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 (3/7) in North and Central CA surf was chest high and clean and semi lined up but mostly weak. Looks very much like summer. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high on the sets and clean and lined up but slow. In Southern California up north surf was near flat and clean. Occasional thigh high sets. Down south waves were waist to maybe chest high and clean but inconsistent. Hawaii's North Shore was getting northerly windswell with waves head high and still trashed by north-northeast winds. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting windswell too with waves shoulder high.cgius and chopped from northeast trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
The first small southern hemi swell of the season that developed in the Southeast Pacific on Mon-Tues (2/24) with 36 ft seas was fading out fast in California. A tiny gale developed in the Southeast Pacific on Wed (3/4) with 34 ft seas aimed northeast. Another small southern hemi swell is in the water pushing towards Peru up into California. A small gale tried to develop in the Gulf falling south Fri-Sat (3/7) resulting in only 18 ft seas targeting Hawaii. Small 11-12 sec period swell to result for the Islands. Another small gale is to develop on the northern dateline region Tues (3/10) and building resulting in 24 ft seas then redeveloping due north of the Islands on Thurs (3/12) targeting Hawaii decently with 20-22 ft seas. Possible small north swell for Hawaii. Otherwise 24 kt westerly winds (not anomalies but fully reversed trades) continue blowing in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (since Thurs 3/5) forecast building to near 30 kts on Sun (3/8) before starting to fade Wed (3/11) suggesting the MJO has awoken and feeding Kelvin Wave development. Eerily similar to last year at this time.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/7) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan with winds 130 kts but still .cgiitting just off the coast with the northern branch tracking northeast and pushing over the Central Aleutians and then into Alaska. A cutoff trough was over the Gulf of Alaska but disconnected from any direct jetstream energy offering only the slightest support for low pressure development. The southern branch tracked east over the dateline and Hawaii eventually pushing into Baja Mexico. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold in the west with the jet .cgiit just off Japan and the northern branch tracking over the Western Aleutians. But east of there the jet is to fall southeast over the Gulf of Alaska starting Tues (3/10) rejoining the main flow 600 nmiles off Central California forming a very weak trough. Winds to only be 90 kts in this trough offering little to support gale development. The southern branch is to continue weak and tracking east over the dateline and Hawaii then lifting northeast merging with the northern branch as noted above. Beyond 72 hrs thing are to start getting more interesting with winds building to 170 kt over and off Japan on Wednesday with the .cgiit pattern consolidating into a single flow and then pushing 190 kts by Fri (3/13) ridging slightly over the dateline then falling into a broad but weaker trough well off the US West Coast. The ridge on the dateline is to start flattening out some by Sat (3/14) with 200 kt winds building and continuing to push east into the developing trough 1000 nmiles east of California. Much improving odds for gale development is possible in this trough. And maybe some support for precipitation for California too. This improving pattern is likely the result of the building Active Phase of the MJO.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/7) high pressure at 1032 mbs was still locked over the dateline with a second weaker high at 1028 mbs pushing inland over British Columbia. No real swell of interest was in the water.
A small gale developed Thurs PM (3/5) in the Central Gulf generating 35 kt northwest and west winds winds with seas 17 ft at 38N 148W (284 degs NCal). This system lifted north fast Fri AM (3/6) with no fetch left in it's southerly quadrant offering no real hope for swell production relative to the US West Coast. But some northerly fetch started developing at 30 kts aimed at Hawaii. By Fri PM (3/6) the gale reorganized and formed a weak gradient with pressure tracking east from the dateline resulting in a small area of 30-35 kt north winds and 18 ft seas at 45N 152W targeting Hawaii down the 005 degree track. 30-35 kt north winds continued over a small area Sat AM (3/7) generating more 18 ft seas at 42N 156W (360 degs HI) and falling south. In the evening fetch is to continue at 30-35 kts over a small area with 18 ft seas holding and falling south from 38N 160W targeting Hawaii down the 357 degree path. A secondary fetch of 30 kt north winds to build Sun AM (3/8) trying tog et traction but gone by the evening with no more swell production likely. If all goes as forecast raw local north swell is possible for the Islands starting Sun afternoon (3/8).
Hawaii: Raw north windswell Sun afternoon (3/8) at 5.5 ft @ 10 secs (5.5 ft) building to 6 ft @ 11 secs (6.5 ft) on Mon (3/9) fading Tues (3/10) from 5 ft @ 10-11 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 350-360 degrees
Over the next 72 hours a small gale is projected for the Northern Dateline region starting Tues AM (3/10) generating a modest sized area of 35 kt north-northwest winds and 24 ft seas aimed south at 45N 176W (333 degs HI). 30 kt northwest winds to be fading in the evening with 22 ft seas fading at 42N 170W (334 degs HI). 30 kt northwest winds to be fading more Wed AM (3/11) taking aim a bit east of Hawaii with 18 ft seas at 38N 162W (350 degs HI). The gale is to reorganize in the Northeastern Gulf Wed PM with 35-40 kt north winds redeveloping north of the Islands generating 20 ft seas at 40N 162W (350 degs HI). fetch is to fade from 30 kts while falling southeast Thurs AM (3/12) generating 22 ft seas at 37N 161W (352 degs HI). Fetch is to be gone by Thurs PM. Something to monitor perhaps offering some more hope for Hawaii.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
A tropical system is forecast developing just east of New Guinea on Sun (3/8) rapidly building and falling south. Some projections suggest a very large and strong storm to result. This system is to be a direct result of the strong Westerly Wind Burst currently occurring and forecast to build in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (just north of New Guinea). Interesting.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (3/7) high pressure at 1030 mbs was locked over British Columbia riding south along the CA coast generating north winds at 15 kts over outer waters but not reaching nearshore. That flow to move closer to the North and Central coasts on Sunday moving onshore later in the day. Those winds to fade to 10 kts Monday. But by Tuesday high pressure is to be breaking down with low pressure previously north of Hawaii starting to move east towards Oregon. Light south winds and light rain are possible for the North and parts of the Central Coast from Monterey Bay northward on Wed (3/11) with south winds down to Morro Bay. Light winds are forecast Thursday other than north winds 15 kts for Pt Conception. A light north flow expected on Friday for North and Central CA fading to calm on Sat (3/14). Possible light rain in pockets on Saturday for Big Sur northward.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell generation is expected.
2nd Early Gale
A small gale started building in the South Central Pacific on Tues PM (3/3) generating 45 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 were 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 held into the evening with seas building to 34 ft at 52S 129W (186 degs SCal, 185 degs NCal). The gale was in quick decline Thurs AM (3/5) with fetch fading from 35 kts and seas fading from 28 ft at 48S 122W (182 degs SCal, 180 degs NCal). Small background southern hemi swell is possible.
Southern CA: Swell to be hitting decently Thurs late afternoon (3/12) at 1.9 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft) peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 2 ft @ 16 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat AM (3/14) at 1.8 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 185 degrees
North CA: Swell to be hitting Thurs late afternoon (3/12) at 1.6 ft @ 18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft) peaking Fri AM (3/13) at 2 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat AM (3/14) from 1.9 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 183 degrees
A small gale developed in the Central Tasman Sea Thurs PM (3/5) generating 40 kt southwest winds. On Fri AM (3/6) 50 kt south winds were in.cgiay with seas building to 34 ft at 40S 161E targeting Fiji (212 degs) and indirectly Hawaii. Winds were fading from 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 39S 165E.
A modest pulse of 18 sec period swell is expected arriving in Fiji on Mon AM (3/9) peaking late afternoon at 6 ft @ 16-17 secs (10 ft Hawaiian). Residuals on Tues AM (3/10) at 5.5 ft @ 14 secs (7.5 ft) and fading. Swell Direction: 210-212 degrees
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 broad area of low pressure is to start building over the dateline and into the Western Gulf of Alaska associated with an improving upper level wind pattern. No swell producing fetch or gales are forecast yet, but it bears monitoring.
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 (3/7) the daily SOI was down some at -5.70. The 30 day average was rising from 0.66 and the 90 day average was falling from -5.36. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a building Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a fading Active Phase of the MJO. Low pressure is to start building south of Tahiti and holding into Wed (3/11), then weak high pressure to follow. Weakly deepening SOI values are possible into Wed (3/1). The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a building area of moderate to strong westerly anomalies were over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline but positioned mainly over and south of the equator. Light east anomalies continuing from there to a point south of Hawaii. Modest east anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate to strong westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to and just east of the dateline. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started on 1/15 faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but regenerated 2/25 positioned more to the east and was holding while retrograding west through today (3/7). This is already a decent event and supported Kelvin Wave development, with more support is currently occurring. A week from now (3/13) moderate to strong westerly anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent almost reaching to the dateline. Neutral anomalies are expected from the Galapagos to the dateline. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue 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 3/6 suggests a building Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was developing over the Maritime Continent. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to fade some while easing east over the next 15 days, making it to the dateline intact. The Dynamic model suggests a building Active Phase developing reaching the strong state 10 days out and holding on the dateline 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/7 depicts a very strong Active Phase currently in the Western Pacific and holding into 3/17 while slowly pushing east, the fading slowly while tracking east reaching Central America but still solid on 3/30. A modest Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/27 and tracking east and building pushing into Central America 4/11. A neutral pattern to follow.
Our analysis suggests the MJO is regenerating and should reach a very Active state over the next 2 weeks. This should help repair the North Pacific jetstream and could possibly fuel a small storm cycle, likely the last of the 2014-2015 Winter season. 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 (3/5) 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 at 180W. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are holding now at +0.75 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 3/7 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 continues 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 in.cgiay 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 2/27 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 with one small area to +10 cm, indicative of an open pipe with an embedded Kelvin Wave. Neutral anomalies cover from 120W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (2/27) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding while easing east between 163E-110W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 177E-123W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies at 170W. 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 3/7 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 +1.1 degs C, and continuing to +1.55 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