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 (3/14) in North and Central CA surf was waist high and glassy and lined up. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high and glassy too, but coming from the south. In Southern California up north surf was knee to thigh high and clean early with waist high sets at top breaks. Down south waves were chest high and clean early coming from the south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting North Dateline swell with waves 4 ft overhead and trying to clean up but a fair amount of residual north lump still in the water. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting dateline swell too at 3 ft overhead and trashed by northeast winds.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small southern hemi swell from a gale previously in the Southeast Pacific was fading out in California. And swell from a small gale that developed on the northern dateline region Tues-Wed (3/11) with 28 ft seas had hit Hawaii and was starting to fade, with trades slowly trying to build in. A new small and weak gale is forecast in the Northwestern Gulf on Sun (3/15) producing a small area of 24 ft seas targeting mainly Canada. Another small gale is forecast just off Vancouver Island on Fri (3/20) 26 ft seas aimed east. Low odds of this one even developing though. And yet another small gale is forecast for the North Dateline region on Sat (3/21) with 26 ft seas. Something to monitor. And Super Pam is forecast to fall south in the Southern hemi and get picked up by the jetstream, possibly redeveloping with 40+ ft seas developing aimed east-northeast next weekend (3/21). Very interesting. And the MJO is pumping madly with a very strong Westerly Wind Burst in effect 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 Saturday (3/14) the jet was tracking east-northeast off Southern Japan with winds 200 kts moving over the dateline then weakening and falling into a steep and almost pinched trough with it's apex just east of Hawaii. From there the jet tracked northeast on over Washington. Overall the jet was decently consolidated over the Central Pacific but not offering any troughs of interest, meaning there was little support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours winds in the jet are to start fading, falling to 150 kts while the core of those winds pushes east, taking a position north-northwest of Hawaii pushing east to 138W by Mon (3/16). Still no troughs of interest are forecast until Tues (3/17) when the jet starts to carve out a bit in the Western Gulf but winds falling to 140 kts, offering only minimal support for gale development. Beyond 72 hrs the Gulf trough is to hold its configuration while winds continue to drop, reaching barely 140 kts on Thurs (3/19) with the trough in the Eastern Gulf and moving over Central CA by Sat (3/21). Maybe some support for rain then. But back to the west on Thurs (3/19) the jet is to almost .cgiit just off Japan with winds 110 kts or less with that .cgiit area moving east reaching the dateline late Sat (3/21) and offering nothing in terms of support for gale development. But at that time a new pocket of 140 kts winds is to start building over Japan consolidating the jet there and forming a bit of a trough, potentially suggesting improved odds for support of gale development then, if one is to believe the models.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/14) low pressure was developing in the the Western Gulf of Alaska generating 35 kt west winds over a small area aimed east and offering support for swell production (see Gulf Gale below). ed with the North Dateline Gale (see below). with a fetch in it's west quadrant (see North Dateline Gale below). No other swell source was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to move from the dateline to a point north of Hawaii and flattening there
On Sat AM (3/14) low pressure was falling from the Southeast Bering Sea southeast and pushing into the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska producing 30-35 kts west winds and seas starting to build. By evening a small area of 35 kt westerly fetch is to build with seas building to 21 ft up at 46N 165W (298 degs NCal). Sun AM (3/15) 30 kt west winds to continue over the same general area with 24 ft seas building over a tiny area at 51N 162W (309 degs NCal) targeting mainly British Columbia down to maybe Central CA. Fetch is to fade from 30 kts in pockets the evening with seas dropping from 18ft at 49N 162W. This system is to be gone after that. Some odds for small swell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA, but nothing remarkable.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sat AM (3/14) in association with a strong Westerly Wind Burst occurring on the equator between 150E-180W:
Tropical Storm Bavi was over Kwajalein Island on Thurs AM (3/12) with winds 35 kts tracking west-northwest. This track continued with winds to 45 kts Sat AM (3/14) with the storm expected to peak on Sun (3/15) with winds 50 kts pushing directly over Guam. A steady decline is forecast there after with no recurvature to the north projected.
A second stronger system Typhoon Pam was south of it Thurs AM (3/12) at 14S 170E with winds 140 kts. Pam held this strength and continued falling south. By Sat AM (3/14) winds were down to 115 kts and forecast to fade fast. No immediate swell production capacity was indicated for our forecast area, though long term there is some hope (see Long Term South Pacific forecast).
And yet a third system Nathan was wandering aimlessly in the Coral Sea with winds 40 kts Sat AM (3/140 and forecast to reach minimal Typhoon status on Sun (3/15) still aimless and posing no threat to land. Some limited swell production capacity possible for northeast Australia through most fetch is to be tracking east, not aimed there.
The Active Phase of the MJO continues having a solid effect on the tropics.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (3/14) high pressure was fading along the CA coast with low pressure just off the North and Central Coasts, but weak. A light wind regime was in control.On Sunday that low is to build while moving into extreme North CA. 35 kt southwest winds expected for Cape Mendocino but only 10 kts for San Francisco and lighter further south. Possible moderate rain later on Sunday for Cape Mendocino reaching south to Pt Reyes Sunday evening, then dissolving there. A light north wind flow at 10 kts is forecast for North and Central CA Monday building to 15 kts Tuesday but up to 20 kts for North CA as high pressure builds in. 15-20 kt north winds are forecast for all of North and Central CA on Wednesday (3/18) fading from 15 kts on Thursday. Low pressure is to be building off the coast on Friday with a front and south winds 20 kts forecast late, with moderate rain Friday evening into Sat AM down to Big Sur. Possible snow (4 inches) for Tahoe Sat AM. 20 kt north winds quickly fading Saturday behind the front. A far broader low is to be right behind targeting California and Oregon on Sunday (3/22).
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell generation is expected.
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 new gale is to start developing just west of the dateline and di.cgiaced a bit north Wed PM (3/18) with 40 kts west winds taking hold aimed at Hawaii. By Thurs AM (3/19) 40-45 kt west winds to continue producing 26 ft seas at 43N 171E (315 degs HI). 40 kt west winds to hold into the evening still generating 27 ft seas approaching the dateline at 43N 177E (320 degs HI, 299 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Fri AM (3/20) tracking east with seas fading from 25 ft at 42N 176W (322 degs HI,293 degs NCal). 30-35 kts west winds to continue tracking east in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 40N 170W (288 degs NCal). Swell possibly to result.
A second gale to possibly develop just off Cap Mendocino Fri PM (3/20) producing 30-35 kt west winds and 22 ft seas at 41N 140W targeting North and Central CA. But a quick fade is forecast Sat AM (3/21).
And yet a third gale is possibly developing off the Kuril Islands on late Sat-Sun AM (3/22). Perhaps and improving pattern will take root.
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 (3/14) the daily SOI was up some at -6.40. The 30 day average was holding at -1.41 and the 90 day average steady at -6.19. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a weakly building Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady state Active Phase of the MJO. Weak lower pressure was developing near Tahiti on Sat (3/14) and deepening into Tues (3/17) then fading some but not giving up much ground. Weakly deepening SOI values are possible. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a solid sized area of strong westerly anomalies were still over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline. Neutral anomalies continuing from the dateline to a point south of Hawaii continuing to the Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to the dateline. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) started on 1/15 then faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but regenerated on 2/25 positioned more to the east building to the strong category on 3/7. It peaked on 3/10 but was holding solidly as of 3/14. This is already a decent event before it rebuilt on 3/7 and was supporting Kelvin Wave development. But with these additional strong west winds, far more warm water transport is now in progress. A week from now (3/20) moderate westerly anomalies are to continue over the Central Maritime Continent reaching east of the dateline to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are expected from there to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue regenerating on the dateline a week out. This is a significant WWB and moving into the range of the historic event of last year at this same time.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/14 suggests a solid Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to hold the next 5 days while barely moving east, then start fading over the remaining 15 days, making it to a point south of Hawaii and still holding intact, though weaker. The Dynamic model suggests a building Active Phase developing reaching the strong state 5 days out and holding on the dateline through 15 days out, but fading steadily. The two models are almost in sync now. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/14 depicts a modest Active Phase currently in the Central Pacific and is to fade while tracking east reaching Central America on 3/28. A strong Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/25 and tracking east pushing into Central America 4/13. Another strong Active Phase to start developing in the West Pacific on 4/13 pushing east while building reaching the Central Pacific on 4/23. 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 (3/12) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with a pocket of cooler water (-0.5-0.75 degs C) along the Peruvian Coast advecting west over the Galapagos reaching 120W. This is not surprising given easterly anomalies there. TAO data suggests -0.5-+0.5 anomalies are covering a region from Ecuador to roughly 140W with warm anomalies at +0.5-1.0 degs holding from 150W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies on the dateline. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are falling at +0.4 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 3/14 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 now positioned at 150W, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has created a Kelvin Wave. And with strong westerly anomalies now in.cgiay in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area, additional warming is expected beyond. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Satellite data from 3/9 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm over and pushing from west of the dateline to a point south of Mexico with a building peak to +10 cm at 155W, indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. Neutral anomalies cover from 110W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (3/9) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding while easing east between 163E-110W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 171E-119W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies from 138W-172W. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave, and strong at, that 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 3/12 was more encouraging than previous indications. 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. A very weak east current was in control south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - strong west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets south of Hawaii, then moving back centered on the equator in the East.
This data suggests a general west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 3/14 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 +1.0 degs C, and continuing to +1.4 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 the extratropical remnants of what was Super Typhoon Pam are to continue falling south-southeast and getting assimilated into the jetstream on Wed (3/18) , the starting to track east. There's possibilities that 32-34 ft seas could develop on Wednesday at 45S 170W aimed somewhat at Hawaii and the US West Coast, but targeting Central America better. Something to monitor.
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