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 (2/13) in North and Central CA surf was head high and clean early though a bit on the weak side. Still it was well rideable. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high and soft but clean. In Southern California up north surf was thigh high on the sets and clean but weak. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean and lined up, but still kinda weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more Gulf swell with waves head high to a little overhead on the peaks and clean and lined up. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting wrap-around swell at waist high and reasonably clean with trades suppressed.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Secondary fetch from a gale previously in the Gulf generated fleeting pockets of 22 ft seas off Oregon Wednesday and again Thurs (2/13) offering more small swell for the US West Coast. Fetch also fell from the Gulf towards Hawaii generating 20 ft seas Wed (2/12) targeting the Islands with swell expected by Fri (2/14). But of more interest is a broader gale forecast for the Gulf Fri-Sat (2/15) with 20-22 ft seas then building off Southern Oregon Sun (2/16) with 28 ft seas targeting the US West Coast and continuing with 22-24 ft seas into Wed (2/19). And theoretically a new gale is to build off the Kuril Islands too on Mon (2/17) peaking Tuesday while holding stationary with up to 34 ft seas targeting the US West Coast but closer to Hawaii. So improving surf size looks likely over the short term.
Note: NDBC has updated their buoy maintenance plan. 46012, 46013 and 46014 are scheduled for maintenance in May 2014. There is no schedule for 46059 or 46006.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (2/13) the jetstream remained unchanged and was split directly east of Japan with the split flow pushing up the Kuril Islands and into the Bering Sea, stealing energy from the remaining flow that was tracking flat east on the 25N latitude pushing over the dateline with winds falling below 80 kts. The return flow from the Arctic was falling south into the Gulf now up to 120 kts and ready to reinforce a weak trough that has been in play north of Hawaii offering little support for gale development. The semi consolidated flow then tracked northeast from a point north of Hawaii pushing into Oregon at up to 180 kts over a small area bringing weather into the Pacific Northwest. Over the next 72 hours the split in the west is to dramatically reduce it's northward track, turning east just south of the Aleutians by Saturday (2/15) and then rejoining the main flow north of Hawaii 24 hours later. Winds to be generally light over the North Pacific except to 150 kts in one small pocket in the Gulf on Sunday (2/16). Some degree of troughiness to persist in the Gulf though the period, but nothing dramatic.Limited support for gale development possible. Beyond 72 hours a minor split in the jet is to be in-place over the dateline Monday and easing east through the workweek, with the northern branch ridging north up into Southern Alaska on Thurs (2/20) supporting high pressure down at the surface and pushing the persistent trough that has been in the Gulf inland over the Pacific Northwest reaching down to Central CA early Fri (2/21). limited support for gale development possible in the Gulf through the period. Back to the west a consolidate jet is to be building with winds 160 kts pushing off Japan up at 30N ridging slightly over the dateline then falling into a bit of a trough north of Hawaii before the jet split. Limited support for gale development there. The rejoined and invigorated jet in the West is likely to be attributable to a building Active Phase of the MJO developing over the Western Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (2/13) small swell was hitting Hawaii from a diffuse gale that was in the Western Gulf days previous. And additional swell energy is to follow on Fri (2/14) (see Another Hawaiian Fetch below). Swell from the Gulf is expected for Northern CA over the weekend from two systems listed below.
A pulse of 35 kt west winds to develop from a previous low off Oregon on Thurs AM (2/13) lifting northeast into the evening generating 22 ft seas at 42N 141W targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest but also sending sideband energy to NCal down the 294degree path and 850 nmiles out. Fetch is to be gone and inland by the Fri AM (2/14) with 19 ft seas at 43N 135W (296 degs NCal). Possible reinforcing small 12-13 sec period swell for NCal by late Fri PM (2/14) at 4.8 ft @ 12 secs (5.5 ft). See QuikCASTs for more details.
Starting Thurs PM (2/13) a broader fetch of northwest winds at 35 kts is to start developing in the Western Gulf with seas building. By Fri AM (2/14) 30-35 kt northwest winds to be tracking east in the Central Gulf with 18 ft seas at 40N 162W (350 degs HI). Fetch is to continue east in the evening pushing east with seas building to 18-20 ft at 42N 150W (292 degs NCal). The fetch is to be fading from 30 kts off the Northern CA coast on Sat AM with seas 22 ft at 42N 145W (292 degs NCal, 300 degs SCal). Fetch is to be impacting the Pacific Northwest in the evening with 20 ft seas at 40N 133W (292 degs NCal).
Assuming all goes as forecast some building 13 secs period swell seems likely for Northern CA late in the weekend pushing maybe 8 ft @ 13 secs Sunday (2/16) afternoon (10.5 ft) from 290 degrees with sideband energy for Hawaii at 4.5 ft @ 11-12 secs (5 ft faces) early Sunday (2/16) from 345 degrees.
Another Gulf Gale
A far broader fetch associated with a building low in the Western Gulf is to develop on Sat AM (2/15) generating 30-35 kt west winds extending from Kamchatka to the Central Gulf aimed at the US West Coast. Seas building over the entire expanse, or nearly 2600 nmiles. In the evening 35-40 kt west winds to consolidate from the dateline to a point just off Oregon with 22 ft seas aimed east over a large area reaching to 44N 147W (298 degs NCal). The fetch is to consolidate in the Gulf Sun AM (2/16) with 35-40 kt west winds there building 28 ft seas at 43N 140W (296 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade in the evening from 25-30 kts with seas still 26 ft approaching the Oregon Coast at 45N 134W (312 degrees NCal) with 20 ft seas down to 39N 137W (285 degrees NCal). More swell being generated targeting Oregon and California.
Additional 30 kt northwest to west winds to build in the Central Gulf Mon evening (2/17) building to 35 kts over a small area Tues AM (2/18) pushing east and generating 22 ft seas near 47N 142W (309 degs NCal) and targeting primarily Oregon and Washington.35 kt west winds to hold into Wed Am with 24 ft seas up at 45N 133W (319 degrees NCal). If all this develops as forecast, more 13-14 secs period north angled swell could results for Central CA northward.
Another Hawaiian Fetch
A fetch of 35 kt north winds developed over the Aleutians Tues AM (2/11) falling south into the evening with winds down to 30 kts then generating 20 ft seas near 43N 172W (332 degs HI). 30 kt north winds held into the Wed AM (2/12) with 20 ft seas still in-play at 40N 169W (334 deg HI). 18 ft seas to hold into the evening at 37N 168W.
In all some degree of swell is expected to reach Hawaii on Fri AM (2/14) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.0-8.5 ft) from 335 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/13) high pressure was centered off Central CA ridging into the coast near San Francisco. Light winds were over the San Francisco Bay Area with north winds from Monterey Bay southward at 15 kts and light south winds associated with low pressure in the Gulf from Cape Mendocino northward. A modest weather system is to impact the Pacific Northwest Thurs PM but mostly getting shunted north relative to California by the high pressure system holding off Central CA. Light rain over North CA down to Bodega Bay. San Francisco to be the dividing line between low pressure, south winds and rain to the north (south winds starting at Pt Arena but rain down to the North Bay Thursday) and north winds, clearing skies and high pressure to the south (Monterey Bay southward). A larger gale is to be approaching California Saturday AM with south winds to maybe Monterey Bay mid-day and rain building from the north to Monterey Bay late evening. Light snow developing late for Tahoe. Sunday AM high pressure is to build in again for most of California with rain clearing out down to Big Sur. 5-8 inches of snow for Tahoe by 10 AM Sun. North winds 15 kts focused mainly on Pt Conception. Another weather system to be impacting Southern Oregon and northern most California Monday AM with south winds down to Pt Arena reaching Pt Reyes late. Light rain to Bodega Bay Monday evening. High pressure and north winds at 15 kts to hold tight over Pt Conception. But high pressure is to be in control Tues AM building northward clearing things out and by Wednesday evening it's to bring north winds to the entire coastal California area pushing 20 kts for the entire state (including Southern CA) Thurs AM.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were in play. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing gale activity is forecast aimed up into our forecast area.
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 a gale is to start building off Japan on Sat-Sun (2/16) taking on larger proportions Mon AM (2/17) while lifting northeast off Northern Japan with 45 kt northwest winds and seas building from 32 ft at 38N 158E (303 degs HI). The gale is to hold position and strength in the evening with 45 kt west-northwest winds and seas holding at 32 ft at 40N 157E aimed well down the 306 degree path to HI (300 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds to hold into Tues AM (2/18) with 32 ft seas falling southeast from 43N 160E (312 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). Fetch and seas fading from there. Possible decent swell for Hawaii if all goes as forecast. At least it's 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 planet. 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 split 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).
As of Thursday (2/13) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -18.16. The 30 day average was down to 8.83 and the 90 day average down to 6.43. This is what appears to finally be a reversal of an unexpected upward spike in the SOI perhaps related to the backside of the Kelvin Wave impacting South America (more below). The near term trend based on the SOI was indicative of a new Active Phase of the MJO associated with a strong Westerly Wind Burst over the West Pacific in January . The longer term pattern was indicative of the Inactive Phase. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning slightly westerly over the dateline continuing south of Hawaii. Wind anomalies turned light easterly midway to Central America. The westerly anomalies are the remnants of a strong Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started 1/8, peaked 1/28 and then faded while moving over the dateline. A week from now (2/21) limited modest westerly anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline continuing south of Hawaii. Weak westerly anomalies are forecast over the Eastern Pacific into Central America. In all this suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was gaining control of the dateline and points east of there and are to be holding over the next week. Of most interest is the previous WWB which has created prime conditions for development of another Kelvin Wave.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/12 are reasonably in agreement. Both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was rebuilding over the far West Pacific with the Inactive Phase fading over the Central Pacific. The statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to ease east and only fade slightly over the next 15 days, reaching the dateline then. The dynamic model suggests much of the same with the Active Phase weakening slowly while tracking east to the dateline 15 days out. Either way some flavor of the Active Phase is projected, which is good news. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 2/13 suggests a weak Active Phase was over the West Pacific and is to track east while holding if not building some, moving inland over Central America on Mar 14 or more than a month away. This is what we want to see if some flavor of El Nino were to develop. A modest Inactive Phase is to start developing in the far West Pacific 3/5 and track east, reaching the East Pacific at the end of the run or 3/25. This model has stabilized compared to previous runs. The consensus is that some prolonged Active Phase of the MJO is developing (which is good news) and is to hold for the next 3-4 weeks. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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 now (2/10) a cool water regime that unexpectedly developed on the equator south of Baja reaching to almost the dateline remains in play. But it is loosing coverage and depth as of the most recent image. This cool pool was likely the source of the rising SOI during later January. What was perplexing is that a Westerly Wind Burst was occurring at the same time this cool regime developed. Water temps are -0.5 deg C below normal over that region, moderating some from a week ago. Slightly warmer water remains on the equator nestled up to and off Ecuador, Chile and Peru, but that warm pool appears to be weakening some as compared to previous images, with cooler waters now depicted directly along the coast there. this suggests a previous Kelvin Wave impacting the coast there is spent. Any previous suggestion of what looked like a weak El Nino signature remains erased in the mid-Pacific. The previous California cool plume tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California is gone with warm waters continuing just off the North CA coast. Thousands of miles of warmer water lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast is moving east and almost reaching the coast. A sympathetic cool pool that had developed off Africa remains dissipated. Current thinking is the cool pool on the equatorial Pacific is tied to the upwelling (backside) of the Kelvin Wave currently impacting South America, and that as that portion of the wave moves inland, temperatures will rise again. But there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing. For now we remain in a pure neutral pattern, with tendencies towards a cooler state as of 2/4, a downgrade from previous suggestions of a warming pattern developing.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator remain most impressive. Cooler than normal water (-2 deg c) that was 100m down at 110W (off Central America) has moderated to -1 C and there's continued signs the entire pool is still loosing it's grip. But for now this cool patch is continuing to block any warm flow trying to move east. But at the same time a large area of warm water at now up to +4 deg C is building under the dateline and increasing in temp and coverage with it's leading edge moving east now to 110W (+1 deg C). This is the start of a new large Kelvin Wave generated by 24 days of modest to strong westerly anomalies west of the dateline (a Westerly Wind Burst). All warm water from a previous Kelvin Wave is dissipated with the cool pool behind it a normal response to the previous warm wave. The warm pool off Central America is expected to provide slight warming to the already neutral to warm surface warm pool near the Galapagos for a short while, but not much (seeing how it's already dissipating). The hope is the January WWB over the Maritime Continent has set up another Kelvin Wave that will add more fuel to what is hopefully the start of at least a small warm event. But it's still way too early to know with any certainty (especially considering the cooler surface water temps discussed above). But signs are promising.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 2/13 are holding steady. The model has been continuously suggesting some form of warming starting in Feb 2014 building to + 0.75-1.0 deg C by late July 2014. Recent runs are up to the +1.2 deg C range by Oct 2014 (down from 1.3-1.4 C earlier). For the immediate future (this Winter) an effective neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering below +0.5 deg C through April. But a slow but steady increase is to set in. If anything, those increase are starting to appear on the current water temp plots. A consensus of other models suggests slow warming, but not passing beyond mildly positive territory till Spring of next year.
Overall the immediate outlook remains nothing stellar, but trending towards something that would be considered right on the threshold of warm, by Summer 2014, assuming one were to believe the models. All this is good news. If anything the ocean is in a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts. We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern by early 2014. But, the recent developing cool pool at depth off Central America gives us cause for concern. The weak presence of the Inactive Phase of MJO in the summer of 2013 still seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. But with the ocean turning neutral, we suspect the atmosphere will make the turn as well over the next few months (into March 2014). This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. It is becoming apparent we've finally recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
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