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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 4:07 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   

Decent Gale Developing in SE Pacific
Small Filtered Fiji Swell for HI

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 Tuesday, May 24, 2016 :

  • Buoy 146 (Lanai): Seas were 2.1 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 14.3 secs from 200 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.1 ft @ 5.6 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 5.7 secs from 263 degrees. Wind west 6-8 kts. Water temperature 63.1. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.2 ft @ 5.7 secs from 258 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 0.7 ft @ 15.5 secs from 212 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.9 ft @ 6.1 secs from 279 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 8.3 secs with local northwest windswell 2.1 ft @ 8.4 secs from 310 degs. Wind northwest 8 kts. Water temp 54.7 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (5/24) in North and Central CA surf was thigh high and textured and minimally rideable. At Santa Cruz surf was near flat and clean. In Southern California up north waves were maybe thigh high on the sets and clean early but not really rideable. Down fading south southern hemi swell was producing waves at up to waist high and reasonably clean and just barely rideable. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was very small with occasional waist high sets and clean. The East Shore was getting east tradewind windswell at thigh to maybe waist high and chopped by east trades.

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

Meteorological Overview
No swell was in the water in the North Pacific. A small low is forecast in the far Northwest Pacific on Wed (5/25) producing 19 ft seas targeting Hawaii. Maybe windswell to result. Otherwise a summer time pattern has taken over. For the southern hemi swell that previously hit Fiji from a small storm that was in the Tasman Sea on Thurs-Fri (5/20) with seas to 42 ft aimed north is pushing towards Hawaii, but well filtered. A tiny pulse of south-southeast swell from a gale off Chile on Fri (5/20) with seas to 26 ft was pushing towards Southern CA. Another small gale started building in the far Southeast Pacific Mon (5/23) with 34 ft seas then is forecast to pulse again on Tuesday to 34 ft and again on Wednesday to 38 ft, but all over just tiny areas. South angled swell for California down into Mexico and Central America looks likely. 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 Tuesday AM (5/24) weak low low pressure was in the Gulf of Alaska but generating no fetch of interest. A broader low was developing in the Northwest Pacific.

Over the next 72 hours low pressure in the Northwest Pacific is to start building on Tues PM (5/24) with winds to 35 kts in it's east quadrant but all fetch is to be aimed north as the low interacts with high pressure to it's east in the Gulf. But northwest fetch is to be building in it's west quadrant at 30 kts . There' s some suggestion this system might build more on Wed (5/25) generating 35 kts north winds in it's west quadrant and seas to 18 ft at 48N 173E. And in the evening 30 kt northwest winds to hold with seas building to 19 ft at 48N 172E. A quick fade to follow. Windswell with period in the 11-12 secs range is possible for Hawaii.

The local California coastal pressure gradient is to start producing north winds at 25 kts on Thurs (5/26) over North CA waters and building to 30-35 kts on Fri (5/27) but also starting to fall south some. Windswell is likely for Central CA but also marred by wind.


  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 Tuesday (5/24) weak high pressure was in the Gulf of Alaska at 1026 mbs with low pressure in the Western Gulf. This was setting up a weak northwest flow at 5-10 kts pushing down the North and Central Coasts and less into Southern CA. 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 the usual pressure gradient starting to fire up resulting in 25 kts northwest winds for North CA and 20 kt north winds for Central CA and lighter still into Southern CA and holding Friday but with north winds to 30 kts over North CA. Saturday the gradient is to fall south with 30 kts north winds off North and Central CA down to Monterey Bay with 25 kts north winds down to Pt Conception. SCal is to be protected. Sunday (5/29) 25 kt north winds to be in the Pt Arena to Pt Reyes area with 15 kt north winds down into Central CA and holding Monday. Tuesday the gradient is to be in rapid decline and tracking north, all but gone evening.

South Pacific

On Tuesday AM (5/24) the jet was di.cgiaced well south tracking over Antarctica south of New Zealand on east to about 140W, then tracked hard north forming a steep trough with winds feeding it at 150 kts. East of there the jet fell back south to Antarctica then tracked east under South America. The northern branch was tracking west to east on the 30S latitude line. The trough to slow fade into Wed (5/25) before becoming cut off and dissipating dissipating on Thurs (5/26). Beyond 72 hours starting Fri (5/27) a .cgiit jet pattern is to set up with the northern branch tracking flat west to east still up at 30S with the southern branch running more or less east down at 62S with no troughs forecast though Tues (5/31).

Surface Analysis  
On Tuesday AM (5/24) swell from a storm previously in the Tasman Sea was pushing towards Hawaii and well filtered by Fiji, and expected to arrive there by Thurs (5/27) (see Tasman Sea Gale below).

Also swell from a gale that developed off Chile on Fri-Sat (5/21) was pushing north towards Mexico and Southern CA (see Small Chilean Gale below).

Also swell from another gale further west of Chile is producing swell heading north (see Southeast Pacific Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours the Southeast Pacific Gale (above) is to be the only swell source in.cgiay.


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 arrived in 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


Small Chilean Gale
On Fri AM (5/20) a small gale developed on the southern coast of Chile producing a decent fetch of 35-40 kt south winds aimed north mainly at Mexico. 40 kt south fetch held into the evening with seas building to 25 ft at 37S 116W. On Sat AM (5/21) a solid fetch of 35 kt south winds held with seas still at 25 ft at 34S 107W. A new pulse of 40 kt south winds developed in the evening with seas building to 28 ft at 38S 105W aimed north. This system dissipated from there. Small swell is radiating north towards Mexico and exposed breaks in Southern California.

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat (5/28) building to 1.8 ft @ 14-15 secs late (2.5 ft). Swell holding on Sun (5/29) at 2.2 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell dissipating early Mon (5/30) from 2 ft @ 13 secs (2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 173 degrees


Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale developed in the far Eastern South Pacific on Sun AM (5/22) starting to produce a small area of 30 kt south winds and seas building. In the evening a small fetch of 35-40 kt south winds was in.cgiay generating a tiny area of 22 ft seas aimed north. By Mon AM (5/23) a decent sized area of 40 kt south winds were blowing with an embedded area to 45 kts with seas building to 26-28 ft over a decent sized area at 42S 136W. This is to be pretty far north of normal. Fetch was fading from 40 kts from the south in the evening and tracking northeast with seas associated with it fading from 35 ft at 42S 128W while a new broader fetch of 35 kt south winds was building below it with seas on the increase from 24 ft and pushing north. On Tues AM (5/24) 40+ kt south winds held with with 29 ft seas building at 50S 134W aimed north. 35-40 kt south winds to be pushing north in the evening with seas 32 ft at 48S 130W. On Wed AM (5/25) a new small fetch of 45 kt south winds are to be developing with seas 35 ft over a tiny area at 48S 122W. south fetch is to be fading from 40 kts in the evening aimed due north with seas fading from 34 ft at 45S 119W.

There is to be decent swell potential for Mexico up into California assuming this system develops as forecast.

Southern CA: Expect swell arrival Tues (5/31) building to 2 ft @ 18-19 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 186 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 hold in the Gulf continuing the pressure gradient and north winds along North CA on Sat (5/28) to 30 kts reaching south to San Francisco, then fading some on Sun (5/29) to 25 kts but moving north to North CA with 20 kts winds down to Pt Conception. More of the same expected on Mon and Tues (5/31). Small raw local windswell possible for North and Central CA.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...


La Nina In Control
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 Mon (5/23) 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 5/31 almost returning to neutral then. La Nina is building.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/23 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 1 week out. The dynamic model depicts the Inactive pattern fading out in the next 3 days with a dead neutral pattern thereafter through the next 2 weeks. 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): (5/24) 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 weeks out while easing east to the dateline. The GEFS model depicts a weaker version of the same thing.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was fading over the dateline with neutral winds offering no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO fading 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 weak west anomalies into 7/4 fading to neutral and holding through 8/22. 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: (5/24) Actual temperatures are retreating daily. A pocket of 29-30 deg temps were building in the far West Pacific with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating west to 155W (loosing 1 deg per day). Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing fast. No El Nino subsurface anomalies remain. Neutral anomalies rule from the West Pacific to the east to 146W with weak negative anomalies east of there. Cool subsurface waters are at depth erupting east of 146W with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 122W. The Kelvin Wave pipeline has been r.cgiaced with a cold river rushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/18 one last weak pocket of +0.5 deg anomalies is confined to a shrinking area 175E to 155W. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were in.cgiay in the under the entire width of the equator, undercutting and residual warm water above it and upwelling over a broad area of the East equatorial Pacific. 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: (5/23) 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 (5/23): A cooler than normal trend is along Chile and Peru and continues from the Galapagos west out to 165W and if anything is building, especially from 120-140W. A mirror image (though weaker) of that trend continues up in the Atlantic tracking west from Africa half way to Brazil. Temps are holding along the California coast due slackening of high pressure driven northwest winds. The PDO warm pool is building solidly from Oregon out to Hawaii and west from there to the Philippines.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/23) 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: (5/24) Today's temps were steady at +0.491.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/24) temps continue falling and are now down to +0.103 degs attributable to a developing La Nina cool pool.

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 (5/24) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid-May, falling to -0.6 degs early July, then easing down to -0.8 degs in early Sept stabilizing between -0.6 and -0.8 degs into Jan 2017. This is 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 (5/24): The daily index was rising at 13.90. The 30 day average was rising from -1.57. The 90 day average was rising from -9.49. El Nino was still evident in the 90 day average, but even that will soon be a distant memory.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 5/24 a weak high pressure pattern was south of Tahiti. That pattern is to hold into Sat (5/28) then start fading a little with perhaps a bit of low pressure developing east of tahiti on Tues (5/31). 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): (5/24) Today's value was steady at +0.46. It peaked 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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