McWeather or Not


Dark Ages and Winter Swells

Dennis McTighe

It’s that time again, back to the Dark Ages. No, I don’t mean the last administration, I mean the one where you have to turn on the lights by 5:15. Tonight the sun sets at 4:55 p.m., only 15 minutes away from our earliest sunset of the year which at this latitude is 4:40 p.m. from Dec. 8-10. From now until Jan. 9 the sun will set before 5 p.m. The second Sunday of next March will see a return to Daylight Savings Time.

Rainfall from last Friday and Sunday’s showers totaled about four tenths of an inch here in Laguna bringing our season total since July 1 up to 0. 85 inches, right about normal up to today, Nov. 7. Rumor has it that significant rain and low level snow are on tap for the upcoming weekend. A deep low-pressure trough is beginning to plunge southward right out of the Gulf of Alaska meaning snow could fall down to as low as 3000 feet locally. That’s really low for early November. That’s really good news for skiers and snowboarders. Ocean temps are now down to 58 degrees so good bye 60 degree water for the next seven or eight months. The low this morning out in the canyon was 39 degrees, tying the record  low for Nov. 7 set in 1994. Up at Big Bear the low was 19, also a new record for this date.

Any time now we’ll start to see our first winter swells come barreling in from the west and northwest. We’re still in the waiting mode. There have been some North Pacific lows to stir things up, but the trouble is they’re coming in from north to south at too severe an angle so all spots south of Point Conception aren’t feeling the effects just yet. Any pulse coming in at more than 308 degrees is blocked by Point Conception. Our best swells come from deep lows that form way across the big pond in the Western Pacific. They then plow eastward several thousand miles, creating a strong fetch aimed at Hawaii first and then onward toward the Pacific West Coast. That was the scenario two winters ago when huge consistent epic swells rocked Hawaii, California, and Baja, some even making it all the way down into Central America. We’ll dissect some of these epic winter swells from yesteryear in next week’s installment. Aloha!

Dennis McTighe served as a meteorologist at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii from 1969 to 1972, and was an NOAA forecaster  and earned a degree in Earth Sciences from UC San Diego and has been keeping daily weather records since 1958.

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