/24) with west winds and low pressure in control. Rain expected for Pt Conception northward with perhaps solid snow for the Sierra. Of course that's 180 hrs off and not believable at this time.  

   

South Pacific

Overview
Surface Analysis  
No swell producing weather systems were occurring in the South Pacific.

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. 

 

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

 

QuikCAST's

 

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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a broader and stronger gale is forecast developing off North Japan Sat AM (11/21) generating 40 kts west fetch. By evening winds to build to storm status, 50 kts, off the Southern Kuril Islands aimed east and seas to 34 ft over a small area at 44N 160E. 50 kt northwest winds to be lifting slowly northeast Sun AM (11/22) producing 37 ft seas at 46N 168E aimed east. The gale is to be moving towards the Bering Sea in the evening with 45 kt northwest fetch south of the Aleutians generating 39 ft seas at 47N 173E aimed east again. By Monday AM (11/23) the gale is to be in the Bering Sea with fading 40 kt northwest fetch just shy of the Western Aleutians producing 32 ft seas at 50N 178E. This system to fade after that. If all goes a forecast some respectable small longer period swell could result for Hawaii and the US West Coast.

Also a small high pressure system at 1040 mbs is to be in the Northern Gulf on Mon (11/23) generating a gradient with weak low pressure off the Pacific Northwest generating 40 kt north winds falling southeast producing seas to 22 ft at 41N 137W Monday evening targeting California. Something to monitor.

Another gale is forecast developing off North Japan on Tues (11/24) with a small area of 50 kt west winds taking shape. And a tropical system is to be right behind having fully recurved northeast. And the jet is to be raging consolidated west to east making good inroads into the East Pacific. It looks like El Nino is going to finally start making a mark.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...

MJO/ENSO Update

Nino 3.0 Eruption Site Anomalies Expanding Yet More
Incredibly Impressive Temps reported in Nino3.4 - Now We Need Nino3.0 to hit +3.6 To Compete with '97

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 Tues (11/17) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated building west winds in the Kevin Wave generation Area (KWGA) near 165E with light winds elsewhere. Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds were at 160E associated with tropical storm 27W with light winds over the bulk of the KWGA (see New! East Kelvin Wave Generation Area Wind Model here). Anomalies were rebuilding and modest from the west at 165E and again at 155W (sensors were down at the surface at 160W). These west anomalies are rebuilding a little traction after the loss of west anomalies from 10/31-11/9. Previously strong WWB #3 associated with a robust Active Phase of the MJO (historically strong) occurred 6/24-7/17 and was 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 creating WWB #4 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 very light west anomalies forecast in the KWGA from 150E and east of there to the Galapagos for the next week through Tues (11/24) and a little stronger east of 165W starting 11/21. Actual winds per the GFS model are to be west at 25-35 kts near 160E into Thurs (11/19) in association with TS27W, but it is to lift north out of the KWGA thereafter. Otherwise a calm pattern is forecast over the bulk of KWGA through Tues (11/24). So far no east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none of real interest are forecast. The thought is the anomalies are continuing to push warm water from the West Pacific to depth and those waters are to migrate into the semi permanent reservoir already present west of the Galapagos. But the volume and velocity of that warm water migration faded significantly at the end of WWB #4 on 10/19, though west anomalies continued to 10/30 mainly in the vicinity of the dateline. By 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle will likely result as Kelvin Wave #4 terminates its eventual eruption in the vicinity of the Galapagos starting 2.5 months later or near 1/15/16.       

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 through 10/30. But by 10/30 the Inactive Phase of the MJO Cycle caused neutral winds to develop in the KWGA and east anomalies reaching to 150E. West wind anomalies at the surface are the hallmark of the Active Phase of the MJO and El Nino and drive Kelvin Wave production. 

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East New!

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 Tues (11/17) an Inactive MJO signal was over the far West equatorial Pacific reaching to the dateline. The Dynamic model forecasts it locked in this position for the next 15 days, very much similar to the configuration it was in prior to the Inactive Phase of the MJO taking over, but di.cgiaced just slightly more east. The Statistic model has it fading and easing east with a solid Active MJO Pattern over the Central Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific 15 days out. We're not sure that is going to occur. One would expect west anomalies to start easing east and holding velocity rather than dying outright, which is the case right now. The assumption is that west anomalies will rebuild as the Inactive Phase of the MJO fades out in the next week or two.    
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of 'MJO-like' active signal fading in the Central Indian Ocean. No eastward progress is expected over the next 2 weeks, generally consistent with the OLR models above. This leads us to believe that perhaps whatever Inactive MJO signal was trying to dominate the Pacific, could start beginning to decline with the more typical El Nino base state begriming to re-emerge.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a very weak signal with no significant change forecast for the next 40 days.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): An Inactive MJO is in control over the dateline region and is to track east through 12/7, consistent with the models above. West anomalies are to start rebuilding Nov 25 enhanced by a Rossby Wave that is starting to pass through this region and is to continue into 12/10 having a slightly positive effect on west wind anomaly production. By 12/15 the Active Phase of the MJO is to start moving into the far West Pacific with the Rossby Wave fading and westerly anomalies redeveloping decently in the West KWGA. There's been some back and forth with the model regarding when decent force west anomalies will come to be, but the above seems to be the most reasonable solution. After that, the Active Phase of the MJO is to hold into Jan 21 with a possible westerly wind burst developing around Jan1 mainly from the dateline eastward till Jan 21. Given what's occurring in the KWGA area now (Inactive Phase influence) and what is forecast the next few weeks, it seems.cgiausible that a mild MJO-like influence (both Inactive and then later Active) is possible and reasonable. Still, the El Nino base state should be the primary driver of Westerly Anomalies from here forward. No easterly anomalies are forecast. We are now supposedly in the core of the El Nino cycle (Oct-Dec), but the westerly anomaly pattern is weak given all the other signals. The core of westerly anomalies are already easing east, and are to continue to do so into the early Jan timeframe, when they are expected to push to 165W and out of the the KWGA. This would shut down the warm water conveyor, with the warm pool in the east starting to decay after draining all the warm water present in what is now a massive reservoir. That is typical timing for an El Nino from a gross level perspective. A more detailed timing estimate is provided below. 

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (11/16) Actual temperatures remain impressive but are getting confused by more sensor outages now in the East Pacific. The data is almost worthless. There are almost no active sensors left between 125W and 170W except a few at depth. +2 deg anomalies are from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 156W eastward. +6 degs anomalies are from 141W eastward with a core at +7-8 degs starting at 136W and points east of there. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 11/9 the reservoir is in great shape with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline. This is a great scenario. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos primarily at +3 degs from 160W to 100W (steady) with two +4 degs tentacles of warm water extend to the surface at 115W and 102W. 
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (11/9) Heights have bounced back,holding at ridiculous high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 175W (fading some). Peak anomalies at +20 cm are between 109W and 138W with a little gap previously depicted now gone. +15 cm anomalies extending from 100W to 155W and reaching from 5N to 5S (steady). +5 cm anomalies are pushing to Ecuador and reach the coast. +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: (11/9) is steady at very impressive levels (daily updates to the 5 day product) indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are shrinking from 165W to the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are easing east from 159W eastward attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are easing east from 154W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies easing east from 151W-->98W. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are easing east between 144W->105W beating anything in Kelvin Wave #3 (with a 40 deg/2,400 nmile width). 1.5-2.0 anomalies are 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, preventing extreme heating between the Galapagos and Ecuador. So this El Nino remains slightly westward di.cgiaced. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also evident in the eastward retreat of of all temperature bands, the result of the Inactive Phase of the MJO cycle which started 10/31 and continues to date.  

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 looking 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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
Low-res:
(11/16) Overall the picture remains solid but is not getting any more defined near the South America coast. If anything over the past 2 weeks, warm temps are retracting from Peru and Ecuador and advecting west. But a solid increase in volume/concentration of warm water is 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 gone, 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 but is not as defined as weeks past. Still very warm water extends west the whole way to Japan but unrelated to this years El Nino, attributable to the building warm phase of the PDO. Cool water has lost coverage over North Australia, and has lost concentration and coverage if not completely closed off. This is atypical 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 (11/16) temps are weak and not impressive and have faded alot over the past week. There is only one real pocket of +2.25 deg anomalies left east of the Galapagos. This 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. Given its been 4.0 months, and warming has not redeveloped, di.cgiacement is the operative e.cgianation.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (11/16) Consistent with the satellite imagery above, anomalies are crashing here, down to +3.4 degs. Anomalies were steady between 10/2-10/22, running between +3.4-3.8 degree above normal, but then moved into the +4.0-4.3 range starting 10/23 and held to 11/4, but have fallen off since. For the most part this data is irrelevant since the main Kelvin Wave Eruption Area is focused west of the Galapagos.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (11/16): Warming is occurring between Ecuador to the Galapagos and just west of the Galapagos. Strong warming is occurring from 110W-125W, and moderate warming near 150W and again at 170W.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(11/16) The latest image continues improving to impossible levels, if that is possible, and remain very impressive. The second pulse of Kelvin Wave #3 has increased again. In the past week girth of the area continues to build with an almost continuous medium strength core of +4 degs water embedded from 100W to 160W. This is unbelievable on a historical level and great news, exceeding peak coverage at any time previous including the records breaking '97 El Nino. Temps between 160W-180W continue surging west with a build area of pixels into the +4 deg range at 158W (beating peak levels from 9/19). This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #1, #2 and #3, though mostly attributable to #3. 
Hi-res Overview: (11/16) 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. It even beats '97 in the Nino3.4 region. The main focus continues to be the new eruptions ports that developed starting 10/28 and continue today. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos is not as intense as the peak at 9/19, but is covering a huge area. There is a continuous string of +4 deg anomalies from 110W to 142W on the backed off view, not just individual vent ports. The mid-zoomed image depicts the warmth building in coverage with a continuous stream of +4 deg anomalies from 100-142W 9one break at 106W) with +5 deg anomalies at 102W and 122W. And +4 degs anomalies are building at 150W now. This is off the charts impressive. And this warm water is advected west. Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with mult.cgie pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, then redeveloped and increased significantly starting 10/28 and are still on the upswing as of 11/16. We can't stress enough the importance of this upgrade and the effect this will have a few weeks out as it advects west into Nino 3.4 proper. Still, we are saying Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 (we estimated 10/4). Those waters advected west, with peak warming supposedly occur in Nino3.4 one month later, or 10/19. But with the new vent ports developing 10/28, yet more warm water is tracking into Nino3.4, expected to peak near 11/30 or later, and Kevin Wave #4 is still to erupt.  Looking forward to seeing the Nino3.4 monthly data for November when it posts.  

 

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

Updated! Images built using 2 data sets - Monthly OISSTv.2 (left) & ERSSTv4 (right) This years data valid through October.
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 4th strongest.
In both images this years event is either the 2nd or 3rd strongest for this time of year, a bit of downgrade from last month when it was in the top 2.
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 (expanding west to 165E). We're monitoring the +0.0 anomaly line on the equator to see if it's moving east. Today its off the charts but was formally at 140E (steady and well west). +1.5 deg anomalies are building to the west reaching unbroken to 172E (expanding). There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 180W but the failure of some buoys makes any additional analysis suspect. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 109W-133W (Kelvin Wave #3 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and moving west and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (11/17) Temps are falling more at +1.888, down from +2.106 (11/5), down form +2.422 on 11/1. Previously temps peaked for 5 days at +2.581 near 10/8 and previously spiked at +3.0 degs on 7/3, faded, then spiked again on 7/13 at +3.0 degs and yet again at +3.0 degs on 7/22.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Temps have reach yet another new all time high of +3.028 degs (12Z 11/17), up from + 2.986 as of (12Z 11/15) Nov 15. This continues the upward trend with previous peaks at +2.780 (12z Nov 12) up from +2.704 (11/5 12Z). And more previous peaks for this event were: +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 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.
Nino3.0 CDAS Index Temps: The '97 El Nino peaked in this region at 3.6-3.7 degs mid-Nov to mid-Dec (OISSTv2). That is the goal. Today's values are +2.894. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 11/11 temps in Nino3 and 3.4 were both +3.0 degs. On 11/4 they were both +2.8. In '97 (11/26) peak temps in Nino3.4 reached +2.8. So we have beat that mark. But Nino3 temps in '97 reached +3.6-3.7 degs. We still have +0.6 degs to go.

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 110W. At this time we're unsure what the effects on rainfall would be. Total rainfall in San Francisco in '82/83 was 38.17" (+16.38") versus 47.22" in '97/98 (+25.43"). The long term average is 21.79". In LA in '82/83 it was 31.28" (+16.47) versus 31.01" in '97 (+16.2"). Long term average 14.81". Regardless, both events were well above average. This also suggests the core of storm production will be north of the most warming. So rather than the Eastern to Central Gulf of Alaska being the focus, it might be more in the Western Gulf. This is actually a good thing relative to California by perhaps giving resulting swells more room to groom themselves before hitting the coast. This might bode not so well for Hawaii, with large stormy conditions the result. Of course, this is just speculation at this time.  

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 11/6 the current was moderate to strong from the west and solid but all north of the equator. The current is pushing modestly west to east mostly north of the equator from 125E to 120W unbroken. There was 1 pockets of east current at 90W but tiny in coverage. 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. Others were scattered pockets of west anomalies on the equator too. There were no pocket of east anomalies indicated.  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 120E to 120W on and north of the equator with massive anomalies over the same if not larger area.    

SST Anomaly projections
CFSv2 model - PDF Corrected:
 This data has been upgraded.  The run on 11/17 for the Nino 3.4 region depicts peak temp occurring now at +2.75 degrees. A quick crash is to occur thereafter with temp down to +1.85 degs by Jan 1.
Uncorrected Data has upgraded depicting peak temps to +2.75 degs now and holding into Dec7, then steady if not slowly backing off falling from +2.45 degs Jan 1. That makes sense for November, but makes no account for Kelvin Wave #4 what is expected to arrive around Christmas and then advect into Nino3.4 in late Jan 2016.
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. Instead, the 2015 event, though warming nicely with comparable if not stronger anomalies and areal coverage in Nino3.4 and Nino4, is weak in Nino1.2. 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 and no recovery has occurred. But Kelvin Wave #3 is having an amazing impact west of this area (9/19-11/11). If a super El Nino is defined purely by water temps in Nino3.4, then we are there.  But if the total areal coverage of warmer than normal waters is taken into account in Nino1.2, then we are below the thresholds set for both '82 and '97. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (11/17): Was rising at 11.50. 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 from -8.49. 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 rising at -15.50. 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 fading El Nino base state being driving by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a fading El Nino base state.
SOI Trend - Darwin (looking for high pressure here): Weak low pressure was over Southeast Aust on 11/17 and forecast holding through Tues (11/24). It looks like the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to continue having a negative impact on El Nino.       
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 11/17 weak high pressure was southeast of Tahiti and slowly moving east but forecast to hold through Tues (11/24) driven by the Inactive Phase of the MJO. This will keep the SOI a bit higher than what it has been of late. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're not seeing that.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of SOI values moving to the positive range. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having significant impact.        
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 there was no evidence of a south flow in.cgiay. Per the GFS model no real south flow is projected through Tues (11/25). 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 through 10/25, then fading. The SHBI appears to be offering no support for this years El Nino development at this time.  
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed cloud cover): (11/17) today's value continued falling at +0.79, down from +0.97 (11/15). This is the lowest we've seen it since we started following it in July and has been trending slightly down driven by the Inactive MJO. The most recent high value was +2.40 on Sat (10/17). It had been holding in the +1.95-2.20 range for weeks (thru 10/13) with only minor fluctuation. The ESPI was steady in the +2.5 range through 8/10, then began falling, to +2.42 on 8/18 and bottoming out at +1.78 on 8/26. It started rebuilding on 8/29 at +1.89 holding at +1.87 on 9/18 and up to +2.2 on 9/24 reaching +2.3 on 9/26, then down to 2.02 on 9/29. Historically the peak of the '82 El Nino was +2.2 and the '97 event +2.85. This suggests the '15 El Nino is reasonably well co.cgied with the atmosphere, more so than some of the other indices indicate. Monthly ESPI values are as follows: July 3.76, Aug 2.34, Sept 2.1, Oct 2.3. '97 had two peak values at +2.99 in Aug and +3.06 in Sept.  2015 had +3.7 in July followed by +2.33 and +2.20 in Aug and Sept and 2.3 in Oct. to complete with '97.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (Oct) The current ranking is down some, falling to +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. still this MEI value has the 2015 event as the second strongest El Nino ever for this time of year, and the third strongest ever. So we continue mid-way between the '82 and '97 events, 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 (11/17) Detailed analysis is in the NPac Short Term Forecast above. In short, the jet started the Fall transition influenced by El Nino, looking decent but not exceptional. But then the Inactive Phase of the MJO took over and has had a dampening effect and will continue to do so till the Inactive Phase is over.   

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

Conclusion (Updated 11/17): WWB #3 peaked on July 4, with the resulting Kelvin Wave peaking on Sept 19 west of the Galapagos, or a roughly 2.5 month travel time.  Likewise those warm waters advected into Nino3.4, peaking about one month later, or 10/19. Peak atmospheric influence should occur approximately 2 months later or 12/20. Then WWB #4 developed of near equal strength, peaking on 10/15, which resulted in formation of Kelvin Wave #4. Using the same te.cgiate, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 12/30/2015 (westward di.cgiaced), and advecting into Nino3.4 and peaking roughly 1/30/2016 with peak atmospheric influence on approx 3/30/2016. This suggests peak atmospheric perturbation will occur in the window from 12/2/2015-4/2/2016, or well di.cgiaced later in the Winter as compared to the '97/98 event, and somewhat like the '82/83 event. The Inactive Phase of the MJO took control 10/31, and is expected to usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin wave Cycle starting 1/31/16. The resultant slackening of peak water temps won't reach Nino3.4 till 3/1, and won't hit the atmosphere till 5/1.  By then, the effective lifecycle of El Nino for the Winter of 2015-2016 will be over. And any westerly anomalies projected for the KWGA in the Dec-Jan 2016 timeframe will contribute nothing to Kelvin Wave production and jetstream a.cgiification just due to the time it will take for a resulting Kelvin Wave to migrate east. But those anomalies could help the atmosphere like the Active Phase of the MJO does, fueling jetstream energy. That is the primary contribution of westerly anomalies from here forward.   

In terms of comparative strength based on Nino3.4 temps, 2015 is in the same ballpark based on OISSTv2 weekly data. Based on ERSSTv4 data (a more conservative data source) '97 peaked at +2.32 degs with 4 months of +2.0 degs anomalies and '82 at +2.21 degs with 2 months temps greater than +2.0 degs. 2015 is looking to produce a +2.1 degree one month average based on very rough data today, with a huge reservoir of anomalies still venting to the surface and Kevin Wave #4 still migrating east.  But, coverage of warmer than normal water and it's affect on the atmosphere is not limited to just the Nino3.4 area. Nino3 (and to a lesser extent, Nino1.2).cgiay a role. Nino3 in this years event is at +3.0 degs, but peaked at +3.7 degs in '97. All graphed out, one gets the sense that '97 had much larger coverage than 2015. That has never been in dispute. And in '82, the data was not available in reliable format. The point being, until this years event produces +3.7 degs anomalies in Nino3, one cannot say this years event compares.

Another 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? Based on current data, Kelvin Wave #3 has surprisingly reinvigorated itself in late Oct/Nov and exceeded its earlier peak in Sept. The longer it holds on, the greater the likelihood that not dip in temps will develop before Kevin Wave #4 erupts. Assuming steady state anomalies in Nino3.4 (not falling below +2.0 degs during 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.    

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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