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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, December 22, 2020 3:01 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
3.5 - California & 3.8 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' 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 12/21 thru Sun 12/27

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   

Dateline Swell Pushing East
Local Storm Pattern For CA - Broad Dateline Gale Beyond

On Tuesday, December 22, 2020 :

  • Buoy 233 (Pearl Harbor Entrance)/Buoy 239 (Lanai): Seas were 3.7 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 2.6 ft @ 13.3 secs from 218 degrees.
  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 4.1 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 2.7 ft @ 12.6 secs from 308 degrees. Water temp 79.5 degs.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.4 ft @ 15.9 secs with swell 1.1 ft @ 13.8 secs from 239 degrees. Wind at the buoy was east-southeast at 8-10 kts. Water temperature 59.2 degs. At Harvest Buoy (071) primary swell was 3.3 ft @ 12.9 secs from 302 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 1.0 ft @ 14.4 secs from 255 degrees. At Oceanside (045) swell was 0.8 ft @ 12.7 secs from 258 degrees. Southward at Point Loma (191) swell was 0.9 ft @ 17.0 secs from 255 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 10.2 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 4.9 ft @ 11.8 ft from 300 degrees. Wind at the buoy (012) was northwest at 16-18 kts. Water temp 50.9 degs (013), 52.5 degs (SF Bar) and 52.7 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 Tuesday (12/22) in North and Central CA waves were chest to shoulder high and clean with light winds and somewhat lined up but weak. Protected breaks were chest high and clean but a little lumpy. At Santa Cruz surf was chest high on the sets and clean and lined up and nice looking when the sets come. In Southern California/Ventura waves were thigh to waist high on the sets and lined up and clean and peeling. Central Orange County was near flat with set waves to thigh high and textured from light southerly wind. South Orange County's best summertime breaks were flat to thigh high and clean. North San Diego had sets at maybe thigh to waist high and clean and weak. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting some swell with waves head high on the sets and clean and somewhat lined up and clean but inconsistent. The South Shore had set to maybe wait high and clean and weak. The East Shore was getting east windswell with waves thigh high and almost clean early from light east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Tuesday (12/22) swell was fading in Hawaii from a series of weak weather systems that passed north of the Islands last weekend. Limited energy from those system was still hitting mainly North California too. And swell is fading on Hawaii's South Shore from a gale previously under New Zealand. And that swell is pushing towards Southern CA. A broad system developed the Northwest Pacific Sun-Mon (12/21) producing 33 ft seas initially aimed east then pushed into the Northwestern Gulf on Tues (12/22) with 25 ft seas aimed east and fading. Swell is radiating towards Hawaii and the US West Coast. Maybe another weak system to develop in the Central Gulf on Fri-Sat (12/27) producing 24-28 ft seas aimed east with a second one right behind it Sat-Sun (12/27) with 24 ft seas targeting mainly California and especially Southern CA into Tues (12/29). And possibly another broad but fragmented system is to develop west of and then over the Dateline on Sat-Mon (12/28) with 28-30 ft seas aimed east. And maybe a strong one to follow in the far Western Gulf on Tues (12/29) with 49 ft seas aimed east. Much rideable swell is expected.

See all the details below...


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

North Pacific

On Tuesday (12/22) the jet was well consolidated pushing east off Japan reaching to a point north of Hawaii with winds to 200 kts then splitting with the wind energy evenly split pushing north and south but then trying to reconsolidate inland over Nevada. A broad trough was present over the North Dateline region being fueled by the strong jetstream flow to it's south and providing good support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to push east into the Gulf of Alaska on Fri (12/25) as winds in the jet slowly but steadily moderate down to 130 kts still offering good support for gale development. But back to the west winds are to again be building in a consolidated jetstream flow pushing off Japan at 160 kts but with no trough yet defined. Beyond 72 hours the trough in the Gulf is to continue holding together while pushing east Sat-Sun (12/27) offering good support for gale development before pushing inland over Central CA on Mon (12/28). Back to the west a broad but consolidated jetstream flow is to be pushing off Japan at 160 kts Sat-Sun (12/27) forming a broad trough and offering support for gale development there and moving to the dateline on Sun-Mon (12/28) still offering support for gale development. But by Tues (12/29) the trough is to fade though the jet remains consolidated flowing flat from Japan to the Central Gulf with winds 150 kts mainly in the west and weaker over the Eastern Gulf pushing up into British Columbia. Reasonable and steady support for gale development seems likely.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (12/22) swell from a weak gale that previously tracked through the Gulf of Alaska was hitting CA (see Weaker Gulf Gale below). Behind that a broader but diffuse gale developed pushing east off Japan and over the dateline (see Broad Dateline Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours starting Fri AM (12/25) a new gale is to be developing 900 nmiles off the North CA coast with 30-35 kts northwest winds and seas building from 25 ft at 40N 140W aimed east. In the evening the gale is to ease east with up to 40 kt west winds and seas near 30 ft at 43N 136W aimed east. On Sat AM (12/26) the gael is to be pushing into South Oregon still producing 40 kt west winds with 30 ft seas at 43.5N 131W aimed east. The gale is to be inland after that.

North CA: For planning purposes larger raw swell is to possibly impact North CA on Sat (12/26) building to 12.4 ft @ 15 secs late (18.5 ft). Swell Direction: 285-300 degrees


Weaker Gulf Gale
Also on Fri AM (12/18) another tiny gale started building in the far Western Gulf of Alaska with 35 kt west winds and seas building from 20 ft at 46N 161.5W aimed east. In the evening the gale is to track northeast with 40 kt west winds and seas 23 ft at 50N 154W aimed east. On Sat AM (12/19) fetch was fading from 30 kts with seas fading from 21 ft at 51N 145W aimed east. No additional fetch of seas are forecast from this system.

North CA: Swell fading Tues (12/22) from 4.8 ft @ 11-12 secs (5.5 ft) with much windswell intermixed. Swell Direction: 303 degrees


Broad Dateline Gale
On Sun AM (12/20) a broad gale developed mid-way between Japan and the dateline producing 35-45 kt west winds over a fragmented area and seas 33 ft at 44N 165.5E aimed east. In the evening the gale pushed east with 35-40 kt west winds over a broad area and seas 33 ft at 45N 172.5E over a building area. The gale is to stall some Mon AM (12/21) with 30-35 kt west winds over the North Dateline region and seas 26-30 ft from 37-47N 180W aimed east. In the evening northwest fetch held position at 30-35 kts over a solid area aimed east with seas 24-28 ft at 37-48N 173W aimed east. On Tues AM (12/22) fetch was fading from 30 kts aimed southeast with 25 ft seas pushing east at 40-48N 167W. The gale is to fade in the evening with 25-30 kts west winds and seas fading from 22 ft at 46N 165W aimed east. Possible broad and unfocused swell to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast. Something to monitor.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed (12/23) building to 6.5 ft @ 16-17 secs late (11.0 ft). Swell holding on Thurs AM (12/24) at 7.3 ft @ 15 secs early (10.5 ft). Swell fading on Fri (12/25) from 6.2 ft @ 14 secs early (8.5 ft). Residuals on Sat (12/26) fading from 4.2 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 320 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri (12/25) building to 4.6 ft @ 15-16 secs later (7.0 ft). Swell continues on Sat (12/26) 6.4 ft @ 15 secs early (9.5 ft) and starting to be overrun by possibly larger rawer and more local swell. Swell Direction: 295-303 degrees


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


Tropical Update
No tropical weather system of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (12/22) high pressure was building in with north winds 15- 20 kts for North CA early and 10+ kts for Central CA holding for North CA later and 15 kts for Central CA. Wed (12/23) north winds are to be fading through the day forecast at 15 kts early for North CA and 10 kts for Central CA fading to calm later. Thurs (12/24) southeast winds are forecast for North CA at 10 kts early and calm for Central CA building to 20 kts from the south for Cape Mendocino later and 15 kts down to the Golden Gate and 10 kts south of there to Pt Conception. Fri (12/25) a front is to push through North CA with south winds 30-35 kts early and 10 kts for Central CA fading late afternoon and turning west at 10-15 kts for North CA but still southwest at 10-15 kts for Central CA. Rain building for all of North CA early pushing to Pt Conception later. Snow for all the Sierra by late afternoon building solidly overnight. On Sat AM (12/26) northwest winds are forecast at 15 kts south to Bodega Bay and then northwest 5-10 kts south of there early fading to near calm later. Rain for North and Central CA early clearing mid-day. Snow for all the Sierra clearing mid-day. Sun (12/27) south winds start building for North CA early as another front approaches pushing 20-25 kts later reaching south to Monterey Bay and dissolving there overnight. Rain for all of North CA at sunset pushing to Pt Conception overnight. Maybe some snow for Tahoe in the early morning hours. Mon (12/28) a light wind regime is to set up as low pressure dissolves over the state. Rain for all of North and Central CA early pushing into Southern CA mid-day then fading over the state late afternoon into early evening. Modest snow for all the Sierra through the day fading at sunset. Tues (12/29) high pressure takes over with northwest winds 15+ kts early for all of North and Central CA building to 20 kts later. Lingering showers fading for all of Southern CA by mid-day.

Total snow accumulation for the week for Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood and Mammoth at 24 inches, 27 inches, 20 inches, and 11 inches.

Freezing level building to 12,000 ft on Wed (12/23) then falling to 3,500 ft at time 12/27 and 12/29 then rebuilding to 8,500 by 12/30 and holding.

Snow Models: (Scroll down for resort specific forecasts). Updated!


South Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (12/22) swell was in the water from a storm pervious south of New Zealand (see New Zealand Gale below). Otherwise no swell producing weather systems were occurring.

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


New Zealand Storm
A gale unbelievably developed under New Zealand on Tues AM (12/15) with 35-40 kt southwest winds and seas building from 23 ft at 58S 173E aimed east. In the evening a solid fetch of 45-50 kt southwest winds were developing with seas building to 33 ft at 59S 172E aimed northeast. On Wed AM (12/16) the storm was lifting northeast with 45-50 kts southwest winds and seas building to 42 ft at 58S 177W aimed east-northeast. In the evening the storm faded to gale status with 35-40 kts southwest winds and seas fading from 39 ft at 55S 169W aimed northeast. On Thurs AM (12/17) fetch was gone with seas from previous fetch fading from 31 ft at 50S 162W aimed northeast. Swell is in the water tracking northeast.

Hawaii: Swell fading Thurs AM (12/24) from 2.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (12/24) building to 1.2 ft @ 20 secs late (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell building Fri (12/25) to 1.7 ft @ 17-18 secs late (3.0 ft). Swell building on Sat (12/26) to 1.9 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft) mid-day. Swell fading on Sun (12/27) from 1.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) early. Nothing after that. Swell Direction: 205 degrees


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 starting Thurs PM (12/24) another small gale is forecast developing over the North Dateline region falling southeast with 40 kts northwest winds and seas 25 ft at 48N 175W aimed southeast. On Fri AM (12/25) northwest winds to be 35+ kts with seas 25 ft at 47N 166W aimed southeast at Hawaii and the US West Coast. In the evening fetch is to be falling quickly southeast over a broad area at 30-35 kts from the northwest with seas 24-25 ft at 44N 158W aimed southeast. On Sat AM (12/26) northwest winds to be fading from 30 kts with seas fading from 24 ft at 40N 148W aimed southeast. In the evening 30 kt northwest winds are to be fading while easing east with seas fading from 24 ft at 39N 147W aimed southeast. On Sun AM (12/27) northwest winds to hold at 30+ kts moving close to California with 23 ft seas at 37N 139W aimed southeast. The gale is to slowly fade while pushing directly towards Southern CA Mon AM (12/28) with 21 ft seas at 32.5N 129W. Something to monitor especially for Southern CA.

Also on Sat PM (12/26) a broad gale is to start building west of the dateline with 45 kt west winds and seas building from 32 ft at 39N 161.5E aimed east. On Sun AM (12/27) west fetch is to track east at 40-45 kts with seas 31 ft at 38N 175E aimed east. In the evening 35-40 kt west winds to be over a broad area aimed east over the dateline with 26-30 ft seas at 39N 180W aimed east targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Fetch is to be fading Mon AM (12/28) with 30-35 kts northwest winds over a large swatch of the dateline with 26-29 ft seas at 38N 180W but also reaching continuously up to 50N 170E aimed east. In the evening seas from previous fetch area to be fading from 25 ft at 40N 170W aimed east. Possible steady swell to target both Hawaii and the US West Coast. Something to monitor.

And beyond that yet another stronger storm is forecast developing on the dateline Tues AM (12/29) with 55 kt northwest winds and seas 40 ft at 38.5N 178.5E aimed east building in the evening to 55+ kts and seas 49 ft at 39.5N 171W aimed east. Something to monitor.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems are forecast.



MJO/ENSO Forecast


La Nina Stable and Possibly Past Its Peak

MJO/ENSO Discussion
The Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) 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.
And the El Nino/La Nino cycle (collectively know as ENSO - El Nino Southern Oscillation) is a less frequent (about once every 7 years) but more impactful cycle that affects world wide weather. Specifically, strong El Nino events promote storm production in the Pacific while La Nina events suppress storm production. These therefore have a significant impact on the production of swell and surf. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO and ENSO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for upcoming activity (or inactivity depending on the state and interaction of these two oscillations).

Overview: A double dip La Nina was in control 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 to declare El Nino and not coupled with the atmosphere. In January 2019, those warm waters were fading, but then rebuilt late in Feb associated with Kelvin Wave (#3). But as of early June 2019 warm water was fading and by August a tongue of cool water was tracking west on the equator from Ecuador over the Galapagos reaching to a point nearly south of Hawaii. El Nino was dead. A bit of a recovery occurred during Fall of 2019, with weak warm water building in the Nino 1.2 region, but cool water held in a pool off Peru and had not changed until March 2020. By April the cool pool pushed east and by May subsurface cool waters erupted off Ecuador, forming a well defined cool tongue that looked like the start of La Nina, holding into July 2020.

Fall/Winter 2020/2021 = 3.0/3.5 (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: It is assumed the PDO has moved to the warm phase in 2014 and that a weak borderline El Nino from 2018 faded out in the Fall of 2019. A La Nina like ocean temperature pattern developed in the equatorial East Pacific in the summer of 2019, then faded and returned to a neutral if not weak warm status during the Winter of 2019-2020 only to return stronger in the Summer of 2020. We have been suspecting a turn towards a La Nina like atmospheric pattern to develop in the late Winter/early Spring of 2020. Our best hope is that moderation from the warm phase of the PDO might tamp down development of a full blown La Nina as we move into 2020. But at this time that does not appear likely. Given all that, for the 2020 there is decent probability for development of La Nina meaning a reduced number of storm days and storm intensity during the summer season, resulting in a below normal level of swell, with swell being below normal duration and period. And by the Fall and early Winter of 2020/21, the number of storm days, intensity and duration of those storms should fade even more, resulting in depressed swell production. This pattern is expected to hold through the Spring of 2021.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast (KWGA - Kelvin Wave Generation Area - The area 5 degrees north and south of the equator from 170W to 135E)
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of (12/21) 5 day average winds were strong from the east over the Eastern equatorial Pacific continuing over the Central Pacific and strong from the east over the KWGA. Anomalies were light east over the East equatorial Pacific turning modest easterly over the Central Pacific and moderate easterly over the KWGA. (Note: These are 5 day average winds, so they lag what is happening today by about 2 days).
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): On (12/22) weak east anomalies were filling the KWGA and reaching east to a point south of Hawaii. The forecast calls for more of the same over the KWGA through 12/24, then east anomalies are to build strong in the KWGA by 12/25 holding through the end of the model run on 12/29 but reaching east only to a point south of Hawaii.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: (12/21) the Active Phase of the MJO is present over the KWGA today. The statistic model projects it steadily fading in coverage while tracking east and all but gone at day 15 (the end of the model run). The dynamic model suggests a variant of the same thing but with a weak Inactive signal developing at day 10 over the equatorial dateline.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (12/22) The statistical model depicts the Active Phase was very weak over the far East Maritime Continent today and is to track east to the West Pacific while getting steadily weaker and non-existent on day 15. The GEFS model suggests the Active Phase is to retrograde to the Indian Ocean at day 15 and weak.
40 day Upper Level Model (assumed to be a statistical mode and 1 week ahead of what is occurring at the surface): (12/6) No Update. This model depicts a weak Active Phase (wet air) over the East Pacific tracking east while fading pushing into Central America on 12/21. A modest Inactive Phase was over the West Pacific and is to push east and into the Central America on 1/5. A weak Active Phase is to push into the West Pacific on 1/10 easing east at the end of the model run on 1/15. .
4 Week CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/21) This model depicts a weak Active MJO signal all but gone over the KWGA today with near neutral anomalies over the core of the KWGA. The forecast indicates east anomalies are to start building on 12/23 reaching strong status 12/24-12/29, fading to modest status then rebuilding to moderate status 1/7 and filling the KWGA through the end of the model run on 1/18. The low pass filter indicates no change in coverage or strength of high pressure over the KWGA till 1/5, then fading from 3 contour lines to 2.
3 Month CFS Model (850 mb wind): (12/22 - using the 4th/latest ensemble member): This model depicts a weakly building Active Phase over the west KWGA today with mostly moderate east anomalies in control focused over the dateline. The Active Phase is to push through the KWGA through 1/16 but with east anomalies building to near strong status in the KWGA over the dateline 12/25-1/6 then fading to moderate strength. East anomalies to fade to weak status 1/18-2/2 with a weak version of the INactive Phase developing over that window. The Active Phase is to return 2/7-3/4 with weak to modest west anomalies developing over the dateline. A weak Inactive MJO is to return 2/22 holding through the end of the model run on 3/21 with mostly weak west anomalies forecast on the dateline. The low pass filter indicates a high pressure bias is firmly in control over the dateline today with 3 contour lines reaching east to a point south of California and is to continue through the end of the model run with it's western periphery easing east to 160E at the end of the model run. A fourth contour line is to develop on 1/10 holding to 3/1 with the third contour fading 3/19. A single contour low pressure bias is over the Indian Ocean today and is to build in coverage with a second contour lined holding 12/23-2/9. Its eastern periphery is to ease east to 150E at the end of the model run with it's west periphery moving from 65E to 100E. East anomalies that have been previously solid in the Indian Ocean for over a year previous migrated east through the West Pacific to the East Pacific on 10/1 and have stabilized there. There's some sense they might start weakening in late Feb into March, but that's more a fantasy than reality.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/22) Today in the far West Pacific the 30 deg isotherm was gone. The 29 deg isotherm was steady at 164E today. The 28 deg isotherm line has rebuilt from 170E to 175E today. The 24 deg isotherm was easing east to 124W today. Anomaly wise, warm anomalies +2 deg C were locked steady in the West Pacific pushing east to 165W at depth and moving no further east. A broad cooling pattern was controlling the entire equatorial Pacific with anomalies -2 degs C in the far East, but otherwise temps generally -1 deg C over the entire equatorial Pacific at depth. There was some weak warming at depth near 125W at +1 deg. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/14 indicates the same thing but with warming easing east to 150W. The GODAS animation appears to be 1 week behind the TAO data but also is more detailed and accurately modeled.
Sea Level Anomalies: (12/14) Negative anomalies were forming a wave pushing west from the Galapagos to 180W peaking at -10 cms continuous from Ecuador to 150W. Negative anomalies were -5 to -10 cms along the coast of Peru up into Ecuador and then -10 cms reaching north up to Baja and -5 cms into South and North CA. Looking at the big picture, negative anomalies were forming a massive triangle from Cape Mendocino south to Southern Chile and west out to the intersection of the dateline and the equator. No positive anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific, except from the dateline and points west of there. But the triangle was not as strong as weeks past.

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: (12/21) The latest images indicate cold anomalies were on the equator from Ecuador west to the dateline and solid in density over that entire and large area. Colder anomalies were no longer imbedded in that flow in the East and limited between 140-170W and losing intensity even there. And the overall cool pool does not look as cold as weeks and months past. Cool anomalies were losing strength along the coasts of Chile and Peru with stray pockets of warming indicated. This clearly indicates a well developed version of La Nina filling the entire equatorial Pacific and down into Chile. But the overall cool intensity of that pool appears to be waning. We are past the peak of this event.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/21): Temps continue warming along Chile and Peru reaching west to 150W and steady compared to days past. 5 or so small pockets of cooling were imbedded on the equator from Ecuador westward. The balance again looks like warming is taking the upper hand, just barely.
Hi-res Overview: (12/21) A stream of consistent cool water is well entrenched from Chile up to Peru and Ecuador then tracking west on the equator out to the dateline and west to New Guinea. But the trail of markedly cool anomalies previously imbedded in that flow is gone. The peak of La Nina has perhaps past.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/22) Today's temps were rising slightly at -0.9551 after previously rising to a peak of -0.595 on 12/11. This area has been on a seesaw rising trend since early October. Temps were previously down to -2.138 on 8/13. The longterm trend has been steady but quite cold since June.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps:
(12/22) Temps were steady at -1.012 today after bottoming out at -1.654 on 11/3, beating the previous low of -0.945 on 9/22. The previous low before that was -0.733 on 9/10. Temps have been on a steady decline since 7/25. Overall the trend appears to be in a steep decline.

Click for Full Sized Image Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 Sea Surface Temp (SST) Anomalies & Current SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (12/22) Today the model indicates temps steady at -1.00 degs after bottoming out in early Nov at -1.25 degs. The forecast depicts temps holding at -1.00 degs to mid-Jan then beginning to rise, rebuilding up to -0.5 degs in April and -0.15 degs mid-June rising to -0.05 degs mid July and stabilizing there. This is likely becoming a 2 year event in that even if temps were to return to normal in July it would take 3-5 months for the upper level circulation to respond in kind.
IRI Consensus Plume: The Oct 21, 2020 Plume depicts temps are at -1.10 degs today, and are to hold into Dec, then moderating and starting to rise some to -0.89 by Jan 2021 and then neutral by June. Most models are suggesting a moderate to La Nina returning to Neutral in the late Spring. See chart here - link.

Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) (negative is good, positive bad - this is a lagging indicator) (12/22): The daily index was stable at +22.26. The 30 day average was rising at +14.40. The 90 day average was rising some at 9.75. This index is a lagging indicator.
ESPI Index (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive and/or rising is good, negative and/or falling is bad): June -0.67, May -0.46, April 2020 -0.69, March -0.09, Feb +0.65, Jan +0.42, This index was steady positive Aug 2018 through Feb 2020, and now is steady negative, but only weakly so.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation
Per NOAAs index recent values: Jan 2018 +0.29, Feb -0.19, Mar -0.61, April -0.89, May -0.69, June -0.85, July -0.09, Aug -0.43, Sept -0.46, Oct -0.75, Nov -0.78, Dec -0.12, Jan 2019 -0.18, Feb -0.50 Mar -0.23, April +0.10, May +0.14, June -0.11, July +0.44, Aug -0.14, Sept +0.05, Oct -0.96, Nov -0.28, Dec +0.01, Jan 2020 -1.17, This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO. No consistently solid negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington/JISAO index (Jan-Dec): Jan 2018 +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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