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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2016 2:30 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
1.8 - California & 2.8 - 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 12/12 thru Sun 12/18

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   

Storm Forming Over N. Dateline Region
Stronger Pattern to Follow

On Thursday, December 15, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 6.8 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 4.5 ft @ 11.7 secs from 30 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 1.7 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 0.7 ft @ 14.2 secs from 196 degrees. Wind northwest 4-6 kts. Water temperature 62.2 degs. At Ventura swell was 0.5 ft @ 15.4 secs from 244 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 0.7 ft @ 15.4 secs from 267 degrees. At Camp Pendleton swell was 0.5 ft @ 14.7 secs from 236 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma swell was 1.0 ft @ 15.8 secs from 260 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 10.5 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 8.5 ft @ 8.0 secs from 246 degrees. Wind south-southeast 25-29 kts at the buoy. Water temp 55.0 degs.

    46006, 46059, Hi-res Buoys

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 (12/15) in North and Central CA locally generated south windswell was producing waves in the chest to head high range on the sets at exposed breaks and blown to bits. Protected breaks were waist high. At Santa Cruz the same windswell was producing waves in the thigh high range and chopped. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. It was unrideable. Down in North Orange Co surf was also flat and clean. In San Diego surf was flat and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting limited northeast windswell with waves waist to chest high on the sets at top breaks and clean early. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell with waves 1-2 ft overhead and clean with light southwest winds.

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

Meteorological Overview
Small swell from a gale that pushed off the Southern Kurils on Sun-Tues (12/13) with 22-23 ft seas aimed east pushing to the dateline is to reach Hawaii later today. A storm was developing Wed-Thurs (12/15) with up to 46 ft seas projected on the Northern Dateline region aimed east. Small swell is possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast. Another gale is to develop in the extreme Northwest Gulf of Alaska Sat-Mon (12/19) producing up to 36 ft seas aimed east then fading some but tracking slowly east through the Northern Gulf Tues-Thurs (12/22) with 25-28 ft seas aimed east. The jetstream is forecast to pulse for about a week, then fade some as the Active Phase of the MJO tries to get footing in the West Pacific. This is a step in the right direction.

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

North Pacific

On Thursday AM (12/15) the jetstream was consolidated pushing east off Japan with winds 160 kts reaching almost to the dateline and forming a trough well off Kamchatka reaching almost to the north dateline region providing support for gale development. The jet .cgiit on the dateline with the northern branch tracking northeast into Alaska via the Bering Sea and the southern branch fell south over Hawaii, then tracked northeast pushing up into North California. A hole was was over most of the Gulf of Alaska. Only the trough over the Northwest Pacific was providing support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the North Dateline trough is to move east-northeast and into the Bering Sea on Fri (12/16) with support for gale development fading over exposed waters of the North Pacific. But wind energy is to build in the jet still tracking off Japan with winds to 190 kts on Sat (12/17) pushing over the dateline into Sunday and the .cgiit point disappearing and instead a broad trough is to be tracking over the Aleutian Islands with the east end of the now consolidated jet pushing into North Canada. Improved support for gale development possible. Beyond 72 hours a solid consolidate flow is to be tracking off Japan ridging gently east-northeast pushing into the Pacific Northwest on Tues (12/20) with wind energy starting to fade, and ay broad pocket of 130 kt winds over the dateline extending into the Central Gulf and bit more defined trough is to start forming in the Western Gulf. That trough is to move east and fade late Wed (12/21). By Thurs (12/22) a .cgiit in the jet is again projected developing over the dateline with a consolidated flow east of there at 180 kts falling southeast into Central CA generating a trough but so close to shore as to only be a weather producer.

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (12/15) a small swell was moving towards Hawaii from a gale that pushed off the Kuril Islands moving towards the dateline (see West Pacific Gale below). Also northeast windswell was in the water hitting the Islands. Also a solid storm was developing having previously moved off the Kurils tracking northeast (See Solid Kuril Storm below)

Over the next 72 hours another cutoff low was starting to form 400 nmiles north of Hawaii on Thurs AM (12/15) producing 30-35 kt north winds with seas building. In the evening fetch is to build to 45 kts over a tiny area still 40 nmiles north of the Islands aimed directly at them with seas building from 24 ft at 29N 162W (350 nmiles NNW of Kauai). Fetch to fade from 40 kts Fri AM (12/16) with seas 26 ft at 28N 161W. This system is to remain stationary fading slowly Fri PM with winds dropping from 30 kts and seas slowly fading from 22 ft at 26N 161W then gone 12 hours later. Large raw local north windswell possible for Maui and the Islands west of there.

Oahu: Expect windswell arrival on Fri afternoon (12/16) building to 10 ft @ 13-14 secs late (13 ft). Swell fading Sat (12/17) from 8.6 ft @ 12 secs (10 ft). Swell dissipating over night. Swell Direction: 345+ degrees


West Pacific Gale
A gale developed just off the Southern Kuril Islands on Saturday PM (12/10) with 40 kt northwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface there with seas building from 24 ft at 44N 153E. On Sun AM (12/11) 35-40 kt west winds continued making some slightly eastward progress with seas building in coverage at 25 ft at 44N 157E. In the evening fetch faded from 30-35 kts with seas 20 ft at 43N 160E aimed east well at Hawaii. On Mon AM (12/12) 30- 35 kt northwest winds redeveloped over a broader area with seas building to 23 ft back at 43N 158E. 30-35 kt northwest winds tracked east in the evening over a broad area with seas still 23 ft at 40N 167E targeting Hawaii well. Fetch was holding while lifting northeast at 30 kts Tues AM (12/13) with seas holding at 23 ft at 42N 175E targeting Hawaii well. Fetch is to lift north in the evening with the core of the gale in the Bering Sea and 35 kt northwest winds south of the Western Aleutians with seas fading from 22 ft over a broad area at 45N 175E. This fetch is to move fully into the Bering Sea after that. Small but long lasting swell possible for Hawaii.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (12/15) at sunset building to 2.1 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Fri (12/16) swell is to build through the day mixed with local north windswell to 10 @ 13-14 secs later (13.0 ft). Swell fading Sat (12/17) from 8.6 ft @ 12 secs (10.0 ft). Swell Direction: 320-325 degrees


Solid Kuril Storm
A small storm developed well off the Kurils on Wed PM (12/14) tracking northeast with winds 45 kt from the west and seas building to 27 ft at 42N 161E. On Thurs AM (12/15) winds built to 55 kt from the west but positioned just south of the Central Aleutians on the Dateline with 42 ft seas at 49N 170E targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest and the Central Aleutians. In the evening fetch is to be fading from 50 kts over a solid area south of the Aleutians from the west with seas fading from 46 ft at 51N 176E targeting mainly the Pacific Northwest. This system is to fade out on Fri AM (12/16) with winds dropping from 40 kts just south of the Aleutians and seas fading from 38 ft at 51N 178W. Limited sideband swell is possible for Hawaii with better energy tracking towards the Pacific Northwest.


  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 Thursday AM (12/15) a new low pressure system was developing while moving onshore focused on San Francisco with south winds 25 kts south of the low and northeast 25 kts north of there. Heavy rain from San Francisco northward and precip down to San Diego after nightfall. Snow starting for Tahoe at 8 PM (Mammoth at 1 PM) as temps fall below freezing building into the evening and heavy after midnight. 21 inches of accumulation for Kirkwood by Fri AM, 11 inches for Squaw and 46 inches for Mammoth. Friday (12/16) high pressure moves in with north winds 20 kts down into even Southern CA. Snow showers fading for the Sierras with maybe 1 inch more accumulation. North winds continue on Saturday (12/17) at 20 kts but Southern CA becoming protected. High pressure is to hold on Sunday and start ridging into Oregon with winds north-northeast 10-15 kts from North and Central CA fading to 10-15 kts on Monday then north at 10 kts Tuesday. A front is to push down the North Coast later Tues with rain there fading at the Golden Gate Wednesday AM (12/21). A dusting of snow for Tahoe early. High pressure and north winds build along the North and Central Coasts Wed AM at 20 kts. Winds light early Thurs (12/22) as another front queues up with rain down to Morro Bay late afternoon and light snow for the entire Sierra. North winds 20 kts pushing southward into the Central Coast late.


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell of interest was in the water and no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring.

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


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




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

North Pacific

North Pacific

Another gale is forecast developing Sat AM (12/17) on the dateline just south of the Aleutians with 55 kt northwest winds and seas on the increase. In the evening winds are to be fading from 55-60 kts from the west just south of the Central Aleutians with 46 ft seas at 51N 176W over a modest sized area. On Sun AM (12/18) fetch is to stall with 50 kt west winds just south of the Aleutians with seas fading from 45 ft at 51N 171W. In the evening fetch is to fade from 45 kts from the west in the same location with seas fading from 37 ft over a broad area at 52N 170W. On Mon AM (12/19) fetch is to hold at 45 kts from the west with seas fading from 36 ft at 51N 171W.

Another small system is to be right into the same area in the Western Gulf Mon PM (12/19) with 40 kt west winds over a moderate area with seas 29 ft at 51N 165W. On Tues AM (12/20) the gale is to be moving slowly east with 40 kt west winds positioned in the Northern Gulf with 30 ft seas at 52N 155W. More of the same is expected in the evening with 30 ft seas at 52N 154W. The gale is to fade Wed AM (12/21) with fetch fading from 25 kts and seas fading from 26 ft at 54N 150W. Something to monitor.

Another smaller system is to be behind it.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

More details to follow...

Active MJO Forecast

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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .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).

Overview: The 2014-2016 El Nino is gone. La Nina has developing but generally weak.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wednesday (12/14) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific but dead calm over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The KWGA is on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south. Anomalies were weak over the equatorial East Pacific but weak westerly over the KWGA. This is a good turn of events. Previously east anomalies were attributable to La Nina and are being modulated by the MJO.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Modest east anomalies were modeled over the dateline but weak west anomalies over the western KWGA. The forecast suggests west anomalies are to build at modest strength holding through 12/22. The first real easterly wind burst from this La Nina started on 9/23 and continued into 12/13, but might be coming to an end. Still, to be conservative we are thinking it will not end anytime soon but rather will just pulse, stronger at times, then weaker, attributable to La Nina, and modulated by the MJO.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 12/14 no MJO signal was present in the equatorial Pacific. The statistic model projects a weak Active Phase developing in the West Pacific 8 days out and slowly moving east 15 days out but still not reaching the dateline. The dynamic model depicts much the same outcome.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (12/15) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was weak and indiscernible and is to hold that way until 1 week from now, when it is to weakly appear in the West Pacific. GEFS model depicts the same thing.
40 day Upper Level Model: (12/15) This model depicts a modest Active Phase of the MJO moving into the West Pacific and it is to move east into Central America while weakening on 1/7. A stronger Inactive Phase is to develop behind that in the West Pacific on 12/30 tracking east to the East Pacific 1/24. This model runs about 2 weeks ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (12/15) This model depicts a weak Inactive MJO signal over the east KWGA/dateline with east anomalies there too. It is to fade on 12/29 with the Active Phase building in the West Pacific moving to the dateline through 1/22 with weak west anomalies in.cgiay. A weak Inactive Phase is to follow 1/23-2/20 with the Active Phase behind that. No solid east or west anomalies are forecast. Overall the MJO signal is projected to be very weak and this pattern is to hold as we move deeper into Winter. We suspect La Nina is having the effect of dampening the MJO, and producing weak east anomalies in the KWGA but not producing an outright bias towards the Inactive Phase of the MJO. Likewise the MJO is serving to dampen the effects of La Nina when in the Active Phase.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/15) Actual temperatures remain stratified with warm water in the West Pacific at 30+ degs C (reaching east to 165E) and the 28 deg isotherm line reaching to 176W and steep, suggesting a hard break between warm water in the west and cool water in the east at depth. This is expected with La Nina in.cgiay. Anomaly wise, warm anomalies at +1-2 degs rule from the West Pacific to 180W.  Neutral to weak negative anomalies are east of there to Ecuador at no more than -1.0 degs, with warmer anomalies building under it pushing up from 150 meters down. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/9 depicts this pocket of of cooler water -1-2 degs below normal in the East Pacific and getting weaker. La Nina is in control of the ocean at depth, but not strongly so and weakening and getting shallower.
Sea Level Anomalies: (12/9) Negative anomalies at -5.0 cm with a few small pockets to -10 cm rule the equatorial Pacific from Ecuador to the dateline and 5 degs north and south. This is an upgrade from months past where anomalies were up to -10 cm and suggest La Nina is loosing it's grip at depth.

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: (12/14) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate a very thin cool pool of water along the immediate coast of Peru but it is contained there migrating nowhere and if anything getting smaller. Warm water is developing solidly just off the coast there and reaching up into Ecuador and the Galapagos. A cool bubble previously between Costa Rica to the Galapagos is retreating fast with warmer pockets developing all through it and loosing identity. A thin cool stream was in.cgiay from the Galapagos out to 120W, much smaller in coverage than weeks past. A broader area of cool temperatures remains from 120W westward to 160W but appears to be fading. La Nina is loosing some control of surface waters of the Central Pacific and now also the East Pacific.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/13): A warming trend continues along Chile and Peru and is reaching up to Ecuador strongly and onward to Costa Rica. Warming holds out to 100W with no cool pockets remaining. West of there a neutral trend was exhibited with pockets of warming and cooling waters present but much weaker than in months past. The cool pattern in the Central Pacific is nowhere near as prominent as weeks and months previous and is weakening strongly in the East.  
Hi-res Overview:
(12/14) A La Nina cool pool is present over the equator from the Galapagos west to 170E and broadest south of Hawaii. La Nina is holding coverage in the west and loosing coverage in the east.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/15) Today's temps are steady at +0.470.  
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (12/15) temps were falling at -0.628 coming off a recent peak on 12/6. Temps are oscillating warm to cool and back in 2-3 week cycles within a range from -0.3 to -1.0 degs.


Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (12/15) This model suggests La Nina held from July thru Oct in the -0.55 deg range rising to -0.5 on Nov 1 and up to 0.25 degs on Dec 1. The forecast has temps rising some to -0.15 degs on Jan 1 into May, then slowly rising from there to neutral if not +0.1 degs in July, steady out till Sept. This indicates the peak of La Nina is over and a return to normal temps is expected in the summer.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Nov Plume depicts temps have reached their peak minimum at -0.6. A slow increase in temps is forecast thereafter to -0.4 in Jan 2017 and neutral in April, starting to turn weakly positive after that to +0.1 in June. This is consistent with last months forecast and barely in La Nina territory. See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Deco.cgiing (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (12/15): The daily index was falling some at -7.37 today. It was well negative for most of October, then turned weakly positive for most of Nov other than a deep negative dive near 11/17 before returning to neutral. The 30 day average was rising slightly at -0.44. This suggests the Inactive Phase of the MJO is in control now driving the SOI upwards. The 90 day average was falling at +0.89. La Nina is trying to hang on, but not strongly.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (12/15) Today's value was falling more at  -1.25. A peak low was reached on 11/2 at -1.94 the deepest it had been so far in this event suggesting La Nina was getting better established. But that is changing, with it moving generally upwards (a better direction) and suggesting La Nina is fading.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues positive, though much weaker lately (as expected with La Nina setting in).
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Oct) are: +0.79, +1.23, +1.55, +1.59, +1.42, +0.76, +0.12 then falling to -0.90, -1.09 and -0.88 in Oct. But in Nov, it was up to +0.53
The Washington EDU index (Jan-Oct) are: +1.53, +1.75, +2.40, +2.62, +2.35, +2.03, +1.25 +0.52, +0.45 and +0.56 in Oct. We're waiting for the Nov update.
The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been positive until Aug 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 suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). 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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