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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: December 19, 2010 1:24 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 = 2.5 - California & 2.5 - 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 12/20 thru Sun 12/26
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   

Gulf Gale Pattern to Continue
Stronger Pulse Possible


New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead). Summer - 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: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft). Summer - 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. Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We wish to extend our warmest wishes to you and your families over this holiday season. It's been a good year here at Stormsurf with new content and new servers up and running, with more goodies in the making. We hope you all have a great holiday with lot's of food and fun. As usual, forecasts will be updated as time permits while we too enjoy a bit of a break. Thanks again for all your support and well return with regular forecasts updates in the new year.


On Sunday (12/19) North and Central California was getting Gulf windswell at maybe 1 ft overhead and trashed by southerly winds and rain. Southern California was getting no rideable surf up north with waves thigh high and blown out with westerly winds in effect. Down south exposed breaks were waist high and trashed by southerly winds. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more north windswell with waves head high to maybe 2 ft overhead and clean with offshore's in effect. Certainly better than anywhere on the mainland. The East Shore report was not available. The South Shore is not being monitored for the winter and presumed to be asleep with waves 2 ft or less. 

The forecast for North and Central CA is for windswell building to 10 ft (faces) on Monday (12/20) from the west then down to 8 ft on Tuesday. Wednesday mixed windswell of 5 ft is forecast mostly form the southwest pushing near 7.5 ft on Thursday and then down to 4.5 ft from the southwest on Friday.  Southern California is to see westerly windswell pushing 1 ft overhead on Monday fading from chest high early Tuesday.  Thigh high leftovers forecast Wednesday rebuilding to almost chest high Thursday fading from waist high Friday. The North Shore of Oahu is to see more north swell at up to 4 ft overhead on Monday and 3 ft over on Tuesday. Head high or so leftovers forecast on Wednesday then rebuilding to head high on Thursday fading from shoulder high Friday. The East Shore is to see waist waist high.cgius east windswell on Wednesday fading from thigh high on Thursday then dropping out. The South Shore is asleep for the winter.

Another gale built in the northern Gulf Wednesday (12/15) falling south-southeast Thurs-Sat (12/18) with seas in the 23 ft range targeting primarily Hawaii, then turned east Sat-Sun (12/19) generating 20 ft seas aimed at Central and North CA. Small swell started arriving on Saturday and is to build into Mon (12/20) but also trashed with rain and southwest winds expected. More spurious local gale activity is forecast off the California coast on Tuesday-Wednesday with seas in the 23 ft range, but all aimed well south of the state. A stronger gale remains forecast dropping out of the Northern Gulf on Wed/Thurs (12/23) with up to 28 ft seas aimed south-southeast mid-way between Hawaii and California. We're begriming to wonder if any swell from it will hit either Hawaii or California. Residual gale energy from it is to turn towards California on Sun (12/26) with more windswell to result. But weather is to remain an issue for California for the entire week into Christmas. Certainly no shortage of snow in the mountains though.


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

North Pacific

On Sunday (12/19) the jetstream continued with no change, pushing east off Japan then .cgiitting heavily mid-way to the dateline with the northern branch taking all the energy up north into the Bering Sea then turning hard south falling into the Eastern Gulf of Alaska and feeding a bit of a semi-permanent trough there, then turning east and tracking into Central and North CA. The southern branch fell south into a weak trough on the dateline, then ridged slightly and pushed east rejoining the northern branch off the Northern CA coast.  The trough in the Gulf was moderately supportive of gale development with winds in the 130 kt range mostly in the east pushing leg tracing into CA.  The little trough on the dateline was again supporting a weak low pressure cell at the oceans surface and pretty much locked in.cgiace there. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the trough in the East Pacific moving east even more to a point 400 nmiles off Central CA by late Tuesday (12/21) and then over the coast there 24 hours later. But the trough is to reform back in the Central Gulf by late Wednesday (12/22). Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with more energy tracking though the northern branch and eventually feeding into that trough in the Gulf of Alaska by Thurs-Fri (12/24) with winds reaching the 130 kt range Sat (12/25) with the trough tracking into Central CA again. A bit of a break is possible after that. This trough will likely support gale development with precipitation and winds pushing into the CA coast through Sunday (12/26) with some degree of raw swell underneath it all, but nothing more.   

At the surface on Sunday (12/19) high pressure at 1032 mbs remained locked just east of the dateline and south of the Aleutians ridging south to a point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii and blocking the normal eastward progression of low pressure systems pushing off Siberia. Continued low pressure was locked in over the extreme eastern Gulf of Alaska at 986 mbs producing a fetch of 30 kt northwest winds aimed at the Central CA coast (see Gulf Gale below). A weak cutoff low pressure system remained locked over the southern dateline area producing only east winds at 30 kts aimed at Japan. Over the next 72 hours residual energy from the Gulf Gale is to continue circulating off the Oregon coast producing varying degrees of 30 kt west to northwest fetch targeting California exclusively. 20 ft seas to continue off the coast through Wednesday (12/22), though some to be aimed even south of CA. The net result is to be more westerly windswell through mid-week with south wind and rain impacting the coast at the same time. A real mess.  

Gulf Gale
A broad but diffuse gale started developing in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Wed (12/15) with 30-35 kt northwest winds up at 50N 155W and holding in that general area through Thursday producing 20-22 ft seas generally at 47N 152W and still in that.cgiace Thursday night aimed well at Hawaii (360 degrees).  The gale started falling south on Friday AM (12/17) with more 30-35 kt fetch wrapping into it's southwest quadrant pushing 40 kt late generating 24 ft seas at 42N 152W Sat AM (12/18) aimed a bit east of Hawaii (015 degrees) and at bit south of Central CA (296 degrees).  Still decent north swell is to be pushing towards Hawaii with modest swell starting to take aim on  Central CA.

By Saturday (12/18) the fetch turned decidedly east with 30-35 kt northwest winds at 40N 148W with 22 ft seas at 40N 145W still pushing well south of the great circle paths to CA. By Saturday PM residual 30 kt west fetch was at 40N 140W with 20 ft seas at 38N 140W pushing towards Central CA (280 degrees) continuing into Sunday AM and nearly impacting the coast then into the evening. Limited raw 11-12 sec period windswell is possible for the Central CA coast by Monday AM (12/20) and north swell into Hawaii on Sun-Monday (12/20).   See QuikCASTs for details.


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


No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (12/19) another pulse of  rain and southerly winds was impacting the coast early focused on Central CA through effecting down into Southern CA with snow in the Central Sierra. This system has been a solid rain and snow producer so far, but not as much as the models had been hyping originally. Things to slow down a little with lighter rain and snow expected on Monday (12/20) still covering the entire state with south winds at the coast as the next pulse builds up offshore. Tuesday (12/21) another front is to move into the Central Coast late 20+ kt south winds in effect and with moderate precipitation pushing south reaching down to Southern CA into Wednesday and holding up north too. Maybe another foot os snow in the Central and Southern Sierras Tuesday through late Wed. A break is forecast on Thursday with light winds early, but building from the south over Central CA mid-day as the next weather systems builds in the Eastern Gulf. The front to push down Central CA on Fri-Sat with south winds in effect but precipitation not reaching the coast till Sat and snow in the Central Sierras later that evening then starting to clear out 24 hours later. South winds holding from Morrow Bay northward through Sunday (12/26).


South Pacific

At the oceans surface no swell producing fetch was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with no swell producing weather systems modeled. 


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 hrs another stronger gale is modeled developing in the Northern Gulf of Alaska starting Wed (12/22) with 40 kt northwest winds up at 52N 155W and falling southeast and moderating with a decent fetch of 35-40 kt north winds at 42N 150W late Thursday (12/23) resulting in 27 ft seas at 45N 155W Thursday AM (296 NCal, 005 Hawaii) and aimed midway between the two. In the evening the fetch is to track south to 42N 150W aimed due south with seas to 28 ft at 41N 148W and then holding there through Friday evening (seas 26 ft at 42N 144W). This suggests sideband north swell for Hawaii and CA if the models are right.  The system is to then fade with winds down to 30 kts and seas 20-22 ft pushing towards and into California on Sun (12/26). Suspect a big shutdown to follow.  


As of Sunday (12/19) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) continued well in positive territory. The daily SOI was up to 29.01. The 30 day average was up some to 20.55 with the 90 day average up slightly at 19.84.  Overall, averages remained high, though down slightly from the peak in mid-to-late October (90 day average near 22.0).   

Wind anomalies as of Saturday (12/18) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated  that easterly anomalies had dissipated and the Active Phase of the MJO was building over the West Pacific with westerly anomalies (Active Phase) pushing over the dateline and forecast to track east until 12/23 fully straddling it on then and slowly fading there through 12/28. We suspect the remnants of the Active Phase will push on east into Central America into maybe the second week in January. Since the Active Phase supports the development of low pressure in the Northern Pacific, if anything, this is the best shot for swell in Hawaii and the US West Coast through the Christmas-New Years Holidays. Then a week after the New Year (1/7) a weak version of the Inactive Phase is expected to return shutting down gale development potential into early February. Sometime soon after that north winds should start building along the US West Coast as Springtime high pressure builds in much stronger and earlier than usual.

Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (12/16) continues to indicate that cold waters (-2 C degs or cooler) had a grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond, but are not getting any colder and not expanding their coverage. And if anything, the areal coverage of the coldest waters was limited to the dateline region, with hints of warmer water building from Ecuador to a point south of Hawaii. it appears we might have already reached the peak of this La Nina event, but that remains far from certain.  The models suggest a second surge of this La Nina event is to develop and take hold by late Jan-early Feb, which will likely send water temps much colder.  Colder than normal waters covered the equator from Ecuador west to New Guinea with feed bands originating off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, only serving to reinforce what is already a solid La Nina pattern. These colder waters are a reflection of stronger than normal high pressure built in over both hemispheres causing upwelling in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America.  Looks like a classic La Nina setup.  Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was strong on the equator south of Hawaii and locked in position (sort of like a stationary cold Kelvin Wave). Previously this pocket down to 7 degs below normal in mid- Sept and 6 degrees below normal on 10/18. But it has warmed to 3 degs below normal on 12/9 and was starting to move east and not getting any colder as of 12/16.  This is most interesting and possibly suggests the peak of La Nina may have already been reached.   

Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. From a historical 'normal' perspective these easterly winds were fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. But this only occurred starting in late Sept, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11.  Looking at the Pacific equatorial current as of 12/5, it is now running slightly anomalously west to east, completely contrary to it's previous flow and a bit unusual for a La Nina year. It actually started this pattern in early November.  This likely e.cgiains the rise in negative subsurface temperatures under the equator.    

Of note; The Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it did not waiver until Oct 2010. But trades never wavering from the normal range.  This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self a.cgiifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).    If this is true, and if the current change on the equator as of November is real, then we should start seeing signs of a faltering La Nina, with the pocket of cold subsurface water under the equator being the first piece of that puzzle.  Something to monitor.   

regardless, for now a moderate.cgius strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) is in control and momentum from it is expected to hold well into 2011 (and likely to early 2012). In short, the next year and half is going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance.  That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.           

See more details in the   El Nino update.


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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Local Interest

Mavericks Surf Shop Grand OpeningSunday, December 19 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. rain or shine!  Check out the new home of Jeff Clark's Mavericks Surf Shop, now located at 25 Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor.  The shop features much of Clark's surfing memorabilia, classic boards and photos, as well as an entirely new line of Jeff Clark original Mavericks clothing, accessories and surfboards. The shop has been open in the new location since December 8, and the Grand Opening party is set for this coming Sunday, just in time for Christmas.  The party starts at 2 p.m., with live music, food and drinks. Jeff Clark and many Mavericks surfers will be there to meet the public. Local restaurants Ketch Joanne's and Princeton Seafood will serve up delicious food, while San Francisco Wine Trading Company is providing the beverages.  The shop will be open all weekend, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Stormsurf Maintenance Upgrades: Buoy 46059 and 46012 were r.cgiaced a month or so ago. Totally new buoys were installed. Here on Stormsurf we had to reset the algorithms used to calculate 'pure swell' for them. That was acco.cgiished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059

Also since we moved to the new weather model server last month we discovered that our Longrange Precipitation Models ceased to display frozen precipitation (as they once did). Some of our scripts did not get installed on the new server. That has been fixed (11/13) and now snow is again viewable worldwide. Here the new North America sa.cgie.

Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an acco.cgiished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here:

New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon):

New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker.  Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.   

Click here to learn more about Casa Noble Tequila! Casa Noble Tequila If you are looking for an exquisite experience in fine tequila tasting, one we highly recommend, try Case Noble. Consistently rated the best tequila when compared to any other. Available at BevMo (in California). Read more here:

New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.

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

Free Stormsurf Stickers - Get your free stickers! - More details Here

Read all the latest news and happenings on our News Page here

Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table


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