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 Tuesday (1/20) in North and Central CA surf was 9 ft on the face, lined up and blown to bits by late morning. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 2 ft overhead and clean and lined up. In Southern California up north surf was shoulder high.cgius and lined up and reasonably clean, though a bit drained. Down south waves were shoulder to head high and clean with light fog still in control. Hawaii's North Shore was settling down for the moment with surf in the 2-3 ft overhead range and clean as can be at better breaks. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was near flat and lightly textured early with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a modest gale over the dateline Wed-Fri (1/16) was still producing swell hitting Hawaii and California. Of more interest is a larger and reasonably strong storm that built off Japan on Sun (1/18) tracking east with seas building to 43 ft pushing to the dateline then rapidly fading just east of there on Tues (1/20). Large swell is pushing towards Hawaii with smaller and more spaced out energy expected for the US West Coast. Weak secondary fetch to continue generating up to 28 ft seas on the dateline Thurs-Fri (1/23) targeting primarily the Islands. And yet another small storm is forecast tracking off Japan on Sat (1/24) with 38 ft seas, but fading fast. The Active Phase of the MJO is producing as expected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (1/20) the jet was pushing solidly east off Japan at 190 kts falling pushing flat to the dateline with a solid trough just east of there. The jet then .cgiit north of Hawaii (155W) with the northern branch pushing into British Columbia and the southern branch falling southeast and .cgiitting again, with some energy pushing over California and the rest into mainland Mexico. There was great support for storm development in the trough just east of the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the trough east of the dateline is to continue building as 190 kts winds keep feeding it as it deepens, with it's apex nearly pushing directly over the Hawaiian Islands late Fri (1/23). Good support for gale development there. Back to the west winds are to start fading some pushing off Japan down to 110 kts. And to the east the jet is to be pushing solely into the Pacific Northwest with a backdoor trough from that energy retrograding and pushing off Southern CA. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to push to 140W and be fading with the ridge holding over the US West Coast Sun (1/25). A new weak trough is to be pushing off Northern Japan with winds 150 kts offering limited support for gale development. But a bit of a .cgiit in the jet is projected developing over the Kuril Islands by Tues (1/27) with decreasing support for gale development then. Long term the models project a solid trough setting up in the Gulf Wed-Thurs (1/29) while a big .cgiit develops over the West Pacific. This likely signals the end of the Active Phase of the MJO for the West Pacific but shifts the focus for storm development to the Gulf of Alaska, in sync with the eastward shift of the MJO to the East Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (1/20) swell from a gale the developed on the dateline Wed-Fri (1/16) was still hitting California but on it's way down (see Second Dateline Gale below). Small swell from a small gale that developed East of Japan was in the water starting to hit Hawaii, but will get buried before it peaks (see Small Japan Gale below). Of more interest is a a storm that developed off Japan and modestly bloomed while pushing east (see Strong Japan Storm below).
Over the next 72 hours another fetch is to develop over the dateline starting Tues PM (1/20), really secondary energy from the Japan Storm (see Secondary Japan Storm Energy below).
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).
North CA: 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 starting to hit Hawaii on Tues afternoon (3 ft @ 15 secs - 4.5 ft) but will be overtaken and buried by a stronger storm/swell following directly behind
Strong Japan Storm #3
A very organized and strong storm developed 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 continued tracking east-southeast targeting Hawaii directly generating barely 44 ft seas at 35N 164E (299 degs HI). 50 kt westerly fetch continued pushing solidly east on Mon AM (1/19) generating 44 ft seas at 34.5N 171E (303 degs HI). Seas peaked at 18z per the model at 44 ft at 34N 174E. The Jason-2 satellite made a pass directly over the core of the fetch reporting a 15 reading sea average at 42.1 ft with one erroneous reading well south of the core at 46.0 ft. The model suggested 44 ft seas. The model was overhyping this storm. The storm was still be falling east-southeast Mon PM with an fetch of 50 kt west winds producing 43 ft seas at 33N 179E starting to target the US West Coast as well (305 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 289 degs SCal). Fetch was rapidly fading Tuesday AM (1/20) from 40 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 42 ft seas at 36N 172W (mostly bypassing HI 319 degs, aimed well at NCal at 284 degs, SCal 290 degs). No fetch of interest is to be left by Tues PM. Moderately large swell is possible targeting the Islands with more modest longer period and well spaced energy targeting the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arriving on Oahu on Wed (1/21) at sunrise with period 22 secs and size building, starting to peak near noon at 10-11 ft @ 19-20 secs (19.0-22.0 ft Hawaiian). Swell holding solidly through the day with period still 18+ secs at sunset. Swell to continue on Thurs (1/22) but fading from 8.6-9.3 ft @ 17 secs (14.6-15.8 ft Hawaiian) Swell Direction: 300-306 degrees and not shadowed by Kauai.
North CA: Rough data suggests early arrivers hitting near sunrise Fri (1/23) with period 21 secs and size building steadily. Period to hit 20 secs near noon and size building. Swell pushing 7.8 ft @ 18-19 secs at sunset (14.5 ft). Swell to peak overnight as period hits 18 secs near 10 PM at 8.7 ft @ 18 secs (15.7 ft with bigger sets). Swell holding size into sunrise Sat (1/24) at 8.4 ft @ 17 sec (14.3 ft) with some bigger sets, and slowly fading from there. Swell Direction: 284-286 degrees Long waits between sets.
South CA: Rough data suggests early arrivers hitting near sunset Fri (1/23) with period 23 secs and size barely noticeable (1.5 ft @ 23 secs - 3.0-3.5 ft). Period to hit 20 secs near 11 PM and size building. Swell pushing 3.9 ft @ 19 secs at sunrise Sat (1/24) set (7.4 ft). Swell to peak late in the day at 4.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (7.0-7.5 ft with bigger sets). Swell fading some overnight. Residuals on Sun AM (1/25) at 3.8 ft @ 16 secs (6.0 ft) with a few bigger sets, and slowly fading from there. Swell Direction: 290-291 degrees Very long waits between sets.
Secondary Japan Storm Energy
On Tues PM (1/20) a new broad fetch of northwest winds is to be developing over the dateline at near 50 kts generating 36 ft seas at 35N 177W (281 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). West fetch to fade from 40 kts into Wed AM (1/12) with seas 32 ft near 36N 167W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. A new fetch is forecast Wed PM over the dateline with 40 kt northwest winds generating 26 ft seas at 37N 178E targeting Hawaii well. 40 kt northwest winds to be fading Thurs AM (1/22) with seas to 28 ft at 33N 177W targeting Hawaii well (310 degrees). Fetch fading holding into the evening with seas fading from 25-26 ft over a broad area at 30N 173W (311 degs HI). Fetch fading from there with 24 ft seas fading at 35N 174W. 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 Tuesday (1/20) high pressure at 1030 mbs was ridging into the Pacific Northwest setting up and north winds at 15 kts along the California coast from Pt Conception northward. This same pattern is forecast to hold through Fri (1/23) with light winds nearshore early giving way to north winds 10-15 kts in the afternoon. Finally on Sat (1/24) the high is to push inland with an offshore flow again taking control and holding for the foreseeable future (at least through Tues 1/27).
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 holding late and seas to 38 ft at 41N 154E. Winds to hold at 50 kts Sat AM (1/24) with seas 39 ft over a small area aimed east at 40N 160E (307 degs HI). Winds to fade from 45 kts in the evening with seas 37 ft at 40N 168E (310 degs HI). Winds continuing to fade Sun AM (1/25) with seas 32 ft at 40N 171E (313 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 Tuesday (1/20) the daily SOI was down hard for the second day in a row at -40.98 attributable to low pressure over Darwin and Tahiti. The 30 day average was falling from -8.04 and the 90 day average was down some at -7.51. 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 neutral wind anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning westerly on the dateline. Anomalies continued moderate to strong westerly 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) continued 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 (1/28) neutral anomalies are to set up over the Maritime Continent with moderate to strong west anomalies covering 2 degrees south of the dateline the fading at a point south of Hawaii. Neutral 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 1/19 are in sync. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was in control over the dateline and fading. The Statistic model depicts the Active Phase moving east over the next 15 days eventually positioned south of Hawaii and dissipating on day 13 there. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing initially but then the Active Phase retrogrades and is to rebuild over the West Pacific strongly 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 1/20 depicts a solid Active Phase over the Central Pacific today and tracking east into 1/30. A moderate Inactive Phase is supposed to push into the West Pacific 1/30 and ease east into 2/24 while a new very weak Active Phase takes over the West Pacific 2/24. 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 (1/19) 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 neutral anomalies are covering a region south of Hawaii to the Galapagos. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding over the West Pacific west of 160W and greater than 1.0 degs 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. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase was taking control.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming. As of 1/20 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was barely hanging on under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and all but gone 140W eastward. But, a new pocket of +2 deg anomalies was building under the dateline, suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave and likely associated with the new WWB occurring at the surface there. Satellite data from 1/13 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 (as appears to be the case). 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 1/20 for the Nino 3.4 region have backed down more'. 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 +1.5 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