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 (3/17) in North and Central CA surf was waist to maybe chest high and chopped and looking like only local northwest windswell. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high and weak but clean. In Southern California up north surf was knee to maybe thigh high and textured and weak. Not rideable. Down south waves were thigh to waist high on the sets and clean coming from the south but very weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting sideband Gulf windswell with waves to 2 ft overhead on the sets and glassy and peeling beautifully at top spots. Way more surf than the buoy would have one believe. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same Gulf sideband swell with waves chest high and textured with light trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Windswell from a small and weak gale previously in the Northwestern Gulf on Sat-Sun (3/15) producing fragmented areas of 18-22 ft seas was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast. Another small gale is forecast just off Vancouver Island on Fri (3/20) with 24 ft seas aimed only at central Canada. Another small gale is forecast tracking from thee North Dateline region on Wed (3/18) with 20 ft seas pushing southeast, then fading but being reinforced on Fri-Sat (3/21) and pushing east with 22-24 ft seas targeting the US West Coast. Something to monitor. More weak activity to follow in the West Pacific. And the remnants of Super Pam were in the Southwest Pacific and being rejuvenated by the jetstream, with 39 ft seas forecast aimed east on Wed (3/18), fading while tracking east, then rebuilding Fri-Sun (3/22) in the East Pacific with seas building to near 40 ft aimed east-northeast. An interesting situation with some swell generation potential.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (3/16) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan with winds barely 140 kts but nicely consolidated and almost forming a broad but weak trough over the dateline reaching to a point north of Hawaii, then pushing east from there but loosing cohesion with winds vaporizing off the CA coast, but trying to push inland. Limited support for gale development over the dateline region. Over the next 72 hours the same basic pattern is to hold but with the apex of the trough moving east, positioned in the Central Gulf by Fri (3/20) with winds down to 130 kts. Limited support for gale development there. Otherwise the jet is to .cgiit over San Francisco and pushing inland over British Columbia and Baja. Back to the west winds to weaken to 60 kts just off Japan with the jet trying to .cgiit some. But 130 kt winds are to be rebuilding over and inland from Japan. Beyond 72 hrs a weak secondary trough is to form in the Gulf Sat (3/21) with 110 kt winds feeding it offering limited support for gale development and pushing east moving inland over Oregon on Mon PM (3/23). Meanwhile winds are to be building over Japan with the jet reconsolidating and building into late Tues (3/24) with winds to 170 kts. Perhaps more support for gale development occurring.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (3/14) low pressure was developing in the the Northwestern Gulf of Alaska but no fetch of interest was occurring. Windswell from a previous gale was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast (see Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the Gulf gale is to develop more and by Wed AM (3/18) 35 kt northwest winds are forecast just south of the Eastern Aleutians generating 20 ft seas at 47N 170W targeting Hawaii somewhat. Fetch is to fade from 30-35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 18 ft at 45N 170W (340 degs HI). the gale is to dissipate from there.
Secondary fetch is to be tracking east over the dateline and becoming absorbed into the Gulf low Thurs PM (3/19) with fetch building from 30 kts aimed east. By Fri AM (3/20) 30-35 kt west winds to be in.cgiay in the Central Gulf producing 19 ft seas at 38N 162W aimed mainly at the US West Coast. Winds to build to 35-40 kts in the evening with 20 ft seas setting up at 39N 155W targeting Central CA well (NCal 285 degs). The gale to lift northeast Sat AM (3/21) with winds holding at 35-40 kts and seas to 24 ft at 41N 149W (287 degs NCal). The gale to continue northeast in the evening with winds 35 kts and seas fading from 22 ft at 43N 143W (295 degs NCal). The gale to dissipate from there. Possible sideband swell for Hawaii with more direct energy for Central and North CA.
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 built with seas to 20 ft up at 46N 165W (298 degs NCal). Sun AM (3/15) 30 kt west winds continued over the same general area with 22 ft seas building over a tiny area at 51N 162W (309 degs NCal) targeting mainly British Columbia down to maybe Central CA with 18 ft seas at 40N 168W targeting Hawaii with windswell. Fetch faded from 30 kts in pockets in the evening with seas dropping from 17 ft at 49N 164W. This system was gone after that.
Some odds for small windswell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA, but nothing remarkable. See QuikCASTs for details.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (3/17):
The remnants of Tropical Storm Bavi were fading from depression status 500 nmiles east of the Northern Philippines. No swell production was indicted.
The remnants of Super Typhoon Pam were in the South Pacific and no longer of a tropical nature (see South Pacific forecast).
Tropical Cyclone (Storm) Nathan was wandering aimlessly in the Coral Sea with winds 40 kts Sat AM (3/14) and continued on that path on Tues (3/17). Winds were up to 45 kts and forecast to reach minimal Typhoon status late on Wed (3/18) positioned just off Northeast Australia and tracking west, bound for land there with winds to 75 kts.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/17) high pressure was building at 1022 mbs off Central CA with low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska. The high was generating 15-20 kt north winds along the North and Central Coasts. 20-25 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 North Coast on Friday with a front and south winds and light rain for Cape Mendocino at best late, while light winds cover the Central Coast. Light north winds possible south of Monterey Bay on Saturday but calm north of there with a front again teasing Cape Mendocino on Sunday with 15 kt north winds for Pt Conception. No change Monday but with light rain projected from Cape Mendocino down to Monterey Bay in the AM, then high pressure takes control on Tuesday (3/24) except for North CA, with light rain again possible down to Pt Arena.
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 - The extratropical remnants of what was Super Typhoon Pam on Tues AM (3/17) were just east of Central New Zealand producing 50-55 kt west winds and seas to 34 ft at 41S 171W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast somewhat, but mainly aimed east of the great circle tracks up there. 45-50 kt west winds to hold over a small area in the evening with 32 ft seas continuing at 42S 170W aimed like before. More of the same is forecast Wed AM (3/18) with 45-50 kt west winds and 38 ft seas at 42S 169W. Fetch is to be fading in the evening with seas aimed more southeast than east. Limited odds for small sideband swell pushing north towards Hawaii and the US West Coast. better odds for Central America and points southward.
This system is to track east and possibly regenerating on Fri PM (3/20) with 50-55 kt south winds building and 40 ft seas developing over a tiny area at 42S 141W aimed northeast. Additional 50 kt south fetch to develop Sat AM (3/21) feeding up into the core fetch with seas building from 36 ft at 40S 135W aimed north. More 50-55 k south fetch is forecast in the evening with 36-40 ft seas at 41S 129W pushing north-northeast. Fetch is to be fading from 45 kts Sun AM (3/22) with 40 ft seas at 44S 122W aimed from California southward though most energy to be targeting Peru. .
Something to monitor.
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 gale to possibly develop just off Oregon on Mon AM (3/23) producing 30-35 kt west winds and 20 ft seas at 46N 130W targeting only Washington.
And yet a third gale is possibly developing off the Kuril Islands Sat PM (3/21) with 35 kt northwest winds and approaching the dateline Sun AM (3/22) with winds fading from 35 kts. Sea to 22 ft late Saturday then fading out.
Secondary winds energy to build behind to 45 kts Tues PM (3/24) generating a tiny area of 26 ft seas at 43N 170W.
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 (3/17) the daily SOI was down hard at -35.90. The 30 day average was falling from -4.36 and the 90 day average was falling at -7.12. 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 steady state Active Phase of the MJO. Weak lower pressure was developing near Tahiti and expected to deepen into Fri (3/20) then fading some but not giving up much ground coalescing into a new tropical system west of Tahiti. 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 moderate westerly anomalies were still over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then continuing from there to a point southeast of Hawaii. Weak west anomalies continued to the Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate to 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 3/17. 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 (3/25) modest westerly anomalies are to continue over the East 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 start fading 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 3/16 suggests a solid Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in.cgiay over the dateline while a very strong Inactive Phase was over the Eastern Indian Ocean. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to start slowly fading while barely moving east, almost gone 15 days out south of Hawaii. The Inactive Phase is to be pushing into the West Pacific in the moderate to strong category. The Dynamic model suggests the Active Phase also fading while pushing east, completely gone 15 days out. But this model also suggests the Inactive Phase is to totally dissipate too, with a dead neutral pattern in.cgiay 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/17 depicts a modest Active Phase in the East-Central Pacific and is to fade while tracking east reaching Central America on 3/27. A very strong Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/25 and tracking east and fading, pushing into Central America 4/13. Another very strong Active Phase to start developing in the West Pacific on 4/8 pushing east and holding reaching the East Pacific on 4/26. A very active MJO pattern is projected. 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 (3/16) 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 145W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies on the dateline. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are building some at +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 3/17 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 3/17 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