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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, May 7, 2016 5:22 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   

Weak SHemi Swell Pushing Northeast
One Last Small Swell from the 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 9, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 7.4 ft @ 7.7 secs with swell 5.3 ft @ 8.7 secs from 327 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.9 ft @ 12.8 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 13.6 secs from 183 degrees. Wind northeast 4 kts. Water temperature 60.6. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.0 ft @ 9.3 secs from 265 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 14.8 secs from 234 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.4 ft @ 14.8 secs from 243 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 7.4 ft @ 9.1 secs with swell 5.6 ft @ 9.0 secs from 324 degrees. Wind southeast 8-10 kts. Water temp 56.1 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (5/7) in North and Central CA surf was waist high with some chest high sets and weak and lightly textured from south-southeast wind. At Santa Cruz surf was thigh to waist high on the rare bigger sets and and clean but generally very slow and weak. In Southern California up north waves were knee high and clean and weak and just barely rideable. Down south waves were waist high on the sets and reasonably clean early with some southwest texture on it it and slow. Hawaii's North Shore was getting windswell with waves head high but pretty torn up by building north winds and generally not rideable. The South Shore was getting small southern hemi swell shoulder to head high at top spots and clean and lined up. The East Shore was getting a mix of windswell and south swell with waves thigh to waist high and chopped by north wind.

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

Meteorological Overview
A gale developed Thursday (5/5) in the Western Gulf of Alaska with seas forecast to 22 ft aimed east. Small sideband swell is possible for Hawaii by Sun (5/8) with more direct energy for the US West Coast. After that the North Pacific is to go dormant. Down south a gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Fri-Sat (4/30) lifting northeast with seas to 34 ft. Small swell is hitting Hawaii and is pushing towards California. A small gale to form southeast of New Zealand on Sat (5/7) with seas to 33 ft over a small area gently lifting northeast into Sunday (5/8). Small swell is possible. Nothing else to follow. In all, a quiet pattern is taking hold. Get what you can.

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

North Pacific

On Saturday AM (5/7) a weak but cohesive flow was tracking east-northeast off North Japan eventually pushing into Southern British Columbia with a weak trough over Japan and another over the dateline. Winds were up to 110 kts feeding the dateline trough offering little in terms of support for gale development. A cut off trough was 600 nmiles north of Hawaii offering nothing. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough and the cutoff trough are to merge in the Gulf of Alaska on Mon (5/9) offering some support for low pressure development, but then quickly getting cutoff again by Tues (5/10) moving slowly towards the US West Coast and weakening. No support for anything more than weak mid-level low pressure. Also a trough is to develop off the Kuril Islands on Sun (5/8) being fed by 130 kts winds offering some support for gale development but weakening as it moves to the dateline Tues (5/10). Beyond 72 hours that trough is to regenerate some on Thurs (5/12) in the Western Gulf being fed by 150 kts winds and getting steep and falling southeast but pinching off on Fri (5/13) 600 nmiles north of Hawaii. Limited support for gale or low pressure development there. By Sat (5/14) the jet is to be very fragmented and weak with no pockets exceeding 100 kts offering no support for gale development. The North Pacific is just about asleep for the season.

Surface Analysis
On Saturday (5/7) small swell from a gale previously in the Western Gulf was starting to hit Hawaii and pushing towards the US West Coast (see West Gulf Gale below).

Weak low pressure was 700 nmiles north-northeast of Hawaii generating a small fetch of 30 kt north winds and is forecast to build to 35 kts in the evening with seas19 ft at 35N 157W aimed south. The gale is to be gone by Sun AM (5/8). Small windswell is expected for the North Shores of all Hawaiian Islands on Mon (5/9) with swell 4.5 ft @ 11-12 secs (5 ft) from 360 degrees. Residuals fading Tues AM (5/10) from 4 ft @ 10 secs (4 ft).


West Gulf Gale
A gale developed in the Western Gulf of Alaska Wed PM (5/4) generating a small fetch of 40 kt west-northwest winds and seas building from 20 ft over a tiny area at 43N 167W. The gale lifted northeast Thurs AM (5/5) with winds fading from 35 kts from the west and seas 22 ft at 44N 162W. Fetch faded from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 19 ft at 46N 157W. Sideband swell was hitting Hawaii on Sat (5/7) at 4.5 ft @ 10-11 secs (4.5-5.0 ft).

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/8) late pushing 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5 ft). Swell to peak Mon AM (5/9) at 3.5 ft @ 12 secs (4 ft). Swell fading through the day. Swell Direction: 297 degrees

Over the next 72 hours despite good upper level support no gales are forecast down in lower levels of the atmosphere.


  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 (5/7) light winds were in control of the whole coast with light showers possible for the Central Coast down into Southern CA and light snow for high elevations of the Southern Sierras projected later afternoon. Light winds forecast on Sunday with rain and light snow confined to the Southern Sierra. Monday northwest winds to 20 kts for North CA and 10 kts down into Central CA. Precip is gone by sunrise. Light winds and clear skies Tuesday (5/10) through Thursday with more weak low pressure just off the coast. Light winds continue Fri-Sat (5/14) but with light rain for North CA on late Fri into early Sat as low pressure lift northeast and moves onshore there.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Saturday AM (5/7) swell from a small gale that formed well southeast of New Zealand on Fri (4/29) was impacting Hawaii and pushing towards the US West Coast (see New Zealand Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours a small compact storm started forming south of New Zealand on Fri (5/6) with 55 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft at 57S 167E. Winds fading to 40 kts then rebuilt to 45 kts in the evening with seas building to 31 ft over a tiny area at 57S 177W, pushing more southeast than east. Fetch is to fade while tracking east Sat AM (5/7) from 40 kts with seas building to 34 ft at 57S 165W. 40 kt southwest fetch to finally take hold in the evening but seas area to be fading from 31 ft at 56S 154W. aimed better to the northeast. 40 kt south fetch to hold Sun AM (5/8) lifting well north with seas 32 ft at 53S 149W. In the evening 40 kt south fetch is to start fading with seas still 31 ft at 50S 143W. The gale to dissipate after that. Something to monitor with decent potential for unshadowed swell to result for California (196-203 degrees).


New Zealand Gale
A new gale developed 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 61S 172W. By Sat AM (4/30) a 1100 nmile long fetch of 35 kt south winds were in.cgiace with a core to 40 kts generating 32 ft seas at 59S 168W. The fetch faded in the evening from 30-35 kts lifting north generating 27 ft seas at 52S 164W. Fetch was gone by Sun AM (5/1) with seas dropping from 24 ft at 45S 159W.

Hawaii: Swell still holding on Sun (5/8) at 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Residuals fading on Mon (5/9) from 1.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Dribbles left on Tues (5/10). Swell Direction: 185-190 degrees.

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/8) building to 1.7 ft @ 18-19 secs (3 ft) later. Swell continues on Mon (5/9) at 2.5 ft @ 17 secs (4 ft). Swell holding on Tues (5/10) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 205 degrees

North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/8) building to 1.4 ft @ 18-10 secs (2.5 ft) later. Swell continues on Mon (5/9) at 2.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell holding on Tues (5/10) at 2.2 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 203 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 some suggestion a gale might develop in the Central South Pacific on Tues PM (5/10) with southwest winds 40-45 kts and seas building from barely 30 ft at 52S 155W. Fetch to hold while tracking east-northeast on Wed AM (5/11) with winds still 40-45 kts and seas to 32 ft at 48S 142W. The gale to fade from there.

More details to follow...


El Nino is Dead - La Nina Backing Off Some for Now
MJO turning Inactive

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 (5/6) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) except calm south of it near 160E. Anomalies were neutral but very light from the west at 170E from 5S and points southward. This is mostly attributable to El Nino.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Weak east anomalies are over the KWGA and are forecast holding through 5/14. El Nino is officially dead.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/6 a weak Inactive MJO signal was over the West Pacific and dateline regions. The Statistic model projects this pattern fading rapidly with a neutral if not weak Active pattern taking control a week out and building into week 2. The dynamic model depicts a stronger Inactive pattern holding over the West Pacific for the next 2 weeks with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean. In all no enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/7) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and forecast to continue building while easing east into the Maritime Continent to moderate strength. The GEFS model depicts nearly the same thing.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (5/7) A modest Inactive Phase was in the West Pacific and is to reach the dateline 5/12, tracking east into Central America through 5/23. A weak Active pulse to follow 5/20 in the far West Pacific tracking east into Central America through 6/10. With the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely an 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 no anomalies in.cgiay offering no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts no MJO signal till 5/12 and no anomalies from El Nino in the KWGA either. Then by 5/12 a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is to set up with no anomalies forecast for the foreseeable future. El Nino is dead. At least per this model no east anomalies are forecast through July.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/7) 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 144W. Temps were down to 24 degs under the Galapagos. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing fast. One last little pocket of +1 deg anomalies exist tracking west between 178W to 147W 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 -1 degs with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 122W. This cool pool is already erupting near Ecuador. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, a cold river is rushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/3 the reservoir is all but gone with +1-2 degs above normal temps confined to a pocket between 165EW to 140W and 30 meters deep and tracking west. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were in.cgiay in the west Pacific and tracking east, undercutting the warm pool above it and upwelling near Ecuador. 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: (5/6) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water has taken over the equator region with negative anomalies along the coast of Peru pushing north and then extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos out to 130W peaking at -2 degs but mostly -1 degs. La Nina is in control of surface waters, though remnant El Nino warm water is 3 degs north and south of the equator and on the equator from 140W westward but getting undercut fast. Cool water is retreating south of Mexico.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/6): A light warming trend has developed over waters off Peru and Ecuador but a cooler than normal trend continues from the Galapagos west building out to 130W. Cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface driven by trades. The Warm pool is in total collapse. Warm water is building back along the California coast due to relaxing of high pressure and north trades there.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/6) 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 160W. But a thin stream of cooler than normal water extend from Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to 150W. Negative temps are fading in the Nino1.2 region suggesting a retreat of La Nina, at least for the moment.

Other Sources
TAO Data: (5/4) +0.5 anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific from 155W to the dateline tracking west with +1.0 degs anomalies north and south of that region. Negative anomalies up to -1.0 were from Ecuador to 133W. The warm water signature along the equator in the East Pacific was in decline, but not longer accelerating but instead holding for the moment.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/7) Today's temps were falling some at +0.149, down some from +0.351 on 4/30, but up much from earlier when they were down to -1.329 degs on 4/26
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/7) temps were up slightly at +1.120. But the overall trend is that of a steady decline that set in starting early February.

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

Pacific Counter Current:  As of 5/7 the current was strong in pockets from the east on the equator from 90W to 150E and consistently moderate east over that region. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data
(5/7) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) early May falling -1.0 degs in early July, holding then easing down to -1.25 degs in Sept stabilizing there into Jan 2017. This is in solid La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-April Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.8 by December. See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):   
Southern Oscillation Index (5/6): The daily index was rising rapidly as expected at 10.30, retreating from a near peak of -45.30 on 4/20. The 30 day average was rising from -16.72, with the most recent low peak at -19.07 (4/30). The 90 day average was rising at -14.75. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the 30 day average suggested that the atmosphere still thinks El Nino is in.cgiay.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 5/7 high pressure was building southwest of Tahiti. This pattern is to hold into Tues (5/10). Maybe weak low pressure to develop, but quickly be crushed by more high pressure developing southeast of Tahiti on Fri 5/13 and holding. The SOI is expected to steadily rise based on the Tahiti contribution, likely shutting down any enhancement for the jetstream and fueling La Nina.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/7) Today's value was rising slightly at +1.09. 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.
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 was the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based 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 due to it's westward di.cgiacement. 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 question now turns to how much the jet will be enhanced by remnants of El Nino 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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