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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Sunday, December 21, 2014 9:51 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
Swell Potential Rating = 3.0 - California & 4.0 - 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 12/22 thru Sun 12/28

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 Swell Pushing Towards Hawaii and California
Weaker Storm and Swell Pattern to Follow

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We want to take a minute to thank you for your use of Stormsurf over the past year and look forward to serving you in the year to come. Have a very merry and safe holiday. Well be updating the forecasts on an 'as-available' basis through Jan 5.

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 Sunday (12/21) in North and Central CA surf was surf was 10 ft on the faces and fogged in. There was a fair amount of northwest bump coming through even though winds nearshore were light. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 2-3 ft overhead on the sets and clean and lined up at top spots. In Southern California up north surf was waist to chest high and clean and lined up but pretty swamped early by tide. Down south waves were chest to head high and clean coming from the north but buried in tide. Hawaii's North Shore was getting residual Western Gulf swell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead at top spots and clean and fun, but not real powerful. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting waist high wind swell and clean with trades suppressed.  

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

Meteorological Overview
California was getting leftover swell from Saturdays mega swell coming out of the Western Gulf, with Hawaii poised for the next swell from a gale that tracked east from a point directly off Japan Wed-Fri (12/19) with up to 37 ft seas aimed east, but dissipating quickly after crossing the dateline early Sat (12/20) with seas fading from 30 ft. Things to really settle down after that with just a modest gale scheduled for the North Dateline region moving to the Northwestern Gulf Wed-Sat (12/27) producing pulses of 26-30 ft seas aimed mostly east. A dramatic downturn in storm and swell activity expected as the MJO turns Inactive.  

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

North Pacific

Jetstream - On Sunday (12/21) the jet was ridging some off Japan with winds pushing 190 kts then falling into a trough on the dateline with 140 kt winds feeding into it, then ridging again slightly north of Hawaii with winds to 160 kts and pushing into North Oregon. There was limited support for gale development in the trough. in general the jetstream was centered near the 40N latitude line. Over the next 72 hours the jetstream is to the trough is to build into Mon (12/22) moving to a point north of Hawaii with winds 180 kts feeding it offering good support for gale development, but the trough getting progressively pinched, finally pinching off completely Tuesday AM (12/23) with support for gale development from it fading out and the jet becoming very disorganized over the East Pacific by Wed (12/24). But winds to continue well organized at 160 kts pushing flat east off Japan. Beyond 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with a nice cohesive jet pushing off Japan at 190 kts by Fri (12/26) reaching over the dateline and falling south almost hitting Hawaii but .cgiitting there with some energy peeling north up into Alaska and the whole jet east of there disintegrating and offering no support for gale development over the East Pacific. More of the same forecast into Sun (12/28) with a consolidated jet in the west at 150 kts and .cgiitting north of Hawaii with no troughs of interest forecast, typical of the Inactive Phase of the MJO.

Surface Analysis  - On Sunday (12/21) swell from a gale that tracked east from Japan to the dateline was poised to hit Hawaii (see Japan Gale below). Over the next 72 hours a broad but fragmented gale is to start developing between the Kuril Islands and the North Dateline region with mult.cgie embedded small areas of fetch. The first is to be just south of the Aleutians on Tues AM (12/23) with 45 kts west winds and seas to 32 ft at 51N 177E at 18Z targeting mainly the US West Coast. Secondary 35 kts west winds to build over a broader area streaming east in the evening pushing near 40 kts Wed AM (12/24) with 26 ft seas building at 44N 168E. Winds holding into the evening with 30 ft seas up at 48N 168E. Perhaps a third little pulse of 45 kt west winds to develop Fri AM (12/26) over the northern dateline region again with 30 ft seas at 47N 180W. 45 kt west winds to hold into the evening with 32 ft seas at 49N 171W. The system to dissipate thereafter. Perhaps a long running pulse of small to modest size swell and inconsistent to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast.


Japan Gale
A broad but not well defined gale built over Japan on Wed AM (12/17) with 40-45 kt west winds trying to push off land in pockets and getting some traction on the oceans surface east of Japan. Seas on the increase. By the evening 40 kt west winds were off the coast of Japan getting more organized over a decent sized area aimed east with seas building from 35 ft at 36N 158E (301 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds continued Thurs AM (12/18) tracking east with seas 34 ft over a modest area at 36N 160E (302 degs HI, 296 degs NCal).  In the evening 40-45 kt west winds to continued.cgiodding east with 37 ft seas at 37N 168E (304 degs HI, 294 degs NCal, 298 degs SCal). 40 kt west winds continued pushing east but loosing some coverage on Fri AM (12/19) generating 36 ft seas at 37N 174E (309 degs HI, 290 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). Fetch held into the evening at 45 kts over a small area aimed east with a small area of 36 ft seas at 38N 178W (318 degs HI, 288 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). 30-35 kt west winds continued Sat AM (12/20) with seas fading from 29-30 ft at 37N 170W (328 degs HI, 283 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). 30-35 kt northwest winds continued Sat PM with seas 25 ft over a broad area in the Western Gulf at roughly 35-45N 170W aimed at Hawaii (322 degs), North CA (286 degs) and SCal (286+ degs). A quick fade to follow.

Possible decent west swell for Hawaii with less size and consistency for the US West Coast.  

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sun (12/21) with swell building to 9.5 ft @ 18 secs at 4 PM (18.0 ft Hawaiian) though that is likely a bit overstated. Swell holding decently overnight and still 9.4 ft @ 16 secs early (15 ft Hawaiian) Mon AM (12/22) and holding size through the day with period dropping towards 15 secs late. Residuals on Tues (12/23) fading from 7.8 ft @ 14 secs (11 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 301 degrees moving to 310 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival just before sunrise Tues (12/23) with period 20 secs and size on the increase. Swell peaking a few hours after sunset at 6.5 ft @ 17-18 secs (11 ft). Swell holding well into Wed AM (12/24) at 7 ft @ 16 secs (11 ft). Swell fading Thurs AM (12/25) 5.5 ft @ 14 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 287-292 degrees

South CA: Expect swell arrival near 1 PM Tues (12/23) with period 20 secs and size tiny but on the increase. Swell starting to peak near 1 AM Wed (12/24) and holding to sunrise at 2.9-3.4 ft @ 17-18 secs (5-6 ft at exposed breaks). Swell fading some through the day. Swell fading Thurs AM (12/25) from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 292-296 degrees


  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 Sunday (12/21) high pressure was lurking just offshore at 1032 mbs generating north winds at 20 kts near Point Conception but nearly calm up in San Francisco. On Monday the high is to slid north with north winds building over all of Central CA and 1/2 way up into North CA in the 15 kts range nearshore. By Tuesday the high is to weaken and starting pushing onshore over Oregon with perhaps a light offshore flow taking over for all of California. Wednesday that flow is to fall to near dead calm then turning brisk northeast for North CA and light north for Central CA.  A calm to light offshore flow is forecast from then on till at least Sun (12/28). With a .cgiit jetstream over the East Pacific, no immediate

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 a quiet pattern to follow.

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 (12/21) the daily SOI was dropping at -15.93. The 30 day average was dropping at -5.80 and the 90 day average was falling from -6.58. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weak 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, but loosing a little ground. Low pressure was building over Tahiti driving the SOI negative and is expected to deepen and continue in some form into Sat (12/27). This is good news. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.   

Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning to weak west anomalies over the dateline then starting to turn easterly south of Hawaii continuing into the Galapagos. A week from now (12/29) weak west anomalies are to holdover the Maritime Continent turning neutral over the dateline reaching to a point south of the Hawaiian Islands. Light east anomalies are to move from there into the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated neutral anomalies over the dateline to Hawaii region with light east anomalies between Hawaii and the Galapagos. This suggests the Inactive Phase is moving east and out of the picture with a weak Active pattern setting up in the west.   

See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .

The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/20 are in sync. They both suggest a weak Inactive MJO pattern was in.cgiay near the equatorial Pacific on the dateline. The Statistic model depicts this weak Inactive Phase fading and moving east over the next 15 days. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Inactive Phase strengthening slightly and not easing east as fast. Both depict the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and easing into the far West Pacific 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 12/20 depicts a weak Inactive Phase over the West Pacific tracking very slowly east and progressively fading over the East Pacific through 1/29. There no signs of a cohesive Active Phase. 

The good news is that what appeared to be resurgence of the MJO is now returning to a very weak pattern, suggesting that El Nino is now gaining traction again. Normally the MJO fades away during El Nino events. The fading of the MJO supports the El Nino hypothesis. 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 (12/18) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific (up some since early Sept) and getting somewhat warmer. A clear but weak El Nino signature is holding. Warm water has good traction and appears to be building some just west of the Galapagos while tracking west between 90W to 160W, likely the result of the eruption of the last of a pair of Kelvin Waves impacting the Galapagos region (as expected). TAO data suggests +0.5-1.0 deg C anomalies are present over a continuous area on the equator from the Galapagos to the far West Pacific with a pocket of 1.5 deg anomalies at 110W (new Kelvin Wave eruption area) with 1.0 deg anomalies starting to rebuild near 160E. Warm water is clearly present 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 12/21 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 +4 deg anomalies centered near 100W pushing east and reaching the Galapagos embedded in with a steady stream of +2.0 deg anomalies pushing east from 170W into the Galapagos. The +4º C anomalies are the second in a pair of recent Kelvin Waves in-flight. Satellite data from 12/14 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies in the Eastern equatorial Pacific indicative of a Kelvin Wave in flight pushing east. Other models collaborate the presumption that a Kelvin Wave is in flight. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (12/14) 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 95W and is the second strongest Kelvin Wave of this ENSO event. A bit of signal of the upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle was developing at 160W. But of some encouragement, 1+ deg anomalies are starting to develop between 130-140W, suggestive that perhaps another Kelvin wave might be in the early stages of development. Theoretically we should be at the peak of El Nino now (12/21) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected if this is to be a single year event. If it is a true multiyear Midoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe. Satellite imagery now depicts some warm water redeveloping in the far West Pacific (160E) at depth.      

When the 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 12/11 is mixed. The current is pushing moderately 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 north of New Guinea and again south of Hawaii. But on the equator a steady modest east to west flow was in control over the width of the Pacific. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest near 115W. East anomalies were on the equator, strongest at 170E. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern but generally supportive of warm water transport to the east.

Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 12/21 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are up to +1.0 deg C and are to fade some to between +0.5-0.6 through April 2015. But the interesting part remains that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in June 2015, pushing +2.0 degs C by late 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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