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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2018 12:16 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
2.3 - California & 2.6 - 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 3/12 thru Sun 3/18

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   

Weak Swell Production Pattern Forecast
More Weather for CA


On Thursday, March 15, 2018 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): This buoy is down and not updating.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 7.8 ft @ 6.7 secs with swell 6.2 ft @ 6.4 secs from 266 degrees. Wind at the buoy was northwest at 23-29 kts. Water temperature 58.8 degs. At Ventura (Buoy 111) swell was 4.3 ft @ 5.8 secs from 266 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 2.9 ft @ 8.8 secs from 253 degrees. At Camp Pendleton (043) swell was 1.6 ft @ 14.0 secs from 218 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma (191) swell was 5.3 ft @ 6.1 secs from 265 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.1 ft @ 10.0 secs with swell 4.5 ft @ 10.2 secs from 288 degrees. Wind at the buoy was southwest at 10-12 kts. Water temp 54.0 degs.

See Hi-Res Buoy Dashboards (bottom of the page)

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.

Current Conditions
On Thursday (3/15) in North and Central CA local windswell was producing waves in the head high range and nearly chopped and warbled and ragged and not good. Protected breaks were waist to chest high and a little bit warbled and soft but far more rideable. At Santa Cruz surf was chest high and clean but soft and weak. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and weak and heavily warbled with whitecaps outside. In North Orange Co surf was chest high and trashed by northwest wind. South Orange Country's best breaks were waist high and heavily warbled from northwest wind. In North San Diego surf was waist high and warbled bordering on chopped and not inspiring. Hawaii's North Shore was flat to maybe thigh high and clean. The South Shore was thigh to waist high and bit warbled from southeast wind. The East Shore was getting east windswell at waist high plus and lightly warbled from light southeast winds.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Thursday (3/15) in California windswell from a low pressure system just off the coast on Tues (3/16) producing 22 ft seas aimed east was hitting but pretty messy due to local onshore wind conditions. Hawaii was receiving no swell of interest. Beyond an area of disturbed weather is to form on the North Dateline region Thurs-Fri (3/16) producing a tiny area of 24 ft seas aimed east. No meaningful swell is to result for our forecast area. Also a cutoff low is to form northwest of Hawaii on Sun-Tues (3/20) with 22 ft seas but likely not aimed at the Islands resulting in nothing. And another low is to form off California Mon-Wed (3/21) with up to 24 ft seas aimed southwest possibly targeting the Islands more than the mainland. For now generally quiet pattern is in control driven by a fading La Nina combining with the Inactive Phase of the MJO. But that to possibly change shortly.


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

North Pacific

On Thursday AM (3/15) the jetstream was splitting while tracking east over Japan with the northern branch pushing off the Central Kuril Islands forming a weak trough halfway to the dateline then lifting northeast pushing over the East Aleutian Islands before falling southeast just off the coasts of Canada and the Pacific Northwest before moving inland over North CA. There was very limited support for gale development in the trough approaching the dateline and less in the dip in the jet along the Pacific Northwest Coast. Over the next 72 hours the trough on the North Dateline region is to dissipate on Fri (3/16) while the trough along the Pacific Northwest Coast moves inland over North CA on Sat (3/17). Back to the west and split and weak jetstream flow is forecast through Sun (3/18) while another trough sets up in the Eastern Gulf on being fed by 110 kts winds offering very limited support for low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours a split flow is to remain in the west with the northern branch pushing northeast and through the Bering Sea then falling south continuing to feed the weak trough in the Gulf but getting progressively steeper and pinched into Tues (3/20) but still over open ocean well off California with it's apex down at 32N offering some support for gale development eventually tracking east and moving inland over Central CA on Thurs (3/22). At that time the jet is to be a mess over the balance of the North Pacific well split east of 160E offering no support for gale development.

Surface Analysis
On Thursday AM (3/15) a gale was developing west of Kamchatka producing 40 kt west winds over a tiny area aimed east generating seas to 24 ft over a small area at 49N 164E. This system is to ease east in the evening with winds dropping to 30 kts from the west and 22 ft seas at 50N 171E. Fetch is to dissipate from there.No meaningful swell is to result.

Over the next 72 hours a cutoff low is to start developing west-northwest of Hawaii on Sat PM (3/17) producing a tiny area of east winds at 40 kts and seas 22 ft at 28N 177W all aimed west and of no interest to Hawaii. Sun AM (3/18) winds are to fade from 30-35 kts from the east with 18-20 ft seas over a tiny area not aimed anywhere of interest (away from Hawaii). In the evening winds are to rebuild to 35 kts from the east with 20 ft seas setting up at 33N 173W again aimed only to the west and not at Hawaii. On Mon AM (3/19) more of the same is forecast with east to northeast winds at 30-35 kts aimed somewhat at Hawaii with 22 ft seas at 35N 175W aimed mainly to the west. In the evening fetch is to hold with some winds at 25-30 kts wrapping into the gales west quadrant aimed somewhat back at Hawaii but seas only 16 ft at 33n 178W. On Tues AM (3/20) fetch is to fade from 25 kts in that location with seas 15 ft at 34N 178W. This system to fade from there. Maybe low odds of some sideband windswell to radiate towards Hawaii with luck.

Also another weak low is to form 800 nmiles west of Central CA on Sun PM (3/18) starting to generate 20-25 kt north winds in it's west quadrant. Winds to build to 35+ kts from the north-northeast on Mon AM (3/19) while holding position with seas building to 18 ft over a tiny area at 38N 142W aimed mainly back at Hawaii. Fetch is to build in the evening at 35-40 kts from the east and northeast with some 35 kt south fetch just off the Central CA coast. Seas building to 18-20 ft at 36N 142W mainly targeting Hawaii. Tues AM (3/20) fetch is to build to 35-40 kts from the northeast targeting Hawaii well with 26 ft seas at 37N 142W aimed only at Hawaii. In the evening fetch is to fade from 30 kts from the northeast with seas fading from 22 ft at 36N 143W targeting Hawaii well. This system is to be in rapid decline Wed AM (3/21) with no fetch or seas of interest remaining. The core of the system is to track east and move over North CA on Thurs (3/22).


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


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (3/15) a new low pressure system was just off the Pacific Northwest coast producing a broad area of 25 kt northwest winds over open ocean aimed towards California with seas building there. A front was pushing south into North California early with southwest winds 15 kts for North CA and expected to build into Monterey Bay and Big Sur later afternoon then stalling there. Northwest winds were indicated over all of Southern Ca at 15-20 kts. Solid rain building south down to Big Sur early evening and snow building solidly south to Tahoe early evening and building overnight. Friday (3/16) the low is to be stalled and circulating just off the CA-Oregon border with west to southwest winds 10-15 kts for North and Central CA down into Monterey Bay and northwest winds 10 kts south of there to Pt Conception. Rain solid early for all of North and Central CA and pushing south from Santa Barbara County to San Diego overnight. Steady moderate to heavy snow all day and evening starting over Tahoe building south over the entire Sierra. Sat (3/17) north-northwest winds to be 10 kts for all of North and Central CA fading later in the afternoon. Scattered showers mainly early for the coasts of North and Central CA. Snow showers for the entire Sierra through the day fading early evening. Total snow accumulations through Sat 10 PM (3/17) 32-36 inches for Tahoe and 11-12 inches for Mammoth. Sunday (3/18) light winds are forecast along the entire CA coast and clearing conditions. No precip forecast. Monday (3/19) light winds are forecast early building from the south for all of North and Central CA to 10 kts as another low pressure system builds off the coast. No precip forecast. Tuesday (3/20) southeast winds build at 10-15 kts kts from Pt Conception northward pushing 20 kts near San Francisco later. Rain developing for for all of Central and North CA up to the Oregon border late afternoon. Snow building for the Tahoe late evening. Wednesday (3/21) south winds to be 15 kts for the North and Central coasts early fading to 10+ kts through the day. Rain for all of North and Central CA and South CA down to Ventura County. Snow for higher elevations early (7000 ft) of the North and Central Sierra building in intensity and falling to 6400 ft into the evening. Thursday (3/22) southwest winds to be 20 kts for Central CA and 15 kts from the south for North CA turning north late morning 20-25 kts with a front falling south down the Central Coast. Solid rain for the entire state through the day. Blizzard conditions for Yosemite and Tahoe. Possible 42-44 inches of snow for Tahoe and 35 inches of snow for Mammoth into Thurs evening.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell producing weather systems of interest are occurring. The models do hint at a weak gale falling southeast under New Zealand on Thurs-Fri (3/16) but producing only 22-24 ft seas aimed east and not large enough to result is swell for our forecast area.

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

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast. The models do hint at a large weather system developing in the South Tasman Sea on Mon (3/19) but falling hard southeast and never making significant inroads into the Southwest Pacific. There's no indications of swell being generated for our forecast area from this system.

More details to follow...

Large Kelvin Wave Crossing the Pacific

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 equator it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slackening if not an outright reversing trade winds while enhancing 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 in the Pacific 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. Wind anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) are key for understanding what Phase the MJO is in over the Pacific. The KWGA is located on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south (or on the equator from New Guinea east to the dateline). West wind anomalies in the KWGA suggest the Active Phase of the MJO in the Pacific, and east anomalies suggests the Inactive Phase. In turn the Active Phase strengthens and the Inactive Phase weakens the jetstream, which in turn enhances or dampens storm production respectively in the Pacific.The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).

Overview: La Nina started developing in early 2016, but westward displaced and generally weak. And by March 2017, it was gone with suspicious warming developing along South America and over the Galapagos to a point south of Hawaii. By May the atmosphere returned to a neutral configuration but then in July east anomalies started building in the KWGA and have not stopped, with cold water upwelling over the the Nino1.2 and 3.4 areas, indicative of La Nina. A double dip La Nina was in control and continued through the Winter of 2017-2018. But warming started building along the South and Central American coast in early March 2018, suggesting La Nina was fading.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wednesday (3/14) 5 day average winds were from the east over the bulk of the equatorial Pacific but moderately from the west over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Anomalies were neutral to light easterly over the equatorial Pacific but modest westerly over the KWGA.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): (3/13) Moderate east anomalies were from 170E and points east of there but modest westerly winds were over the bulk of the Central and West KWGA. This pattern is to improve more starting 3/16 with west winds building to the moderate category from 165E and point west of there while east anomalies start moving east from 170E. By the end of the model run (3/22) west anomalies are to hold moderate from 165E and points west of there but light westerly to 170W, filling the KWGA with east anomalies out of the picture. This continues to look like a signal of the eastward shift of the low pressure bias zone, a very good sign.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: (3/14) The Inactive/Dry Phase of the MJO was weak isolated to the dateline with the Active/West Phase over the Maritime Continent (Bali area). The statistical model depicts the Inactive Phase easing east and weakening and gone 6 days out with a weak Active/Wet Phase of the MJO building into and weakly filling the West Pacific at the end of the model run 15 days out. The dynamic model depicts the same thing.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (3/15) The ECMF model depicts the Active Phase of the MJO very weak in strength over the Maritime Continent. It is to weaken further while tracking east towards the West Pacific over the next 2 weeks and almost indiscernible and never really making it to the West Pacific. The GEFS model depicts a variant of the same thing.
40 day Upper Level Model: (3/15) This model depicts the Inactive/Dry Phase over the East equatorial Pacific tracking east. A weak Active/Wet pattern was over the far West Pacific. The weak Active Phase is to track east over the West Pacific moving east into the East Pacific and Central America through 4/9. A new Inactive Phase is to be developing modestly in the far West Pacific on 4/5 migrating to the East Pacific at the end of the model run on 4/24. This model runs about 1-2 weeks ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (3/15) This model depicts the Inactive Phase nearly gone over the KWGA with weak east anomalies mainly from the dateline and points east of there with steady west anomalies from 170E and point west of there with this west wind pattern slow building in coverage fully taking over the KWGA 3/18. From that point forward no east anomalies are forecast anywhere in the Pacific for the duration of the model run. A weak Active Phase is to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/25 holding through 4/8 with a more modest west anomaly pattern developing and filling the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Beyond no coherent MJO signal is forecast through 6/12 but with weak west anomalies holding and no sign of east anomalies. The low pass filter indicates a modest low pressure bias over the western half of the KWGA at 165E and is to push east steadily from here forward reaching the dateline 4/9 with a high pressure bias over the East KWGA at 175E and steadily moving east and out of the KWGA on 4/8. Basically the La Nina bias is to be gone in 3 weeks. But no significant oceanic change is expected until 3 months after the change has taken place in the atmosphere.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (3/15) The overview pattern depicts that warm water is sequestered to the west but building east with cooler water steadily loosing control of the East Pacific. Today in the far West Pacific water temps are 29-30 degs at 160E. The 28 deg isotherm line is steady today at 178E and steep (meaning there is a headwind of cooler water pushing into it from the east - La Nina). The 24 deg isotherm was shallow but has made significant eastward progress migrating across the entire Pacific to Ecuador and 25-35 meters deep the whole way east and 75 meters deep at 140W. Anomaly wise in the East Pacific negative temperatures at -1 degs were in two conjoined but shrinking pockets at 150W down 25 meters and the second at -1.0 degs at 110W 75 metes deep. Cooler waters are steadily loosing coverage and density. Warm anomalies were building in the West at +3.5 degs at 180W down 150 meters and appear to be building east with the dividing line between that and cool waters moving east to 130W indicative of a large Kelvin Wave pushing east. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 3/9 depicts warm water in the west at +5.5 degs reaching east to 130W. Cool water at -1.5 degs was only holding in one pocket in the East Pacific near 140W and has significantly lost density, intensity and depth. Those cool anomalies continue erupting to the surface limited now from 105W to 165W. The cool pool appears to be slowly discharging to the surface. The GODAS animation appears to be 1 week behind the TAO data.
Sea Level Anomalies: (3/9) Positive anomalies were over the West equatorial Pacific at +20 cm centered at 170E reaching east to 145W. Neutral anomalies were east of there except one pocket of negative anomalies at -5 cms south of the equator near 3S between 150W east to Peru and getting progressively diffuse.

Surface Water Temps: The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). Cold water in that area has a dampening effect. Regardless of what the atmospheric models and surface winds suggest, actual water temperatures are a ground-truth indicator of what is occurring in the ocean. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (3/14) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate a generic and diffuse cool pocket was in the deep Southeast Pacific centered at 20S 100W. Warm anomalies were holding off the coast of Chile and Peru up to Ecuador while cooler temps from the Inactive/Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle were along the immediate coast of Peru. Warm anomalies are holding along the equator from Ecuador over the Galapagos out to 105W. Cool pockets were generally weak and diffuse west of there to 160W and with a continuing smaller footprint.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (3/13): A generally neutral trend was off Chile. A cooling trend was off Ecuador advecting west along the equator over the Galapagos and out to 110W. The upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle was having a cooling effect.
Hi-res Overview: (3/13) A significant erosion of La Nina is underway with warming building in the entire Nino1.2 region even though the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle was negating some of that. A broad weak cool pocket is still present well off Chile and Peru (10S 120W) with the La Nina core on the equator from 100W to the dateline peaking at 135W, starting to look like a Modoki La Nina than anything solid (meaning the core of La Nina is advecting west). Cool water at depth is still erupting to the surface with the breach point south of Hawaii. Overall the cooling pattern is steadily loosing density and drifting west. It appears La Nina is in steady decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/15) Today's temps were steady at -1.366 degs, retreating from a peak at +0.898 degrees on 2/28 attributable to the first Kelvin Wave impacting Ecuador. Overall it looks like the trend is stabilizing after heading downward driven by the Upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Temps in this area bottomed out on 12/23 at -2.1 degs, a third near peak negative reading. The lowest point so far in this La Nina was -2.248 degs reached on 11/5. And that low point was lower than the previous coldest point reached on 10/11 at -1.9 degs.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (3/15) Today temps were steady at -0.788. A surge in temps occurred 1/12-1/28 reaching up to -0.600 deg range. Since then temps have eased off some. Previously a peak low was observed on 1/10-1/12 to -1.577. On (12/7) temps hit a previous record low at -1.219, just below the previous coldest peak so far this La Nina on 11/22 at -1.156. And the third previous low peak was reached at -1.1 on 11/23. The long arc suggests perhaps a rising pattern. La Nina is in control, but it's taking a hit.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (3/15) The forecast depicts temps bottomed out at -0.75 in Nov 2017 and have been slowly rebounding since, up to -0.55 in early Feb and expected to rise to -0.5 in April. The model indicates temps slowly falling to to -0.85 in early Aug, then starting to rise into the Fall to -0.7 degs in Nov. This suggests the peak of La Nina occurred in 2017 but is to redevelop in the Summer of 2018 before fading some in the Fall. This would make it a 3 year La Nina which is exceedingly rare (3 year La Ninas 17%, 2 year La Ninas 50%, 1 year La Ninas 33% 1951-2017). This model is the outlier with others suggesting La Nina is to die this Spring.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Feb Plume depicts temps at -0.5 degs and are to slowly rise, to +0.0 in May and +0.3 in August and +0.5 in October. See chart here - link. It looks like La Nina is fading out. The CFSv2 is in the low end of that pack.

Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (3/15): The daily index was falling some but still positive today at 1.15. The 30 day average was rising at 3.90 suggesting the Inactive Phase of the MJO was still affecting the index. The 90 day average was rising at 0.44 suggesting La Nina is dead.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive and/or rising is good, negative and/or falling is bad): (3/15) This index is still falling today at -0.88, down from -0.33 in late Feb, up from -1.11 on 1/29. The trend suggests La Nina is fading but not gone. Last years La Nina reached -1.94 on 11/2/16 and then fell to -2.20 on 6/28/17. It held pretty negative through Jan 2018. This index is a forerunner of what happens in the ocean by 2-3 months in developing El Nino and La Nina events. The goal is to have it rise to at least -0.5 before a significant change could be suggested.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO is weakly positive, even though La Nina is in play.
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.12, Feb = +0.05, March = +0.14, April=+0.53, May=+0.29, June=+0.21, July= -0.50, Aug= -0.62, Sept = -0.25, Oct= -0.61, Nov = -0.45, Dec= -0.13, Jan=+0.29, Feb=-0.10. This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO, even with La Nina, because the warm PDO appears to be dampening the effects of La Nina. No consistently solid negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington EDU index (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.77, Feb = +0.70, Mar = +0.74, April=+1.12, May=+0.88, June=+0.79, July=+0.10, Aug=+0.09, Sept = +0.32, Oct=+0.05, Nov = +0.15, Dec = +0.50, Jan +0.70. No negative readings have occurred since Dec 2013
The PDO turned from a 16 year negative run (Jan 98-Feb 2014) in early 2014 and has been positive ever since (other than a few months of negative readings in Fall 2016, the result of a turn towards La Nina). Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data strongly suggests that could be a possibility. By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

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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