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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2017 4:20 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   

Weak Gale Pattern to Continue
Jetstream to Remain Consolidated


On Wednesday, December 27, 2017 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 6.6 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 5.4 ft @ 12.6 secs from 354 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 east at 2-4 kts. Water temperature 60.1 degs. At Ventura (Buoy 111) swell was 1.4 ft @ 13.1 secs from 260 degrees. At Santa Monica (028) swell was 1.5 ft @ 14.2 secs from 224 degrees. At Camp Pendleton (043) swell was 1.4 ft @ 13.2 secs from 232 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma (191) swell was 2.5 ft @ 13.4 secs from 249 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 4.9 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 13.7 secs from 276 degrees. Wind at the buoy was north at 10-12 kts. Water temp 56.7 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 Wednesday (12/27) in North and Central CA Northwestern Gulf swell was still hitting producing waves in the 1-2 ft overhead range and clean with light offshore's and lined up a bit inconsistent. Protected breaks were waist high with maybe a few chest high peaks and clean. At Santa Cruz surf was waist high and clean but warbled and unremarkable. In Southern California up north surf was waist high with some chest high peaks and clean and fun looking. In North Orange Co surf was chest high coming from the north and clean and lined up with no wind. South Orange Country's best breaks were waist high or so and clean but weak and not inspiring. In San Diego surf was thigh high with some rare waist high sets and weak with clean conditions. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband Gulf swell with waves 2 ft overhead and clean with offshore winds and lined up making for well rideable surf at select breaks. The South Shore was near flat and clean but lumpy and not really rideable. The East Shore was getting the same north swell at shoulder high and clean with light southwest winds.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Wednesday (12/27) swell from a gale that developed in the Northwestern Gulf 900 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii on Sun-Mon (12/25) producing up to 25 ft seas aimed east was still hitting Hawaii and starting to show in North CA. Beyond a broad but very ill-defined system is pushing off the Southern Kurils Tues-Wed (12/27) with 22-23 ft seas aimed east but not making much easterly headway. Another gale is to form from this system Fri-Sat (12/30) west of the Dateline producing 32 ft seas aimed east with fragments of wind energy pushing slowly east with 25-30 ft seas moving towards the Gulf of Alaska on Mon (1/1). And maybe another to follow further south off Japan on Wed (1/3). 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 Wednesday AM (12/27) the jetstream was pushing east off Japan and fairly strong with winds 190-200 kts pushing to the dateline and starting to fall southeast in the Western Gulf forming a developing but pinched trough there and a second broader and gentle trough over the Northwest Pacific. No direct support for gale development was evidenced yet. The jet split east of there at 165W with the northern branch pushing northeast and into Washington with the southern branch falling southeast over Hawaii and then on towards the equator. Over the next 72 hours
wind energy is to continue tracking east over the dateline Thurs (12/28) feeding the gentle but broad trough in the Western Pacific offering limited support for gale development while the split point moves east to 150W. Beyond 72 hours starting Sun (12/30) winds energy is to be fading over the dateline with support for gale development diminishing but not gone (down to 120 kts) while a new push of wind energy starts building over and off Japan at 170 kts and supposedly carving out a decent well defined trough west of the dateline on Wed (1/3) being fed by 190 kts winds. Support for gale development increasing in that area assuming all goes as forecast. The ridge in the east is to hold with the northern branch of the jet pushing steadily over Washington limiting precipitation to points from that location northward.

Surface Analysis
On Wednesday (12/27) swell from a gale that developed in the Northwestern Gulf was fading in California (See Northwestern Gulf Gale below). Also swell from a gale previously in the Eastern Gulf was hitting Hawaii and starting to show in California (see East Gulf Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours a new gale was tracking and is to continue tracking east from the Kuril Islands. Starting Mon AM (12/25) the gale started developing over the Kuril Islands with 40-45 kt west winds barely pushing into open waters of the Northwest Pacific with seas 26 ft at 42N 148E aimed east. In the evening fetch built 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 was fading while a new fetch developed pushing west off North Japan at 35 kts and not jet getting traction on the ocean. In the evening fetch was fading from 35 kts over the same area aimed east with seas 24 ft at 38N 150E. More of the same occurred Wed AM (12/27) with 23 ft seas at 35N 150E. More of the same in the evening with 30 kt west winds and 23 ft seas at 35N 155E. This system is to fade from there. Not much is expected to result, maybe background 13 sec period swell for Hawaii.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sat (1/30) building to 1.7 ft @ 15-16 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell building Sun (1/31) to 3.4 ft @ 13-14 secs later (4.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (1/1) from 3.4 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310 degrees

A secondary fetch associated with the gale off Japan is to form well east of the Kuril Islands on Thurs PM (12/29) with it's core in the North Dateline Region producing west winds at 45 kts over a tiny area and seas starting to build from 32 ft at 48N 170E. On Fri AM (12/29) west winds are to be holding at 45 kts not making any east headway over a small area aimed east with seas 30 ft at 46N 168E. In the evening fetch is to be 40 kts from the west and falling southeast and building some in coverage with seas 32 ft at 44N 170E. This system is to fade from there. A small pulse of swell for Hawaii is possible.


East Gulf Gale
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 25 ft over a small area at 35N 158W aimed east at Central CA and points south of there and mostly bypassing Hawaii. The gale eased east-northeast in the evening with winds fading from 40 kts from the west but over a slightly broader area with 25 ft seas at 36N 154W aimed east. Mon AM (12/25) the gale stalled with 35 kts northwest winds and 25 ft seas at 38N 155W aimed southeast. The gale continued 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 was fading Tues AM (12/26) with 30-35 kt west winds and seas fading from 18 ft at 42N 152W aimed at the US West Coast. This system is to mostly dissipate from there.

Hawaii: Swell to be fading on Thurs AM (12/28) from 4.6 ft @ 11 secs (5.0 ft) Swell Direction 360 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (12/27) afternoon building to 3.8 ft @ 14 secs late (5.0 ft). Swell to peak Thurs AM (12/28) at 4.8 ft @ 13 secs (6.0 ft). Swell nearly gone by Fri AM (12/29) fading from 3.2 ft @ 11 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 178-184 degrees.


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.

North CA: 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 Wednesday AM (12/27) high pressure at 1026 mbs was centered 300 nmiles off Central California producing a weak northerly flow over outer waters of North and Central CA and up to 15 kts off Morro Bay through offshore early for some nearshore locations. 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. More of the same is expected Fri (12/29) with the high weakening to 1022 mbs and centered off San Francisco. A weak front is to possibly produce light rain for North Ca down to Pt Arena Saturday AM then dissipating. Mid-afternoon Saturday the high rebuilds with north winds 15 kts for portions of North and Central CA fading to near clam Sunday AM (12/31). A light offshore flow is forecast Mon AM as the high start ridging northeast into Oregon continuing Tues (1/2). A slack pressure and wind pattern is forecast on Wed (1/3). In short - no change in the rain picture is forecast with everything tracking well north of our area typical of La Nina.

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 yet another gale is forecast developing in association with the broad trough over the dateline Sun PM (12/31) with 35 kt west winds and seas building from 23 ft at 39N 175W. On Monday AM (1/1) a new gale is to form from this fetch with 45 kt west winds lifting northeast in to the Gulf of Alaska generating a tiny area of 33 ft seas at 46N 163W with residual seas from the original fetch fading from 24 ft at 40N 173W. In the evening winds are to be holding while tracking northeast at 45 kts over a small area with 34 ft seas building at 50N 155W. This system is to be fading Tues AM (1/2) in the Northern Gulf with winds fading from 35 kts and seas 30 ft at 53N 151W. Something to monitor.

Theoretically a much broader and well defined gale is forecast developing off Japan on Tues PM (1/2) with 40-45 kts northwest winds and seas building from 28 ft aimed southeast. The gale is to build in coverage just west of the dateline Wed AM (1/3) with 40 kts west winds and seas building to 30 ft at 33N 161E targeting Hawaii. The gael is to fade in the evening while lifting hard northeast. Something to monitor.

South Pacific

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

More details to follow...


Good News - ESPI Index Rising Steadily

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 Tues (12/26) 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 light westerly over the Central Pacific and moderate 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 (12/27) modest east anomalies were over the entirety of the KWGA, then forecast to strengthen over the Eastern KWGA (dateline area) starting Thurs (2/28) and holding for the foreseeable future. West anomalies to hold in the far West KWGA through 1/30 then steadily eroding with east anomalies over the entirety of the KWGA by 1/3 (end of the model run). The Inactive Phase of the MJO looks to be building per this model.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 12/26 a weak Active/Wet signal was south of Hawaii with the Inactive/Dry Phase moving into the far West Pacific. The statistical model depicts the Inactive/Dry Phase slowly easing east and pushing to the dateline over the 15 day run. The dynamic model depicts a variation on the same theme, with the Inactive Phase taking control of the West Pacific over the next 15 days.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (12/27) The ECMF model depicts the Active Phase of the MJO weak in strength over the Atlantic and is to continue weak and pushing east into the Indian Ocean 15 days out. The GEFS model suggests the same thing.
40 day Upper Level Model: (12/27) This model depicts a moderate Inactive/Wet MJO pattern over the Dateline and its to slowly ease east pushing towards Central America 1/16. A weak Active/Wet pulse is to follow in the west on 1/16 making little headway. A weak Inactive Phase is to follow in the west on 1/26 fading while moving east. This model runs about 1 week ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (12/27) This model depicts a Wet/Active MJO pattern fading and almost gone over the KWGA with east anomalies in control of the dateline with weak west anomalies in the far West KWGA. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is to develop 12/30 building over the dateline holding through 1/15/18 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 2/28 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 3/1-3/26 but west anomalies are to hold in the KWGA. The low pass filter indicates a modest low pressure bias over the west KWGA to 165E and is hold till 2/23, 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 3/1/18. 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: (12/27) 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 179W 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 +4.0 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 and 2 small pockets to -15 cms.

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: (12/26) 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 reasonably well defined cool pool evidenced over the entire region, though not as strong as weeks past. No warm anomalies are indicated within 3+ degs north or south of the equator over the entire region.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (12/26): A warming trend continues building along Chile and Peru, then in some pockets on the equator from the Galapagos out to 140W. There was a smaller number of pockets of cooling water interspersed over the same area. A warming trend was developing.
Hi-res Overview: (12/26) 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: (12/27) Today's temps were -1.203 degrees, 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: (12/27) Today temps were falling some at -0.841 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 (12/27) The forecast depicts temps bottomed out at -0.80 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 -0.20 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 (12/27): The daily index was falling at -14.12 today. The 30 day average was falling at -0.55. The 90 day average was falling at +6.49. This suggests La Nina is in control.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (12/27) The index was rising and has been for 2 weeks now at -1.25 (up from -2.20 on 6/28/17). The trend suggests La Nina is loosing its grip some. 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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