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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, January 22, 2015 9:43 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
Swell Potential Rating = 4.0 - California & 4.5 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 1/19 thru Sun 1/25

Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

Swell #3 Moves Into California
Secondary Swell Builds on Dateline

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- 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).
- 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.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.


NOTE: The past 3 weeks have been very trying as NOAA has been upgrading both the Wavewatch III wavemodel and the GFS weather model. There have been unexpected extended outages on our site while we've worked to diagnose the problem and code fixes. As of today 100% of the site is back in operation.  Also our weekly video did not post and we're receiving error messages from YouTube. We'll work that issue next. And beyond we'll get back to removing Flash from the models. We appreciate your emails and patience.      

Current Conditions
On Thursday (1/22) in North and Central CA surf was 4-5 ft on the face, lined up and clean but with a fair amount of warble intermixed originating offshore. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high or so and clean but weak. In Southern California up north surf was thigh to maybe waist high and clean and weak but lined up. Down south waves were waist high with some chest high peaks and super clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was still solid but down some from Wednesday, with sets still in the 15 ft range Hawaii and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting some dateline wraparound swell at chest high and heavily textured with light trades in effect.    

See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.

Meteorological Overview
Swell was still hitting Hawaii from a moderately large 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). Smaller and more spaced out energy is tracking towards the US West Coast. Modest secondary fetch continue generating up to 30 ft seas on the dateline Thurs (1/22) targeting primarily the Islands and expected to fade out on Friday. And yet another small storm is forecast tracking off Japan on Sat (1/24) with 38 ft seas, but fading fast before reaching the dateline. The Active Phase of the MJO has peaked and is likely to fade, though there is a possibility it could pulse again.

Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

Jetstream - On Thursday (1/20) the jet was pushing solidly east off Japan 150 kts ridging northeast then falling into a well defined broad trough in the Western Gulf of Alaska with winds building to 180 kts before ridging some north of Hawaii and .cgiitting at 140W.  The northern branch in the .cgiit was pushing weakly into British Columbia with the southern branch falling south and dissipating. Good support for gale development continued in the Western Gulf trough. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to get reinforced with 190 kts winds on Fri (1/23) with 190 kts wind also pushing off Japan and working their way up into the previously mentioned ridge. Continued support for gale development in the trough as it steepens with it's apex almost reaching Hawaii late Fri (1/23). The .cgiit point to move to 130W, just off North CA. The trough is to continue pushing east and starting to pinch off on Sunday (1/25) with a new .cgiit point developing at 140W.  Back to the west the ridge is to be flattening out with a new weak trough developing and pushing off Northern Japan with winds 140 kts offering minimal support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours a bit of a .cgiit in the jet is projected developing over the Kuril Islands by Tues (1/27) with the northern branch pushing up to the Western Aleutians then falling south into a new broad trough over the Western Gulf with the jet re-consolidating there with it's apex just north of Hawaii on Thurs (1/29) offering some decent support for gale development. with decreasing support for gale development then. This .cgiit in the west likely signals the end of the Active Phase of the MJO for the West Pacific, but suggests the focus for storm development will be the Gulf of Alaska, in sync with the eastward movement of the remnant of the Active Phase of the MJO to the equatorial East Pacific. 

Surface Analysis  - On Thursday (1/22) swell from a storm that developed off Japan and modestly bloomed while pushing east (see Strong Japan Storm below). is impacting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast. And secondary fetch from that system was producing seas of interest on the dateline with swell bound for primarily Hawaii (see Secondary Japan Storm Energy below). 

Over the next 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 generating seas to 36 ft at 41N 152E. Winds to fade to 45 kts Sat AM (1/24) with seas 38 ft over a small area aimed east at 41N 160E (308 degs HI, 299 degs NCal). Winds to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas 37 ft at 40N 168E (310 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Winds continuing to fade Sun AM (1/25) from 35 kts with seas 32 ft at 41N 171E (313 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). Something to monitor.


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: Residual on Fri (1/23) holding if not building some from 9 ft @ 14-15 secs (13 ft).  Swell Direction: 300-306 degrees and not shadowed by Kauai. 

North CA: 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: 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 developed over the dateline at near 45 kts generating a tiny area of 36 ft seas at 34N 175W (281 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). West fetch faded from 40 kts into Wed AM (1/12) with seas 32 ft near 36N 167W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. A new broad fetch developed Wed PM over the dateline with 40 kt northwest winds generating 26 ft seas at 37N 178E targeting Hawaii well. 35 kt northwest winds were fading Thurs AM (1/22) with seas to 30 ft at 34N 175W targeting Hawaii well (313 degrees, 283 degs NCal). Northwest fetch fading from 30-35 kt into the evening with seas fading from 25-26 ft over a broad area at 30N 170W (310 degs HI). Fri AM (1/23) north fetch is to be fading from 35 kts targeting only the Islands with 23 ft seas fading at 30N 170W. Much backup swell is possible targeting mainly Hawaii. Certainly something to monitor.

Hawaii: Swell expected to arrive starting Friday PM (1/23) starting to peak at 1 AM Sat (1/24). Swell holding decently into sunrise at 9.8 ft @ 15 secs (14.5 ft). and slowly settling down through the day.  Residuals expected on Sun (1/25) fading from 7.8 ft @ 14 secs (10.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310-313 degrees


  North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height

Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/22) high pressure at 1028 mbs was centered 600 nmiles off Central CA and ridging into the Pacific Northwest setting up north winds over outer waters at 15 kts off the California coast but an offshore flow nearshore. This same pattern is forecast to hold through Sat (1/24) with light northeast winds nearshore early giving way to north winds 5-10 kts in the afternoon. Finally on Sun (1/25) the high is to push inland with a light flow taking over at least through mid-week (1/28).

South Pacific

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

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours a new gale is try and start developing in the Western Gulf associated with a developing upper trough there with limited 30 kt fetch targeting Hawaii on Fri (1/30). 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 Thursday (1/22) the daily SOI remained down hard for the 5th day in a row at -32.07 attributable to low pressure over both Darwin and strongly over Tahiti. The 30 day average was falling from -8.48 and the 90 day average was down some at -7.82. 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 week (1/27) keeping the SOI somewhat negative. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.   

Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated light westerly wind anomalies were over the Maritime Continent building westerly on the dateline and building to the moderate category south of Hawaii before fading and turning 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 (1/30) neutral to light east anomalies are to set up over the Maritime Continent with moderate west anomalies covering west of the dateline to the dateline then 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 and loosing a little coverage.

See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .

The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/21 are in sync initially. 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 8 days eventually positioned south of Hawaii and dissipating on day 10 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 1/22 depicts a moderate 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 1/110 and easing east into 3/3 while a new stronger Active Phase takes over the West Pacific 3/3. 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 (1/22) 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). TAO data suggests neutral anomalies are covering a region south of Hawaii to the Galapagos with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding over the West Pacific west of 160W and pushing 2.0 degs in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.7, 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 1/22 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 1/18 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of 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 1/22 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. A bit of an increase is forecast beyond with +1.0 deg anomalies in early July 2015, pushing +1.25 degs C by October. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event. 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 


South Pacific

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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