Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - 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).
Summer - 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.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
On Thursday (1/8) in North and Central CA surf was 1-2 ft overhead at top spots and on the increase with clean conditions but a little hazy. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high and clean. In Southern California up north surf was knee to maybe thigh high and a little textured. It was barely rideable. Down south waves were waist high or so on the rare sets and lightly textured. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting Gulf swell with waves 4 ft overhead at top spots and cleaning up. Trades were back. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting Gulf swell coming from the north with waves 2-3 ft overhead and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small swell from a gale that develop off the Kurils on Sun (1/4) with 41 ft seas but all aimed east was hitting California. Also swell from a gale that developed in the Gulf of Alaska Mon-Tues (1/6) with 27 ft seas aimed mainly east has generated swell that has pasted its peak in Hawaii and is starting to arrive in California. A second small gale developed on the dateline Wed (1/7) with seas to 33 ft targeting Hawaii well. Long term a broad gale is forecast developing on the dateline pushing east Sun-Mon (1/12) with seas briefly to 30 ft over a small area nearby to Hawaii and aimed east offering potential swell for the Islands and the mainland. Previously the model had forecast a progressive series of embedded small gales tracking from the dateline to the Western Gulf Tues-Thurs (1/15) with only utility class swell resulting and targeting mainly Hawaii.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/8) the jet was pushing due east off Japan with winds 160 kts reaching almost to the dateline then weakening and falling into a small trough just east of the dateline, then ridging north of Hawaii and .cgiitting with the northern branch pushing northeast and up into Canada with the southern branch tracking southeast into mainland Mexico. Limited support for gale development in the trough east of the dateline. Over the next 72 hours winds are to continue building to 200 kts pushing flat east off South Japan Sat (1/10) and reaching to the dateline through Sun (1/11) with lesser winds tracking to a point 700 nmiles north of Hawaii. The jet is to .cgiit there with the northern branch tracking northeast towards British Columbia Even though no troughs are forecast, this suggests a wholesale improvement in the energy levels in the jet, offering improve potential for storm development longterm. Beyond 72 hours winds are to continue at 200 kts into late Mon (1/12) pushing over the dateline with the .cgiit point moving to 150W (just east of Hawaii). A trough is to start building in the Central Gulf on Wed (1/14) still being fed by 190 kts winds reaching from the dateline into the Gulf. Good support for gale if not storm development there. The .cgiit point is to move east more to 140W perhaps reaching 130W by Thurs (1/15) and with the trough continuing in the Gulf. Improved support for storm development possible. All this is likely being supported by the development of the Active Phase of the MJO building over the West Pacific (see MJO/ENSO section below).
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (1/8) moderate mid-period swell from a gale that was north of Hawaii was fading over the Islands but starting to show along the North and Central CA coast (see Gulf Gale below). Swell from another gale that developed on the dateline on Tues-Wed (1/7) was pushing towards Hawaii with much less energy targeting the US West Coast (seeDateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to start building over the Kuril Islands easing east and expanding in coverage, but lacking in organization. By Sat AM (1/10) 35 kt west winds to start building approaching the dateline and pushing over it in the evening generating a small area of 26 ft seas at 35N 180W targeting Hawaii. Winds to briefly build to 40 kts overnight with seas Sun AM (1/11) to barely 33 ft at 35N 162W. Winds fading some but pushing east in the evening with a small area of 30 ft seas at 34N 164W targeting Hawaii. 35-40 kt west winds to build in coverage some in the Gulf Mon AM (1/12) with 30 ft seas moving to 41N 157W targeting the US West Coast and holding into the evening with 30 ft seas at 41N 152W targeting the US West Coast. Secondary fetch possible for the same area into Tues AM (1/13) with a short lived area of 30 ft seas possible near 38N 148W targeting the US West Coast. Something to monitor.
A gale started organizing on Mon AM (1/5) in the Western Gulf generating 40 kt northwest winds in it's southwest flank in association with a core low di.cgiaced up in the Northern Gulf. Seas were building. By evening a growing fetch of 40 kt northwest wind were at 40N 163W producing a small area of 26 ft seas at 39N 161W (350 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). Fetch was fading from 30-35 kts from the northwest Tues AM (1/6) aimed just east of Hawaii resulting in a broad area of 27 ft seas at 38-40N 159W targeting Hawaii (358 degs) and the US West Coast (287 NCal, 290-295 SCal) then all but gone by evening with seas fading from 24 ft at 40N 159W (358 degs HI,287 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). Some rideable swell to result for California with sideband energy for the Islands.
North CA: Swell arrival expected Fri at 1 AM (1/9) with period 16 secs and size small but building steadily. Swell to peak starting at sunrise with swell 6 ft @ 16 secs (9.5 ft) holding through sunset at 6.0 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft). Residuals on Saturday (1/10) at 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft) fading Sunday (1/11) from 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 285-288 degrees
SCal: Expect swell arrival starting Friday (1/9) at 10 AM with period 16 secs and size building. Swell peaking near sunset at 3.1 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) and holding through the evening. Swell still decent Sat AM (1/10) at 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4.0-4.5 ft) and slowly fading. Residuals on Sunday at 2.4 ft @ 13-14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 292-294 degrees
A second gale started to develop on the dateline Tues AM (1/6) with 30-35 kt north winds and seas on the increase. 40 kt northwest winds were building by evening with 24 ft seas at 39N 174E. Winds peaked Wed AM (1/7) at 45 kts from the west-northwest with seas 33 ft at 40N 178E (315 degs HI, 292 degs NCal, 296 degs SCal). 35 kt west winds held into Wed PM pushing over the dateline with 30 ft seas moving to 38N 179W (319 degs HI, 290 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). A modest pulse of swell for Hawaii is possible by the early weekend with far less size for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri (1/9) with swell to 4.5 ft @ 16 secs late (7 ft). Swell to peak over night not much larger and hold into sunrise Sat (1/10) at 6.6 ft @ 14 secs (9 ft) through the day. Residuals on Sun (1/11) fading from 4.5 ft @ 12 sec (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 315 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival late on Sun (1/11) with swell pushing 2.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell peaking Mon AM maybe 4 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 290-292 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/8) high pressure was continuing to barely hold on over and just west of California waters while low pressure continued in the Eastern Gulf. A weak offshore flow as in effect for all of California. The offshore flow is to turn a bit more southerly on Friday. Winds to turn back light east Saturday but northerly 10 kts over extreme North CA. Light winds Sunday with a chance of showers for Monterey Bay down into Southern CA. Light winds Monday but northerly 10 kts for North CA down into Central CA. North winds Tuesday 5-10 kts for all of North and Central CA turning calm by Wednesday holding into Thursday. No snow in the forecast.
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
Beyond 72 hours yet a broad area of 25-30 kt northwest fetch is to be tracking east Tues AM (1/13) covering a large area extending from the Kuril Islands southeast to the dateline and east to a point north of Hawaii and fading while moving east into Thurs AM (1/15) becoming more isolated to mainly the dateline generating up to 25 ft seas moving towards and reaching the dateline Thurs AM (1/15). More swell mainly for Hawaii possible.
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 Thursday (1/8) the daily SOI was falling from -4.99 with weak low pressure falling southeast from a point south of Tahiti. The 30 day average was rising some from -7.06 and the 90 day average was down some at -8.29. 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 (2.5 months). More weak low pressure is to build south of Tahiti over the next week keeping the SOI somewhat negative. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest west anomalies over a building area covering the Maritime Continent reaching almost to the dateline. Anomalies turned light east at a point south of Hawaii and continued modestly east from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong west anomalies from 145E to the dateline. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) looked to be developing. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was making good progress over the West Pacific. A week from now (1/16) moderate.cgius west anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent reaching over the dateline then turning neutral south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are forecast from there reaching to the Galapagos. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be pushing east and almost gone with the new strong Active Phase getting better inroads over the far West Pacific.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/7 are in sync. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was over the Maritime Continent with a weak Inactive MJO pattern holding south of Hawaii. The Statistic model depicts this weak Inactive Phase holding and lifting north over the Islands while the Active Phase itself moves east over the next 15 days and eventually straddling the dateline. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Inactive Phase fading entirely but the Active Phase fading some too 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 1/8 depicts a solid Active Phase over the West Pacific today and tracking slowly east and progressively fading as it reaches the East Pacific through 1/28. A moderate Inactive Phase is to follow in the west starting 1/23 pushing east into 2/17 while a new solid Active Phase builds in the West Pacific 2/12. This is the strongest we've seen the MJO all year, suggesting any hope for a legit El Nino are fading fast.
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 (1/8) a modestly warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific but not getting any warmer recently. A clear but very weak El Nino signature is barely holding on. Cool water is developing east of the Galapagos to Peru while warm water has traction just west of the Galapagos reaching west to 160W, likely the result of the eruption of the last of a pair of Kelvin Waves impacting the Galapagos region (peaking 12/21). But that warm water is starting to rapidly decline. TAO data suggests barely +0.5 deg C anomalies are present in a pocket just west of the Galapagos with +0.0-0.5 C anomalies mostly in control west to 150W. +1.0 deg anomalies are rebuilding near 160E. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.4, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase was developing.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are cooling. As of 1/7 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was barely hanging on under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with one last embedded pocket of +3 deg anomalies rolling off the eastern edge of chart at 95W (near the Galapagos). This pocket is the last remnants of a second in a pair of recent Kelvin Waves erupting over the Galapagos. Satellite data from 1/3 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific but nothing higher, indicative of an open pipe, but no real Kelvin Wave energy in flight. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (1/3) indicates the second Kelvin Wave was all but gone near 95W. Interesting but +1 deg anomalies are continuing to develop between 130-140E reaching east to 175W, suggestive that another Kelvin wave might be in the early stages of development. Theoretically the peak of El Nino occurred (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. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Now that the second Kelvin Wave has arrived in the east (about Dec 21) we should 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 1/1 is still 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 from 85W to the dateline. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific west of the dateline then north of the equator in pockets into the East Pacific, with pockets of stronger east anomalies just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. 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 1/8 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are down some at +0.7 deg C and are to fade some to +0.4 degs through April 2015. But the interesting part remains that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in late June 2015, pushing +1.9 degs C by Sept 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
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table