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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Sunday, December 24, 2017 4:36 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
3.0 - California & 3.0 - 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 12/25 thru Sun 12/31

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   

Series of Modest Gales Forecast
Jetstream to Remain Consolidated


On Sunday, December 24, 2017 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 9.0 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 6.7 ft @ 13.2 secs from 334 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.4 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.1 ft @ 15.0 secs from 273 degrees. Wind at the buoy was north at 4-6 kts. Water temperature 60.8 degs. At Ventura (Buoy 111) swell was 1.0 ft @ 10.5 secs from 270 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 0.8 ft @ 14.2 secs from 217 degrees. At Camp Pendleton (043) swell was 0.8 ft @ 14.5 secs from 220 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma (191) swell was 1.1 ft @ 18.2 secs from 208 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 3.1 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 13.4 secs from 268 degrees. Wind at the buoy was north at 4 kts. Water temp 57.2 degs.

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 Sunday (12/24) in North and Central CA background swell was occasionally producing set waves in the waist to chest high range and clean with light offshore's but slow and inconsistent. Protected breaks were flat to thigh high and clean but slow and weak. At Santa Cruz surf was flat to thigh high and clean. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. In North Orange Co surf was occasionally waist to chest high coming from the south and clean with no wind. South Orange Country's best breaks were pushing chest high and clean but with some light onshore texture in the water. In San Diego surf was knee to thigh high with some rare waist high sets but weak with clean conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new Northwestern Gulf swell with waves 3-4 ft overhead and clean and fairly well lined up making for well rideable surf and select breaks. The South Shore was near flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same north swell at 2 ft overhead and pretty warbled from north-northeast wind.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Sunday (12/24) swell from a gale that developed in the Northwestern Gulf Thurs-Sat (12/23) producing up to 32 ft seas aimed east was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast. Another is forecast 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii Sun-Mon (12/25) producing up to 27 ft seas aimed east. And possibly a much larger but poorly defined system is to push off the Southern Kurils Tues-Wed (12/27) with 24 ft seas aimed east but not making much easterly headway. Another gale is to form from this system Fri-Sat (12/30) on the North Dateline region producing 28 ft seas aimed east. And maybe another to follow further south on the dateline. A steady but middling strength pattern is in control.


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

North Pacific

On Sunday AM (12/24) the jetstream was pushing east off Japan and weak but cohesive with 120-130 kt wind tracking over the dateline and into a weak trough Central Gulf offering some limited support for gale development. The jet split east of there at 145W with the northern branch pushing northeast and into Oregon with the southern branch convoluted and falling southeast towards the equator. Over the next 72 hours
the Gulf trough is to muddle along tracking east-northeast then falling apart in the Eastern Gulf on Tues (12/26) but another even weaker trough is to form again in the Western Gulf tracking east Tues-Wed (12/27) and unremarkable offering only incidental support for low pressure development. At the same time wind energy is to be building over Japan at 190 kts on Tues (12/26) and pushing east over the dateline Thurs (12/28) forming a gentle but broad trough in the Western Pacific offering limited support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours starting Wed (12/27) winds energy originating off Japan is to be pushing east into the Western Gulf and falling southeast at 140 kts forming a new trough and initially offering some support for gale development but quickly pinching off on Thurs (12/28) with support fading. Still 180 kt winds are to be pushing from just off Japan over the dateline and into the Western Gulf through Sat (12/30) though no clearly defined troughs are forecast. Still some support for gale development is possibly just based on wind speeds alone. By Sun (12/31) winds speeds are to again start fading, but not gone with a consolidated jet tracking from Japan to the Central Gulf with the split point in the east holding at 150W and the northern branch still steady moving into the Pacific Northwest 9as it is forecast to do all week) while the southern branch tracks south over Hawaii and then east into Southern Baja. The ridge in the east appears to be softening some.

Surface Analysis
On Sunday (12/24) swell from a gale that developed in the Northwestern Gulf is hitting Hawaii and tracking towards California (See Northwestern Gulf Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours a gale started developing 900 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii on Sat PM (12/23) producing a small area of 40 kt northwest winds and tracking due east. On Sun AM (12/24) winds were holding at 40 kts from the northwest with seas building to 26 ft over a small area at 35N 158W aimed east at Central CA and points south of there and mostly bypassing Hawaii. The gale is to ease east-northeast in the evening with winds fading from 40 kts from the west but over a slightly broader area with 27 ft seas at 36N 154W aimed east. Mon AM (12/25) the gale is to stall with 35 kts northwest winds and 24 ft seas at 38N 155W aimed southeast. The gale is to continue lifting northeast in the evening with 30 kt west winds and seas to 22 ft at 38N 150W aimed east at California and Oregon. The gale is to be fading Tues AM (12/26) with 30-35 kt west winds and seas fading from 18 ft at 40N 152W aimed at the US West Coast. This system is to mostly dissipate from there. Something to monitor.

Hawaii: For planning purposes swell is to arrive on Mon (12/15) and mostly be intermixed with the Northwestern Gulf swell (below) perhaps offering an imbedded pulse in that swell in the afternoon. Swell Direction 350+ degrees

North CA: For planning purposes expect swell arrival on Wed (12/27) afternoon building to 3.5 ft @ 13-14 secs late (4.5 ft). Swell to peak Thurs AM (12/28) at 4.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.5 ft). Swell nearly gone by Fri AM (12/29).


Also starting Mon AM (12/25) a new gale is to be developing over the Kuril Islands with 40-45 kt west winds barely pushing into open waters of the Northwest Pacific. In the evening fetch is to build some in coverage at 40 kt from the west and barely clear of the Southern Kuril Islands with seas building from 28 ft at 43N 150E aimed northeast. On Tues AM (12/26) that fetch is to be fading while a new fetch develops pushing west off North Japan at 35 kts and not jet getting traction on the ocean. In the evening fetch is to be fading from 35 kts over the same area aimed east with seas 22 ft at 38N 150E. Some degree of 30 kt west fetch is to continue into Thurs (12/28) mainly just off Japan. More of the same is forecast Wed AM (12/27) with 23 ft seas at 35N 152E. More of the same in the evening with 30 kt west winds and 23 ft seas at 35N 158E. This system is to fade from there. Something to monitor but not much is expected to result.


Northwestern Gulf Gale
A gale started to develop in an upper trough in the Western Gulf in Thurs AM (12/21) with a broad fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds building and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. In the evening the broad fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds with a core to 45 kts were getting traction targeting just east of Hawaii with 25 ft seas building at 43N 163W targeting the US West Coast well with sideband energy down into Hawaii. On Fri AM (12/22) fetch was wrapping into the gales south quadrant at 40 kts over a small area aimed east with 32 ft seas at 43N 157W targeting North CA up into Oregon well. The gale lifted north in the evening producing a small area of 45 kt west winds with 32 ft seas again over modest sized area at 46N 157W targeting mainly Central California up into the Pacific Northwest. Fetch was fading from 35 kts Sat AM (12/23) just south of the Eastern Aleutians with 27 ft seas fading at 49N 155W. This system is to be gone after that.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sat (12/23) building to 5.6 ft @ 13 secs late afternoon (7.0 ft). Swell to peak overnight and be fading Sun AM (12/24) from 6.7 ft @ 13 secs early (8.5 ft). Residuals on Mon (12/25) holding at 6.2 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Residuals fading on Tues (12/26) dropping from 4.6 ft @ 11-12 secs (5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 340 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (12/24) evening well after dark and building, peaking Mon AM (12/25) at 6.8 ft @ 15 secs (10.0 ft) holding well through the day. Residuals expected on Tues AM (12/26) fading from 4.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft). Residuals on Wed AM (12/27) fading from 2.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 295-300 degrees


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


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday AM (12/24) high pressure at 1024 mbs was centered over California producing a weak offshore flow for the entire state. Then early Monday the high is to retrograde west centered just 200 nmiles off Central CA turning winds lightly from the north at 10-15 kts for North and Central CA. Low odds for a few sprinkles over Cape Mendocino. A weak high pressure pattern is to continue Tues (12/26) generating light north winds early turning northwest 10-15 kts for North and Central CA. Wednesday (12/27) high pressure is to get a better grip with north winds 15+ kts from Cape Mendocino southward to Pt Conception. A weaker north wind pattern is expected on Thursday (12/28) with winds mostly 10 kts from the north and likely not even that nearshore early. A weaker version of that is forecast on Fri (12/29). Saturday the high rebuilds with north winds 15+ kts mid-afternoon for all of North and Central CA fading to 10-15 kts on Sun (12/31). No rain is in the forecast but it appears the offshore flow (and therefore strong high pressure over the Great Basin) is trying to break down or at least migrate.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
No swell producing winds of interest were occurring.

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 secondary gale is to form from the Kuril ISland gale on Thurs PM (12/29) with it's core in the North Dateline Region producing northwest winds at 35-40 kts and seas starting to develop. On Fri AM (12/29) west winds are to be building at 40 kts straddling the dateline aimed east with seas building from 29 ft at 47N 180W. In the evening fetch is to be fading from 40 kts from the west with seas fading from 28 ft at 49N 176W. This system is to fade from there.

Yet another gale is forecast developing well to the south and just west of the dateline Sun AM (12/31) with 40 kt northwest winds and seas building. In the evening winds are to be building from the west at 45+ kts over a small area with 32 ft seas building at 36N 175E. Something to monitor.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather system nor fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...


La Nina Possibly Has Peaked

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. So it appears now a double dip La Nina is setting up and is to continue through the Winter and Spring of 2017-2018.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Sat (12/23) 5 day average winds were from the east over the entire equatorial Pacific but west in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Anomalies were neutral over the East Pacific but moderate westerly over the Central Pacific and strong westerly over the core of the KWGA.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): (12/24) Modest west anomalies were modeled over the entire KWGA and east to a point south of Hawaii. This was the first real Westerly wind event in a very long time. By Mon (12/25) modest east anomalies are to start building over the entirety of the KWGA for a few days, then building some starting 12/27 but limited to the area east of 150E with west anomalies holding in the far Western KWGA and holding through the end of the model run on 12/31. The Active Phase of the MJO looks like it will be fading in 24 hrs with a mixed pattern following.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 12/23 a modest Active/Wet signal was over the dateline with the Inactive/Dry Phase starting to get a toe in the door of the far West Pacific. The statistical model depicts the Active/Wet Phase slowly easing east and fading from the dateline over the 15 day run. At the same time the Inactive Phase is to be steadily building it's footprint in the far West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts a variation on the same theme, but with the Active Phase dissipating 10 days into the run and the Inactive Phase weaker in the West Pacific at day 15.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (12/24) The ECMF model depicts the Active Phase of the MJO weak in strength east of the dateline and is to be fading steadily while pushing east over the Atlantic and back in the Indian Ocean 15 days out. The GEFS model suggests the same thing.
40 day Upper Level Model: (12/24) This model depicts a weak Active/Wet MJO pattern over the East Pacific and its to slowly easing east pushing into Central America 1/3. A modest Inactive/Dry MJO signal is moving into the West Pacific today and is to be tracking east to the East Pacific through 1/20. A neutral pattern to follow in the West Pacific through the end of the model run on 2/2/18. This model runs about 1 week ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (12/24) This model depicts a Wet/Active MJO pattern fading over the KWGA with west anomalies reaching the whole way to the East Pacific. The Active Phase of the MJO is to push east through 12/28 but with west anomalies fading in the KWGA through the period. After that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to develop 12/30 building over the dateline holding through 1/17/18 with east anomalies developing from the dateline eastward while neutral anomalies hold west of there. On 1/25 the Active Phase is to take control in the West Pacific holding through 2/24 with weak west anomalies strengthening some in the core of the KWGA and pushing east with east anomalies fading in coverage and moving progressively further east and gone by 2/24. A weak Inactive Phase is to follow in the West KWGA at the end of the model run on 3/6-3/23. The low pass filter indicates a modest low pressure bias over the west KWGA to 165E and is hold till 2/16, then start moving east reaching the dateline at the end of the model run with a high pressure bias over the East KWGA at 175E and is to move east and out of the KWGA by the end of the run. Even so, no significant oceanic change is expected as a result of this until at least May 2018.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (12/24) The overview pattern is that warm water has retreated to the west and cooler water is in control in the east. Today in the far West Pacific water temps are 29 degs in the far West Pacific at 160E. The 28 deg isotherm line is steady at 180W and steep (meaning there is a headwind of cooler water pushing into it from the east). The 24 deg isotherm was weak and steady at 125W and shallow at 50 meters deep at 140W. Anomaly wise it is clear that in the East Pacific warm water gone and instead modestly negative temperatures are at the surface and down to -2 degs C down 150 meters filling the area between Central America to 170W indicative of La Nina. Warm anomalies are isolated to the West Pacific at now up to +3.0 degrees down to 100 meters deep with the dividing line between cool temps and warm temps at 180W. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 12/19 depicts a large area of cool water filling the subsurface East Pacific (-2.5 degs) but not as cool as the past month and erupting to the surface almost continuously between Ecuador to 170W with warm anomalies at +3 degs in the west.
Sea Level Anomalies: (12/19) Negative anomalies are in control at -5 cms over the entire equatorial East Pacific with a core of -10 cm anomalies present between the Galapagos to 155W with no breaks.

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: (12/23) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate a cool pattern remains is in control. Upwelling is fading along Peru and Ecuador with weak warm anomalies shallow near the coast of Chile and Southern Peru. Stronger cool anomalies are tracking west on the equator from the Galapagos out to 140W with a well defined cool pool evidenced over the entire region. No warm anomalies are indicated within 3+ degs north or south of the equator over the entire region.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/23): A warming trend continues building along Chile and Peru, then in some pockets on the equator from the Galapagos out to 140W. But there was also an equal number of pockets of cooling water interspersed over the same area.
Hi-res Overview: (12/23) Regardless of the short term warming trend indicated above, a clear La Nina cool stream is present starting off Southern Chile and up the coast of Peru and Ecuador then building in coverage and intensity pushing west over the Galapagos and peaking, then slowly fading out to 180W. Cool water at depth is erupting to the surface with the breach point near the Galapagos. There is no sign of warm anomalies in the Nino 1.2 or Nino 3.4 regions. A mature La Nina has evolved.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/24) Today's temps were rebounding some after bottoming out on 12/23 at -2.1 degs, a third near peak negative reading. The lowest point so far in this La Nina was -2.248 degs reached on 11/5. And that low point was lower than the previous coldest point reached on 10/11 at -1.9 degs.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (12/24) Today temps were steadily rising at -0.703 degs. On (12/7) temps hit a record low at -1.219, just below the previous coldest peak so far this La Nina on 11/22 at -1.156. And the third previous low peak was reached at -1.1 on 11/23. The long arc suggests a solidifying cold pattern. La Nina is in control.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (12/24) The forecast depicts temps bottomed out at -0.95 in early Dec and are to be slowly rising to -0.7 degs in early Feb. The weak upward trend is to continue with temps reaching -0.5 in April and -0.15 degs in July 2018 and holding there. This suggests the peak of La Nina has occurred and it is to be fading into the summer of 2018.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Nov Plume updated (12/8) depicts temps bottomed out at -0.7 in early Nov and are to hold into Dec then slowly rising, to +0.0 in May and +0.3 in July2018. See chart here - link  The NMME consensus for Nov average indicates temps -0.9 degrees below normal Nov-Jan 2018 then rebounding to normal in April. It looks like La Nina is peaking out now. The CFSv2 is now in the middle of that pack.

Atmospheric Coupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (12/24): The daily index was falling at -9.86 today. The 30 day average was falling at +1.25. The 90 day average was falling at +7.30. This suggests La Nina is in control.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (12/24) The index was falling and has been for a week now at -1.42 (up from -2.20 on 6/28/17). The trend is generally stable for now but clearly indicative of La Nina. Last years La Nina reached -1.94 on 11/2/16 so we've bested that already. But the recent upward trend is offering some hope. Still it looks like La Nina is returning for a double dip/2 year La Nina (not unusual). This index is a forerunner of what happens in the ocean by 2-3 months in developing El Nino and La Nina events.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO is weakly negative, but not as much as one would expect with La Nina in play.
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.10, Feb = +0.04, March = +0.12, April=+0.52, May=+0.30, June=+0.19, July= -0.50, Aug= -0.68, Sept = -0.28, Oct=-0.60, Nov = -0.52. 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 negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington EDU index (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.77, Feb = +0.70, Mar = +0.74, April=+1.12, May=+0.88, June=+0.79, July=+0.10, Aug=0.09, Sept = 0.32, Oct=0.05 . No 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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