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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Saturday, May 21, 2016 5:46 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
1.0 - 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 5/23 thru Sun 5/29

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 Gale Forecast for Southeast Pacific
La Nina Gaining Strength

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 23, 2016 :

  • Buoy 146 (Lanai): Seas were 2.5 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 1.1 ft @ 13.7 secs from 198 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 13.7 secs from 203 degrees. Wind west 8-10 kts. Water temperature 64.6. At Santa Barbara swell was 2.5 ft @ 9.6 secs from 261 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.4 ft @ 13.9 secs from 199 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.6 ft @ 14.0 secs from 198 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 7.3 ft @ 10.5 secs with local northwest windswell 5.4 ft @ 10.1 secs from 318 degs and southern hemi swell 2.2 ft @ 13.5 secs from 211 degrees. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temp 55.2 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Saturday (5/21) in North and Central CA surf was chest to shoulder high from local northwest windswell and moderately chopped from local northwest winds. At Santa Cruz small southern hemi swell was still hitting producing waves at waist to chest high and reasonably clean but inconsistent. In Southern California up north waves were thigh high and pretty chopped late afternoon and not real rideable. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves at chest high and heavily textured but still rideable. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was pretty much flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east tradewind windswell at thigh to waist high and chopped by east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
Only local windswell was present in the North Pacific isolated mainly the the North CA coast and points north of there. No swell producing fetch was occurring and none is forecast. For the southern hemi the very last of the the swell that has produced surf for the past week is hitting exposed breaks in CA. No other swell is in the water other than swell traveling towards Fiji from a solid little storm that was in the Tasman Sea on Thurs-Fri (5/20) with seas to 42 ft aimed north. Another small gale is forecast in the far Southeast Pacific Mon (5/23) with 30 ft seas then pulsing again on Wednesday generating 27 ft aimed due north. But after that nothing else is projected.

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

North Pacific

Surface Analysis
On Saturday AM (5/21) High pressure was in control of the Gulf of Alaska. No low pressure systems generating fetch 20 kts or greater were in flight.

Over the next 72 hours low pressure is forecast developing in the Northwest Pacific on Tues (5/24) but all fetch is to be aimed north as the low interacts with high pressure to it's east in the Gulf. There' s some suggestion this system might build more on Wed (5/25) generating 30-35 kts north winds in it's west quadrant and seas to 18 ft at 42N 171E, but all aimed south, and well west of Hawaii. No swell to result.

No activity is expected from the local California coastal pressure gradient either.


  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 (5/21) high pressure was in the Western Gulf at 1034 mbs trying to ridge towards California buy no quite making it. Northwest winds were 5-10 kts down the entire coast. On Sunday northwest winds to hold at 5-10 kts for North and Central CA but up to 15 kts later for the Channel Islands but less for Southern CA. Rain dissipating everywhere but scattered showers late for extreme North CA and the Northern Sierras. Monday (5/23) a light winds pattern is to hold with high pressure still off the coast a bit. More of the same is forecast on Tues (5/24). More of the same early on Wed (5/25) but with the high moving closer in the afternoon with northwest winds building to 15 kts everywhere including Southern CA. Thurs (5/26) high pressure is to move a little closer with 15-20 kts northwest winds for North and Central CA but light into Southern CA and holding Friday. Saturday the gradient is to fall south and limited to Pt Conception and the Channel Islands with northwest winds 10 kts north of there.

South Pacific

On Saturday AM (5/21) the jet was di.cgiaced well south tracking over Antarctica south of New Zealand at 140 kts then .cgiitting with some energy tracking north up to the East Coast of New Zealand, but cutoff with some energy continuing east down at 70S. A bit of a trough was trying to organize in the Central South Pacific but winds were less than 90 kts offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of wind energy under New Zealand is to build and push northeast by Mon (5/23) with a decent trough setting up near 130W reaching north to 38S being fed by 150 kt winds and offering good support for gale development. This trough to slow fade into Wed (5/25) before dissipating. Beyond 72 hours starting Fri (5/27) a .cgiit jet pattern is to set up with the northern branch tracking flat west to east up at 28S with the southern branch running more or less east down at 62S with no trough forecast. Maybe by Sat (5/28) a weak trough is to start developing in the Southeast Pacific, but no winds exceeding 100 kts are forecast.

Surface Analysis  
On Saturday AM (5/21) the last of the swell originating from a gale that formed in the Southeast Pacific Mon-Wed (5/11) was hitting California. No additional swell is projected from this system.

Swell from a gale in the Tasman Sea is pushing towards Fiji with filtered energy expected for Hawaii by Thurs (5/27) (see Tasman Sea Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours a gale is forecast developing in the far Eastern South Pacific on Sun AM (5/22) producing a small area of 35 kt south winds and seas building. In the evening a small fetch of 40-45 kt south winds is to be in.cgiay generating a tiny area of 28 ft seas at 44S 139W aimed north. By Mon AM (5/23) a decent sized area of 40 kt south winds are forecast with seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 409S 136W. This is to be pretty far north of normal. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts from the south in the evening but a new fetch of 35 kts south winds is to be build below it with seas on the increase from 23 ft and pushing north. On Tues AM (5/24) 35-40 kts south winds are to hold with with 27 ft seas building at 50S 134W aimed north. 35 kt south winds to be pushing north in the evening with seas 26-28 ft at 47S 128W. On Wed AM (5/25) 35 kt south winds are to be fading with seas fading from 27 ft at 43S 128W. There is to be decent swell potential for Mexico up into California assuming this system develops as forecast.

Tasman Sea Gale
A solid but compact storm formed in the Tasman Sea on Thurs PM (5/19) with seas to 37 ft late at 46S 155E (Central Tasman Sea). The storm moved northeast on Fri AM (5/20) with seas 41 ft at 41S 161E. The gale was fading in the evening with seas dropping from 35 ft at 37.5S 168. Residual seas at 30 ft were fading Sat AM (5/21) at 33S 172E and mostly shadowed by the tip of New Zealand. Large swell is expected for Fiji on Mon (5/23) local time. Small sideband and filtered swell eventually reaching for Hawaii. Something to monitor.

Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (5/27) building to 1.6 ft @ 15-16 secs later (2.5 ft). Swell fading Fri AM (5/28) from 1.5 ft @ 14 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 212 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 high pressure is to build some in the Gulf perhaps causing a pressure gradient and north winds to build along North CA to 20 kts on Thurs (5/26) falling south on Friday to San Francisco. Small local windswell possible.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...


La Nina Gains Momentum
Cold Water Tongue Increasing Coverage over Equator in Pacific

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 (5/20) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA). Anomalies were neutral over the entire region.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies are over the KWGA and are forecast slowly fading through 5/26 almost returning to neutral by 5/28. La Nina is building.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/20 a weak Inactive MJO signal was over the dateline with the Active Phase of the MJO over the Maritime Continent trying to move into the West Pacific. The Statistic model projects the Inactive pattern fading with a moderate Active pattern taking control of the dateline 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts the Inactive pattern slowly fading but still barely present over the dateline 2 weeks out with the Active Phase trying to move west, but not making it and fading some. 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): (5/21) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO is over the Maritime Continent but is to steadily fade there to almost nothing 2 week out. The GEFS model depicts a weaker version of the same thing.
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 fading over the dateline with 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 5/26. After that a weak Active Phase is to start 5/28 producing perhaps weak west anomalies anomalies through 6/14. After that the MJO is to be weak with no real anomalies or at least weak east anomalies into 8/19. El Nino is dead per this model no west anomalies of interest forecast other than those associated with the MJO.

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

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/21) 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 to 152W. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing fast. No El Nino subsurface anomalies remain. Neutral anomalies rule from the West Pacific to the east to 141W with weak negative anomalies east of there. Cool subsurface waters are at depth below the neutral anomalies down 100 meters racing east reaching Ecuador at -1 degs with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 127W. 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 5/13 the reservoir is effectively gone with +0.5 deg anomalies confined to a shrinking pocket between 175E to 155W and 30 meters deep and tracking west. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were in.cgiay in the under the entire width of the equator, 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: (5/21) 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 (though collapsed a little compared to days previous) pushing north and then extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos building west to 157W peaking at -1.5 degs over a good portion of that area now. La Nina is firmly 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 (5/20): A cooler than normal trend is building along Chile and Peru and continues from the Galapagos west out to 160W and if anything is building robustly, especially near 100-130W. A mirror image (though weaker) of that continues up in the Atlantic tracking west from Africa half way to Brazil. Temps are falling along the California coast due to high pressure driven northwest winds. But the PDO warm pool is building solidly from Oregon out to Hawaii and west from there to the Philippines.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/18) The El Nino signal is dissipating. A clear La Nina cool water pool is tracking firmly from Ecuador and building in width on the equator from west of the Galapagos out 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 with warm water off the Pacific Northwest streaming over Hawaii looking very much like the classic Active PDO pattern.

Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/21) Today's temps were steady at +0.429.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/21) temps continue falling and are now down to +0.259 degs mainly attributable to warm temps 3 degs north and south of the equator.

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 (5/21) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid-May, falling to -0.8 degs early July, then easing down to -1.0 degs in early Sept stabilizing between there and -0.8 degs into Jan 2017. This is in solid La Nina territory but it's up from the -1.5 and -1.25 degs indicated even a few weeks ago.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-May Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.7 by Sept then starting to drift higher to -0.6 in February, See chart here - link. 

Atmospheric Co.cgiing (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):   
Southern Oscillation Index (5/19): The daily index was falling at -15.30. The 30 day average was rising from -7.94, with the most recent low peak at -19.07 (4/30). The 90 day average was rising from -12.21. El Nino was still evident in the 30 and 90 days averages.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 5/21 a weak pressure pattern was southwest of Tahiti. High pressure is to build some on Mon (5/23) holding into Fri (5/27) then fading with weak low pressure setting up over Tahiti by Sat (5/28). The SOI is expected to hold based on the Tahiti contribution and not provide any enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/21) Today's value was falling from +0.45. 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. But it has been falling steadily ever since.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues to rise. April's value was +2.62, the highest it's been since 1941. 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 up to +1.75 in Feb, then spiking to +2.40 in March and +2.62 in April. 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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