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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, April 31, 2016 2:54 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
2.0 - California & 1.0 - 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 4/18 thru Sun 4/24

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   

Southern Hemi Swell Hitting CA
2 Weak Gales In NPac

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.

Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.

On Monday, May 2, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 4.6 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 2.6 ft @ 12.1 secs from 326 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 5.2 ft @ 6.7 secs with swell 3.6 ft @ 7.8 secs from 263 degrees. Wind northwest 6-8 kts. Water temperature 58.3. At Santa Barbara swell was 3.0 ft @ 11.4 secs from 269 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 18.9 secs from 212 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.1 ft @ 20.4 secs from 188 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 11.6 ft @ 9.1 secs with local windswell 8.5 ft @ 9.3 secs from 301 degrees. Wind northwest 16-21 kts. Water temp 50.0 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (4/30) in North and Central CA surf was 1 ft overhead and warbled and lumpy but not chopped yet early. At Santa Cruz surf was chest to shoulder high on the sets and clean but generally weak and without good form. In Southern California up north waves were waist high with some bigger sets and relatively clean early but weak and mushed. Down south waves were waist to chest high and weak and soft with some light south texture on it, stronger down into Sam Diego. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some late season small swell with waves to 1 ft overhead on the sets at top breaks and clean. The South Shore was small with set waves waist high at top spots and clean but with steady trade wind texture on it. The East Shore was getting windswell producing waves at waist high and chopped with modest trades in effect.

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

Meteorological Overview
A weak gale developed 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii on Fri-Sat (4/30) producing 24 ft seas aimed east. Small swell is pushing towards the US West Coast with sideband swell towards Hawaii. And another system to develop just off Japan Sat-Sun (5/1) producing up to 30 ft seas, but is to dissipate before reaching the dateline. No other swell producing weather systems are predicted after that in the North Pacific. Down south a small storm formed in the Southeast Pacific on Sat-Sun (4/24) with up to 42 ft seas aimed northeast. Small swell is pushing north and starting to arrive in California and points south of there. Another system was forming southeast of New Zealand on Fri-Sat (4/30) lifting northeast with seas to 34 ft. Maybe some small swell to result. After that, no swell is forecast.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (4/30) the jet was pushing consolidated off Japan ridging northeast with winds to 160 kts forming a bit of a trough off Kamchatka and supportive of gale development there before pushing up to nearly the intersection of the Aleutians and the dateline. From there the jet fell southeast in the Gulf of Alaska with winds still 160 kts forming a broad trough there providing good support for gale development. From there the jet ridged northeast eventually pushing into Alaska. Over the next 72 hours the Kamchatka trough is to wash out on Sunday (5/1) but the trough in the Gulf is to push east but starting to pinch off some. But by late Monday it is to be falling southeast off the California coast and building some being fed by 140 kts winds, tracking east. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to eventually move directly over Central CA on Thurs-Fri (5/6) providing mainly support for weather there. But a new trough is to be building over the dateline on Wed (5/4) and developing more into Thurs (5/5) being fed by 130 kts winds and offering some decent support for gale development eventually tracking northeast in the the Gulf of Alaska and fading out. Behind it yet another trough is forecast forming in the Gulf on Sat (5/7) being fed by nearly 130 kts winds perhaps offering some support for gale development. And off Japan a consolidated flow is to continue flowing east there ridging some over the dateline before falling into the aforementioned trough. Not a bad setup for early May.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (4/30) two gales were in flight, one in the Gulf and another just off Japan (see details below).

Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

Gulf Gale
A small gale developed in association with a trough moving east over the Gulf of Alaska. On Fri AM (4/29) the gale had 35 kt west winds generating seas at 21 ft at 40N 167W aimed east. In the evening the gale built while racing east-northeast generating 40 kt west winds with seas building to 24 ft at 44N 159W (294 degs NCal) targeting the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA but mostly bypassing Hawaii. On Sat AM (4/30) winds were fading from 35 kts from the west with seas fading from 23 ft at 45N 152W. The gale is to dissipate after that. Small swell is expected for California with period at 13-14 secs.

North CA: Swell arrival on Mon (5/2) building in the afternoon to 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell to hold overnight fading Tues AM (5/3) at sunrise from 4.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.5 ft). Residuals fading Wed AM (5/4) from 4 ft @ 10-11 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 294 degrees


Japan Gale
A gale developed off Japan on Sat AM (4/30) with 45 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft at 43N 155E. In the evening fetch is to fade from 35 kts with seas 28 ft at 42N 158E. Fetch is to be fading Sun AM (5/1) from 30-35 kts from the west winds seas 23 ft at 43N 162E. The gale is to be gone by evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 46N 168E. Small swell possible for Hawaii with luck.


  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 Saturday AM (4/30) north winds were in control at 25 kts over North and Central CA waters and up to 30+ kts for NCal with light for Southern CA. 3 inches of snow fell in the Sierra Friday evening from a backdoor low that passed over the area. Sunday north winds are to retreat to Pt Arena and points northward at 20+ kts with a light flow south of there. Maybe 1 inch of snow for the Southern Sierra Sunday night. Monday (5/2) a generally light flow is forecast for all of CA continuing Tuesday. Wednesday light north winds to return driven by high pressure in the Gulf. Rain developing for the Northern Sierra with snow for higher elevations late. Northwest winds to be at 10-15 kts over Central CA and 15 kts for North CA. Weak low pressure developing directly over Central Coast late. Thursday north winds are forecast at 20 kts over North CA but light winds for Central and South CA. Solid snow for the Sierra developing late. Light rain for Southern CA late too. Friday (5/6) the usual pressure gradient is to set up over North CA with north winds 30+ kts and 20 kts down to Pt Conception and wrapping into Southern CA. Solid snow continuing Friday for the Sierra fading late. Light rain for Southern CA through the day. The gradient is to start weakening Sat AM (5/7) with north winds fading from 15 kts and less into Southern CA.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Saturday AM (4/30) swell from a storm previously in the Southeast Pacific was pushing northeast and starting to reach California (see Southeast Pacific Storm below).

Also small swell from a small gale southeast of New Zealand last weekend was pushing towards Hawaii (See New Zealand Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours a new gale is to be developing. It started south of New Zealand on Thurs PM (4/28) generating a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Fri AM (4/29) a solid fetch of 45 kt south winds were in.cgiay in the deep Southwest Pacific with seas building from 27 ft at 62S 179W aimed north. That gale built more reaching storm status in the evening producing core fetch at 50 kts from the south aimed well north with seas starting to develop from 34 ft at 62S 173W. By Sat AM (4/30) a 1100 nmile long fetch of 35 kt south winds were in.cgiace with a core to 45 kts generating 33 ft seas at 59S 168W. The fetch is to fade in the evening from 30-35 kts lifting north generating 27 ft seas at 53S 162W. Fetch is to be gone by Sun AM (5/1) with seas dropping from 23 ft at 45S 158W. Something to monitor relative to Tahiti and Hawaii.


Southeast Pacific Storm
On Sat AM (4/23) a small storm developed in the Southeast Pacific with southwest winds 45 kts over a tiny area and seas building from 30 ft at 50S 140W. The storm tracked northeast in the evening with winds building to 55 kts from the southwest with seas building to 41 ft at 48S 134W over a tiny area. 45 kt southwest winds lifted well northeast Sun AM (4/24) with seas fading from 40 ft at 42S 129W targeting California reasonably well but better at Mexico down into Peru. In the evening 35 kt southwest winds continued lifting northeast and fading with 32 ft seas at 38S 122W. The gale to faded out there after. swell is pushing north and northeast with energy at California but more so at Mexico down into Central America and Peru.

South CA: Swell to start being noticeable on Sat AM (4/30) at 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft) building through the day as period fades some reaching 2.6 ft @ 18 secs (4.5 ft with sets to near 6.0 ft). Swell to start peaking Sun AM (5/1) at 3.1 ft @ 17 secs (5.4 ft with sets to 6.7 ft) holding through the day as period drops to 16 secs late. Swell fading Mon AM (5/2) from 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft). residuals Tues AM (5/3) fading from 2.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 192-193 degrees

North CA: Swell to start being noticeable on Sat AM (4/30) at 1.6 ft @ 21-22 secs (3.5 ft) building through the day as period fades some reaching 2.8 ft @ 19 secs (5 ft with sets to near 6.5 ft). Swell to start peaking Sun AM (5/1) at 3.1 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.4 ft with sets to 6.8 ft) holding through the day as period drops to 17 secs late. Swell fading Mon AM (5/2) from 3.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft). Residuals Tues AM (5/3) fading from 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 188-189 degrees


New Zealand Gale
Also a gale developed just southeast of New Zealand on Sun AM (4/24) generating 50 kt southwest winds and seas building from 32 ft at 49S 174E. 40 kt west winds continued into the evening with seas 31 ft at 48S 175W. The gale faded Mon AM (4/25). Small background swell possible for Hawaii.

Hawaii: Swell arrival on Sun (5/1) building to 1.5 ft @ 16-17 secs mid-day (2.5 ft). Swell continuing on Mon (5/2) at 1.7 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). residuals on Tues (5/3) fading from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 198 degrees

Over the next 72 hours no swell production 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 forecast developing in the Gulf producing a small area of 35 kt northwest winds and starting to affect the oceans surface. In the evening 35 kt northwest winds to track east with seas building to 19 ft at 40N 169W. Thurs AM (5/5) 30-35 kt west winds were tracking east with seas barely 20 ft at 40N 161W. the gale to fade after that.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.

More details to follow...


La Nina Building It's Footprint
MJO Dissipating

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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. 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).

Overview: The 2014-2016 El Nino is fading out. La Nina is emerging.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Fri (4/29) no west winds were occurring in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA). Anomalies were modest from the west at 165W from 5S and points southward, but nowhere else. This is mostly attributable to El Nino.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Weak west anomalies are forecast holding lightly through 5/7. A weak El Nino pattern to hold perhaps aided by a weakly Active MJO Phase over the KWGA.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 4/29 a neutral MJO signal was over the dateline and the Maritime Continent. The Statistic model projects the exact same pattern holding for the next 2 weeks but with a few faint signs of the Inactive Phase depicted starting 1 week out. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but without as much Inactive Phase development beyond 1 week. In all no enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (4/30) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was collapsed in the Indian Ocean as weak as it can be. It is to perhaps slowly emerge in the East Indian Ocean 2 weeks out. The GEFS model depicts the same thing.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (4/30) A weak Inactive Phase was developing in the far West Pacific and is to reach the dateline 5/6, tracking east into Central America through 5/21. A weak Active pulse to follow 5/23 tracking east into Central America through 6/5. With the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely any Active Phase will have any real positive impact.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests no MJO signal was present over the dateline. It also depicts west anomalies are weak over the dateline and are providing very limited fuel to support enhancing the jetstream and maybe storm production. The model depicts no MJO signal till 5/8 but weak west anomalies from El Nino are to hold in the KWGA into 5/18, with a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO setting up and hold into mid June. As of now, no east anomalies are forecast through July.

CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (4/30) Actual temperatures continue to retreat daily. A pocket of 29-30 deg temps were building in the far West Pacific with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating west from 141W. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing. One last little pocket of +1 deg anomalies exist tracking west between 175E to 139W and no more than 35 meters deep. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface warm reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are at depth racing east reaching Ecuador at -2 degs with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 115W and getting ready to erupt. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, we now have cold Kelvin Waves pushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 4/23 the reservoir is all but gone with +1-2 degs above normal temps confined to a pocket between 175EW to 120W and 30 meters deep and tracking west. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were undercutting it and upwelling near Ecuador. The onset of La Nina has begun.

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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Satellite Imagery
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4 : (4/29) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water has taken over the equator region from Ecuador westward. Negative anomalies extend west from Ecuador over the Galapagos to 138W peaking at -2 degs. Negative anomalies are also building along the immediate coast of Peru and Chile streaming northwest feeding the Galapagos cool pool. La Nina is in control of surface waters, though remnants of El Nino warmer than normal waters are 3 degs north and south of the equator and on the equator from 140W westward but getting undercut fast.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (4/28): Cooling continues from Columbia, Ecuador and Peru over the Galapagos and is now building out to the dateline It looks like strong east trades are in effect in this area and/or cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface. The Warm pool is in total collapse.
Hi-res Overview:
(4/28) The El Nino signal is dissipating. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remains 3 degs north and south of the equator and west of 150W. But a thin stream of cooler than normal waters are from Peru and Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to 150W and growing. Negative temps are building in the Nino1.2 region.

Other Sources
TAO Data: (4/29) +1.0-1.5 anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific advecting west from 142W to the dateline. Negative anomalies up to -1.0 were from Ecuador to 130W. The warm water signature was in steep decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (4/30) Todays temps were rebounding some at +0.351, up from -1.329 degs on 4/26
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (4/30) temps were falling some at +0.972 but generally continuing a steady decline that set in starting early February.
Centered Nino3.4 Monthly Temps The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of March were +1.63 degs (beating '98 at +1.32 degs and '83 at +1.44 degs). For more history see updated graphs below. This make this year El Nino the strongest ever. That is not reasonable looking at other evidence.

Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 4/16 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 90W to 140E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is getting firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data
(4/30) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid May falling -1.0 degs in early Aug, holding then easing down to -1.25 degs in Nov stabilizing there into Jan 2017. This is up a little from a few days ago but still puts us in solid La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-March Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.5 by December. See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):   
Southern Oscillation Index (4/26): The daily index was still well negative at -27.30, bouncing back from a near peak of -45.30 on 4/20 rivaling peak depths from Feb. The 30 day average was falling from -18.25. The 90 day average was falling from -13.85. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the daily and 30 day averages suggested some form of Active MJO was in.cgiay.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 4/30 weak high pressure was building south of Tahiti. This same pattern to slowly build into Tues (5/3) with high pressure taking firm control. fade while the low pressure falls southeast. High pressure to start building in behind weakly on Fri (4/29) then strongly by Tues (5/3) and holding from there forward. The SOI is expected to start slowly rising and then strongly so a week out based on the Tahiti contribution likely shutting down any enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (4/30) Today's value was falling slightly at +1.08. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 then fell until 4/14, when it started rising again peaking 4/23 at +1/12.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (March) These numbers were released April 6th and indicate the index decreased slightly to +1.96. The Feb reading was +2.12. In Jan the reading increased slightly by 0.08 to +2.20, holding it in the third highest since 1950 behind the '82/83 and '97/98 El Ninos. Since it has not reached the +3.0 standard deviation level, it is NOT considered a Super El Nino, nor is it expected to reach that status. The Dec reading was +2.12. The Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. The top 6 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '15, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. This years El Nino was the third strongest since 1950 per this index.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53 and up to +1.75 in Feb. Then in March it spiked to +2.40. Impressive. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

Conclusion: This El Nino is the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based primarily on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected effect producing 13 significant class swells in the North Pacific (16 expected). From a pure El Nino perspective, this event is over and transitioning towards La Nina. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and momentum will affect the upper atmosphere into the late Fall of 2016.

The MJO appears to be trying to be constructively interacting with the jet stream and therefore helping to enhance storm production. With the season moving towards Spring, and SST anomalies fading in the Ninos zones, the MJOs influence will only do a little to enhance storm production.

The focus now turns to how quick and how much will the jet be affected for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.

See imagery in the ENSO Powertool


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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