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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, November 29, 2014 11:48 AM
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 = 1.0 - California & 3.5 - 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 12/1 thru Sun 12/7

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   

Japan/Dateline Gale Swell for Hawaii
Only Weather for CA - Jetstream to Finally Wake Up 6 Days Out

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.


Current Conditions
On Saturday (11/29) in North and Central CA surf was head high with bigger sets and a little warbled from south wind lump intermixed. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high and reasonably clean but with intermixed warble and soft. In Southern California up north surf was waist to chest high and clean and lined up and looking fun. Down south waves were head high and more powerful and lined up but with some warbled a lump intermixed. Hawaii's North Shore was getting generic northerly swell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and gray with rain and sideshore trades. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at head high and chopped.  

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

Meteorological Overview
A broad gale approached the dateline Fri (11/28) with 33 ft seas targeting Hawaii, then faded while lifting northeast Sat (11/29) with seas dropping from 30 ft. A pulse of modest swell is expected for Hawaii. Also a small fetch is to develop off Central CA on Sun-Mon (12/1) producing 26 ft seas targeting mainly Hawaii (from the northeast) moving inland Wed (12/3) producing mainly weather for CA. No other swell producing weather systems are forecast though an improving upper level flow is forecast longerterm.

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

North Pacific

Jetstream - On Sat (12/29) the jet was a fragmented mess pushing east off Japan and also east off Northern Kurils with all of it ridging north with most energy tracking through the Bering Sea then consolidating in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with winds 110 kts and falling southeast forming a trough well off Central CA. Limited support for gale development possible in this trough. The remaining energy pushed east into Central CA with limited energy .cgiitting off pushing inland just south of Baja. Over the next 72 hours winds in the trough off California to peak at 130 kts Sat PM (11/29) then the trough is to get progressively more pinched and eventually getting cut off from the main flow (weak and unorganized as it may be) Monday evening (12/1). Decreasing support for gale development is expected. A confused flow is forecast over the rest of the Pacific with winds weak. But a pocket of 160 kts winds are to start building over Japan. Beyond 72 hours the wind pocket over Japan is to start pushing east with winds still 160 kts reaching almost to the dateline and forming a weak trough there by late Thurs (12/4). To the east the jet is to start becoming more consolidated too but weak. By Sat (12/60 winds to build to 190 kts over the dateline falling into the aforementioned trough now repositioned north of Hawaii offering good support for gale development. A steep ridge is to build between Hawaii and CA with a backdoor trough over Central and South CA. It looks like an improving pattern is to be setting up over the Pacific.

Surface Analysis  - On Saturday (11/29) mixed swell from previous fetch was fading in Hawaii and California and not worthy of note. Also a gale was tracking over the dateline having previously formed off Japan and was fading while lifting northeast (see Japan Gale below). Over the next 72 hours a new semi cutoff gale is to form between Hawaii and California on Sun AM (11/30) with 35 kt west winds in it;s north quadrant targeting primarily Hawaii. Seas building from 18 ft. Northeast winds to build in the evening in coverage and strength to near 40 kts with 24 ft seas over a tiny area at 36N 143W targeting Hawaii down the 47 degree path. fetch fading from 35 kt Mon AM (12/1) and moving more to the gales west quadrant aimed south with 22 ft seas at 35N 141W (45 degs HI) and 1199 nmiles out. Small northeast swell possible for Hawaii.


Japan Gale
On Fri AM (11/28) a new gale developed mid-way between Japan and the dateline generating 45-50 kt north winds and 34 ft seas at 35N 162E targeting only the Marshall Islands. Fetch held in the evening with 45 kt north winds and 35 ft seas at 35N 167E again targeting the Marshall Islands, but also making some headway towards Hawaii (299 degs). Winds were fading from 45 kts over a small area Sat AM (11/29) while the gale lifted northeast with 31 ft seas at 34N 172E (305 degs HI). Solid 35-40 kt northwest winds to hold in the evening with seas 28 ft at 37N 177E (310 degs HI). Sun AM (11/30) the gale is to be lifting northeast fast with fetch fading from 40 kts and seas 25 ft at 37N 180W (315 degs HI). Residual 40 kt northwest winds to be just south of the Central Aleutians Sunday PM with 26 ft seas at 45N 177W (331 degs HI). Residual 35 kt west fetch is expected Monday targeting the US West Coast only with 24-26 ft seas at 49N 168W (304 degs NCal).

A decent pulse of swell is in the water targeting the Islands.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Monday afternoon (12/1) pushing 5.1 ft @ 17 secs late (8.5 ft). Swell to peak Tues AM (1/2) at 6 ft @ 15-16 secs (9 ft) holding through the day. Residual energy on Wed (12/3) at 4.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft). 298 degs moving to 310 degrees


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

Tropical Update
No tropical storms of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (11/29) low pressure was developing off the Central CA coast driving alight southerly flow into Central and South CA. Light rain was occurring from North and Central CA down to Monterey Bay. 4 inches of snow was on the ground in Tahoe at 6,900 ft with a dusting at 6,400 ft and more higher. 8-12 inches of accumulation is forecast through 4 AM Sunday. The low is to be building to gale force Sunday well west of California with south winds perhaps 20 kt from Pt Conception northward and also getting traction into Southern CA in the 5-10 kt range. Continued light rain from Pt Conception northward all day with even sprinkles for Southern CA late. Light snow for Tahoe with totals now up to 12-18 inches. The next wave from the gale is to start developing just off the coast on Monday with south winds 15 kts early from Pt Conception northward building some through the day. No precipitation forecast. A light southeasterly flow is forecast for South CA. South winds to build to 20 kts for the entire state Tuesday as the leading edge of the core of the low moves onshore. Heavy rain for the entire coast is forecast. Snow developing late to Tahoe. The low to fade off Cape Mendocino on Wed (12/3) with south winds fading from 15 kts early. Snow early fading late for Tahoe down in to the Southern Sierra.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  - 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 the models hint at very short lived 20 ft seas pushing over the dateline on Thurs PM (12/4) holding into Friday aimed mainly east at the US West Coast but in closer proximity to Hawaii. Maybe 13 sec period background swell to result for the Islands.

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).

(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Saturday (11/29) the daily SOI was down at -17.37. The 30 day average was falling at -7.24 and the 90 day average was falling at -7.56. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weakening Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20. A weak trough was southwest of Tahiti and expected to hold in slowly weakening proportions for the next week. 30 and 90 day averages expected to fall some then.cgiateau. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.   

Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Central Maritime Continent turning to modest easterly anomalies over the dateline. Neutral anomalies extended from a point south of Hawaii to the Galapagos. A week from now (12/7) strong west anomalies are forecast over the Central Maritime Continent with moderate east anomalies over the dateline with neutral anomalies east of there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated neutral anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific. The first easterly wind event of the year appears to be fading (duration 11/18-11/28).     

Looking at the trend over the past year there has not been a extended period of enhanced trades, other than the one occurring now. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies (suppressed trades) which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25-7/6, then again 7/11-7/20, building into a WWB and holding through 8/10. Light westerly anomalies developed again 8/20-8/22, 8/29-9/2, 9/10-9/17, and stronger 9/20-10/8 (a WWB) west of the dateline with another 10/12-10/31 (WWB) on the dateline. More weak west anomalies occurred 11/11-14. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. A modest Kelvin Wave is impacting the Galapagos (11/3-11/22) associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August. And another Kelvin Wave is in flight under the 160W region being fed by westerly anomalies in late October there. We're in great shape for the 2014 year into early 2015. The question now becomes what, if any, effect the easterly wind event that ran 11/18-11/28 will have.  

See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .

The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/28 are in sync. They both suggest a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading between the dateline and a point south of Hawaii with the Active phase of over NJO in the East indian Ocean pushing east. The Statistic model depicts the Inactive Phase pushing east and fading to nothing over the next 15 days with a solid version of the Active Phase pushing into the West Pacific 6 days out. The Dynamic model has the Inactive Phase gone 6 days with the Active Phase pushing east and into the West Pacific but fading quicker. The ultra long range upper level model run on 11/29 depicts a strong Active Phase over the West Pacific tracking east and fading through 12/24. A modest Inactive Phase to follow 12/19-1/8 with another Active Phase behind that.

The troubling development is that an the Inactive Phase is present at all. This means the MJO is returning, which in turns suggests El Nino might be giving up some ground.  Normally the MJO fades away during El Nino events. Previous experience this year suggests this model overhypes any projected Inactive Phases. The models are calibrated assuming a neutral global weather pattern, and typically either overcall weather events during La Nina and undercall then during El Nino in the Pacific Basin. This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some gentle guiding impact on the atmosphere above. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.    

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.  As of the most recent low res imagery (11/24) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific (up some since early Sept) and still building. A clear but weak El Nino signature is holding. Warm water (not just pockets) has gotten good traction while tracking east between 90W to 160W, likely the result of the first of a pair of Kelvin Waves impacting the Galapagos region (as expected). This weak El Nino signature has stabilized but is not getting any stronger, TAO data suggests +1.0 deg C anomalies are present over a continuous area on the equator from the Galapagos to the far West Pacific. One +1.5º C anomaly pocket is at 160W. Warm water is clearly building on the surface in the NINO 3.4 region based on TAO and hi res imagery. 

Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California. Warm water remains entrenched along the California coast suggesting the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weaker relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is also starting to build in warmth with only on small cool pocket well off Chile, not reaching even north to 10S and in decline. A warm regime has the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin.

Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue solidly warm.  As of 11/28 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with a broad embedded pocket of +3 deg anomalies centered near 125W pushing east embedded in with a steady stream of +2.0 deg anomalies pushing east from the dateline into the Galapagos. The +3º C anomalies are the second in a pair of recent Kelvin Waves in-flight. Satellite data from 11/24 depicts a broad area of 0-5 cm anomalies are covering the entire equatorial Pacific from New Guinea to the Galapagos, with +5 cm anomalies south of Hawaii to 2/3rds of the way to the Galapagos indicative of a Kelvin Wave in flight pushing east. But the while area is showing signs of weakness. Other models collaborate the presumption that a Kelvin Wave is in flight. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (11/24) indicates the second of a pair of recent modest Kelvin Waves started building back at 145E-160W in Sept and is now pushing east reaching to 100W and is the second strongest Kelvin Wave of this ENSO event.  

When this second Kelvin Wave arrives in the east (about Dec 30) we will be set for the winter. Of course what is good enough to feed storm develop and what constitutes an official El Nino are two different things.  We are focused on the former. The quandary now is whether this will be a one year event, or something longer.    

Pacific Counter Current data as of 11/16 remains improved. The current is pushing moderately strong west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. It is strongest from New Guinea to 120W 's moving into the moderate to strong category over the entire area from the West Pacific to a point southeast of Hawaii. There were two pockets of easterly anomalies, both on the equator at 170E and 80W-120W. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest near 110-130W. This data suggests a improved picture is continuing to evolve and supportive of warm water transport to the east.

Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 11/29 for the Nino 3.4 region are holding in an upgraded position. It suggests water temps are up to +1.0 deg C and are to fade some to between +0.8-0.9 through April 2015. But the real interesting part is that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in May 2015, pushing +1.9-2.0 degs C by early August 2015.

This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event, and not a weak one either. See the chart based version here - link.  A consensus of other models are not as optimistic.

Analysis: A downwelling Kelvin Wave was generated and pushed east starting in Aug 2013, followed by a stronger one in Oct-Nov, and a massive one in Jan-April 2014. A weaker one followed in July with yet a modestly stronger one building under the dateline in October. The only interruptions have been attributable to the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Water temps in the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle have held remarkably consistent from May 2014 onward, even during upwelling phases. Continued suppressed trades with embedded weak westerly anomalies have held in the West Pacific all year so far producing the aforementioned Kelvin Wave with +3 degs C in flight now. There has been no signs of easterly anomalies or a shut down of the Kelvin Wave pipe for better than a year now. This is a huge step forward. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here

At this point a teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay.  Evidence includes a total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system this summer, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of mult.cgie tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline.  And the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific is most telling. And then the near record pulse of tropical activity off Mexico (8/18-9/20) resulting in Lowell, Super Hurricane Marie, followed by Odile and Polo (though these last 2 produced no swell) and finally Rachel. And then even a few inches of snow in the Sierra on Sept 27 and again on Oct 15 and 6 inches on Oct 31. The last time any of this happened was during the '97 and '83 El Ninos. And mult.cgie recurving tropical systems pushed off Japan reaching the Gulf of Alaska in October (Fengshen and Vongfong). And then one more recurving tropical system in November (Super Typhoon Nuri). And even the Pacific Counter Current is now falling in line. 

About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved from our perspective. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. We have passed that threshold. As of 9/2, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in.cgiace were gone. 

Note that what we consider 'teleconnected' and what NOAA considers threshold El Nino conditions are two different things and serve different purposes. We are focused on monitoring weather events that contribute to the production of open ocean storms (and therefore swells) mainly in the Pacific Basin that may or may not have the same impacts as a full blown El Nino. So our criteria is certainly less than the threshold of NOAAs. That said, considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, and the Kelvin Wave that preceded it, it seem hard to believe that at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had been developing since perhaps as early and Aug of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). We will continue monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which has already been productive) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which was nonexistent) are key. But at this time odds continue stacking up in favor that a global teleconnection is now established. If that's true, the focus then becomes estimating how deep the ENSO cycle will become, or whether it will stay shallow but transition into a multi-year event. At this time we're predisposed to the multiyear, Midoki scenario. And that is actually the better of all options.    

Officially we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. But given all current signs, from a winter storm and swell production perspective, atmospheric transition is well underway and we are in a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. 

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the  El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13 


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest 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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