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 Sunday (1/18) in North and Central CA surf was surf was head high to 1 ft overhead at better breaks and clean early and lined up, still coming from the dateline. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high, lined up and clean. In Southern California up north surf was waist to chest high with some bigger sets and clean but soft mid-day. Down south waves were chest to shoulder high and clean with just a little texture on top. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover dateline swell with waves 3-4 ft overhead and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap dateline swell at chest to shoulder high and textured early with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A weak but broad area of 20-22 ft seas developed over the dateline Wednesday re-building to 25 ft Thurs-Fri (1/16) just northwest of Hawaii offering sizable but shorter period energy that was still hitting Hawaii over weekend, with secondary energy expected into the US West Coast for Mon (1/19). A larger and stronger storm was starting to build off Japan on Sun (1/18) tracking east with seas forecast building to 51 ft pushing to the dateline then rapidly fading just east of there on Tues (1/20) with seas fading from 32 ft late. large swell looks likely for Hawaii with smaller and more spaced out energy possible for the US West Coast. Weak secondary fetch to continue generating 25-26 ft seas on the dateline into early Fri (1/23). Much swell possible for the Islands. And yet another small but solid storm is forecast tracking off Japan on Sat (1/24). The Active Phase of the MJO is poised to start delivering the goods.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Sunday (1/18) the jet was pushing solidly east off Japan at 190 kts falling into a building trough just west of the dateline then ridging slightly before falling southeast into another trough north of Hawaii. The jet is to almost .cgiit there at 155W with the southern branch falling just east of Hawaii and the northern branch continuing east, then the two joining together again and pushing over Central CA up into the Pacific Northwest. There was great support for storm development just west of the dateline with much less odds north of Hawaii. Over the next 72 hours the trough west of the dateline is to push east to the dateline Mon (1/19) with winds in the jet starting still 190 kts, then ridging harder east of there pushing up into the Central Gulf of Alaska with the .cgiit point holding at 155W. Continued support for storm development in the dateline trough. The jet to continue solid with 155 kt winds streaming from well inland over Asia into the Pacific, forming a modest trough on the dateline and continuing to a point north of Hawaii into Wed (1/21) with the .cgiit point reaching to 145W. Good support for gale if not storm development in the dateline trough. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to deepen even more on Thurs (1/22) northwest of Hawaii (165W) with winds rebuilding to 190 kts and covering more area and steepening Friday (1/23) while easing east with it's apex pushing directly over Hawaii late. By Mon AM (1/260 130 kt winds to still be streaming off South Japan building to 150 kts north of Hawaii with the pinched trough still pushing east to 135W with a .cgiit flow east of there, with the northern branch pushing up into British Columbia and the southern branch over Southern Baja. Still decent support for gale development possible. In all a very solid jetstream flow looks to be setting up an extended window of support for gale if not storm development. The big issue remains that the .cgiit point is to remain off the CA coast, suggesting no chance of rain inland (both good and bad). This jet pattern is being supported by the Active Phase of the MJO now over the dateline (see MJO/ENSO section below).
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (1/18) swell from a gale the developed on the dateline Wed-Fri (1/16) was passing Hawaii and poised to hit California (see Second Dateline Gale below). Small swell from a small gale that developed East of Japan was in the water pushing towards Hawaii, but expected to get buried before it arrives (see Small Japan Gale below). The big story remains about a new storm developing off Japan and expected to bloom while pushing east (see Strong Japan Storm below).
Over the next 72 hours the Japan Storm is to be the main systems of interest. No other swell producing systems are forecast.
Second Dateline Gale
Yet another broad but ill-defined gale developed near the dateline starting Wed PM (1/14). 30 kt northwest winds were covering a broad area targeting Hawaii well generating 22 ft seas near 35N 173E (305 degs HI). That fetch pushed east some Thurs AM (1/15) generating a broader area of 23 ft seas at 35N 180W (311 degs HI). The gale consolidated some Thurs PM with 30-35 kt west-northwest winds taking shape generating 24 ft seas at 35N 172W (323 degs HI, 280 degs NCal). Those winds held Fri AM (1/16) while pushing east with seas barely hanging on at 24 ft at 36N 167W (331 degs HI, 284 degs NCal). Fetch was fading from 25-30 kts in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 22 ft at 38N 160W (284 degs NCal).
Hawaii: Residuals dropping Mon AM (1/19) from 5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 305-320 degrees
North CA: Swell to start becoming noticeable on Mon (1/19) with swell 7 ft @ 14 secs (9.5 ft). Swell to continue on Tues (1/20) at 6.5 ft @ 14 secs (9.0 ft) early, fading from there. Residuals on Wed (1/21) fading from 4,5 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 284 degrees
Small Japan Gale
A tiny gale developed mid-way between Japan and the dateline on Fri (1/16) producing 45 kt northwest winds generating 30 ft seas at 35N 157E in the AM (298 degs HI) and 30 ft seas in the evening at 34N 163E (298 degs HI). Winds were fading from 35 kts Sat AM (1/17) with seas fading from 25 ft at 34N 171E (300 degs HI). This gale dissipated after that.
Small swell is pushing towards Hawaii but it will likely get overtaken and buried by a stronger storm/swell forecast to follow directly behind
Strong Japan Storm #3
A very organized and strong storm was developing off Japan on Sun AM (1/18) with 50-55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 42 ft at 37N 158E (304 degs HI). In the evening 50-55 kt northwest winds are to track east-southeast targeting Hawaii directly generating 45 ft seas at 35N 164E (299 degs HI). 50 kt westerly fetch to continue pushing solidly east on Mon AM (1/19) generating 48 ft seas at 35N 170E (303 degs HI). The storm is to still be falling east-southeast Mon PM with an fetch of 50 kt west winds producing 50 ft seas at 34N 178E starting to target the US West Coast as well (305 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 289 degs SCal). Fetch is to be rapidly fading Tuesday AM (1/20) from 40 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 42 ft seas at 36N 173W (mostly bypassing HI 319 degs, aimed well at NCal at 285 degs, SCal 291 degs). No fetch of interest is to be left by Tues PM. Large swell is possible targeting the Islands with more moderate longer period energy targeting the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Rough data for.cgianning purposes suggests large swell arriving on Oahu on Wed (1/21) at sunrise peaking late morning at 12.5 ft @ 19-20 ft (23.5-25.0 ft Hawaiian with sets to 28 ft). Swell Direction:300-306 degrees
On Tues PM (1/20) a new broad fetch of northwest winds is to be developing over the dateline at near 50 kts generating 34 ft at 35N 172W (281 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). West fetch to hold at 40 kts into Wed AM (1/12) with seas 28-32 ft over a broad area near 36N 168W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. More of the same is forecast Wed PM with 40 kt northwest winds pushing over the dateline with 25 ft seas at 35N 178W targeting Hawaii well. 40 kt northwest wins to be fading Thurs AM (1/22) with seas to 26 ft at 32N 175W targeting Hawaii well (310 degrees). Fetch fading holding into the evening with seas fading from 25 ft over a broad area at 32N 173W (312 degs HI). Fetch fading from there. Much backup swell is possible targeting mainly Hawaii. Certainly something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (1/18) high pressure was continuing to barely hold on over and just west of California waters but retrograding some starting to generate north winds at 15 kts along exposed points over the North and Central Coast.This same pattern is forecast to hold for the work week with north winds 10-15 kts in the afternoon nearshore, though likely light earlier. Finally on Sat (1/24) the high is to push inland with an offshore flow again taking control .
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 another storm is forecast developing off the Kuril Islands on Fri (1/24) with 50 kt west winds aimed east building to 55 kt late and seas to 41 ft at 40N 160E. Winds to hold at 55 kts Sat AM (1/24) with seas 45 ft at 40N 168E (310 degs HI). Winds to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas 43 ft at 40N 176E (315 degs HI). Winds continuing to fade Sun AM (1/25) with seas 40 ft at 39N 179W (319 degs HI). Something to monitor.
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 Sunday (1/18) the daily SOI was down hard at -29.72 attributable to low pressure over Darwin and Tahiti. The 30 day average was falling form -6.28 and the 90 day average was down some at -712. 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). Weak low pressure is to continue holding over Tahiti well into the following weekend (1/26) keeping the SOI somewhat negative. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest east anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning westerly on the dateline. Anomalies continued westerly beyond the dateline building to the moderate category continuing south of Hawaii and then turned neutral halfway to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated the same thing. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) was in.cgiay pushing east. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was making good progress over the dateline and into the Central Pacific. A week from now (1/26) neutral anomalies are to set up over the Maritime Continent with moderate west anomalies covering the dateline building to strong at a point south of Hawaii. Light west anomalies are to be from there reaching to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue pushing from the West Pacific to the Central and East Pacific.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/14 are in sync. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was in control over the dateline. The Statistic model depicts the Active Phase moving east over the next 15 days eventually positioned south of Hawaii and fading out there. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing but then the Active Phase is to rebuild over the West Pacific 15 days out. Interesting. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is building in the Indian Ocean and forecast to push into the West Pacific 10-15 days out per the Statistic model but fade in the Indian Ocean per the Dynamic model. The ultra long range upper level model run on 1/18 depicts a solid Active Phase already over the East Pacific today and tracking east into 1/28. A moderate Inactive Phase is supposedly already pushing into the West Pacific and is to push east into 2/17 while a new very weak Active Phase takes over the West Pacific 2/14 reaching the dateline 2/27. The model has backed off the strength of future MJO Phases, perhaps offering some hope for longer term El Nino development. 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 (1/15) a modestly warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific but not getting any warmer recently. A 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 (the result of the eruption of a Kelvin Wave that peaked 12/21). But that warm water is now in decline. TAO data suggests barely +0.5 deg C anomalies or less are fading from a point south of Hawaii to the Galapagos. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding over the West Pacific west of 160W. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.5, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase was taking control.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are cooling. As of 1/18 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was barely hanging on under the Western equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and all but gone 140W eastward. No embedded Kelvin Waves were in flight. Satellite data from 1/13 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the West and Central equatorial Pacific, indicative of an open pipe, but neutral anomalies from 140W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (1/13) indicates +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.
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 1/18 for the Nino 3.4 region have settled down again'. It suggests water temps are down some at +0.6 deg C and are to hold through May 2015. But the interesting part remains that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in early July 2015, pushing +1.95 degs C by October. 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 though.
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. The telconnections we are focused on 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 remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. We are now looking for signs of a continued Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming East Pacific equatorial waters for the 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
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