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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, December 27, 2014 5:46 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 = 2.0 - 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 12/29 thru Sun 1/4

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   

Weak Gale Pattern in Control of North Pacific
Inactive Phase of the MJO to Continue for 2+ Weeks

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. We'll 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 Saturday (12/27) in North and Central CA surf was surf was chest to shoulder high on the sets and clean with offshore winds in control. Not much power to the waves though. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high with a few chest high peaks and clean. In Southern California up north surf was thigh high and clean early and pretty weak. Down south waves were thigh high and not really breaking but clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting mixed windswell with waves chest high on the sets at top spots and pretty ragged with Kona winds in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting chest high north windswell with sideshore north winds.   

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

Meteorological Overview
The North Pacific has calmed down with no real sizeable swell in the water. A weak disorganized gale produced 22-26 ft seas over the Northern Dateline region and points west of there Tues-Thurs (12/25) with small swell expected into Hawaii later today peaking Sunday (12/28) and maybe minimal energy for California early next week. Otherwise a weak system is scheduled in the Western Gulf on Mon (12/29) with 32 ft seas aimed east with another gale off Kamchatka on Tues-Wed (12/31) with 34-36 ft seas over a small area aimed east. And yet one more is forecast off the Kurils on Fri-Sat (1/3) with 34 ft seas aimed east offering another pulse of small swell. But otherwise the downturn in storm and swell activity is to continue into January with the MJO in the Inactive Phase.  

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

North Pacific

Jetstream - On Saturday (12/27) the jet was ridging some while pushing off Japan with winds up to 170 kts over the dateline then .cgiitting near 170W with most energy falling southeast and pushing directly over Hawaii at 125 kts before tracking east into and over Baja. The northern branch of the .cgiit pushed up into the Eastern Bering Sea and eventually down the North American Coast. The only area supportive of gale development was the far Northwest Pacific. Over the next 72 hours the jetstream is to weaken some but still tracking east off Southern Japan, down near 33N with winds dropping to 150 kts before .cgiitting north of Hawaii (160W) with the same pattern holding east of the .cgiit point, with most energy tracking into Baja and some into Alaska. A backdoor trough is to be pushing down the US West Coast Mon-Wed (12/31).Limited support for gale development is possible over the far Northwest Pacific. Beyond 72 hours winds to build again off Japan to 170 kts by Thurs (1/1) but with the .cgiit point retrograding to the dateline continuing the shutdown in the East for the foreseeable future until the jet gains more energy. And that is not expected until the Inactive Phase of the MJO fades (see MJO/ENSO section below). .

Surface Analysis  - On Saturday (12/27) modest swell from a small gale that tracked northeast over the Northern Dateline region was pushing towards Hawaii with even lesser energy towards the US West Coast (see Northern Dateline Gale below). Over the next 72 hours a small gale is forecast to develop in the Western Gulf just west of the .cgiit point in the jetstream on Mon AM (12/29) with 40 kt northwest winds over a tiny area and 32 ft seas at 45N 168W (296 degs NCal). The gale to lift north in the evening with winds fading from 35 kts with seas fading from 30 ft at 46N 163W (298 degs). Perhaps small swell for the US West Coast (NCal) starting on on Thurs AM (1/1) with period 17 secs. No discernable swell for the Islands to result.

Northern Dateline Gale
A broad but fragmented gale started developing between the Kuril Islands and the North Dateline region. The first embedded fetch was just south of the Aleutians at 18Z on Tues AM (12/23) with 45 kts west winds and seas to 30 ft at 51N 176E targeting mainly the US West Coast. Secondary 35 kt west winds built over a broader area streaming east from the Kuril Islands in the evening pushing near 45 kts over a tiny area Wed AM (12/24) with 26 ft seas building at 48N 180W. Winds held into the evening with 30 ft seas up at 49N 170E fading Thurs AM (12/25) at 51N 180W. This system dissipated after that. A small pulse of small to modest size swell and inconsistent is to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast.

Hawaii: expect swell arrival on Sat afternoon (12/27) with swell to 4.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (6.5 ft). Swell holding into Sun AM (12/28) at 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft) then fading on Mon (12/29) from 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 315-320 degrees

North CA: Swell arrival on Sun (12/28) at 4.7 ft @ 14 secs (6.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (12/29) from 3.4 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft). Size might be a little overstated. Swell Direction: 300-305 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 Saturday (12/27) high pressure was in control of the far East Pacific with a .cgiit jetstream flow aloft. An offshore flow as in effect for all of California. North winds to build to 15 kts late Sunday for North and Central CA pushing 20+ kts late Monday and reaching into Southern CA Tuesday AM but turning brisk offshore for North CA down to Monterey Bay later Tuesday. A chance of snow showers for the Sierra on Tuesday with a backdoor front sliding down the interior portions of the state. The offshore flow to moderate for the entire state into Thursday with light winds through the weekend (1/4).  

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 small gale is to develop off the Kuril Islands on Tues AM (12/30) with 45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 30 ft over a tiny area. Fetch is to hold at 45 kt in the evening with 36 ft seas forecast at 45N 162E over a modest area. 45 kt west winds to be fading Wed AM (12/31) while lifting northwest with seas 34 ft at 48N 166E targeting mainly Hawaii. The gale is to be pushing into the Bering Sea in the evening with west winds 40 kts just barely south of the Aleutians with seas fading from 34 ft at 50N 170E targeting mainly the Aleutians. Maybe some swell for Hawaii and the US West Coast with luck.

Another gale is to develop off Northern Japan on Fri AM (1/2) with 45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 32 ft over a small area. The gale is to lift rapidly northeast with seas peaking Fri PM at 34 ft at 43N 170E targeting the Islands best.

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 (12/27) the daily SOI was rising from 2.8 having previous fallen to -38.56 attributable to low pressure over both Darwin and Tahiti. The 30 day average was dropping at -8.50 and the 90 day average was falling from -7.83. 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. A weak low pressure pattern is to hold near Tahiti for the next week keeping the SOI somewhat negative. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.   

Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak east anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning to neutral anomalies over the dateline then starting to turn westerly south of Hawaii but then turning weak easterly half way to the Galapagos. A generally mixed pattern. A week from now (1/4) weak to moderate west anomalies are to build over the Maritime Continent turning light easterly over the dateline continuing south of the Hawaiian Islands almost reaching the Galapagos. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be pushing east with a new Active Phase trying to get a toehold over the far West Pacific. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated light east anomalies in pockets across the equatorial Pacific. This suggests the Inactive Phase is in control currently.

See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .

The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 12/26 are in sync. They both suggest a weak Inactive MJO pattern was in.cgiay near the equatorial Pacific just east of the dateline. The Statistic model depicts this weak Inactive Phase fading away while 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 or as far. Both depict the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and easing into the far West Pacific 8 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 12/26 depicts the Active Phase starting to push into the West Pacific today and tracking very slowly east and progressively fading over the East Pacific through 1/15. A weak Inactive Phase is to follow in the west starting 1/20 pushing east into 2/4 while a new Active Phase builds in the East Indian ocean.  

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 (12/25) a modestly warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific (up some since early Sept) but not getting any warmer recently. A clear but weak El Nino signature is holding. Warm water has traction 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. But the CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps down to +0.5, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0.

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 12/27 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with a embedded pocket of +4 deg anomalies pushing east from 100W and reaching the Galapagos embedded in with a steady stream of +2.0 deg anomalies pushing east from 155W into the Galapagos. The +4º C anomalies are the second in a pair of recent Kelvin Waves in-flight. Satellite data from 12/19 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific with +5 cm anomalies just west of the Galapagos indicative of the Kelvin Wave in flight pushing east there. Other models collaborate the presumption that a Kelvin Wave was erupting near the Galapagos. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (12/19) 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.  See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.   

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 +0.9 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 +1.85 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: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring through 2014 in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves have warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay.  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.

The focus now becomes whether it will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 timeframe. At this time we're assuming the situation with move to a multiyear, Midoki event (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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