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 Monday (3/2) in North and Central CA surf was chest high with some head high sets and reasonably clean but mainly just local northerly windswell. Fun and rideable none the less. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high or so on the sets and clean but pretty boring. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. Down south waves were waist high.cgius and heavily textured and unremarkable. Hawaii's North Shore was getting small northerly dateline swell with waves 1-2 ft overhead at top breaks and a bit warbled with northeast trades in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting dateline swell too with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a tiny gale that dropped southeast from the northern dateline region Fri-Sat (2/28) producing a tiny area of 26 ft seas was hitting Hawaii. Swell from another small gale that developed off North Japan on Fri-Sat (2/28) producing a small area of 26 ft seas aimed east was pushing towards the Hawaiian Islands. Swell from a small gale that developed the Southeast Pacific on Mon-Tues (2/24) with 36 ft seas aimed north was just starting to show in Southern CA. Beyond a small gale is to develop in the Central Gulf on Thurs (3/5) with 24 ft seas targeting the US West Coast over a tiny area. And another gale is to develop in the same area Fri-Sun (3/8) resulting in 22-24 ft seas targeting mainly Hawaii. And another tiny gael is to develop in the Southeast Pacific on Wed (3/4) with 32 ft seas aimed northeast. Maybe small swell to result for Peru up into California. The model suggests that perhaps the MJO might wake up some a week or more out. And there's no shortage of westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Monday (3/2) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan with winds 130 kts but .cgiitting just off the coast with the northern branch tracking northeast and pushing up to the Western Aleutians, then falling into a weak trough in the Gulf of Alaska before heading northeast tracking up into Alaska. Only the slightest support for low pressure development was indicated in the Gulf trough. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with the jet .cgiit just off Japan with the northern branch tracking over the Kurils and into the Bering Sea then falling into a trough in the Gulf with 110 kt winds feeding it, offering very limited support for gale development in the Gulf. The southern branch is to be weak and tracking east over the dateline and Hawaii into southern Baja. Beyond 72 hrs the same .cgiit pattern is to continue with the Gulf trough getting cut off on Fri (3/6) through possibly returning to it's former configuration on Tues (3/100 offering hope for weak gale potential at that time. But overall a very poor upper level pattern is projected, with no support from the MJO.
Surface Analysis - On Monday (3/2) no swell producing weather systems were in.cgiay other than windswell for California. High pressure at 2032 mbs was over the dateline with a second high also at 1032 mbs was in the Gulf. Small swell from a gale that was on the north dateline region was hitting Hawaii (see North Dateline Gale below). Small swell from a gale that formed off North Japan was pushing towards Hawaii (see Japan Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast until Thurs AM (3/5) when a small gale is forecast to develop in the Central Gulf generating 35-40 kt northwest and west winds winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface. Fetch is to be fading in the evening with seas 22 ft at 38N 148W (284 degs NCal). This system to be gone by Fri AM (3/6). Maybe some small swell to result for NCal by Sun AM (3/8).
North Dateline Gale
A tiny gale developed on the north dateline region on Fri AM (2/27) with 35 kt north winds over a tiny area falling south-southeast. By evening 40 kt north winds were in.cgiay over a small area with 24 ft seas building at 41N 172W aimed south. 40 kt north winds were falling south Sat AM (2/28) with 24 ft seas over a tiny area at 37N 170W targeting Hawaii (338 degs). Fetch was gone by the evening with seas fading fast from 18 ft at 35N 164W (342 degs). Some small swell is possible for the Islands Mon AM (3/2).
Hawaii: Swell is to be fading Tues (3/3) from 4 ft @ 11-12 secs early (4.5 ft) and gone by late afternoon. Swell Direction: 330 degrees.
Also a small gale developed over North Japan on Fri AM (2/27) producing a small area of 40 kt west winds trying to get traction off North Japan. Winds continued at 40 kts in the evening reaching out over exposed waters with seas building to 27 ft over a small area at 42N 155E (306 degrees). West winds were fading from 35-40 kts Sat AM (2/28) with 25 ft seas fading at 41N 159E (310 degrees). This system was gone by nightfall with no upper level support left over the North Pacific for gale development. 22 ft seas from previous fetch were fading at 43N 162E. Maybe some swell to result for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed AM (3/4) with pure swell 2 ft @ 15-16 secs building to maybe 2.4 ft @ 14-15 secs late (3.5 ft faces). Residuals fading on Thurs (3/5) from 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 306-310 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Monday (3/2) high pressure at 1032 mbs was holding off North California while an upper low was onshore falling south generating a pressure gradient off the entire CA coast producing 25 kt north winds and generating windswell at exposed breaks. As the upper low moves out of the area the gradient is to fade Tues (3/3) with winds off the coast dropping to 20 kts late near Cape Mendocino. By Wednesday high pressure is to start moving onshore over Oregon and Washington with a light wind pattern nearshore. No change is forecast till Sat (3/7) when light north winds to near 15 kts are forecast for North and Central CA but fading lighter on Sunday.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is occurring. Over the next 72 hours a small gale is to start building in the South Central Pacific on Tues PM (3/3) generating 40 kt southwest winds and starting to get some traction on the oceans surface with seas building from 28 ft over a tiny area at 58S 142W. 40-45 kt southwest winds to be lifting northeast Wed AM (3/4) with 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 56S 135W (190 degs SCal,188 degs NCal). 40-45 kt southwest winds to hold into the evening with seas building to 32 ft at 52S 128W (186 degs SCal, 185 degs NCal). The gale to be in quick decline Thurs AM (3/5) with fetch fading from 35 kts and seas fading from 28 ft at 48S 121W (182 degs Scal, 180 degs NCal). Small background southern hemi swell is possible.
Early Season Gale
South CA: Swell to starting peaking near 3 AM on Wed (3/4) with pure swell 3.2 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft) and holding well through the day. Swell fading as period drops from 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft) early on Thurs (3/5). Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
On Mon AM (2/23) a small gale started to develop in the South Central Pacific generating 35 kt southwest winds. By evening it was rapidly deepening with pressure 968 mbs forming a gradient with high pressure at 1028 mbs just east of New Zealand generating 50 kt south winds over a tiny area with 45 kt south winds over a modest area. Seas were building from 33 ft at 53S 143W (195 degs SCal, 193 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite confirmed seas at 32.5 ft with one reading to 35.7 ft where the model indicated 32 ft seas. The model slightly under-hyped it. On Tuesday AM (2/24) fetch was fading from 45 kts over a decent size area aimed north with 36 ft seas at 50S 135W (190 degs SCal, 188 degs SCal). On Tues PM winds were fading from 40 kts again aimed due north with seas fading from 30 ft at 48S 132W (190 degs SCal, 188 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the north quadrant and confirmed seas at 31.5 ft with one reading to 35.9 ft where the model suggested 30 ft seas. Again the model slightly under-hyped it. No additional fetch of interest occurred. A nice little early season pulse of southern hemi swell is expected to push north.
North CA: Swell to starting peaking near 10 AM on Wed (3/4) with pure swell 2.7 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell fading from 2.9 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft) on Thurs (3/5) at noon. Residuals fading on Fri AM (3/6) at 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (4 ft) early Swell Direction: 187-193 degrees
Otherwise 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 another small gale is projected for the Central Gulf starting Fri PM (3/6) generating 40 kt north winds and 22 ft seas aimed south-southeast at 42N 152W (291 degs NCal). 35-40 kt northwest winds to hold into Sat AM (3/7) with 22 ft seas at 41N 153W 9283 degs NCal). 35-40 kt northeast winds to build in the evening taking aim more on Hawaii with 22 ft seas at 40N 158W (359 degs HI). Winds to fade from 30 kts Sun AM with the gale falling south generating 20 ft seas at 37N 160W (357 degs HI). Something to monitor but not much swell to result.
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 Monday (3/2) the daily SOI was holding at 5.40. The 30 day average was rising from 0.01 and the 90 day average was rising from -5.33. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a fading Active Phase of the MJO. A near steady pressure pattern is forecast over Tahiti for the nearterm then falling starting Mon (3/9). No decline in the SOI is forecast until then. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a decent sized area of modest westerly anomalies were over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline and continuing to a point south of Hawaii. East anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to a point south of Hawaii. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started on 1/15 faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but started to regenerate positioned more to the east starting 2/25 and was holding while retrograding west. This is already a decent event and supported Kelvin Wave development, with more support currently occurring. A week from now (3/10) strong westerly anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent peaking while reaching the dateline. Moderate east anomalies are expected from the Galapagos to the dateline. This suggests the Active Phase is to start regenerating on the dateline a week out.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/2 suggests a dad neutral MJO pattern in.cgiay. Beyond the Statistic model suggests no real change with only a weak Inactive Phase trying to show 15 days out near the dateline, while the Dynamic model suggests a building Active Phase developing 5 days out in the West Pacific and building to the moderate category 15 days out on the dateline. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/2 depicts a weak Active Phase in the Western Pacific and slowly pushing east reaching Central America while fading through 3/22. A weak Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/22 and tracking east through 4/11. Our best guess is the MJO is possibly to regenerate in the weak to moderately Active state over the next 2-3 weeks. 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 (3/2) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with pockets of slightly cooler water depicted off Central America and a building cool pool developing off South America just like it did last year at this time. TAO data suggests 0.0-+0.5 anomalies are covering a region from Ecuador to roughly 140W with more solid +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 140W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.5 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps have dipped some to +0.6 degs, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. With this being a Modoki El Nino, cooler water would be expected in the NINO 1.2 area (near the Galapagos and Peruvian Coast).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue warming and expanding. As of 3/2 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continued building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has created a Kelvin Wave. And with more westerly anomalies forecast in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area, more warming is possible. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly May 1. Satellite data from 2/22 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm over and pushing east of the dateline indicative of an open pipe with an embedded Kelvin Wave, but neutral anomalies from 120W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (2/22) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding between 155E-118W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-135W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies at 168W. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave is in flight. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21/14) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if this was to be a single year event. But if this is a true multiyear Modoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe (as is actually occurring). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 2/20 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over patches in the West Pacific reaching east with less energy north of the equator in the East Pacific. But solid east current was in control over and south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets reaching to the Galapagos. No real easterly anomalies were present. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 3/26 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.2 degs C, and continuing to +1.6 degs by Nov. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino. But it is too early to believe that just yet.See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring late 2013 though 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, Modoki event (the better of all options).
We remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay per NOAA. 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