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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, May 4, 2017 12:18 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
3.0 - California & 2.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Summer' 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 5/1 thru Sun 5/7

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   

Last Dateline Gale Forming
2 More Small S. Hemi Swell Inbound


On Thursday, May 4, 2017 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 3.7 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 12.3 secs from 334 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 17.2 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 16.6 secs from 184 degrees. Wind calm. Water temperature 61.9 degs. At Ventura swell was 1.2 ft @ 17.0 secs from 186 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.3 ft @ 14.7 secs from 198 degrees. At Camp Pendleton swell was 2.3 ft @ 17.8 secs from 218 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma swell was 1.9 ft @ 17.5 secs from 187 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.4 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 17.8 secs from 188 degrees. Wind northwest 6 kts at the buoy. Water temp 53.6 degs.

    46006, 46059, Hi-Res Buoy Dashboards (bottom of the page)

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.


Current Conditions
On Thursday (5/4) in North and Central CA local windswell was chest high, clean, but soft. Protected breaks were waist high and clean with intermixed warble. At Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was up to chest high or so and clean and lined up but fogged in. In Southern California up north local windswell was producing waves in the waist to maybe chest high range and clean but slow. In North Orange Co surf was shoulder to head high on the sets coming from the south with some power and clean. In South Orange Co southern hemi swell was head high on the sets and clean and lined up but slow. In San Diego southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist to chest high and clean with calm wind. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with modest trades. The South Shore was small with residual small southern hemi swell waist high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was flat and lightly chopped from east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Thursday (5/4) small swell from a gale that lifted north through the Northeast Gulf on Tues-Wed (5/3) with up to 25 ft seas was hitting North California. A broader gale was developing on the dateline Thurs-Fri (5/5) with seas to 23 ft aimed east. Possible swell to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast. In the Southern Hemi swell from a gale that developed in the Central South Pacific on Tues-Wed (4/26) producing up to 34 ft seas aimed northeast was starting to hit California. But this is the last of the southern hemi energy. Looking at the forecast charts no additional swell producing fetch is forecast for the next week.

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

North Pacific

On Monday AM (5/1) the jetstream was ridging while pushing off the Northern Kurils falling into a developing trough near the dateline being fed by 120 kts winds offering some support for gale development. From there the jet ridged a little then fell into another steep trough in the Eastern Gulf being fed by 130 kts winds offering no support for gale development due to it being pinched then ridging northward over Central Canada. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to track east into Fri (5/5) and slowly fade with winds fading offering less support for gale development while the Gulf trough moves up to the coast of the Pacific Northwest and very weak, moving onshore and reaching south to Morro Bay CA on Sat (5/6). The dateline trough is to be moving into the Western Gulf at that time and weak offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to remain consolidated on Mon (5/8) ridging off Japan up to the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians then falling southeast some with a weak trough in the Northern Gulf tracking east then falling hard south over the US West Coast. Winds are to be 140 kts in the Gulf trough offering some limited hope. That trough is to build while falling southeast into Wed (5/10) being fed by 130 kts winds offering some support for gale development off the Pacific Northwest Coast and inching east into Thurs (5/11). At that time back to the west the jet is to weaken and start becoming less defined and fragmented with support for gale development fading (not unusual given the time of year).

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (5/4) small swell from a previous gale over the North dateline was poised to hit Hawaii (see Northwest Pacific Gale below). Also small swell from a gale previously in the Gulf was tracking towards California (See Gulf Gale below).

Otherwise a new gale was developing over the dateline (see paragraph below).

Over the next 72 hours broad gale started to develop just west of the dateline Wed PM (5/3) with a solid area of 30-35 kt northwest winds taking shape not yet producing seas of interest. By Thurs AM (5/4) fetch was building to 35 kts from the northwest with seas 19 ft at 40N 172E. 35 kt northwest winds to continue in the evening with 22 ft seas at 41N 178E. Fetch is to start fading from 30 kts Fri AM (5/5) with seas to 23 ft crossing the dateline at 42N 174W. Fetch to fade and seas falling from 19 ft at 43N 170W in the evening. Something to monitor. Small swell possible for Hawaii.

Hawaii: Rough data suggests swell arrival later on Sun (5/7) building to 3.9 ft @ 14-15 secs late (5.5 ft). Swell peaking overnight then fading Mon AM (5/8) from 4.1 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.0 ft). Residuals on Tues AM (5/9) from 3.3 ft @ 11-12 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 320 degrees

North CA: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Tues (5/9) building to 3.0 ft @ 14 secs late (4.0 ft). Wed AM (5/10) swell mixing with local windswell pushing 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 ft). Swell fading Thurs (5/11) from 4.3 ft @ 12 secs (5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 294 degrees


Northwest Pacific Gale
A gale tracked off the North Kuril Islands on Fri PM (4/28) producing west winds 35 kts and seas building from 20 ft at 49N 163E. On Sat AM (4/29) it continued east just south of the West Aleutians with west winds 35 kts and seas building to 21 ft at 49N 168E targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast weakly. In the evening more of the same is forecast as it approaches the dateline with west winds fading to 30 kts and 21 ft seas at 50N 175E. Sun AM (4/30) 30 kt west winds to reach the Western Gulf while fading in coverage with seas 20 ft seas at 49N 177W. The gale to dissipate in the evening with seas dropping below any level of interest. Sideband swell possible for Hawaii and small well decayed energy for the US West Coast.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (5/4) building to 2.8 ft @ 11 secs later (3.0 ft). Swell fading after that. Swell Direction: 330 degrees


Gulf Gale
A gale developed in the Gulf of Alaska Tues AM (5/2) with 30 kt northwest winds and seas building. In the evening the gale raced northeast with winds building to 40 kts from the west with seas 20 ft at 51N 145W targeting mainly Vancouver Island northward. On Wed AM (5/3) the gale tracked north with 40 kt southwest winds just off South Alaska and seas 25 ft at 54N 143W targeting North Canada and outside the Central CA swell window. No fetch aimed at the US West Coast. The gale moved inland in the evening. No real swell for anywhere other than Vancouver Island northward is expected.

North CA: Swell arriving Thurs mid-day (5/4) building to 4.7 ft @ 14 secs (6.5 ft). Swell fading some overnight dropping Fri AM (5/5) from 4.0 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.0 ft) and starting to be overcome by local north windswell. Swell Direction 310-319 degrees


  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 Thursday (5/4) light northwest winds 5-10 kts were along all of the California coast, but up to 15 kts for Cape Mendocino. Friday a new and expansive high pressure sets up ridging to South Oregon with northwest winds 15 kts early for all of North and Central CA building to 25 kts and up to 35 kts for North CA late. Saturday north winds to build from 35 kts early along the Cape Mendocino coast pushing 40 kts late afternoon reaching south to Monterey Bay (35 kts) and 30+ kts to Pt Conception with possible large raw local windswell in play. Sunday more of the same is expected but with the strongest fetch migrating to Cape Mendocino down to Pt Reyes at 40 kts but 25-30 kts northwest winds impacting southward to Pt Conception. Monday the gradient is to lift north confined to Cape Mendocino with 30 kt north winds from Pt Reyes northward fading to 25 kts later and 15 kts north winds from Pt Reyes southward nearshore. Tuesday the gradient is to be fading with 20 kt north winds along the Central and North coasts early dropping to 15 kts or less late and less for Cape Mendocino. Wednesday (5/10) a light northwest flow is forecast at 10 kts with low pressure moving up to the Pacific Northwest Coast. More of the same on Thurs (5/11).


South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
Swell from a small gale previously in the Central South Pacific was hitting California (see Central Pacific Gale below). And yet maybe a weaker one was behind that (see Weak Central Pacific Gale below).

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


Central Pacific Gale
Another small gale formed in the Central South Pacific on Tues AM (4/25) with 40-45 kt southwest winds over a decent sized area and seas building from 31 ft at 55S 157W. Fetch built in coverage and held strength in the evening at 40-45 kts with seas building to 34 ft at 53S 147W and unshadowed relative to CA. Fetch faded from 40 kts over a decent sized area aimed northeast Wed AM (4/26) with seas fading from 29 ft at 48S 132W. Fetch faded from 30-35 kts in the evening with seas with seas 26 ft at 48S 121W and no longer of interest. The gale to dissipate from there. Possible small swell for California down into Mexico focused on Central America, Peru and Chile.

Southern CA: Swell continues Thurs (5/4) at 2.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell fading Fri (5/5) from 3.0 ft @ 15 secs early (4.5 ft). Residuals fading on Sat (5/6) from 2.1 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 197 degrees

North CA: Swell building some on Thurs (4/4) to 2.3 ft @ 17 secs early (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell continues Fri (4/5) at 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Sat (4/6) from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2.0 ft) and buried in local windswell. Swell Direction: 193 degrees


Weak Central Pacific Gale
A small gale developed in the deep Central South Pacific on Thurs AM (4/27) with 45 kt southwest winds just north of the Ross Ice Shelf and seas building from 26 ft at 66S 165W. In the evening 40 kt southwest winds expanded northeast with seas to 31 ft at 65S 154W. The gale raced east and faded with winds dropping from 35 kts but over a broader area with seas fading from 25 ft at 60S 142W. Very small swell is possible for CA with better energy for Mexico down into Central America and Peru.

Southern CA: Swell arrival Sat (5/6) at 1.8 ft @ 18 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 186 degrees

North CA: Swell building Sun (5/7) to 1.8 ft @ 17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading on Mon (5/8) from 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 183 degrees

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 no swell producing fetch is forecast.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...


Weak SST Warming Continues

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 equator it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slackening if not an outright reversing trade winds while enhancing 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 planet, 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 in the Pacific help support the formation of El Nino. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. Wind anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) are key for understanding what Phase the MJO is in over the Pacific. The KWGA is located on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south (or on the equator from New Guinea east to the dateline). West wind anomalies in the KWGA suggest the Active Phase of the MJO in the Pacific, and east anomalies suggests the Inactive Phase. In turn the Active Phase strengthens and the Inactive Phase weakens the jetstream, which in turn enhances or dampens storm production respectively in the Pacific.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: La Nina started developing in early 2016, but westward displaced and generally weak. And by March 2017, it was gone with suspicious warming developing along South America and over the Galapagos to a point south of Hawaii. Still, the atmosphere is in a La Nina configuration.

KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wednesday (5/3) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific but westerly in the south Kelvin Wave Generation Area. Anomalies were neutral everywhere but strong westerly over the southern KWGA. La Nina appears to have finally backed off.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Solid west anomalies were over the KWGA. The forecast suggests west anomalies fading and retrograding west with light east anomalies building over the dateline into the mid-KWGA through 5/11. This suggests La Nina is weakening and a Active MJO pattern is trying to set up for the KWGA.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/3 a weak Active MJO pattern was in effect over the KWGA. The statistic model projects it fading and gone 1 week out with a modest Inactive Phase tracking east into the West Pacific. The dynamic model depicts a weakly Active pattern holding for the next 15 days with the Inactive Phase building in the Indian Ocean and easing west, but staying mainly north of the KWGA. All this suggest that the previous pattern of the Inactive Phase of the MJO constructively integrating with the remains of La Nina appears to be faded out and a neutral ENSO Pattern taking hold.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/3) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was modest over the East Pacific and is forecast to track east into the Atlantic and then the Indian Ocean while weakening over the next 2 weeks. The GEFS model depicts the same thing initially but with the Active Phase holding position over the East Pacific and weakening some. This model runs about a week ahead of what occurs down at the surface.
40 day Upper Level Model: (5/4) This model depicts a weak Active Pattern was over the West Pacific. It is to quickly collapse and dissipate through 5/10. lA moderate Inactive Phase to set up in the west 5/8 and is to track east to Central America 5/29. A moderate Active pattern to follow in the West Pacific 5/24 tracking east to the East Pacific through 6/13. This model runs about 2 weeks ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (5/4) This model depicts the Active Phase of the MJO was all but gone over the KWGA and moving east but with west anomalies in play in the KWGA. Beyond the Inactive Phase is to take control by 5/15 holding through 6/10 but with westerly anomalies fading some but not gone and holding into 6/10. After that the Active Phase is to start taking control on 6/11 with light west anomalies building through the end of the run on 8/1. The low pass filter indicates La Nina is to be gone on 5/12 (previously 5/6-5/8) with a weak El Nino like pattern taking hold 6/21, (previously 5/16-5/22) but much weaker than previously forecast. In fact, latest long range runs from the CFS suggest this to only be a weak Modoki event. That actually makes more sense given the weak warm water reservoir in the West Pacific.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/1) Actual temperatures remain stratified with warm water in the West Pacific at 30 degs C moving east some and back on the chart reaching east to 160E. The 28 deg isotherm line continues drifting east to 162W after making significant eastward progress the previous week only to retrograde. The 26 deg isotherm continued easing to the east reaching to the Galapagos with the 24 degs isotherm over a modest pool down 25 meters (75 meters at 140W) and holding. Warm anomalies at +1 degs rule the entire upper reaches of the equatorial East Pacific from 65 meters upward with +2 degs anomalies in the west down at 125m and greater than 0.0 degs in between. A pocket of -2 degs anomalies is collapsing down to barely -1 degs at depth between 110-130W down 100 meters. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 4/28 depicts that warm water is fading in the East Pac at +1-2 degs in a few small pockets easing east over a shallow pool to about 140W. Cool water at -1-2 degs is at depth at 140W but is noticeably loosing coverage. Warm water is in the West at +2-3 degs reaching east to 160W, possibly making eastward progress. La Nina has lost control of the ocean at depth with something that almost resembles a warm pattern taking shape. The concern is there is not much warm water in the far West Pacific to feed any sort of a progressive Kelvin Wave pattern, but somehow more warm waters is present in the east and those waters in the west are building eastward some. And the cool pocket in the Central Pacific appears to be fading. Still - it is blocking the Kelvin Wave pathway.
Sea Level Anomalies: (4/28) No positive anomalies remain from the Galapagos westward. Neutral anomalies are in control. 0-5 cm anomalies remain along the coast of Peru and Ecuador. But no negative anomalies are present on the equator and in fact 0-+5 cm anomalies are over the entire KWGA suggesting warm water at depth. La Nina is gone in the East Pacific with a neutral to warm trend building in.

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: (5/3) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate warm water is off the coasts of Northern Chile and Peru north to Ecuador then extending west over the Galapagos, but weaker west of there out to 160W. Upwelling continues along the immediate coasts of Peru and North Chile and is extending over the Galapagos in pockets and out to 105W weakly. Looking at the large picture, warming in the southern hemi extends east thousands of miles off the coast of South America as far south as 20S or more. But it looks less define and more diffuse than weeks ago. La Nina is gone and it looks like an El Nino like pattern is returning, though that seems hard to believe given the limited volume of subsurface warm water in the West equatorial Pacific.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/2): A cooling trend is setting up along immediate Chile and Peru extending off Ecuador to the Galapagos and then out to 110W in pockets. A modest warming trend is just north of the equator from Central America and Mexico out to the dateline. A warming trend is also present in the Northern Hemi modesty from North CA out to Hawaii reaching west to the Philippines.
Hi-res Overview:
(4/30) There is no sign of La Nina anymore anywhere on the equator. A solid warm regime holds from Ecuador west to 140W and less energetic out to the dateline. It looks like El Nino is trying to develop and making headway into the Nino3.4 region.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/4) Today's temps are rising at +0.964, down from the peak of +3.0 degs on 3/18.  
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/4) temps were falling down at +0.291 degs.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/4) The forecast has temps steady at +0.65 degs from now till July, then fading early Aug to +0.45 degs, building to +0.5 degs in Oct continuing at that level into Jan 2018 suggesting a return of warmer temps, but not enough to really qualify as El Nino. CFS data suggests a Modoki style El Nino at best. La Nina is over and a return to normal temps appears to have occurred. The change in the atmosphere will be slower. Still, there is no source for greater warming with the warm pool in the far West Pacific pretty weak. Much recharging an heat buildup is required for a real El Nino to develop. We're at least 5 years out from that.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-April Plume updated (4/19) depicts temps are warming and are now at +0.4 degs. A slow increase in temps is forecast thereafter to +0.8 degs in July and up to +0.9 degs through the Fall into Winter. This is +0.3 degs warmer than the Feb forecast and +0.6 degs warmer than the January forecast and +0.1 degs since the March forecast suggesting La Nina is over and a warmer regime is setting up. See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Decoupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (5/4): The daily index was falling at -12.774. Its been unstable and all over the place the past 2 weeks. The 30 day average was rising at -6.06. The 90 day average was falling at -2.28 or effectively neutral. This suggests a return to at least a neutral ENSO conditions has taken hold.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (5/4) Today's value was steady at -1.06 but we suspect the website is not working. A peak low was reached on 11/2 at -1.94 the deepest it had been in this La Nina event. This measures atmospheric response, not oceanic. The atmosphere lags behind changes in the ocean. The expectation is this index will rise to 0.0 three months after the oceanic change occurred (Oceanic change occurred approx Jan 20 2017).

Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues positive, though much weaker lately (as expected with La Nina setting in).
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.12, Feb = +0.04, March = +0.08. This continues to look like the warm phase of the PDO. No consistently negative readings have occurred since Feb 2014
The Washington EDU index (Jan-Dec): Jan 2017 = +0.77, Feb = +0.70, Mar = +0.74. No negative readings have occurred since Dec 2013
The PDO turned from a 16 year negative run (Jan 98-Feb 2014) in early 2014 and has been positive ever since (other than a few months of negative readings in Fall 2016, the result of a turn towards La Nina). 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 strongly suggests that could be a possibility. By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.

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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