McWeather or Not


Sand Up; Surf Nil


By Dennis McTighe

Today’s screaming message… Be naughty and save Santa a trip. Seriously, folks, all McWeather wants for Christmas is a five-foot swell. We’re closing in on the flattest fall on record. It’s almost as though somebody built a huge breakwater off our coast and didn’ t tell us. So far December has come up with  nothing but ankle snappers, not just here in Lake Laguna but the entire California coast. Have we been too naughty, King Neptune? Our current rain-making low pressure system, just like the ones before it, is not a wave making machine. These are not surface lows; they’re upper level lows or better known as cut off systems. They’re not riding on the jet stream storm track. Have you noticed the pattern of all the lows we’ve had so far this season? The winds associated with these lows have been predominantly light and variable at less than 10 mph.
Take the epic surf winter of 2009-10 for example. The first northwest swells, with El Nino’s help, started to appear as early as late August right on the heels of a beautiful tropical south southeast swell from hurricane Ignacio. By Labor Day weekend of 2009 Rincon had solid overhead walls, something the “Queen” doesn’t normally see until late October or early November. Then from November through February 2010 there was a seemingly endless procession of strong west and northwest ground swells. During that period, at any given time there were at least four huge comma clouds lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery from Japan all the way to the U.S. Mainland. These lows had gale force surface winds blowing over a huge expanse of water. The pattern continued for four solid months bringing consistent overhead to double overhead surf for three or four days, then ease up for a day or two, then bang, another macking pulse for three or four days and so on. One of these huge swells hit Hawaii in early December 2009 just in time for the Eddie Surf Classic at Oahu’s Waimea Bay, which had the biggest waves ever for the event since it’s inception. With the big swells and high tides here in Laguna that winter, there was extensive beach erosion. By the end of January it was all boulders and bedrock, absolutely no sand to be found. You can tell it’s been flat around here this season; so far as the sand is piled up higher than ever. Not even the slightest berms, anywhere. Gotta run, see you next week. 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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