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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: November 20, 2012 8:33 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
Swell Potential Rating = 3.8 - California & 1.5 - 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 11/19 thru Sun 11/25
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   

New Gulf Swell Poised For California
Continued Surf Through Thanksgiving

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.

The next forecast update will be posted sometime over the long Thanksgiving weekend. We're taking a little break to enjoy ourselves and time with family and friends. We wish you all the very best and hope you also have a great and Happy Thanksgiving.

Current Conditions
On Tuesday
(11/20) North and Central CA had continuing Gulf swell with waves in the head high to 2 ft overhead range and a bit warbled but mostly offshore winds with light rain as the next front approaches. Down south in Santa Cruz waves were waist to maybe chest high and a warbled mess with light south winds and clouds. Southern California up north was thigh high and chopped with brisk northwest wind. Down south waves were knee high and weak and chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high or so and clean. The South Shore was effectively flat and clean. The East Shore was getting waist high east trade wind generated windswell and chopped. 

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

Meteorological Overview
Another pulse of gale winds developed in the Gulf of Alaska on Monday (11/19) producing 24 ft seas falling southeast and reaching near 26 ft Tuesday off Northern CA with swell targeting the US West Coast on a more westerly swell angle. Swell arrival mid-week on into the early Thanksgiving weekend. Sideband swell for Hawaii at best.  Another gale is forecast wrapping up in the extreme Northeastern Gulf on Thurs-Fri (11/23) hopefully providing more very north angled swell exclusively for the US West Coast late in the weekend. Perhaps another gale is to develop north of Hawaii mid-next week, though that is more of a guess than a real forecast.    


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

North Pacific

Jetstream - On Tuesday (11/20) a .cgiit jetstream flow continued in control with the .cgiit point near the dateline but rather ill defined.  The northern branch was ridging hard north tracking over the Western Aleutians going north of even the Bering Sea, then falling south over Alaska and down into the Gulf of Alaska with winds 140 kts there forming 
a trough off Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Support for gale development was occurring in that trough. The southern branch was very weak flowing flat east on the 28N latitude eventually pushing into Southern Baja. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast with the original Gulf trough pushing inland over Washington on Wednesday (11/21) and a new trough forming over the same area Thursday (11/22) with winds again to 130 kts aimed due east providing a short window support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours another steep trough is to dig out north of Hawaii reaching down to 30N on Sunday (11/18) with 110 kt winds feeding into it, then tilting southeast with 140 kt wind feeding it by Tuesday (11/27) providing another opportunity for gale development.  All weak, but at least it's consistent. 

Surface Analysis  -  On Tuesday (11/20) another Gulf Gale has developed pushing southeast through the Gulf of Alaska and producing fetch aimed at the US West Coast (see Gulf Gale below). Weak high pressure at 1020 mbs was pancaked from a point north of Hawaii ridging into Pt Conception. The front from the Gulf Gale was pushing into North CA. no other swell producing fetch was occurring. 

Over the next 72 hours another pulse of low pressure energy is to develop in the Southwestern Gulf of Alaska Wed (11/22) tracking fast to the east and developing into a gale off the coast of Oregon in the evening with 35 kt northwest winds in it's west quadrant aimed at California and 35-40 kt south winds in it's east quadrant aimed at Alaska.  seas 19 ft in both locations near 41N 150W (287 degs NCal). By Thursday AM (11/22) the gale is to be producing more 30-35 kt west winds in it's southerly quadrant aimed from North CA northward and 40+ kt south winds aimed at Canada and Alaska. 20-22 ft seas aimed east at 43N 142W (296 degs NCal) but mostly aimed northeast from Vancouver Island northward. Limited swell is expected to radiate south. In the evening 45-50 kt winds to be wrapping around the core of the storm in all quadrants with 26-30 ft seas in the Southwest quadrant at 50N 142W targeting perhaps Central CA (317 degs) northward. This system to be moving inland Friday AM (11/23). Limited potential for very north angeled swell for Central CA (arriving Sunday 11/25) with lesser period energy on Saturday (11/24) and most energy targeting Oregon and points northward. 


Also a small gale developed well off Japan Friday evening (11/16) producing 35 kt north winds west of the dateline aimed south at open ocean. No seas of interest yet. On Saturday AM (11/17) this gale was to basically get sheared by the larger high in front of it. Some 35 kt north winds are forecast from it into Saturday generating 22 ft seas near 32N 162E aimed south-southeast, somewhat at Hawaii.  Maybe some tiny 13 sec period swell to result starting Wed (11/21) with luck (see QuikCASTs for details).

Gulf Gale 
Another pulse of Gulf energy developed over the Eastern Aleutians falling southeast on Sunday evening (11/18). 35-40 kt north winds started to take root over the Aleutians with 30 kt fetch falling mid-way into the Gulf. The core of the gale was just off North Canada. By Monday AM (11/19) a solid fetch of 35-40 kt northwest winds were embedded in a flow of 30+ kt northwest winds extending from the Aleutians to the Oregon Coast. Fairly impressive in size. Seas building from 23 ft at 47N 154W. By evening the core of the fetch (30-35 kt northwest winds) was tracking southeast through the Gulf reaching to just off the North CA coast with 24 ft seas at 43N 150W (294 degs NCal).  Tuesday AM (11/20) 35-40 kt winds were fading in the Eastern Gulf with 26 ft seas at 43N 147W and 22 ft seas down to 40N 145W (285 degs NCal/295 SCal). This system to be fading into the evening with 24 ft seas at 40N 136W (285 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal) then fading out.  

Some degree of shorter period raw utility class swell is expected for the US West Coast focused best on California.  

Hawaii:  Sideband swell expected from a very north angle starting on Thurs (11/22) with swell peaking early at 3.6 ft @ 14 secs (5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 355+ degrees

North CA:  Expected the core of the swell to arrive near 7 PM Wednesday (11/21) peaking near 9 PM and holding into 3 AM Thursday with pure swell 8 ft @ 14 secs (11 ft). Lesser period energy to arrive earlier. Decent side holding through Thursday AM.  Swell Direction: 285-294 degrees   

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


No tropical systems of interest are occurring.   

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/20) a moderate south wind pattern was in control of  the Central Coast from Monterey Bay northward with light winds south of there and northwest winds at 10 kts over Southern CA. Stronger south winds to 20 kts were over Northern CA. Rain showers were occasionally moving over the San Francisco Bay Area but not reaching much south of there. By evening Tuesday a front and rain is to start pushing south reaching Morro Bay late Wednesday AM with clearing starting over North CA. 1-2 inches of snow into Wed AM for Tahoe. High pressure is to finally get a toe in the door later Wednesday afternoon with a calm wind pattern giving way to northerly winds and clearing skies. North winds building off Point Conception on Thursday to 20 kts and reaching up to Pt Reyes at 15 kts as high pressure gets more established then backing off with a light north winds pattern for the whole state Friday and Saturday.  Stronger high pressure and the standard pressure gradient building in on Sunday with north winds 25 kts over Cape Mendocino, but stating to fade Monday with an eddy flow for Central CA. Light winds on Tuesday as the next weather system builds in the Gulf off the CA coast. No precip forecast except for the most northerly reaches of the state late Saturday (11/24) and then fading fast.


South Pacific

Surface  -  No swell producing weather systems were occurring.  Over the next 72 hours no change 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 there's suggestions of some form of low pressure activity trying to develop in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Tues (11/27) with an ill defined fetch of 30-35 kts winds trying to take hold. Seas to 22 ft over a small area. This is very speculative though.  

Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet. 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. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).

As of Tuesday (11/20) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up at 15.39. The 30 day average was up to 5.65 with the 90 day average up at 3.81. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino and if anything more indicative of a weak La Nina.  

Current equatorial wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) turning to light east anomalies over the dateline before fading south of Hawaii then neutral from there into Central America. This is slightly indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO holding over the dateline, but equally suggestive of just a neutral pattern.  A week from now (11/28) no real change is forecast with perhaps a weak patch of west anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning to weak easterly anomalies on the dateline and then turning neutral on into South America.  This suggests no coherent MJO signal. This remains a disappointment as the Active Phase was to be moving into the area, and this could be a harbinger of what the Winter could turn into, especially considering the .cgiit jetstream flow over the North Pacific. In short, just a weak meandering weather pattern with no forceful direction on e way of the other.      

The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/19 have updated their initial synopsis yet again. They suggest a weak Active Phase in.cgiay over the West Pacific/Maritime Continent. The statistical model suggests this  modest version of the Active Phase holding if not building slightly a week out in the West Pacific (by 11/27) and holding there into 12/3 (2 weeks out). The dynamic model continues to be conservative suggesting a neutral pattern taking hold with no real change for the next 15 days. Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believed a return to a normal MJO cycle was occurred with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. But this latest collapse of  the MJO has us rethinking that position. Maybe El Nino is not completely gone? The interesting part of this equation is warm surface water is still present in the equatorial Pacific and if anything building every so slightly. But the .cgiit jetstream throws the El Nino supposition into question. A .cgiit jet suggests a very weak wind flow aloft. If any flavor of El Nino or an Active Phase was in.cgiay, the jet would not be .cgiit.  If anything, perhaps we're still in the netherlands between a weak El Nino in the ocean and a dissipating La Nina in the upper atmosphere. Until such time as some sort of Active Phase develops strong enough to reunite the .cgiit jetstream flow over the North Pacific, storm potential is to remain dampened. Unfortunately, no model is predicting such an outcome with any believability.  So we will likely remain in a weak but consistent gale pattern favoring the East Pacific. 

The more warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A weak Kelvin Wave propagated east erupting along the Central American coast late October but did little to r.cgienish the warm water pool only holding it at a steady state. That said, fragments of it are showing up in the Nino1+2 temp analysis, which is actually a bit better than hoped for, but just barely.  A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event in the West Pacific between Sept 2 and Oct 9. That Kelvin Wave has 2-3 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water and is located on the equator centered near 140W. It's actually racing east. It is expected to reach the Central America coast by December (if not sooner) and will possibly provide a little boost to water temps at that time.  At a minimum it should keep things in the normal range to slightly enhanced range.  

And what initially appeared to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggested a return to a neutral ENSO pattern. But that has collapsed (see above). That said, projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development but rather a return to a neutral state by November or almost a return to La Nina with -0.4 deg C water temps by late January into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013. But virtually all the other ENSO models predict a slow decline from El Nino threshold temps into Spring 2013, but never dipping into negative territory.  The CFSv2 model is a minority opinion, if not a complete outlier. This is a bit better than hoped for and still gives us a glimmer of hope for a normal Winter in terms of storm production. But looking at the atmosphere, there's no overt signs of anything remotely resembling El Nino, and if anything, with a .cgiit jetstream pattern developing in the North Pacific, it looks still like some vestiges of La Nina.  Regardless, the warm spurt in July 2012 was just a false start.     

It appears that neither El Nino or La Nina is imminent.  But we are in a far better.cgiace than the previous 2 years under the direct influence of La Nina. The exact outcome for this Winter is in doubt. A complete lack of  ENSO energy typically signals a lack of storm energy, and is perhaps a harbinger of the coming 5 months. But it's still a bit early to tell. The expectation is this winter will be followed by at least one year of slightly warmer temps (2013) ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2014 or 2015). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms). 

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the  El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12 


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

Details to follow...


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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Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.

Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's si.cgie and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet E.cgiorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way! .xml

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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table


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