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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 2:50 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
1.5 - California & 2.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' 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 5/22 thru Sun 5/28

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   

Small New Zealand Swell Pushing Northeast
Gale Scheduled for Central Pacific Mid-Week


On Monday, May 22, 2017 :

  • Buoy 146 (Lanai): This buoy is down and there is no backup site.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.8 ft @ 15.9 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 15.2 secs from 204 degrees. Wind calm. Water temperature 63.1 degs. At Ventura swell was 1.0 ft @ 15.9 secs from 188 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.6 ft @ 15.7 secs from 199 degrees. At Camp Pendleton swell was 1.5 ft @ 15.7 secs from 210 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma swell was 2.1 ft @ 16.5 secs from 187 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 9.1 secs from 317 degrees. Wind northwest 4-6 kts at the buoy. Water temp 53.2 degs.

    46006, 46059, 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 Monday (5/22) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing surf at waist high and textured by south winds and mushed. Protected breaks were near flat and clean. At Santa Cruz tiny southern hemi swell was hitting with sets up to waist high and clean. In Southern California up north surf was presumed to be flat but it was fogged in and unobservable. In North Orange Co southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist to chest high on the sets and clean early. In South Orange Co surf was shoulder high on the sets and clean early but pretty slow. In San Diego surf was waist high or so and clean but weak, mushy and slow. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a pulse from the Western Gulf with waves 2 ft overhead and reasonably clean. The South Shore was waist high with some bigger sets and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around swell from the northwest with waves to waist high and chopped early from east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Monday (5/22) small swell from a low pressure system that previously circulated northwest of Hawaii producing 18 ft seas was hitting the Islands making for rideable surf. In California south small swell from a gale that developed in the Southeast Pacific on Sat (5/13) with 33 ft seas aimed east was hitting but unremarkable. On Fri (5/19) a somewhat better gale developed south of New Zealand with up to 35 ft seas aimed northeast. Another small swell is pushing northeast. Perhaps a small gale is to develop in the Central South Pacific on Thurs (5/25) producing 30 ft seas aimed somewhat to the northeast. And windswell possibly to return to North and Central CA on Wed-Thurs (5/25), then fade out. The MJO pattern is expressing itself weakly.

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

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Monday (5/22) high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging into British Columbia generating a weak and limited version of the usual summer time pressure gradient limited to North Cape Mendocino with northwest winds 20 kts not reaching any further south limiting windswell size at exposed breaks in North and Central CA.

Also swell from low pressure that previously tracked east from the dateline was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Western Gulf Low below).

Over the next 72 hours high pressure and the gradient is to remain steady over Cape Mendocino producing north winds there at 20 kts Tues (5/23) producing only very limited north windswell at exposed breaks down into Central CA. (see QuikCASTs for details).

Trades relative to Hawaii are to build locally on Tues (5/23) from the northeast at 15 kts and 20 kts for Kauai then fading to below 15 kts by early Wed (5/24). Low odds for some windswell on Kauai on Tuesday.

On Wed-Thurs (5/25) the gradient is to become reinvigorated by high pressure building in the northerly Gulf of Alaska at 1040 mbs with north winds to 35 kts over north Cape Mendocino Wednesday then fading from 30 kts Thurs AM and barely 25 kts by late afternoon. At no time are those winds to reach any further south than Point Arena. An increase in local north windswell is likely for North and Central CA during that timeframe (see QuikCASTs for details).


Western Gulf Low
Low pressure started developing in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Thurs PM (5/18) producing 30 kt west winds over a small area northwest of Hawaii and seas to 19 ft at 43N 180W. The gale moved east Fri AM (5/19) with west winds building in coverage at 30 kts and seas 19 ft at 42N 175W. In the evening a decent sized fetch of 30 kt northwest winds continued aimed well at Hawaii with seas 21 ft at 42N 170W targeting the Islands well but also aimed at the US West Coast. On Sat AM (5/20) the gale was in the Central Gulf with winds fading from 25 kts from the northwest and seas 19 ft at 40N 165W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Fetch started fading in the evening from 25 kts with 15 ft seas at 37N 162W. The gale dissipated after that. Windswell for Hawaii and the US West Coast with arrival in Hawaii on Mon (5/22). Something to monitor.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Mon (5/22) pushing 4.0 ft @ 12 secs early (4.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (5/23) from 3.4 ft @ 11 secs (3.5 ft). Residuals on Wed (5/24) fading from 2.5 ft @ 10 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 325-335 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (5/24) early at 3.2 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.0 ft). Swell fading early Thurs (5/25) from 2.4 ft @ 11 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 290 degrees

  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 Monday (5/22) high pressure at 1026 mbs was ridging into British Columbia generating a weak pressure gradient and northwest winds at 20 kts over and just north of Cape Mendocino with light winds from just south of Pt Arena southward. More of the same on Tuesday but with high pressure starting to build in the Northern Gulf and north winds building late to 25 kts. Wednesday high pressure builds in the Northern Gulf of Alaska at 1038 mbs generating northwest winds at 25 kts with a core to 35 kts over Cape Mendocino producing north windswell but light winds south of Pt Arena. Thursday the high and associated gradient fade with north winds dropping from 30 kts over Cape Mendocino down to 25 kts late and a light flow from Pt Arena southward. And by Friday light winds from the northwest at 10 kts or less take over all of North and Central CA. Southern CA is to be protected with light winds through the entire period. More of the same on Saturday and Sunday (5/28) but with some indication of north winds to 15-20 kts for Pt Conception later in the day Sunday. Monday northwest winds build to 20 kts for all of North and Central CA.


South Pacific

On Monday AM (5/22) a split zonal flow was in effect with the northern branch tracking east on the 30N latitude line and the southern branch running east on the 62S latitude line. A portion of the northern branches energy was falling southeast into the southern branch over the Southeast Pacific. No troughs were present offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours a major ridge is to be building over the Southeast Pacific while a very weak trough tracks from under New Zealand to the Central Pacific through Thurs (5/25) but being fed only by 90 kts winds offering little in terms of support for gale development.
Beyond 72 hours a weak ridge is to build under New Zealand on Sat (5/27) with the trough moving east and fading over the Southeast Pacific. By Monday (5/29) the ridge is to push east some to 170W and build being fed by 120 kts winds but those winds are to start feeding east up into the trough in the east near 130W. Perhaps some support for gale development over the far Southeast Pacific.

Surface Analysis  
On Monday (5/22) tiny swell from a gale previous in the Southeast Pacific was hitting the US mainland but small and inconsistent (see Another Southeast Pacific Gale below). And swell was in the water generated by a marginally better gale that developed under New Zealand tracking northeast but has a long trip ahead before reaching land (see New Zealand Gale below).

A gale developed in the deep Southeast Pacific on Sat PM (5/20) with 45 kt northwest winds and 33 ft seas at 65S 147W targeting only Antarctica. That gale fell southeast Sun AM (5/21) with seas fading from 32 ft at 67S 135W then moved into Antarctica. No swell to result for our forecast area since all energy is to be pushing southeast.

Over the next 72 hours a gale is forecast developing in the Central South Pacific on Wed PM (5/24) with 40-45 kt southwest winds building and 28 ft seas at 54S 165Wn and a secondary fetch building south of there. On Thurs AM (5/25) the secondary fetch is to build in coverage with southwest winds 40 kts and seas from the original fetch at 30 ft at 52S 150W. In the evening the secondary fetch is to start fading from 35-40 kts over a broad area with 30 ft seas at 60S 154W aimed decently to the northeast. Fri AM (5/26) the fetch is to fade out and seas fading too. Possible small swell to result mainly for the US West Coast down into Central and South America. Something to monitor.


Another Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale started to develop in the deep Southeast Pacific on Fri PM (5/12) with 40 kt west winds over a broad area aimed east and seas building. On Sat AM (5/13) winds built to 45 kts from the south with seas building to 33 ft at 57S 130W. In the evening winds held at 45 kts but coming from the southwest aimed more at Chile with seas 32 ft at 63S 120W and 30 ft seas reaching north to 53S 119W and barely in the California swell window. By Sun AM (5/14) fetch was fading from 35 kts moving east and out of the CA swell window targeting only Chile with seas 29 ft 63W 114W. Possible small south angled swell for Southern CA.

Southern CA: Swell is to hold on Mon (5/22) at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (5/23) from 2 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction 185-195 degrees

North CA: Swell is to hold on Mon (5/22) at 2.1 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (5/23) from 1.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction 185-190 degrees


New Zealand Gale
Another gale developed Thurs AM (5/17) southwest of New Zealand with winds 40 kts from the south-southwest and seas building from 29 ft at 54S 157E. The gale built some in the evening with a broad fetch of 35 kt south winds with 45 kt embedded south winds taking shape south of New Zealand with seas 33 ft at 49S 165E almost impacting Southern New Zealand and shadowed by New Zealand not offering swell potential for Hawaii or California. By Friday AM (5/19) the gale eased east some with 45 kt secondary fetch generating south winds a bit southeast of New Zealand with 35 ft seas building at 56S 168E targeting New Zealand, Hawaii and California (200 degs HI, 214 degs NCal and unshadowed, 215 degs SCal and shadowed). The fetch lifted northeast in the evening fading from 35 kts with a modest sized area of 29-30 ft seas at 51S 174E (198 degs HI, 216 degs NCal and unshadowed, 217 degs SCal and partially shadowed). Fetch faded Sat AM (5/20) from 30-35 kts from the south with 27 ft seas fading at 46S 176E pushing north-northeast. This system dissipated thereafter. Possible swell to result for Tahiti, Hawaii and California.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Fri (5/26) building to 1.4 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5 ft). Swell building on Sat (5/27) to 2.4 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell fading on Sun (5/28) from 2.1 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell dissipating Mon (5/29) from 1.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 198-200 degrees

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (5/29) with swell 1.6 ft @ 17 secs early (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 218 degrees

NCal: Expect swell arrival on Mon (5/29) with swell 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs early (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 214 degrees

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 the North Pacific is to go to sleep.

South Pacific

No swell producing fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...


Inactive MJO Holds - SSTs Continue Cooling off Ecuador

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.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Sunday (5/21) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Anomalies were neutral everywhere but moderate easterly over the KWGA. La Nina appears to be gone in the atmosphere but the Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the KWGA.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies were past their peak over the core of the KWGA but still moderate in strength. The forecast suggests moderate east anomalies holding over the KWGA through 5/26, then building again with another peak 5/27 holding through the end of the run on 5/29. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the KWGA and solid and not moving.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/20 a neutral pattern was indicated with the Active/Wet Phase of the MJO over the Maritime Continent drifting east. The statistic model projects the Active Phase moving from the Maritime Continent into the West Pacific over the next 2 weeks. The dynamic model depicts the Active phase dissipating and the Inactive Phase redeveloping over the West Pacific 1 week out and holding near the dateline. These models are diametrically opposed.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/21) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was weak over the east Indian Ocean and is to move to the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out and modest in strength. The GEFS depicts the same thing. These models runs about a week ahead of what occurs down at the surface.
40 day Upper Level Model: (5/22) This model depicts a very weak and ill defined pattern in control. A very weak Inactive Phase is to track east from the dateline 6/1 into Central America through 7/1. A very weak Active pattern to follow in the West Pacific 6/26 tracking east through 7/1. In short, the MJO is to be very weak and almost indiscernible. This model runs about 2 weeks ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (5/22) This model depicts a very weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the Central KWGA with modest east anomalies in play in the KWGA. Beyond the Inactive Phase is to fade out on 6/5 but with east anomalies gone by 5/30 and neutral to weak west anomalies taking hold. The Active Phase of the MJO is to develop in the West Pacific 6/6 with weak west anomalies developing in the KWGA. The Active Phase is to move more strongly into the KWGA on 6/29 with building west anomalies, getting solid 7/13 and holding decently through 8/19 (the end of the run). This is likely overstated as the model has been teasing at west anomalies for months and yet they never develop. The low pass filter indicates La Nina is to hold on in the KWGA till 6/7 (previously 5/6-5/8). The model now hints at La Nina weakly redeveloping 7/17. Best guess is a very weak directionless pattern is to set up post La Nina and it will take 5 years or more for the Pacific to recharge from the 2014-16 El Nino.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/22) Actual temperatures remain stratified with warm water in the West Pacific at 29 degs C and 30 deg temps off the chart again. The 28 deg isotherm line continues steady at 147W. The 26 deg isotherm continued easing to the east reaching to the Galapagos with the 24 degs isotherm over a modest pool down 25 meters (75 meters at 140W) and holding. Warm anomalies at +3 degs are in the East Pacific and +1 degs anomalies are in the West Pacific down at 125m. A thin stream of 0 to +1 degs anomalies stretch from the west to the east. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/18 depicts that warm water is in the East Pac at +3.0 degs in a small pocket. And a warm pocket at +3 degs is at 180W and trying to move east with a steady stream lifting up to the East Pacific. A tiny cool pocket previously in the east is gone. Something that almost resembles a warm pattern taking shape. The concern is there is not much warm water in the far West Pacific to feed any sort of a progressive Kelvin Wave pattern. The GODAS image appears to be about 1 week behind the TAO data.
Sea Level Anomalies: (5/18) +5 cm anomalies are along the coast of Peru and Ecuador but small in coverage. In the west 0-5 cm anomalies are over the KWGA easing east to about 175W, but no further east. A tongue of warm water previously reaching to 120W has vanished. A neutral to weak warm trend was trying to develop.

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: (5/21) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate a generalized warm pattern is still present along the outer coasts of Northern Chile and Peru north to Ecuador then extending west over the Galapagos and out to sea out to 160W. But all the pockets of significant warming present 1 week ago are gone. Upwelling along the immediate coasts of Peru and North Chile continues to build slightly. Looking at the large picture, warming in the southern hemi that extends east thousands of miles off the coast of South America as far south as 20S or more has backed off over the entire area. It is not well defined. La Nina is gone and it looks like an El Nino like pattern that was returning but backing off compared to 2 weeks ago.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/21): A stronger cooling trend is developing along immediate Chile and Peru extending off Ecuador over the Galapagos out to 110W. This replaces a warming trend over the same area 1 week ago. A marked warming trend is present in the Northern Hemi from a point off North California pushing north of Hawaii and reaching west to the Philippines. Overall nothing remarkable is indicated.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/21) A solid warm regime holds from Chile north to Ecuador and west to 140W and less energetic out to the dateline. It looks like El Nino is trying to develop and making headway into the Nino3.4 region. Overall waters of all oceans of the planet are warmer than normal. Suspect climatology needs to be updated to reflect this new reality, or the recent Super El Nino has significantly redistributed heat across the oceans.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/22) Today's temps have taken a nose dive and holding at -0459, down from the peak of +3.0 degs on 3/18.  
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/20) temps were fading some, down to +0.198 degs.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/22) The forecast has temps steady at +0.5 degs today into July then falling to +0.4 in Aug holding to Oct, then falling to +0.1 degs in Jan 2018. This suggests a weakly cooler but still normal pattern developing for the Winter of 2017-2018. CFS data suggests a Modoki style warming pattern over the dateline this Fall and Winter. La Nina is over and a return to normal temps appears to have occurred in the ocean. There is no source for greater warming with the warm pool in the far West Pacific pretty weak. Much recharging and heat buildup is required for a real El Nino to develop. We're at least 5 years out from that.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-May Plume updated (5/19) depicts temps are warming and are now at +0.5 degs. A slow increase in temps is forecast thereafter to +0.7 degs in Aug and holding through Dec, then falling to 0.6 degs in Jan. This is +0.1 degs warmer than the April forecast and +0.7 degs warmer than the January forecast suggesting La Nina is over and a warmer regime is setting up. See chart here - link.  The NMME consensus depicts peak temp to +1.0 degs Nov through Jan.

Atmospheric Decoupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (5/22): The daily index was falling to 2.47. It has been positive for 10 days. The 30 day average was rising at -2.52. The 90 day average was rising at -1.85 or just south of neutral. This suggests a return to at least a neutral ENSO conditions has taken hold.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (5/20) Today's value was steady at -0.23 or basically normal. A peak low was reached on 11/2 at -1.94, the deepest of the past La Nina event. This measures atmospheric response, not oceanic.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues positive, though much weaker lately (as expected with La Nina setting in).
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.10, Feb = +0.03, March = +0.09, April=+0.52 . This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO. No consistently 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. 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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