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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, May 6, 2017 12:32 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 & 2.5 - 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 5/8 thru Sun 5/14

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 Swell Tracking Southeast
Tiny S. Hemi Swell Tracking Northeast


On Saturday, May 6, 2017 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 2.8 ft @ 8.4 secs from 27 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.9 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 2.5 ft @ 11.4 secs from 241 degrees. Wind northwest 12-16 kts. Water temperature 63.9 degs. At Ventura swell was 3.1 ft @ 10.3 secs from 275 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.2 ft @ 12.8 secs from 216 degrees. At Camp Pendleton swell was 1.6 ft @ 14.7 secs from 214 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma swell was 3.0 ft @ 12.9 secs from 236 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 20.6 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 16.9 ft @ 10.2 secs from 312 degrees. Wind northwest 33-41 kts at the buoy. Water temp 51.6 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 Saturday (5/6) in North and Central CA local windswell was 8-10 ft and blown out with howling northwest winds and whitecaps in full control. Protected breaks were 2-3 ft overhead and raw and white capped. At Santa Cruz northwest windswell was wrapping in at head high if not slightly bigger and reasonably clean but raw and mushed. In Southern California up north local windswell was producing waves in the chest high range and chopped with brisk northwest wind. In North Orange Co surf was head high or so on the sets coming from the northwest and heavily textured from south winds. In South Orange Co surf was waist to chest high and chopped and unrideable. In San Diego local windswell was producing surf at waist high or so and chopped from westerly wind. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean with modest trades. The South Shore was near flat and clean. The East Shore was thigh high and chopped from east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
On Saturday (5/6) small swell from a gale that developed on the dateline Thurs-Fri (5/5) with seas to 23 ft aimed east was pushing towards Hawaii and the US West Coast. Nearshore North and Central California was being affected by a strong local pressure gradient producing 40 kt northwest winds resulting in larger raw local windswell. In the Southern Hemi no swell is in the water. A small gale is forecast on Tues (5/9) possibly producing 32 ft seas aimed northeast holding out the possibility for small swell long term. But otherwise a calm pattern has taken hold.

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

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (5/6) small swell from a gale previously over the dateline was poised to hit Hawaii (see Dateline Gale below).

Otherwise a local pressure gradient was in effect for California created by high pressure at 1032 mbs 600 nmiles off the coast and low pressure over the Sierra generating 35 kt northwest winds from Cape Mendocino south to San Francisco. The gradient is to build in the evening with winds to 40 kts for the same region and 35 kt north winds extending south to a point off of Morro Bay holding into Sunday AM (5/7), then starting to fade Sunday evening. Larger raw local windswell is the expected result mainly for Central CA. See QuikCASTs for details.

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


Dateline Gale
A 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: Expect swell arrival later on Sun (5/7) building to 3.6 ft @ 14 secs late (5.0 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 3.5 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 pushing 3.9 ft @ 13 secs (5.0 ft). Swell fading Thurs (5/11) from 3.9 ft @ 12 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 294 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 Saturday (5/6) north winds were building from 35 kts along the coast from Cape Mendocino down to the Golden Gate with 30 kts winds down to Pt Conception and beyond over the Channel Islands and expected to reach 40 kts late afternoon in the core area with large raw local windswell in play and building. Sunday more of the same is expected early with up to 40 kt northwest winds from Pt Arena south to Pt Reyes but 30 kts winds retracting off the coast of Central CA. 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 10 kt north winds from Pt Reyes southward nearshore. Tuesday the gradient is to be fading with 25 kt north winds nearshore from Cape Mendocino to Pt Reyes but 10 kts or less south of there. Wednesday (5/10) the gradient is to collapse with low pressure building in the Eastern Gulf and a light northwest flow forecast at 10 kts. More of the same on Thurs (5/11). Then on Friday (5/12) high pressure and northwest winds return at 25 kts focused on Pt Conception with 15 kts northwest winds reaching up to Pt Arena building to 20-25 kts later in the day. Saturday (5/13) the wind machine returns with 25-30 kts northwest winds in control of all nearshore waters from Pt Conception northward. This is setting up like a typical La Nina Spring, but with a late start.


South Pacific

On Saturday AM (5/6) the jetstream was split over the southern hemi with the northern branch running east on the 30S latitude line and the southern branch on the 60S line with winds generally 90-100 kts and weak. The only exception was a weak trough that was pushing north near 150W reaching up to 40S briefly merging with the northern branch and generating a pocket of 140 kts winds. But no support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to dissipate on Sun (5/7) and a new trough is to develop in the Southwest Pacific Mon (5/8) lifting northeast being fed by 130-140 kts winds on Tues (5/9) offering some support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to weaken and fade later Wed (5/10) with support for gale development dissipating. Beyond into Sat (5/13) a split zonal flow is to take hold with the northern branch tracking east on the 30S latitude line and the southern branch tracking east on the 56S line with no troughs indicated.

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

Over the next 72 hours a gale is forecast developing southeast of New Zealand on Tues AM (5/9) with 40 kt southwest winds and seas building from 28 ft at 59S 171W. In the evening winds to build to 45 kt from the southwest with seas to 32 ft at 52S 158W aimed well northeast. Fetch is to fade some then redevelop Wed AM (5/10) to 45 kts over a tiny area aimed north with seas 32 ft at 52S 143W over a small area. Fetch is to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft over a tiny area at 51S 137W. The gale is to dissipate after that. Small background swell is possible for California with a bit more size down into Central America and Peru. Something to monitor.


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 building Sun (5/7) to 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading on Mon (5/8) from 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell dissipating on Tues (5/9) from 1.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.0 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 dissipating on Tues (5/9) from 1.3 ft @ 14 secs (1.5 ft). Swell Direction: 183 degrees

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 there's suggestions of a broad gale developing in the deep Southeast Pacific on Sat (5/13) with 50 kt southwest winds and seas building from 35 ft at 62S 135W. Something to monitor.

More details to follow...


Weak Warm Regime 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 Friday (5/5) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific but moderate 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 in the atmosphere.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Strong west anomalies were fading over the over the Central 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 then those east anomalies are to start fading into 5/13 but still present from from 150W eastward. This suggests La Nina is weakening and a Active MJO pattern is in the KWGA.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/5 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 more neutral ENSO Pattern is taking hold.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/5) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was modest over the East Atlantic and is forecast to track east quickly to the Indian Ocean 10 days out and weakening some over the next 2 weeks. The GEFS model is down. These models runs about a week ahead of what occurs down at the surface.
40 day Upper Level Model: (5/4) No update available for 5/6. 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): (5/6) This model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO was moving into the west KWGA but with weak west anomalies in play in the KWGA. Beyond the Inactive Phase is to take control by 5/17 holding through 6/7 but with weak westerly anomalies holding into 6/10. After that the Active Phase is to again move into the KWGA on 6/11 with light west anomalies building, getting solid 7/1 and holding decently through 6/25 and still present through the end of the run on 8/3. The low pass filter indicates La Nina is to be gone on 5/15 (previously 5/6-5/8). But there's no signs of El Nino developing. If anything, maybe a weak Modoki type event might develop. 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: (5/6) Actual temperatures remain stratified with warm water in the West Pacific at 30 degs C moving back to the west and off the chart. The 28 deg isotherm line continues drifting east, now to 157W after making significant eastward progress a few weeks ago 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 tiny pocket of -1 deg anomalies is collapsing at 125W 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 between 110W-150W 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. To the west +5 cm anomalies are over the entire KWGA suggesting warmish water at depth. La Nina is gone in the East Pacific with a neutral to weak 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: (5/5) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate warm water is well off the coasts of Northern Chile and Peru north to Ecuador then extending west over the Galapagos and out to sea out to 160W. But upwelling continues along the immediate coasts of Peru and North Chile and is reaching northwest off the coast of Ecuador. 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 is not well defined. 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 (5/5): A cooling trend is fading along immediate Chile and Peru extending off Ecuador to the Galapagos and then out to 120W in pockets. A modest warming trend is just north of the equator from Central America and Mexico out to the dateline but weaker than weeks past. A warming trend is also present in the Northern Hemi modesty from Baja out to Hawaii reaching west to the Philippines. Overall nothing remarkable is indicated.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/5) 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: (5/6) Today's temps are falling at +0.652, down from the peak of +3.0 degs on 3/18.  
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/4) temps were down, now hovering at +0.414 degs.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/6) 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 (5/6): The daily index was steady at -12.39. Its been unstable and all over the place the past 2 weeks but more steady negative the last 5 days. The 30 day average was falling at -6.82. The 90 day average was falling at -2.97 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): (5/6) 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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