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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Thursday, May 11, 2017 1:47 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   

North Pacific Going to Sleep
South Pacific Holds Hope Long Term


On Thursday, May 11, 2017 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 4.4 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 11.0 secs from 336 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.5 ft @ 12.0 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 12.5 secs from 288 degrees. Wind northwest 6-8 kts. Water temperature 63.1 degs. At Ventura swell was 1.4 ft @ 12.0 secs from 264 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.8 ft @ 12.9 secs from 244 degrees. At Camp Pendleton swell was 1.2 ft @ 12.8 secs from 231 degrees. Southward at Pt Loma swell was 1.7 ft @ 13.2 secs from 262 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 4.0 ft @ 12.5 secs with swell 3.0 ft @ 12.0 secs from 284 degrees. Wind southeast 4-6 kts at the buoy. Water temp 52.5 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 (5/11) in North and Central CA swell fro the dateline was producing surf at shoulder to almost head high and lined up but pretty ruffled from south winds. Protected breaks were waist high or so and cleaner. At Santa Cruz dateline swell was waist high and clean and lined up. In Southern California dateline swell was producing waves in the thigh to waist high range and clean. In North Orange Co surf was waist to almost chest high on the sets coming from the northwest and textured from northwest wind. In South Orange Co surf was waist to maybe chest high and heavily textured from northwest winds. In San Diego dateline swell was producing surf at waist high and heavily textured from northwest wind. Hawaii's North Shore was near flat and clean. The South Shore was waist high and clean and lined up. The East Shore was getting local east windswell at 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 Thursday (5/11) small swell from a gale that developed on the dateline Thurs-Fri (5/5) with seas to 23 ft was fading in California. No swell from the Southern Hemi was in the water. And no real swell producing weather systems are forecast in either the North or Southern hemispheres. A calm pattern is taking hold.

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

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Thursday (5/9) small swell from a gale previously over the dateline was fading in California and will be gone by Fri (5/12).

Over the next 72 hours low pressure is to track through the Gulf of Alaska producing windswell for California (see Gulf Low below).

Also a tiny gale is forecast for the Northern Dateline region on Thurs PM (5/11) producing 40 kt west winds for 12 hours generating 23 ft seas at 50N 177W. This system is to fade 12 hours later. No real swell of interest is to result.


Gulf Low
A low pressure system tracked southeast from the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Tues AM (5/9) generating 25 kts northwest winds and seas building. In the evening winds built to 30 kts from the northwest with seas building to 15 ft at 45N 146W. Wed AM (5/10) 30 kt northwest fetch was falling southeast with seas 15 ft at 43N 143W. In the evening 25 kt northwest winds continued falling southeast repositioned a bit off North California with seas 15 ft at 41N 143W. On Thurs AM (5/11) the gale continued falling southeast with 25 kts northwest winds over a broad area with seas 14 ft near 41N 138W. In the evening the gale is to redevelop with 30 kt northwest winds falling southeast positioned just off the Oregon-CA border with seas 14 ft at 42N 138W. On Fri AM (5/12) northwest winds to build to 30-35 kts in the same place with 15 ft seas at 45N 134W. The gale is to fade from there while falling southeast just off Cape Mendocino with seas 16 ft at 41N 130W and high pressure and local wind building in behind.

North CA: Possible windswell arriving on Fri (5/12) at 4.5 ft @ 11 secs (5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 296 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 (5/11) a calm wind pattern was in effect for the California coast with a broad but weak low pressure system over the Pacific Northwest. On Friday (5/12) the low is to be weakening with high pressure and northwest winds building in at 30 kts focused on Pt Conception later with 10 kts northwest winds holding in control from San Francisco northward. Saturday (5/13) high pressure is to be in control of the entire eastern half of the North Pacific centered in the Gulf of Alaska at 1038 mbs producing 30 kts northwest winds nearshore Pt Conception early but only 10-15 kts from Monterey Bay northward to Cape Mendocino. Sunday northwest winds build at 20 kts for all of North and Central CA and up to 25 kts for Pt Conception. The gradient is to lift north on Mon (5/15) with northwest winds 20-25 kts for Monterey Bay northward and 15 kts down to Pt Conception and pushing into Southern CA early in the day. North winds moderating some on Tues (5/16) at 10-15 kts for all of North and Central CA and 15 kts for Southern CA early. Wednesday northwest winds build to 20-25 kts for all of North and Central CA and building into Southern CA late AM. More of the same on Thurs (5/18) but with light winds for Southern CA. This continues looking like a typical La Nina Spring.


South Pacific

On Thursday AM (5/11) 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. A ridge in the northern branch was in play over the Southeast Pacific pushing it south and forcing it to merge with the southern branch off Southern Chile. regardless, there was no support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the split zonal flow is to continue with the northern branch tracking east on the 30S latitude line and the southern branch down at 60S with no troughs or support for gale development indicated. Beyond 72 hours
more of the same is forecast until Mon (5/15) when a trough is to develop in the far Southeast Pacific outside the California swell window being fed by 140 kt winds offering decent support for gale development targeting Peru and Chile building into Tues (5/16) while moving close to Southern Chile, then fading Wed (5/17) while moving onshore there. Otherwise there's hints of a trough building under New Zealand on Thurs (5/18) being fed by 150 kts winds, possibly supporting gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere.

Surface Analysis  
On Thursday AM (5/11) no southern hemi swell was in the water. A gale previously forecast well southeast of New Zealand on Tues (5/9) did not materialize as strong as projected.

Over the next 72 hours there's suggestions of a gale developing in the deep Southeast Pacific on Fri PM (5/12) with 40 kt west winds and seas building. On Sat AM (5/13) winds to build to 45 kts from the southwest with seas building to 34 ft at 57S 126W. In the evening winds are to be fading from 40 kts and falling southeast with seas 31 ft at 58S 115W and east of the California swell window. Something to monitor.

Remnants of this system are to redevelop Sun AM (5/14) east of the California swell window at 55 kts from the south over a tiny area with seas building from 37 ft at 49S 113W. In the evening 45 kt south winds to track east aimed north with seas building to 48 ft at 48S 100W targeting Mexico, Central America and Peru. Fetch is to track east on Mon AM (5/15) at 45 kts from the southwest with seas 43 ft over a tiny area at 47S 91W targeting Chile and Peru. In the evening fetch is to fade from 40 kts from the southwest off Southern Chile with seas fading from 36 ft at 50S 82W just off Southern Chile. No fetch is to be aimed at California at any point in this systems life.

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 low pressure is to develop off the Kuril Islands Sat-Sun (5/14) with 30-35 kt northwest winds producing up to 17 ft seas at 40N 167E somewhat targeting Hawaii but a long ways away. Low odds of any swell resulting.

After that the North Pacific is to go to sleep.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours there's suggestion of a broad gale developing Wed PM (5/17) south of New Zealand with winds 45 kts from the south-southwest and seas building from 32 ft at 55S 158E. Fetch is to build strongly Thurs AM (5/18) from 40-45 kts from the southwest over a large area with 33 ft seas building at 52S 163E aimed well to the north. Additional development forecast. Something to monitor.

More details to follow...


ESPI Return to Normal

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 (5/10) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific but weaker in the south Kelvin Wave Generation Area attributable to what was tropical system Donna. Anomalies were neutral everywhere but weak easterly over the Northern KWGA and weak westerly over the Southern KWGA. La Nina appears to have finally backed off in the atmosphere.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies were building over the core of the KWGA. The forecast suggests strong east anomalies building over the entire KWGA and holding through the end of the forecast period (5/18). This suggests an Inactive MJO pattern is moving over the KWGA.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/10 a building Inactive/Dry MJO pattern was moving into the west KWGA with the Active/Wet Phase weak and fading on the dateline. The statistic model projects the Inactive Phase tracking east to the dateline over the next week then fading while the Active Phase builds in the Indian Ocean. The dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Inactive Phase fading out far quicker while tracking east and barely present in the West Pacific 1 week out. 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 balanced/normal ENSO Pattern is taking hold favoring neither the Active or Inactive Phase.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/11) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was modest over North Africa and is forecast to track east quickly to the Indian Ocean 10 days out and then to the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out. The GEFS depicts the Active Phase moving east and holding in the Indian Ocean and weak. These models runs about a week ahead of what occurs down at the surface.
40 day Upper Level Model: (5/11) This model depicts a moderate Inactive Pattern over the West Pacific. It is to track east to Central America through 5/26. A weak Active pattern to follow in the West Pacific 5/24 tracking east to the East Pacific through 6/20. A strong Inactive Phase is to follow in the West Pacific 6/20. This model runs about 2 weeks ahead of what happens at the surface.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (5/11) This model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO was moving into the Central KWGA with modest east anomalies in play in the KWGA. Beyond the Inactive Phase is to peak on 5/25 then fading but still holding through 6/7 but with weak westerly anomalies developing in the Central and East KWGA by 6/10. After that the Active Phase is to move into the KWGA on 6/11 with light west anomalies building, getting solid 7/1 and holding decently through 8/7 (the end of the run). The low pass filter indicates La Nina is to be gone on 5/19 (previously 5/6-5/8). But there's no signs of El Nino developing. If anything, maybe a weak Modoki type event might develop or La Nina might return (7/16). 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: (5/11) Actual temperatures remain stratified with warm water in the West Pacific at 30 degs C moving back to the east on the chart at 159E. The 28 deg isotherm line continues drifting east, now to 149W and still making eastward progress. 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 +2 degs are in the East Pacific with +2 degs anomalies in the West Pacific down at 125m and greater than 0.0 degs in between. A tiny pocket of -1 deg anomalies is collapsing at 110W down 100 meters. The hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/3 depicts that warm water is fading in the East Pac at +0-1 degs in a few small pockets easing east over a shallow pool to about 145W. 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.
Sea Level Anomalies: (5/3) Neutral anomalies are present from the Galapagos westward to 155W. 0-5 cm anomalies are along the coast of Peru and Ecuador but are fading. In 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 trying to hold on.

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: (5/10) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicate a generalized warm pattern 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, but appears to be fading. 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 (5/10): A neutral trend is along immediate Chile and Peru. Warming extends off Ecuador to the Galapagos and then out to 120W in pockets. A weak warming trend is present in the Northern Hemi modesty from Baja out to Hawaii reaching west to the Philippines. Overall nothing remarkable is indicated.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/10) There is no sign of La Nina 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: (5/11) Today's temps are rising weakly at +0.332, down from the peak of +3.0 degs on 3/18.  
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/11) temps holding, hovering at +0.470 degs.

Click for Full Sized Image

CFSV2 Forecast for Nino3.4 SST Anomalies

SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/11) The forecast has temps slowly falling from +0.65 degs down to +0.5 degs in July, then fading slightly in Aug to +0.45 degs, holding there into Jan 2018. This suggests and continuation of what is currently in play, but not enough to 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 (5/11): The daily index was falling at -21.35. Its been negative for the last 13 days. The 30 day average was falling at -11.53. The 90 day average was falling at -4.45 or just south of 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): (5/11) Today's value was -0.19 or effectively neutral (we wrote NOAA and they fixed the website). 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.

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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