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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Sunday, May 15, 2016 1:57 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
3.5- California & 1.0 - 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 5/16 thru Sun 5/22

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   

Small S.Hemi Swell For the Workweek for CA
One Small Gale for the Gulf

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 16, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 2.2 ft @ 11.1 secs from 325 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.3 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 13.6 secs from 227 degrees. Wind southwest 2 kts. Water temperature 63.7. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.0 ft @ 11.4 secs from 254 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.3 ft @ 14.6 secs from 205 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.1 ft @ 14.7 secs from 210 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.7 ft @ 5.6 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 13.8 secs from 210 degrees. Wind northwest 20-24 kts. Water temp 55.8 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Sunday (5/15) in North and Central CA surf was thigh to maybe waist high and chopped and unrideable due to strong northwest winds. At Santa Cruz small southern hemi swell was still hitting producing waves at waist to maybe chest high and clean early and reasonably lined up. In Southern California up north waves were flat with a few knee high sets and clean. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves at waist high with a few stray larger sets and heavily textured from southerly wind early. Hawaii's North Shore was getting some leftover windswell with waves rarely chest high at top spots and clean. The South Shore was getting sideband southern hemi swell with waves waist high or so and clean. The East Shore was flat and lightly chopped by east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
No swell producing fetch has occurred in the North Pacific and no swell is in the water. One last small gale is forecast in the Gulf on Mon-Tues (5/17) producing up to 22 ft seas aimed east. But nothing else to follow. Down south a small gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Sat (5/7) with seas to 33 ft over a small area gently lifting northeast into Sunday (5/8) and two additional patches of fetch followed over the same area of the South Pacific through Wed (5/11) with seas ranging from 28-32 ft aimed northeast offering potential for more swell for California down into Central and South America. But after that, virtually nothing of interest is forecast for the next week. A flat spell is coming and the transition to a summer weather pattern is nearly complete.

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

North Pacific

On Sunday AM (5/15) the jet was reasonably consolidated over the North Pacific falling southeast over the Kuril Islands at 110 kts almost forming a trough on the dateline down at 40N then tracking east from there with winds 90-110 kts and pushing over North CA. There was no obvious signs of support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the weak trough on the dateline is to ease northeast moving into the Northern Gulf Mon-Tues (5/17) being fed by 100-110 kts winds offering bare minimal support for gale development. Another trough is to develop just west of the dateline on Mon (5/16) being fed by 150 kts winds falling south from Kamchatka and pushing south to 33N late Tuesday forming a deep trough with 130 kts winds enveloping it offering good support for gale development but starting to get pinched off on Wed (5/18). Beyond 72 hours that trough is to weaken and still nearly pinched while lifting northeast into Fri (5/20) offering little support for gale development. By Sat-Sun (5/22) a very weak and fragmented jetstream pattern is forecast with no cohesive flow indicated offering no support for gale development.

Surface Analysis
On Sunday AM (5/15) no swell was in the water.

But on Sunday AM (5/15) a low pressure system was developing in the Western Gulf with pressure 992 mbs generating 25 kt northwest winds. By evening west winds to build to 40 kts with seas building to 20 ft at 41N 162W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast and starting to lift northeast. A decent sized fetch of 35 kt west winds to be lifting northeast on Mon AM (5/16) with seas 20 ft at 43N 156W. 35 kt west fetch and 22 ft seas to track northeast from there into the evening at 46n 150W. On Tues AM (5/17) the fetch is to be just off British Columbia at 25-30 kts from the west with 20 ft seas at 48N 144W targeting Vancouver Island. Small 11-12 sec period sideband swell is possible for Hawaii with somewhat larger 12-13 sec period swell from the US West Coast. Something to monitor.

Also the local California pressure gradient is to fire up on Monday (5/16) and hold in some fashion into early Fri (5/20) producing 25+ kt northerly winds over North CA resulting in local windswell. See QuikCASTs for details.


  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 Sunday (5/15) high pressure was building off the coast and ridging into Central CA starting to generate the usual pressure gradient and north winds along the North and Central Coasts at 15-20 kts making for poor conditions down to Pt Conception. Monday the gradient is to build with northwest winds 20-25 kts for all of North and Central CA then lifting north on Tuesday with 25 kt north winds confined to North CA with far lighter winds for Central CA and shadowed in Southern CA. Wednesday AM the standard summer time pressure gradient is to remain in.cgiay with 25-30 kt north winds over North CA but light in Central CA and an eddy flow in Southern CA. But on Thursday high pressure is to fall south with northwest winds 20-25 kts over all of North and Central CA perhaps reaching into southern CA late afternoon. But by Friday (5/20) the gradient is to dissolve with a light northwest flow at 10 kts late for North and Central CA and weaker still on Saturday. But northwest winds to build over Pt Conception at 20 kts possibly reaching into Santa Barbara County holding Sunday (5/22).

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Sunday AM (5/15) swell from a gale that formed Fri-Sun (5/8) in the South Central Pacific was pushing northeast (see South Pacific Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours no swell production is forecast.


South Pacific Gale
A small compact storm started forming south of New Zealand on Fri (5/6) with 50 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft at 57S 168E. Winds faded 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 faded while tracking east Sat AM (5/7) from 40-45 kts with seas building to 34 ft at 57S 165W. 40 kt southwest fetch finally took hold in the evening but seas were fading from 31 ft at 56S 154W aimed better to the northeast. 40-45 kt south fetch held Sun AM (5/8) lifting well north with seas 33 ft at 53S 149W. In the evening 40 kt south fetch started fading with seas still 32 ft at 50S 143W. The gale to dissipate after that. Decent unshadowed swell to result for California (196-203 degrees).

Additional 50 kt west-southwest fetch built over the West Pacific on Mon AM (4/9) with 32 ft seas building over a small area at 59S 160W. Fetch faded from 40 kts in the evening with seas 33 ft at 56S 154W. A broad area of 35 kt southwest fetch faded Tues AM (5/10) with seas fading from 28 ft 54S 148W. Additional background swell was being generated targeting Peru up into Central America with sideband swell into California.

Additional fetch developed over the same area on Tues PM (5/10) with southwest winds 40 kts and seas 26 ft at 51S 158W. Wed AM (5/11) 35-40 kt south fetch was in control with seas building to 28 ft 44S 150W. That fetch held into the evening with seas 27 ft at 45S 140W. Fetch faded from there.

Southern CA: Swell arrival expected on Sun (5/15) building to 1.8 ft @ 19 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) late and inconsistent. Swell to build on Mon (5/16) to 2.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (5/17) from 2.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft). Swell fading some on Wed (5/18) from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft) with new energy building underneath at 2 ft @ 17-18 secs late (3.5 ft). A new pulse of energy building on Thurs (5/19) from 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell fading Fri (5/20) from 2.7 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft). residuals fading out on Sat (5/21) from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs early (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 200 degrees.

North CA: Swell arrival expected on Mon (5/16) to 1.8 ft @ 18 secs (3.0 ft). Swell holding Tues (5/17) at 2.0 ft @ 16 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading Wed (5/18) from 1.7 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). Additional swell arriving on Thurs (5/19) pushing 2.0 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading Friday (5/20) from 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat (5/21) from 2 ft @ 14 secs(2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195-197 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 other swell producing fetch is forecast. But with a decent trough forecast for the dateline region Tues-Wed (5/18), it seems possible that some fetch and swell could result.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. A long swell drought looks possible.

More details to follow...


La Nina Surging
Water Temps Falling over Equator across the Planet

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 Wed (5/15) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA). Anomalies were neutral over the entire region, meaning this is normal for this time of year. The El Nino calm pocket is gone.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies are over the KWGA and are forecast building through 5/22 to strong levels. La Nina is building.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/14 a modest Inactive MJO signal was over the West Pacific and dateline regions. The Statistic model projects this pattern fading with a moderate Active pattern taking control 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts the Inactive pattern holding over the West Pacific for the next 2 weeks with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean trying to move west, but not making it. In all no enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO and if anything some suppression of it is possible attributable to the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/15) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and forecast to continue building while easing east towards but not reaching the Maritime Continent to moderate strength, fading there 2 weeks out. The GEFS model depicts a moderate Active Phase generally holding it's position in the eastern Indian Ocean, not moving east.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (5/12) A modest Inactive Phase was in the Central Pacific and is to reach Central America 5/20. A weak Active pulse to follow starting 5/25 in the far West Pacific tracking east into Central America through 6/10. Another Inactive Phase is to start in the West Pacific on 6/8 moving almost to Central America on 6/21. With the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely the MJO will have any real positive impact on storm production, but it speaks to the possible buildup of La Nina longer term.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was building over the dateline with no anomalies or maybe light east winds in.cgiay offering no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO and modest east anomalies in the KWGA through 5/25. A weak Active Phase to follow producing only weak west anomalies through 7/4. After that the MJO is to be weak with no anomalies or only light east anomalies into 8/13. El Nino is dead per this model no west anomalies or interest forecast.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/12) 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 easing east some from 138W. 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 130W and no more than 35 meters deep. It has grown a little the past 2 days but that is expected to be short lived. 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 118W. 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 5/8 the reservoir is effectively gone with +1 deg anomalies confined to a shrinking pocket between 170E to 138W 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: (5/14) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water continues over the equator region with negative anomalies along the coast of Peru pushing north and then extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos now building west to 155W peaking at -1.5 degs but mostly -0.5-1.0 degs. La Nina is in control of surface waters, though remnant El Nino warm water is 3 degs north and south of the equator. No warm water remains anywhere in the Nino regions on the equator.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/14): A cooler than normal trend continues from the Galapagos west out to 160W with signals of it build west to 160E. And a mirror image of that is now showing up in the Atlantic tracking west from Africa almost reaching Brazil. Cool subsurface water is upwelling in the Pacific to the surface then driven west by trades. Warmer water is holding on the equator north of the equator. Warm water is building back along the California coast due to relaxing of high pressure and north trades there, at least for the moment.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/14) The El Nino signal is dissipating. Cooler than normal water is tracking from Ecuador west in a thin stream on the equator on to near 160W. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remains 3 degs north and south of the equator and west of 160W. Cooler water is over the dateline in the North Pacific looking very much like the classic Active PDO pattern.

Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/15) Today's temps were up slightly at +0.706, up much from late April when the crashed down to -1.329 degs (4/26).
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/15) temps were crashing hard the last week from +1.155 down to +0.329 degs today. The long term 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
(5/15) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid-May, falling to -1.0 degs early July, then easing down to -1.25 degs in early Aug 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 (5/13): The daily index was rising some at -1.90, retreating from a near peak of -45.30 on 4/20. The 30 day average was rising from -11.93, with the most recent low peak at -19.07 (4/30). The 90 day average was rising from -14.04. 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 5/15 high pressure was southwest of Tahiti. It is to start fading and all but gone by Tues (5/17) and hold into Sat (5/21). Then on Sunday high pressure is to start building again. The SOI is expected to start falling some then rising based on the Tahiti contribution but not provide any enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/15) Today's value was falling some at +0.84. 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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