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 Saturday (1/31) in North and Central CA surf at top spots was head high on the sets and clean with offshore winds in control early. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high on the sets and clean but weak and warbled (from tide). In Southern California up north surf was waist high on the sets and clean and lined up, but generally weak. Down south waves were waist high and weak but clean. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting some Kuril Island swell with waves 3 ft overhead with north dateline swell starting to add to the mix. Conditions were clean early but with some warbled in the water. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting some windswell at thigh to waist high and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Kuril Island swell was fading in California with modest North Dateline swell building for Hawaii. The North dateline swell originated from a small gale that fell south from the northern dateline region producing 20-22 ft seas on Wed-Thurs (1/29). A gale was developing in the Gulf of Alaska on Sat-Sun (2/1) expected to produce 24 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii and 28 ft seas aimed southeast at the US West Coast. Small swell is possible during the workweek. Longer term the models continue to suggest the Gulf of Alaska may become more active, with a broad but fragmented gale projected there offering up 26 ft seas north of Hawaii on Thurs (2/5) fading some but building in coverage into the weekend. Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (1/31) the jet was pushing east off Southern Japan at 150 kts but quickly .cgiit with energy tracking north over Kamchatka up into the North Bering Sea. The main core of the jet proceeded east over the dateline and then became diffused in an upper level low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska with winds barely to 130 kts, before .cgiitting and falling apart completely. There was limited support for gale development in the upper low, but otherwise the jet was weak and poorly organized. Over the next 72 hours the .cgiit east of Japan is to start dissipating some late Mon (2/2) with nearly 170 kts winds developing off Japan pushing over the dateline and a more consolidated flow taking shape. No troughs forecast but overall things are to be looking more positive. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to be tracking flat west to east originating off Southern Japan with winds to 190 kts in one small pocket on the dateline falling gently southeast into a building trough north of Hawaii on Thurs (2/5) offering decent support for gale development. That trough is to builds into Sat (2/7) with 190 kts winds still on the dateline and the apex of the trough just north of Hawaii offering good support for gale development. And of interest, no .cgiit is forecast east of there with the core of the jet starting to impact the Cape Mendocino CA area with winds 130 kts Saturday offering decent odds for weather down into the San Francisco Bay Area. This would suggest the Active Phase of the MJO is pushing east making inroads to the East Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (1/31) swell from a gale that developed off the Kuril Islands was fading in California. Swell from a small gale that developed over the Northern Dateline region was starting to impact Hawaii (see north Dateline Gale below). Also a new gale was starting to build in the the Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below)
Over the next 72 hours a small gale is to try and develop just east of Japan on Sat AM (1/31) generating 45 kt west to northwest winds over a tiny area making little eastward progress with seas building from 25 ft at 40N 150E. Fetch is to fade to 40 kts in the evening with seas holding at 24 ft at 40N 151E over a tiny area. 40-45 kt northwest winds are forecast barely extending off Japan on Sun AM (2/1) generating a tiny area of 22 ft seas at 42N 150E holding in the evening to 22 ft at 39N 151E. 35-40 kt northwest winds to continue over a tiny area build Mon AM (2/2) with seas 20 ft again at 41N 150E. Northwest fetch fading from there with no seas of interest forecast. No real swell of interest is to result from this system given it's current weak life per the latest run of the model.
A new gale started winding up in the Gulf of Alaska Fri PM (1/30) (really just the reformed remnants of the Kuril Island Gale and the North Dateline Gale) generating 35-40 kts winds over a small area in it's south quadrant targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Seas building from 17 ft. On Sat AM (1/31) 50 kt winds were in the gale southeast quadrant barely aimed east at Central CA northward but really targeting Canada and with 40 kt north winds aimed at Hawaii. A small area of 28-30 ft seas were targeting Central CA northward at 42N 152W (290 degs NCal) and 24 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii from 45N 160W (356 degs HI). 35 kt north and west winds to continue in the evening generating 25 ft seas targeting Hawaii at 41N 160W (345 degs HI) and 27 ft seas at the US West Coast at 42N 152W (290 degs NCal). Only west winds to remain Sun AM (2/1) at 35 kts aimed at the US West Coast with 22-23 ft seas at 40N 152W (285 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). This system to dissipate after that. Perhaps some modest swell for the Islands and a little more for California up into the Pacific Northwest.
Hawaii: For.cgianning purposes swell arrival expected on Mon afternoon (2/2) pushing 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft faces). Swell fading Tues AM (2/3) from 4.1 ft @ 13-14 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 250-355 degrees
North Dateline Gale
A small gale built over the Northern Dateline region on Wed AM (1/28) producing a small area of 35 kt north winds and 21 ft seas at 49N 178W aimed due south (338 degs HI). Winds held in coverage and velocity into the evening with 21 ft seas at 44N 177W (330 degs HI). 30-35 kt north winds pushed south into Thurs AM (1/29) generating 22 ft seas at 43N 172W (325 degs HI). Fetch faded from there in the evening with residual 22 ft seas moving to 39N 171W (331 degs HI).
A small pulse of north angled swell is possible for the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii: Swell arrival expected later Sat (1/31) with swell to 4.2 ft @ 14-15 secs (5.5 ft). Swell continuing on Sun (2/1) at 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft) early, fading from there. Residuals on Monday (2/2) fading from barely 5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft faces). Swell Direction: 330-335 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (1/31) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was well off Southern CA ridging north setting up northerly winds over outer waters at 15-20 kts forecast getting weaker on Sun (2/1) (10 kts) as low pressure builds in the Gulf. A weak northerly flow to continue Monday and Tuesday at 10 kts over outer waters but less nearshore as Gulf low pressure starts making some eastward progress, perhaps reaching to within 500 nmiles of the coast. Light rain for North CA Mon-Tues. Winds to fall to calm on Wednesday with a front just off the coast and south winds building late up into Cape Mendocino. The front to stall there Thursday with south winds 25 kts and rain building slowly over North CA with the front reaching into the SF Bay Area with south winds 15+ kts late and holding on Friday.Rain for the Bay Area then. The front to loose some punch there on Saturday but rain continuing Sat and Sun over North and Central CA down to maybe Monterey Bay.
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 there's suggestions of two fetch areas developing associated with a broad upper trough developing over the Gulf of Alaska and an associated developing surface low. The first area is to be 1200 nmiles west of Central CA on Tues PM (2/3) producing a small area of 35-40 kt west winds producing 20 ft seas at 35N 144W. The fetch is to rapidly lift north with 40 kt west winds holding into Wed AM (2/4) resulting in 23 ft seas at 42N 142W making no eastward progress. By evening the gale is to be tracking fast north with all fetch aimed at Vancouver Islands northward and seas 25 ft at 47N 142W. This system to be fading out by Thurs AM (2/5) with no fetch or seas of interest forecast. Small swell possible for the US West Coast.
Also a second fetch to develop on the dateline Tues PM (2/3) generating 40 kt west winds over a tiny area and 28 ft seas at 38N 176E. 40 kt west winds to be falling southeast Wed AM (2/4) with seas building to 28 ft with a better sized footprint targeting Hawaii. 40 kt west fetch to continue in the evening with 27 ft seas moving to 34N 172W again targeting Hawaii well. fetch to fade from 35 kts Thurs AM (2/5) with 26 ft seas at 34N 165W. Fetch to be fading from 35 kts in the evening with 24 ft seas at 33N 158W targeting the US West Coast more than Hawaii. A quick fade to follow. Something to monitor.
And yet another broader 35-40 kt fetch of northwest winds to develop just northwest of Hawaii on Fri (2/6) with seas building into the 24 ft range targeting the Islands well, but in very close proximity.
And yet another fetch is forecast starting to develop over the dateline on Sat (2/7).
Certainly an improving pattern is looking to develop focused more in the Western and Central Gulf. of Alaska.
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 Saturday (1/31) the daily SOI was holding at -3.70. The 30 day average was rising from -8.78 and the 90 day average was down some at -8.27. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a modest 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 (3.0 months). Weak high pressure is to start building south of Tahiti this week (2/5) likely causing the SOI to move somewhat higher. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest westerly wind anomalies over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then fading to neutral south of Hawaii. Weak east anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate west anomalies in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued in.cgiay but not making any eastward progress. A week from now (2/8) modest west anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral near the dateline. Weak east anomalies are forecast from there to a point south of Hawaii, then turning westerly on into the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue holding over the West Pacific to the dateline.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/30 are in sync initially. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was holding a bit west of the dateline. Both models now are in sync longer term too with the Active Phase moving east over the next 15 days and fading south of Hawaii while the Inactive Phase of the MJO moves from the Indian Ocean into the West Pacific. The Dynamic model is much the same but suggesting the Inactive Phase is to hold in the Indian Ocean and weaken. The ultra long range upper level model run on 1/31 depicts a moderate Active Phase over the West Pacific now, and is forecast to track east into Central America by 2/20. A moderate Inactive Phase is supposed to push into the West Pacific 2/13 and be easing east into 3/10 while a new weak Active Phase takes over the West Pacific. 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 (1/29) a weak warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific and not getting any warmer. A weak El Nino signature is barely holding on. Cool water has been developing east of the Galapagos to Peru, but now appears to be loosing some ground. Warm water has traction just west of the Galapagos all the way to Indonesia. TAO data suggests neutral anomalies are covering a region from 130W to Ecuador, with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 130W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.5, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase briefly had an impact on water temps, but is now loosing ground with temps again on the increase some.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming. As of 1/31 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was rebuilding control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a new pocket of +2 deg anomalies with a core to near 3.0 degrees was building in coverage under the dateline, suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave and likely associated with the new WWB occurring at the surface there. Satellite data from 1/23 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific, indicative of an open pipe, but neutral anomalies from 120W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (1/23) indicates +0.5-1 deg anomalies are continuing to develop between 130-140E reaching east to 160W, suggestive that another weak 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 (as appears to be the case). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 1/26 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over a small area of the far West Pacific, but mainly east to west over the rest of the equatorial Pacific. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets to 135W. Pockets of moderate east anomalies were just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east. But we suspect that might be attributable tot he current upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase in flight now.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 1/31 for the Nino 3.4 region have stabilized. It suggests water temps are down some at +0.7 deg C and are to hold through May and Sept 2015 or falling just slightly to +0.6 degs C. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year Midoki event. See the chart based version here - link.
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 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 focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 Spring Unpredictability Barrier. At this time we're assuming the situation will move to a multiyear, Midoki event (the better of all options).
We remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. But we continue monitoring 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