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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 6:20 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
4.0 - California & 4.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 11/30 thru Sun 12/6

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   

NPac Storm Track Building
Multiple Gales Forecast

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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, December 1, 2015 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.3 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 3.2 ft @ 12.7 secs from 337 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 16.0 secs with swell 2.9 ft @ 16.2 secs. Wind west 6-8 kts. Water temperature 63.7 degrees. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.8 ft @ 14.8 secs from 263 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.3 ft @ 16.0 secs from 273 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 4.4 ft @ 16.0 secs from 278 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 12.3 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 7.6 ft @ 14.2 secs from 282 degrees. Wind northeast 10-12 kts. Water temp 57.9 degs.


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

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (12/1) in North and Central CA solid dateline swell was still hitting with waves 11-12 ft and lined up with light offshore winds and great conditions. Winter has arrived! Down in Santa Cruz surf was 2-3 ft overhead with near double overhead sets and clean and lined up. In Southern California up north surf was head high or so on the sets and lined up with clean conditions. Down south waves were head high to 1 ft overhead and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was 2-3 ft overhead and clean and lined up. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated easterly windswell with waves head high and chopped from east-northeast trades.  

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

Meteorological Overview
Swell originating from a storm over the Northeast Dateline and Western Gulf of Alaska on Thurs (11/26) with 41 ft seas was fading in Hawaii and on the way down in California, but still sizeable at breaks in the north end of the state. Another small gale tracked east off North Japan reaching the dateline on Sun (11/29) with seas to 32 ft, then pushed over the dateline and into the Western Gulf Mon (11/30) with seas in the 29-30 ft range, and is forecast to continue to generate fetch in the Gulf with seas in the 23 ft range over a broad area targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast into Thurs (12/3). A long run of smaller swell to result.

Looking at the forecast charts yet another stronger gale is to be behind developing on the dateline falling southeast Thurs-Fri (12/4) with seas in the 37-40 ft range targeting both Hawaii and the US West Coast well, then turning east and tracking towards California with seas fading from 30 ft into Sat (12/5). Larger swell again expected for Hawaii and the US West Coast. All this is being driven by significant improvements in the North Pacific jetstream caused by the return of the Active Phase of the MJO and a long awaited change towards an El Nino enhanced storm pattern. A weaker storm track is forecast early next week but long range models suggest a return to a stronger jet beyond.

Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

On Tuesday AM (12/1) the jet was consolidated and pushing east off Japan with a trough developing over the North Kuril Islands . There was a weak ridge over the dateline with the jet still consolidated, then falling into a broad trough filling the Gulf of Alaska with 160 kt winds feeding it. The jet held consolidated to 140W then split, with the northern branch running up into Washington and the southern branch into Central Baja. This is a great pattern and supportive of gale development in both the aforementioned troughs. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to push east and start steepening and eventually moving onshore with its apex moving into extreme North CA on Thursday evening (12/3). Meanwhile the Kuril Island trough is to ease east reaching the dateline on Thurs AM (12/3) with 170 kt winds feeding it offering good support for gale development then continuing into the Gulf 24 hours later. The split point in the jet is to move onshore over California on Thursday, then redevelop off the coast at 135W. Beyond 72 hours an infusion of wind energy is to be occurring over Japan on Fri (12/4) with winds 190 kts and easing east while moderating only slightly. By Sun (12/6) 170-190 kts winds to be running almost flat west to east on the 38N latitude line reaching to the Gulf of Alaska and almost poised to move onshore terminating at 130W, just off North CA. A broad trough is forecast approaching the dateline and easing east into Tues (12/8) with winds holding at 170-180 kts. Great support for gale development possible. A weak ridge is to push the jet up into Washington protecting CA from weather for the time being. This is looking more like the El Nino pattern we've been expecting.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (12/1) swell from a storm that developed over the North Dateline region Wed (11/25) with seas to 40 ft was all but gone in Hawaii and fading in California (see North Dateline Storm below). Another gale developed west of the dateline on Sat (11/28) and has been tracking east since (see Another Dateline Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours yet another gale is to pass over the dateline possibly reaching storm status (see Dateline Storm below).


North Dateline Storm
A gale started developing off the North Japan on Tues AM (11/24) developing more off the Kurils Wed AM (11/25) with 50 kt northwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface with seas building from 34 ft at 44N 165E over a tiny area. The storm lifted east-northeast in the evening still generating 50 kt west-northwest winds with seas building to 36 ft at 46N 175E again over a small area. 50 kt west-northwest winds held over the North Dateline region Thurs AM (11/26) with 40 ft seas at 47N 177W (336 degs HI, 302 degs NCal) aimed mainly east. Fetch was fading from 45 kts over a small area in the evening east of the dateline with 40 ft seas at 47N 171W (342 degs HI, 303 degs NCal) targeting the US West Coast well. Residual 40 kt west fetch held Fri AM (11/27) with seas fading from 35 ft at 47N 166W (303 degs NCal). Northwest fetch faded from 35 kts over a solid area in the evening with seas fading from 29 ft at 46N 158W (300 degs NCal). Some solid long period swell could result mainly for the US West Coast with sideband swell for Hawaii.

North CA: Residuals on Wed (12/2) fading from 4.5 ft @ 12 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 296-300 degrees


Another Dateline Gale
A gale started building off the Kuril Islands on Sat (11/28). By Sat PM a core of 45 kt west winds were developing west of the dateline with 32 ft seas evolving over a small area at 47N 171E. 40 kt west winds held into Sun AM (11/29) with seas building to 32 ft over a broader area at 46N 180W (on the dateline) (330 degs HI, 300 degs NCal) aimed east. From there fetch started fading in the evening from 35-40 kts in the Western Gulf over a broader area with 31 ft seas at 45N 174W (333 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). More 35-40 kt northwest winds evolved Mon AM (11/30) with 31 ft seas at 45N 168W (341 degs HI, 296 degs NCal) targeting mid-way between Hawaii and the US West Coast. More of the same occurred in the evening with 35 kt west winds and 29 ft seas at 44N 160W (296 degs NCal). Additional 30+ kts northwest fetch was evolving Tues AM (12/1) filling the Gulf with seas 23 ft at 43N 154W (294 degs NCal). 35 kt northwest winds to be better defined in the evening with 29 ft seas up at 48N 160W. By Wed AM (12/2) 30-35 kt northwest fetch is to be well positioned in the Gulf generating 28 ft seas at 45N 153W targeting California only (NCal 297 degs). Fetch is to be fading from 30 kts in the evening with 22-26 ft seas fading at 43N 147W (296 degs NCal). This is a good setup if it all materializes.

Hawaii: Swell arrival expected starting at sunset Tues (12/1) with swell building from 4 ft @ 18 secs (7.0 ft). Swell to peak Wed AM (12/2) at 7.5 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft Hawaiian). Swell slowly fading Thurs AM (12/3) from 6.9 ft @ 13-14 sec early (9 ft). Residuals fading on Fri (12/4) from 5.3 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 325 degrees moving to 345 degrees

NCal: Expect the first part of this swell to arrival on Thurs AM (12/3) with pure swell 6.5 ft @ 17 secs (11 ft) but quickly being buried in locally produced southwest windswell. Seas to 10 ft @ 16 secs late but surf smaller than one would expect. Residuals continuing on Fri (12/4) and mixing with swell from the reformed remnants of this system as it moved into the Gulf.


Dateline Storm
another gale is to push off the North Kuril Islands on Wed AM (12/2) producing 45-50 kts northwest winds in the evening approaching the dateline and seas to 35 ft at 48N 173E. The gale is to hold Thurs AM (12/3) as it reaches the dateline with west winds at 45-50 kts over a modest area with seas 39 ft at 47N 175E targeting Hawaii (325 degs HI and the US West Coast (305 degs NCal). Fetch is to hold in the evening at 45 kts resulting in 40 ft seas at 44N 178W targeting Hawaii (328 degs) and the US West Coast well (297 degs NCal). Fetch is to hold at 45 kts Fri AM (12/4) tracking east in the Western Gulf with seas 38 ft over a solid area near 42N 168W targeting Hawaii (340 degs) but the US West Coast better (292 degs NCal). 35-40 kt northwest fetch is to build in coverage into the evening in the Gulf with 30 ft seas at 40N 160W (286 degs NCal) targeting only the US West Coast. Fetch is to build to the north in the Gulf Sat AM (12/5) with west winds 45 kts and seas 35 ft at 45N 148W (297 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds to hold into the evening off Oregon with 35 ft seas at 46N 142W (306 degs NCal). This system to race onshore after that. This is one worth monitoring.

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


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/1) a steady offshore flow and clear skies prevailed in California. But the first hint of a change was building offshore with a front and south winds already over extreme North CA and rain expected in the evening for extreme North CA. More of the same Wednesday with light winds from Pt Reyes southward but south winds and rain for the North Coast down to Pt Arena. The low is to regenerate in the Gulf Wed PM with south winds 30 kts for extreme North CA and 35+ kts Thurs AM (12/3) pushing into Central CA late morning with solid rain expected down to Morro Bay and moderate snow for the Sierra overnight into Friday AM. On Fri AM (12/4) weak high pressure to be off the coast with light winds for Central and North CA but north winds developing and walking up the Central Coast to Monterey Bay late. A new low is to be building off the coast on Sat (12/5) with a front from it reaching no further south than Cape Mendocino. Light winds continue from Pt Arena southward through Sunday with the front dissolving then over extreme North CA. High pressure to continue to protect California Mon (12/7) as another front pushing into Oregon down to Cape Mendocino with light winds the norm into Tuesday but north winds over the southern portion of Central CA at 15 kts.

South Pacific

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




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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours yet another small storm is to build over the southern dateline late Sun (12/6) lifting northeast into the Gulf Monday (12/7) with seas supposedly to 43 ft at 45N 153W targeting the US West Coast. By Tues AM (12/8) 45 ft seas are forecast in the Northeastern Gulf at 50N 147W, well to the north for much of California but targeting the Pacific Northwest well.

And so the storm machine is to finally come to life, the first time in 5 years, since Feb of 2010. When there's so many systems on the charts you can start to pick and choose, that's the classic El Nino signal. It's been a very long time since we've even had the hint of such an event. It might not materialize, but its a nice tease and wraps the old timers in a warm nostalgic glow of decades past.       

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours noswell producing fetch of interest is forecast.  

More details to follow...


Nino 3.0 & 3.4 Temps Holding
West Anomalies Build in KWGA

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 planet, 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 split 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).Explanation 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 coupling 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 Mon (11/30) down at the surface, the TOA array (hard sensors reporting with a 24 hr lag) indicated moderate to strong west winds over the south Kevin Wave generation Area (KWGA) from 155E to 170W with light winds north of there.  Inspecting the 00hr frame from the GFS model, west winds at 14 kts in pockets at 175E, 160E and 140E over the south KWGA. Anomalies were strong from the west from 170E to 165W. These west anomalies are rebuilding a little traction after the loss of west anomalies from 10/31-11/9.
1 Week Forecast: The CFS model indicates modest west anomalies forecast in the KWGA from 150E and east of there to nearly the Galapagos for the next week through Tues (12/8) and strongest around the dateline. Actual winds per the GFS model are to be light from the west over the southern portion of KWGA in pockets through Thurs (12/3) then rebuilding in coverage and strength Fri-Sat (12/5) to 16 kts, then fading to calm through Tues (12/8). So far no east anomalies have occurred this year in the KWGA, not one day, and none are forecast. West anomalies have been pushing warm water from the West Pacific east at depth. But the volume and velocity of that warm water migration faded significantly at the end of WWB #4 between 10/19-10/30. By 10/31 the Inactive Phase of the MJO appeared with west anomalies dead through (11/23). This slackening of the anomalies will likely usher in the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave Cycle after Kelvin Wave #4 terminates its eventual eruption in the vicinity of the Galapagos starting 2.5 months later or near 1/15/16. But that pattern is fading with west anomalies on the return now typical of the El Nino base state.       

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. Starting 11/20 a weak west anomaly pattern started to develop near the dateline and that was holding through today. 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 (12/1) a weak Inactive MJO signal was over the dateline equatorial region but had faded significantly from 3 days ago. The Dynamic model forecasts it fading to almost nothing 5 day out but still not gone through the 15 day end of the run. The Statistic model has it steadily fading but not gone 15 days out with a solid Active MJO Pattern over the Central Indian Ocean moving into the West Pacific 15 days out.  The dynamic model has the Active Phase in the Indian Ocean and also now starting to east east. The assumption is that as the Active Phase fades in the Indian Ocean, so too will the Inactive Phase over the KWGA, and west anomalies will start rebuild driven by the El Nino base state, probably 8-10 days out (12/8). But if the Active Phase moves east, that would not be bad either as it would fuel yet a stronger jetstream over the NPac.    
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): Both models indicate some form of 'MJO-like' active signal in the Central Indian Ocean that is collapsing to nothing over the next 3 days. But the multimodel ensemble suggests some eastward propagation over the next 2 weeks. So any exact outcome is a bit up in the air right now. This leads us to believe that perhaps whatever Inactive MJO signal was trying to dominate the Pacific will fade as the Active Phase fades in the Indian Ocean or moves east. This would allow the more typical El Nino base state to re-emerge.
40 Day Upper Level Model: This model depicts a solid Active Phase over the dateline region (which is not happening) tracking west and fading through 12/13, with an Inactive pattern taking over after that and tracking east, pushing into Central America on 12/31. None of this is believable.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): An Inactive MJO has all but lost it's grip over the dateline region and is to be gone by 12/4. West anomalies are already rebuilding weakly now enhanced by a Rossby Wave that is passing through this region and is to continue into 12/10 having a slightly positive effect on west wind anomaly production. By 12/6 the Active Phase of the MJO is to be in control of the dateline and a bit east of there and westerly anomalies redeveloping stronger in the West KWGA to the dateline holding to 1/15/16 with a WWB forecast starting 12/21. By 1/17 the Active Phase of the MJO is to fade slightly, then redevelop strongly on 2/1 holding til the end of Feb with strong west anomalies if not a major WWB forecast. This is not believable. But it is obvious that the MJO is not dead, regardless of theories which suggest it should be during strong El Ninos. So it makes sense that the Active Phase at some point should return (as we suspect it is now). 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 the Inactive Phase. That is expected to change shortly. 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. But, if that we to not happen, the life of this years El Nino would be extended. Something to watch for. Still the above scenario 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: (12/1) Actual temperatures remain impressive and the quality has improved because all sensors are now back on-line. A broad area of 30 deg temps were at depth from 150E to 152W (retracting) with the 28 deg isotherm line at 120W and steady. Anomaly wise +2 deg anomalies are from the dateline eastward. +4 deg anomalies are from 141W eastward (retracting). +6 degs anomalies are from 125W eastward with a core at +7 degs starting at 115W and points east of there. All these regions are moving slowly east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 11/24 the reservoir is in great shape with warm water still flowing into it from near the dateline and a large core of +5 deg anomalies in it's heart from 90W-137W. This is a great scenario. Warm water also appears to continue erupting west of the Galapagos at +4 degs from 110W to 122W but also making good eastward progress east of the Galapagos subsurface.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA):  (11/24) Heights are starting to fade, but still at ridiculous high levels. 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire equatorial Pacific starting at 175W (steady). Peak anomalies at +20 cm are between 95W and 130W moving east. +15 cm anomalies extending from Ecuador to 138W and reaching from 5N to 5S (steady). +10 cm anomalies are now pushing to Ecuador and tracking north and south along the Central and South America Coasts, typical of El Nino. All regions are pushing east suggesting maybe the westward displacement character of this El Nino event is finally changing. All this is indicative of a wide open pipe with a large Kelvin Wave in flight. This is a classic major El Nino setup. But, the reservoir is starting to discharge, which is normal for the later phase of the El Nino lifecycle.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (11/24) is steady at very impressive levels (and updates daily) indicating +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are shrinking from 155W to the Galapagos (easing east). +1.0-1.5 degs anomalies are easing east from 149W eastward attributable to WWB #4 and the formation of Kelvin Wave #4. +1.5 deg anomalies are easing east from 142W and points east. A large pocket of +2.0 deg anomalies easing east from 138W into Ecuador. And +2.5 deg anomalies remain present and are easing east while expanding between 132W->90W beating anything in Kelvin Wave #3 (with a 42 deg/2,520 nmile width). 2.0-2.5 anomalies are now pushing into Ecuador (the first time since early Oct). The Downwelling Phase of Kelvin Wave #4 is underway in the east while displacement to the west appears to be fading fast. This El Nino remains slightly westward displaced for the moment, but that will change in the next week. The Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle is also evident just east of the dateline 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 but is fading. And with that, the reservoir appears to be discharging with no other WWB in sight. The peak of El Nino from a subsurface warming perspective has already passed.

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 displaced 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. But it appeared to start erupting west of the Galapagos on 10/28 peaking 11/17. 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
(11/30) Overall the picture remains solid but not getting any more defined near the South America coast, but not loosing anything either. And 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 replaced 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, but is building back some in the past 3 weeks, presumably with the demise of the Active Phase of the MJO in that area. 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 (11/30) temps are rebuilding solidly with +4.0 deg anomalies off Ecuador and +2.25 anomalies from the Galapagos to Ecuador with decent width, but not overtly impressive yet. Still, they have rebuilt significantly over the past week when they were almost completely gone
. This continues to indicate the Kelvin Wave eruption area is westward displaced, with occasional pockets of warmer water sneaking in, but not steadily. But given data above, we think that is about to change with a big eastward push imminent. Warming in this area peaked on 7/14 then crashed and has been trying to rebuild ever since.
Galapagos Virtual Station: (11/30) Inconsistent with satellite imagery above, anomalies are fading slightly at +3.7, down from +4.05 on 11/24 and up from +3.73 on 11/21 and rebounding from +3.4 degs on 11/17. 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 11/14, then fell but are now rebuilding. 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 (11/30): Solid warming is occurring down the South American Coast and up into Central America. Cooling is noted west of the Galapagos between 100W to 115W in the main Kelvin Wave vent port.
Hi-res NINO 3.4: 
(11/30) The latest image depicts a static situation, but at very high levels. Coverage of +2.25 deg anomalies is steady if not increasing in pulses moving west between 120W to 140W, but peak temps are holding coverage at +4.0 at 100W to 118W with another patch at 123W. Overall the pattern remains incredibly impressive. We have decided all this warm water is now mostly attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. This remains unbelievable on a historical level and still breaks records set in the '97 El Nino. Temps between 160W-180W are retracting some to the east, with +2.25 deg anomalies reaching west to 175W retracting from 179W 3 days ago. No +4 deg anomalies are present. This warm pool is advection west of warm water resulting from eruption of Kelvin Waves #3 and #4. 
Hi-res Overview: (11/30) 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 eruption ports that developed starting 10/28 and continue today. The intensity of warm anomalies in the eruption site west of the Galapagos peaked on 11/19, not as intense as a previous peak on 9/19, but covering a larger area/ Today the warmest temps have less coverage than the November peak. As of 11/30 there is a broken string of +4 deg anomalies from 100W to 130W on the backed off view, not just individual vent ports. The mid-zoomed image depicts the warmth fading in coverage with a string of 6 pockets +4 deg anomalies from 101W-144W with no +5 deg anomalies remaining. This still remains is impressive, but the peak was on 11/23. And this warm water is advected west. Kelvin Wave #3 peaked on 9/19 with multiple pockets of +5 degs anomalies occurring. The number and intensity of those vent ports faded, then redeveloped and increased significantly starting 10/28 and peaked on 11/23. That peak was attributable to Kelvin Wave #4. 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. 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 170E. There is also a solid area of +2.0-2.5 deg anomalies extending from the Galapagos to 180W. A pocket of +3.0 deg anomalies is building from 108W-160W with +3.5 anomalies at 125W (Kelvin Wave #4 vent port). Overall the warm water signature is steady and impressive.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/1) Temps are muddling along rising to +2.225 today, up from +1.708 11/19, 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: Today (12/1) temps are +2.967, steady from +2.980 (11/27), up slightly from +2.900 on 11/23, down 15 hundredths from 11/20 at +2.915, down one tenth of a degree from the all time peak of +3.041 on 12z 11/19. This temp beat the previous all time high of +3.028 degs (12Z 11/17), up from + 2.986 as of (12Z 11/15) Nov 15. Overall temps have not been below +2.0 degs since 8/21. and are right at +2.9 or greater since 11/13. Very Impressive. 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 (12/1) values at +2.905, down slightly from +2.990 (11/28) up from +2.855 (11/23), up some from + 2.799 on 11/21, and down from +2.957 on 11/19. So we have some distance to go to be comparable to '97 in this region.
Nino3.4 Weekly Temps (OISSTv2 - 1981-2010 base period - centered in Jan 3 1990): On 11/25 they were +3.0 in both Nino3.0 and 3.4), down from +3.1 on 11/18, up from 11/11 when 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.
Insert Subsurface/Surface image here This years event is westward displaced 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 displaced 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. 

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

SST Image

New! (11/18) Given the westward displacement in this years El Nino, we are interested in the relative effect on the jetstream as compared to previous strong ENSO events.  That's is, how does one compare eastward versus westward displaced El Nino events. This years El Nino has relatively weak Nino1.2 anomalies compared to '82 and '97, but much warmer in Nino4.  Do Nino3.4 temps accurately take that difference into account? We decided to find out. First we made an assumption: It is the total volume of warm water in the equatorial East Pacific, not just in Nino3.4 that defines the magnitude of the resulting El Nino atmospheric response. Whether that water is eastward or westward displaced, it makes no difference, as long as one can measure the total heating footprint, the bulk atmospheric response should be the same, just the center of core storm production would be either more east or west displaced.Next we needed to determine how to measure total heating footprint. There is a good historical record for anomalies in Nino1.2 (spanning 10 degrees longitude - 80W-90W), Nino3 (spanning 60 degrees - 90W-150W) and Nino4 (50 degrees - 150W to 150E).  If one performs a weighted average of the SST anomalies for the 3 zones, a composite anomaly can be obtained. So we did that for recent strong El Nino events. The results indicate a pattern very similar to simple Nino3.4 analysis, that this years event is in the top 2 for this time of year and the top 3 of all time (discounting the more historically correct 'centered' data). Here's the data:

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

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 is worthless. We are not reporting on it anymore.
Uncorrected Data is steady depicting peak temps to +2.95 degs now and slowly fading into December falling to +2.6 degs Jan 1.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Nov Plume has upgraded again, suggesting peak monthly temps between +2.4 degs (Statistical models), +2.6 degs (Dynamic) with the CPC consensus at +2.5 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 now a valid comparison. '97 imagery had all the warmth crammed up along Ecuador. This years event is focused west of there, with more warmth in Nino4 than in '97 (see analysis above).

Atmospheric Coupling Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Daily Southern Oscillation Index (12/1): Was holding at -22.80. 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 falling from -3.83. 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 -14.00. 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 coupling. 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 12/1 and forecast slowly fading through Tues (12/8) but not being replaced with any notable high pressure, at least not yet. It looks like the Active Phase of the MJO in the Indian Ocean is to continue having a negative impact on El Nino for the next week.  We suspect his will prevent this years event from reaching Super El Nino status.      
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 12/1 low pressure was moving into the Tahiti area from the west driving the SOI negative again. Strong and broad low pressure is forecast building over Tahiti through Thurs (12/3), then slowly fading into Tues (12/8). This should drive the SOI negative for a while, then rising again. If a Super El Nino is in development one would want to see continuous local lows near or over Tahiti. We're seeing perhaps a start of that pattern.  
SOI 1 week Forecast: The net result is to be a trend of SOI values holding weakly negative. 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 coupled. Current numbers suggest good coupling 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 play. Per the GFS model no real south flow is projected through Sat (12/5). 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): (12/1) today's value continues to inch up, rising to +0.89, up from +0.57 (11/23), 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. But it is also typical for it to start falling as we move into Winter. This is primarily a summer and early Fall index during El Nino years. 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 coupled 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 coupling per this index. Most impressive.  
North Pacific Jetstream (12/1) 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 template, peak eruption of Kelvin Wave #4 is expected on 12/30/2015 (westward displaced), 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 displaced 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 amplification 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 Nino1.2 play a role. It's is the total areal coverage of the warm water footprint that defines the impact on the atmosphere. Temps in Nino3 in this years event are at +3.0 degs, but peaked at +3.7 degs in '97. Conversely temps in Nino 4 in this years event beats temps in '97. All graphed out, one gets the sense that '97 and 2015 are very different events, but similar in total atmospheric effect.

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 supply 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 displaced somewhat later in the season. 

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool


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

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