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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, December 15, 2018 3:35 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
5.1 - California & 4.2 - 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 12/17 thru Sun 12/23

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   

Large Swell #3 Pushing East
Storm #4 Developing Behind

On Saturday, December 15, 2018 :

  • Buoy 233 (Pearl Harbor Entrance)/Buoy 239 (Lanai): At Barbers Point seas were 3.6 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 12.7 secs from 315 degrees.
  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 6.4 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 4.0 ft @ 12.5 secs from 332 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.5 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 2.3 ft @ 13.5 secs from 246 degrees. Wind at the buoy was northwest at 10-12 kts. Water temperature 62.2 degs. At Ventura (Buoy 111) swell was 3.2 ft @ 15.6 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 2.3 ft @ 13.5 secs from 257 degrees. At Oceanside (045) swell was 1.6 ft @ 12.5 secs from 223 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma (191) swell was 3.4 ft @ 14.9 secs from 278 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 13.6 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 11.4 ft @ 13.6 secs from 300 degrees. Wind at the buoy (013) was southeast at 14-21 kts. Water temp 57.9 degs (042).

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

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
- Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.

Current Conditions
On Saturday (12/15) in North and Central CA swell from a series of gale previously in the Gulf was still hitting with 4-6 ft overhead and jumbled and slightly tattered by southeast winds though surface conditions were pretty clean. Protected breaks were head high to 1 ft overhead and clean with no wind but a bit closed out. At Santa Cruz surf was 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and clean and lined up but with some lump running through it. In Southern California/Ventura surf was the best it's been in a long time with waves chest to head high with some bigger peaks and clean and lined and well organized. In North Orange Co surf was chest to head high on the sets and clean but slow. South Orange Country's best breaks were waist high and clean. In North San Diego surf was waist high at beach breaks and up to head high to 1 ft overhead at reef breaks and clean but soft. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover sideband dateline swell with waves 1 ft overhead with light northeast winds adding some lump on otherwise glassy surface conditions. The South Shore was flat to thigh high and clean. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell at head high and chopped from moderate east-northeast trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Saturday (12/15) swell from a local gale off the coast of California Thurs-Fri (12/14) with seas to 25 ft was hitting North and Central CA producing raw swell. Also sideband swell was hitting Hawaii from a series of developing gales pushing over the dateline. Of far more interest is a strong storm that tracked west over the dateline Thurs (12/13) with up to 44 ft seas aimed east then into the Western Gulf on Fri (12/14) with up to 49 ft seas aimed east then is expected to track into the Central Gulf Sat (12/15) with seas 46 ft aimed east then fading in the Eastern Gulf on Sun (12/16) with seas dropping from 40 ft. Large raw swell is expected. And another strong storm is to develop on the dateline on Sun (12/16) with 47 ft seas tracking over the dateline then east into the Western Gulf on Mon (12/17) with seas fading from 48 ft then dissipating 1100 nmiles off North CA on Tues (12/18) with seas dropping from 37 ft. After that a fading and disorganized gale pattern is forecast offering no obvious swell production potential. A warm equatorial Pacific continues to feed the jetstream and the storm track.

See all the details below...


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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (12/15) the jet was consolidated with winds to 180 kts pushing off Japan tracking east and holding at that speed across the North Pacific running east on the 38N latitude line falling into a trough in the Central Gulf offering great support for gale if not storm development there. East of there the jet lifting gently northeast pushing into Oregon. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to push east and starting to pinch off impacting the US West Coast reaching south to San Francisco late Sun (12/16) into early Mon (12/17). Back to the west winds in the jet to be down to 160 kts still consolidated running from Japan the whole way into Oregon with a trough developing in the Western Gulf on Mon (12/17) getting a bit steeper Tuesday AM (12/18) offering good support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to push east but pinched on Wed (12/19) in the Central Gulf and dissipating 24 hours later. Back to the west the jet is to remain consolidated tracking east off Japan with winds 160-170 kts but slowly fading and down to 130 kts off Japan on Sat (12/22) with a building trough developing just west of the dateline then ridging just slightly east of there over the Gulf and pushing into Oregon and fully consolidated offering good support for gale development.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (12/15) swell from a gale that developed off California was hitting there (see Local CA Gale below). Of more interest was a strong storm that has pushed over the dateline and is tracking through the Gulf (see West Gulf Storm #3 below).

Over the next 72 hours another strong Storm #4 is to be building west of the dateline Sat AM (12/16) with 45-50 kt northwest winds over a small area and seas building from 28 ft at 40N 166E aimed east. In the evening the storm is to be approaching the dateline with 50-55 kt west winds and seas building from 40 ft at 42N 174E aimed east. On Sun AM (12/16) 50 kt west-northwest winds are forecast pushing east with 46 ft seas at 42.5N 178.5W aimed east. The storm is to track east in the evening and moderating with 45 kt west winds and seas 48 ft at 42.5N 170.5W aimed east. On Mon AM (12/17) the storm is to be down to gale status in the Western Gulf and fading with 40-45 kt west winds and seas fading from 45 ft at 41.5N 163W aimed east. In the evening the gale is to be fading with 40 kt west winds a bit off North CA and seas fading from 40 ft at 40N 155W aimed east. The gale is to fade out Tues AM (12/18) with 35 kts west winds off Oregon and seas fading from 36 ft at 42N 146W aimed east mainly from previous fetch. Another bout of larger swell is possible if all goes as forecast.


Local CA Gale
A local gale is forecast developing Thurs AM (12/13) 1200 nmiles west of San Francisco with 40-45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 25 ft at 37.5N 152W. In the evening the gael is to race northeast with northwest winds to be 35 kts off Cape Mendocino aimed southeast with seas building from 26 ft at 36N 140W aimed southeast. On Fri AM (12/14) the gale is to be lifting north fast off Washington with 45 kt north winds and 27 ft seas at 44N 132W aimed east (315 degrees SF). This system is to be inland in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 20 ft impacting Cape Mendocino and into San Francisco Sat AM (12/15). Something to monitor.

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat (12/15) mid-AM pushing 11.5 ft @ 13-14 seas (15.0 ft). Swell fading Sun AM (12/16) from 7.0 ft @ 13 secs (9.0 ft). Swell Direction: 300-315 degrees


West Gulf Storm #3
A storm was building just west of the dateline Thurs AM (12/13) producing 55 kt west winds positioned decently to the south and tracking east with seas building from 38 ft over a small area at 42N 165E aimed east. In the evening 55 kt west winds were pushing east on the dateline and seas building to 44 ft at 42.5N 177E aimed east. The storm tracked east fast and building in the Western Gulf on Fri AM (12/14) with 50 kt west winds in it's core embedded in a broad area of 45 kt west winds and seas 44 ft at 42N 172.5W aimed east. In the evening northwest winds rebuilt to 50-55 kts over a solid area in the Central Gulf with 49 ft seas at 42.5N 160.5W. The storm is to be pushing east Sat AM (12/15) and fading with 45-50 kt west winds and seas 46 ft at 44N 152W aimed east. In the evening winds are to be fading and lifting northeast at 45 kts still over a solid area with 43 ft seas at 44N 147W. The gale is to be fading Sun AM (12/16) in the Northern Gulf with winds dropping from 35-40 kts and seas fading from 38 ft at 45N 144W. Large long period raw swell is possible for the US West Coast with more managed sideband swell for the Islands. Something to monitor.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival Sun (12/16) before sunrise with period 20 secs and building 2 hours after sunrise to 10.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (18 ft) fading slightly later in the day as period hits 16 secs. Swell fading overnight and down Mon AM (12/17) at 6.9 ft @ 14 secs (9.5 ft). Swell fading through the day. dribbles Tues AM (12/18) 3.0 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 330 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival starting Sunday (12/15) at 7 PM with period 22 secs and size tiny but building steadily, and size getting solid as period hits 20 secs near 11 PM. Pure swell then 17.4 ft @ 19-20 secs (34 ft). Swell generally holding Mon AM (12/17) with swell 16.8 ft @ 18-19 secs all day (31 ft) and seas to 20 ft @ 18-19 secs. Swell fading some overnight and dropping Tues AM (12/18) from 10.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (15.5-17.0 ft). Swell fading Wed AM (12/19) from 9.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (13 ft). Swell Direction: 292-295 degrees

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon (12/17) near 7 AM with period 22 secs and size slowly building. Period hitting 20 secs at near noon and size building solidly pushing 7.7 ft @ 19 secs at sunset (14.5 ft). Swell peaking early evening and holding solid overnight. Swell dropping Tues AM (12/18) 7.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (12 ft). Residuals on Wed AM (12/19) from 5.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 299-302 degrees


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


Tropical Update
No tropical weather systems of interest are forecast.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (12/15) a massive storm was filling the Gulf of Alaska with a front poised just off the Cape Mendocino coast wit light winds modeled over Central CA but obviously from the south early and building. South winds are forecast at 25 kts for Cape Mendocino late afternoon and 15 kts for San Francisco down to Monterey Bay and south 10 kts to Pt Conception. Maybe light sprinkles over Southern CA. Sunday (12/16) the front is to be pushing south with south winds 25 kts for Cape Mendocino and 20-25 kts down to Monterey Bay late afternoon and stalling with south winds 15 kts to Morro Bay. Rain at sunrise for all of North CA and solid down to the Golden Gate pushing south to Big Sur at sunset and Pt Conception mid-evening. Light snow for North Lake Tahoe late evening. Monday (12/17) weak high pressure is to try and develop over San Francisco while another front builds off the coast with northwest winds 10 kts down to Monterey Bay and north winds 15 kts south to Pt Conception. South winds building 15-20 kts for Cape Mendocino. Rain fading for North and Central CA but lingering over Pt Conception all day. Modest snow fading by late morning for the Sierra. Tuesday (12/18) a front is to stall over the Oregon-CA border with weak high pressure locked over San Francisco with south winds for Cape Mendocino at 15 kts and calm south of there but north 15 kts for Pt Conception. Light rain for Cape Mendocino all day. Wednesday (12/19) high pressure is to hold off Monterey Bay with light north winds forecast at 10 kts for the entire coast early fading mid-day. Light rain for Cape Mendocino early. Thursday (12/20) a local low is to be pushing northeast off the North CA coast into the Pacific Northwest with high pressure is to hold locally off Central CA with light winds for all of North and Central CA and south winds 15 kts for Cape Mendocino. Rain for Cape Mendocino late evening. Fri (12/21) light north winds are forecast for the North and Central Coast at 10 kts pushing near 15 kts late. Light rain for Cape Mendocino fading early. Saturday (12/22) high pressure builds with north winds 15-20 kts for all of North and Central CA.

Total snow accumulation for for the week for North Lake Tahoe 11-12 inches and 2 inches for Mammoth. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is starting to take it's toll.


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell of interest was in the water.

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


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




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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a broad area of generic low pressure is to be developing between the Kuril Islands and the dateline on Wed (12/19) generating 30 kt west fetch and no particular seas of interest. That low is to push east moving into the Gulf of Alaska on Sat (12/22) with perhaps a gale developing out of it with 45 kt west winds and seas building to 37 ft over a small area at 48.5N 146W. Something to monitor.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.


MJO/ENSO Forecast


Atmosphere Continues ENSO Neutral - Sea Surface temp Rising Some

The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equator it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slackening if not an outright reversing trade winds while enhancing precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet, though most noticeable in the Pacific. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases in the Pacific help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. Wind anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) are key for understanding what Phase the MJO is in over the Pacific. The KWGA is located on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south (or on the equator from New Guinea east to the dateline). West wind anomalies in the KWGA suggest the Active Phase of the MJO in the Pacific, and east anomalies suggests the Inactive Phase. In turn the Active Phase strengthens and the Inactive Phase weakens the jetstream, which in turn enhances or dampens storm production respectively in the Pacific.The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).

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

Fall/Winter 2018 = 6.0 (California & Hawaii)
Rating based on a 1-10 scale: 1 being the lowest (small and infrequent surf conditions), 5 being normal/average, and 10 being extraordinary (frequent events of large, long period swells)

Rationale: Assuming the PDO has moved to the warm phase and that El Nino does not develop as strong as previously forecast, and assuming and an ocean-atmospheric coupling becomes weakly established in the January timeframe and ocean temperature anomalies in Nino3.4 build to the +0.6 deg range, there is good probability for slightly enhanced storm production in the North Pacific starting in the late Nov timeframe (specifically the Gulf of Alaska and Dateline regions) with slightly increased intensity in number of storm days and storm intensity, resulting in slightly increased odds for larger than normal swell, with increased duration and higher than normal period. This should be significantly better than the past 2 winter seasons.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of (12/14) 5 day average winds were strong from the east over the Eastern equatorial Pacific to the dateline, then fading and light to moderate west winds over the Central KWGA. Anomalies were neutral over the far East equatorial Pacific turning easterly near the dateline then weak to modest westerly in the core of the KWGA.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): On (12/15) weak east anomalies were in the far western KWGA with a small area of west anomalies in the mid-KWGA then building to strong east anomalies on the dateline. The forecast is for this situation to generally hold, with light to moderate west anomalies building in the western half of the KWGA and strong east anomalies on the dateline with the dividing line at 155E and holding steady through the end of the model run on 12/22. There's no obvious support for storm development with what appears to be an Inactive MJO setting up.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: (12/14) The Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the KWGA. The statistical model indicates the Inactive Phase is to ease east and over the dateline at day 5 and nearly out of the KWGA at day 10 with the Active Phase of the MJO moving in to the far West Pacific and becoming more entrenched at day 15 with the Inactive Phase gone at that time. The dynamic model indicates the same thing but with the Inactive Phase not moving quite as fast to the east and still partially lingering over the dateline at day 15 while the Active Phase slowly builds in the far West Pacific. The 2 models are generally in sync.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (12/15) The ECMF model depicts the Active Phase of the MJO was moderate over the East Indian Ocean. It is to track east steadily at moderate strength then stalling over the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out while fading some there. The GEFS model depicts the same thing. The 2 models are generally in sync.
40 day Upper Level Model: (12/15) This model depicts a modest Active Phase of the MJO over the dateline moving east and inland over Central America on 1/9. An Inactive signal is to set up over the far West Pacific 1/4 tracking east and is to move over the East Pacific and into Central America on 1/24. A very weak Active Phase of the MJO is to build in the West Pacific 1/19 tracking east and disintegrating with literally no MJO signal at the end of the model run on 1/24/19.
4 Week CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/11) This model depicts moderate to strong west anomalies were over the dateline and are forecast to fade some in the next few days, but basically holding at moderate strength from 12/13 to the end of the model run at 1/8.
3 Month CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/15) This model depicts weak west anomalies were over the core of the KWGA with east anomalies on the dateline. The Inactive Phase of the MJO was peaking in the KWGA and expected to fade some through 12/23 with east anomalies holding on the dateline till 12/20 then dissipating, with weak west anomalies holding in the western KWGA. After that a stronger Active MJO pattern is to develop 12/24 through 2/7 with west anomalies building in coverage filling the KWGA, but not to WWB status as previously forecast. A weak Inactive Phase to follow starting 2/2 through 2/25, followed by the Active Phase holding through the end of the model run on 3/14 but with west anomalies still in control. The low pass filter indicates a low pressure bias is fully in control of the KWGA centered on the dateline reaching east over California and forecast holding through the end of the model run. A third contour line is to fade from 12/17-1/24 then reappear thereafter. It appears from this model that El Nino is in control, but we know from other data this is not the case. The atmosphere and ocean are trying to become coupled towards El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, but there's no objective evidence of it occurring yet. If coupling has not happened yet (by Dec 15), it's doubtful there will be significant weather influence, even if it does develop during this winter cycle. And this model is not suggesting they will become coupled, with the MJO cycle active, and not muted as it would be during a strong El Nino. Still this pattern is to slowly become more favorable to support storm production in the Pacific regardless of whether El Nino develops, because the atmosphere is still turning from a La Nina pattern (that has been entrenched for the past 2 years) at a minimum towards a neutral one. Our assumption is a normal Winter pattern will result, or perhaps slightly enhanced, but nothing more.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/15) Today in the far West Pacific water temps are 30 degs and loosing some coverage (after previously reaching east to 175W on 12/11) reaching east today to 178W. The 28 deg isotherm line had retrograded west to 160W mid-Nov, then moved east and walled up and stable today at 156W. The 24 deg isotherm was 125 meters deep at 140W then getting shallower east of there but pushing into Ecuador 25 meters down. Anomaly wise, warm anomalies are filling the entire subsurface Pacific with temps rebuilding in the West Pacific at +4 degs at 160W (Possible Kelvin Wave #3). And temps are now stable at +3 degs east of there the whole way into Ecuador. It appears Kelvin Wave #2 is pushing into Ecuador and all but gone with new Kelvin Wave #3 west of the dateline. We were thinking the peak of the Kelvin Wave cycle for this supposed El Nino has already occurred associated with Kelvin Wave #2, but upwelling over Ecuador looks poised to continue nonstop for the next 4 months with the development and merging of Kelvin Wave #3 with Kelvin Wave #2. So there's great surface oceanic warming potential to feed jetstream core energy through the entirety of the 2018/2019 winter cycle. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/9 paints the same picture with the Kelvin Wave #2 in the East Pacific at +5 degs at 100W starting at 125W pushing into Ecuador and modest warming building at +3 degs under the dateline associated with Kelvin Wave #3. Kelvin Wave #2 was breaching the surface from 90W to 155W solidly with secondary warm anomalies west from there to 165E. The GODAS animation appears to be 1 week behind the TAO data but also is more detailed and accurately modeled.
Sea Level Anomalies: (12/9) Positive anomalies were solid from the interior Maritime Continent tracking east at 0 to +5 cms, then continuing east over the equator north of New Guinea at +5 cms extending steady into Ecuador.

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 temps were warm in a Kelvin Wave pattern straddling 5 degrees north and south of the equator from Ecuador west to the dateline, with a slightly warm imbedded pocket on the dateline and another building from Ecuador to 110W. Otherwise just generic steady warming was indicated. There is a stream of moderate warming along the immediate coasts of Chile and Peru and Ecuador and building in coverage. And the warming also extended north to Central America and Mexico and generally looked to be building in coverage. It's not a strong trend towards El Nino, but appears to be trending in that direction. But a pocket of cool waters was solid and steady elongated east to west off Peru to 130W. Overall the pattern looks weakly like El Nino, but also like lingering La Nina (given the cool pockets off Peru). In all this developing El Nino is weakly in control but still a bit fragile in the East Equatorial Pacific, but more stable than weeks past.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/14): A previous modest stream of cooling waters was fading quickly on the equator from the Galapagos to 140W. A broad area of warming was fading along the coast of Chile and Peru extending well out to sea, presumably due to fading trades there, not related to Kevin Wave impaction in Ecuador. Overall a steady pattern is indicated.
Hi-res Overview: (12/14) Weak warm water was along the immediate coast of Chile and Peru. Otherwise moderate warm water was on the equator from Ecuador over the Galapagos building out to the dateline. We have turned the corner from a cool regime a year ago to a warm regime now. And one could kinda think we are moving towards a El Nino pattern just looking at the surface temps. But that would be a false conclusion because the warm signal on the surface should be much stronger at this time of the year if El Nino were truly developing. We are in an ENSO neutral pattern biased warm and likely only going to move to a minimal warm regime, likely not reaching full El Nino status this winter.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/15) Today's temps were rising to +1.213 after falling to +0.212 on 12/3, after they built to +1.534 on 11/27. That peak on 11/27 was the all time high for this event in this region. A warming trend is steadily building.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps:
(12/15) Today temps were stabilizing at +0.461 after having previously risen to +1.050 degs on 12/6 and previously in the +0.5-+0.6 range since 11/12. The all time high for this event was +1.45 on 11/5, beating the previous peak temps of +0.795 on 10/9, and +0.649 on 9/27, and that beating the previous peak at +0.490 on 7/2. Overall temps are noodling around at +0.5 to +0.9 degs above normal adding suggesting some sort of minimally weak El Nino is trying to develop, but nothing serious.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (12/15) The model indicates temps were at +0.9 degs in late-Nov (which wasn't even close to reality - they were actually about +0.5) then forecast rising some to +1.0 on Jan 1 building to +1.4 by Feb 1 holding to early April 2019, falling to +1.00 degs into July 2019 and steady from there into Aug. If one is to believe the model then one would assume that El Nino is to build in the Winter of 18/19. But given all the data we've seen, we believe odds of weak El Nino are more likely. Most models are suggesting a turn to weak El Nino conditions by late Fall. It's not certain we're there yet.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Nov Plume depicts temps are to slowly rise from here, to +1.00 degs in November and +1.0-+1.1 degs through Feb 2019, then slowly fading to 0.71 in July. See chart here - link. There's a 90% chance of a weak El Nino developing through January.

Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) (negative is good, positive bad) (12/15): The daily index was rising to +16.29. The 30 day average was rising at +4.29 suggesting a neutral MJO. The 90 day average was rising some at 0.82, rising the past 3 weeks and no longer negative and the highest its been in months. The 90 degree average turned negative for the first time in a year on 6/30 suggesting a neutral ENSO pattern was building in the atmosphere. Unfortunately we have made no progress from there towards a negative El Nino pattern and if anything, have moved back to a positive regime.
ESPI Index (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive and/or rising is good, negative and/or falling is bad): (12/15) The index has risen slightly from at +0.03 on 12/3 to +0.28 today, just barely positive and not as strong as it should be if El Nino were developing. Typically El Nino peaks in late December. If that is the case in this years event, then there's no way we're going to move into a legit El Nino this winter. It was down to -0.22 the week of 10/22, after having risen to +0.39 on 10/10, the highest so far this event. This suggests that precip and evaporation are normal, and not above normal as one would expect if El Nino were in play. We are in an ENSO neutral pattern. The reading from 8/14 (+0.11) was the first time it's turned positive in a year.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO is weakly positive, even though La Nina is in play.
Per NOAAs index recent values: June 2017 +0.21, July -0.50, Aug -0.62, Sept -0.25, Oct -0.61, Nov -0.45, Dec -0.13, Jan 2018 +0.29, Feb -0.19, Mar -0.61, April -0.89, May -0.69, June -0.85, July -0.09, Aug -0.42, Sept -0.42. This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO, even with La Nina, because the warm PDO appears to be dampening the effects of La Nina. No consistently solid negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington/JISAO index (Jan-Dec): June 2017 +0.79, July +0.10, Aug +0.09, Sept +0.32, Oct +0.05, Nov +0.15, Dec +0.50, Jan +0.70. Feb +0.37, Mar -0.05, April +0.11, May +0.11, June -0.04, July +0.11, Aug +0.18, Sept +0.09. No real 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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