Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - 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).
Summer - 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.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 5.3 ft @ 11.8 secs with North Dateline swell 3.5 ft @ 9.6 secs from 310 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.1 ft @ 13.0 secs from 217 degrees. Wind calm. Water temperature 68.9 degs. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.7 ft @ 13.5 secs from 248 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.1 ft @ 13.5 secs from 214 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.7 ft @ 14.0 secs from 200 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 4.4 ft @ 12.8 secs with North Dateline swell 3.5 ft @ 12.6 secs from 303 degrees. Wind northwest 10-14 kts. Water temp 58.8 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (9/15) in North and Central CA North Dateline swell was producing surf in the waist to chest high at top exposed spots on the sets and a bit textured from north winds but rideable. At Santa Cruz surf was small with sets in the waist high range and clean and weak. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. Down in North Orange Co hurricane swell was producing surf in the waist to chest high range and clean with not a breath of wind but swamped by tide. Further down south top spots had set waves in the shoulder high range and weak but clean with no winds but a fair amount of warble from wind off the coast. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting swell from the first NPac gale of the season with waves shoulder high on sets and very clean early. The South Shore had tiny southern hemi swell with waves thigh to waist high and clean and weak early. The East Shore was getting wrap around northwest swell at waist high and chopped from east trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small swell from the first North Dateline gale (the first gale of the NPac season) was fading out in Hawaii and limping into North CA. A stronger gale started developing in the same area on Mon-Tues (9/13) with 26-28 ft seas aimed southeast then tracked into the Western Gulf Wed-Thurs (9/15) with seas fading from 24 ft down to the 22 ft range. Swell is expected for Hawaii and the US West Coast. Another gale previously forecast for the Gulf on Tues (9/20) has disappeared from the charts and been r.cgiaced by a new gale developing in the Eastern Gulf on Thurs (9/22) with 23 ft seas aimed east. Odds of low of this materializing. For the Southern Hemisphere another gale tracked over southern New Zealand on Wed (9/7) then redeveloped just east of there Thurs AM (9/8) producing a small area of 26-28 ft seas pushing north. That swell is hitting Hawaii now. A broader gale developed under New Zealand on Mon-Tues (9/13) with 28 ft seas aimed east, fading, then redeveloped Wed-Thurs (9/15) with up to 39 ft seas aimed east-northeast in the Central South Pacific. A modest pulse of swell is possible. And another small gale to follow in the Southeast Pacific on Mon (9/19) producing 36 ft seas aimed east.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (9/15) the jetstream was consolidated running flat across the North Pacific on the 45N latitude line with one pocket of winds to 150 kts over the Western Gulf but not forming a trough, offering only support for low pressure development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours that pocket of wind energy is to track east and push into Washington State on Sat 99/17) with support for low pressure development continuing, but nothing more. A bit of a .cgiit is to set up over the dateline at the same time, but the jet is to be consolidation west of there, so no big worry. That whole pattern is to shift east some on Sun (9/18) with the .cgiit moving over the Western Gulf offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours wind energy is to build solidly over the West Pacific to 180 kts and starting to fall southeast into the Western Gulf down to near 40N on Tues-Wed (9/21) forming a trough and offering improved support for gale development while tracking east into the Gulf proper on Thurs (9/22) but starting to fade. Even at that, winds at 130 kts are to be tracking flat east on the 43N latitude line from the Kurils to the near 150W still; offering a decent pattern and support for at least low pressure if not gale development. A decent early season pattern is shaping up.
On Thursday (9/15) small swell is fading in Hawaii and hitting California originating from a gale previously over the North Dateline region (see North Dateline Gale below). And a second gale developed a bit stronger over the North Dateline region and is pushing further east (see 2nd North Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours weak high pressure is to hold off the North CA coast while the 2nd North Dateline Gale fades in the Western Gulf. No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
Relative to Hawaii the same high (above) is to feed production of east trades at 15-20 kts east of Hawaii and well entrenched Friday (9/16) resulting in easterly windswell for east facing shores. This pattern is to hold through Sun (9/18) as the remnants of Hurricane Orlene track west towards Hawaii positioned 900 nmiles out.
North Dateline Gale
A low pressure system developed on Thurs (9/8) positioned half way between the Kuril Islands and the North Dateline region tracking east. It reached the dateline Fri AM (9/9) producing 40 kt north winds and getting good traction late and starting to target Hawaii in the evening with seas 21 ft at 45N 179E. By Sat AM (9/10) north winds are to be holding at 40 kts aimed south with seas 23 ft at 46.5N 180W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. In the evening 35 kt northwest winds were fading while building southward with seas fading from 24 ft at 44N 176W targeting Hawaii well down the 335 degree track and the US West Coast down the 296 degree track. Fetch and seas were fading out Sun AM (9/11) with seas fading from 19 ft at 43.5N 173W.
North CA: Swell continues Thurs AM (9/15) at 2.5 ft @ 12 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading on Fri AM (9/16) from 2.3 ft @ 11 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 299 degrees
2nd North Dateline Gale
On Sun PM (9/11) a low pressure system developed while tracking east off Southern Kamchatka generating 30 kts northwest winds with seas building. On Mon AM (9/12) northwest winds built in coverage building to 30-35 kts with seas trying to build just off the Northern Kuril's. In the evening a small patch of 40-45 kt west winds built while tracking east with seas building to 24 ft at 47N 164E targeting the US West Coast and Hawaii. On Tues AM (9/13) 35-40 kt west-northwest winds held while building in coverage and tracking east with seas building to 28 ft at 48N 172E approaching the dateline. In the evening a broad fetch of 35 kt northwest winds with one pocket to 40 kts reached the dateline with seas 26 ft seas on the dateline and up to 28 ft back at 48N 174E. Fetch faded to 30-35 kts Wed AM (9/14) on the dateline with 24 ft seas at 46N 176W targeting both Hawaii and the US West Coast. Fetch faded in coverage from 30 kts in the evening with 23 ft seas at 46N 170W in the Western Gulf. This system faded in coverage Thurs AM (9/15) but winds building to 35 kts in one pocket over the Western Gulf with seas still 23 ft at 48N 167W. Residual fetch to dissipate in the Western Gulf from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 21 ft at 48N 162W. This system is to dissipate from there. A more substantial early season swell could result for Hawaii and California signaling the start of the Fall season.
Hawaii: Swell arrival is forecast late on Fri (9/16) to 3.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft) building overnight and peaking on Fri AM (9/17) at 4.3 ft @ 14-15 secs (6.0-6.5 ft). Swell fading on Sat (9/18) from 3.5 ft @ 13 secs (4.5 ft). Swell dissipating on Sun (9/19) from 2.7 ft @ 11.5 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 325 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (9/18) building to 4.0 ft @ 14-15 secs later (5.5 ft). Swell continues on Mon (9/19) at 4.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.0 ft) then fades on Tues (9/20) from 3.8 ft @ 11-12 secs (4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 302 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Hurricane Orlene on Thurs AM (9/15) has done all the swell production it is going to for California and that swell has already peaked and is heading down there. Orlene was 900 nmiles south of Pt Conception tracking west at 8 kts with winds 70 kts and seas 18 ft. No swell was pushing towards California. This system is to continue on a west heading while slowly fading through Tues AM (9/20) down to Depression status with winds 30 kts positioned 700 nmiles east of the Big Island of Hawaii. The GFS model suggests a slow easing to the west-northwest with continued weakening and the center of circulation moving just north of the Big Island late Thurs PM (9/22) with winds maybe 15 kts from the east. Low odds for any swell to result for Hawaii.
Typhoon Malakas on Thurs AM (9/15) was 500 nmiles southeast of Taiwan with winds 90 kts tracking northwest. This system is forecast building in strength while taking a more northerly track with winds building to 115 kts on Fri PM (9/16) positioned 100 nmiles east of Northern Taiwan tracking north. This system is to turn northeast on Sun AM (9/18) 400 nmiles west-southwest of Southeast Japan then skirting the southeast Coast of Japan Mon-Tues (9/20) with winds fading from 60 kts to 45 kts. The GFS model has remnants of this system accelerating and tracking over the dateline perhaps eventually feeding a gale in the Gulf (see NPac Long Term Forecast).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (9/15) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was 800 nmiles west of the Central CA generating no fetch of interest with winds below 15 kts over California waters. On Fri (9/16) the high pressure system is to start ridging east generating 15 kt north winds over outer North CA waters but less nearshore, fading some on Saturday over Central CA but ridging into North CA with north winds to 20 kts there and holding on Sunday. On Monday (9/19) north winds to build to barely 25 kts over North CA with winds below 15 kts for Central CA. But on Tues (9/20) the usual gradient is to set up over North CA with north winds 25-30 kts near Pt Arena mid-day but a weak eddy flow for all of Central CA from Pt Reyes southward holding Wednesday then starting to dissipate on Thurs (9/22).
On Tuesday (9/13) tiny swell from a small gale that was east of New Zealand was hitting Hawaii (see Small NZ Gale below). Of more interest was a stronger gale tracking across the deep South Pacific (see South Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the focus is to be the South Pacific Gale below.
South Pacific Gale
A fetch of 35-40 kt west winds developed south of New Zealand on Mon PM (9/12) with seas 26 ft at 56S 170E. 35-40 kt west fetch continued southeast of New Zealand Tues AM (9/13) with 28 ft seas at 59S 178E. Fetch tried to build and consolidate in the evening from the west at 40 kts with 28 ft seas rebuilding up at 54S 173E. A new fetch of 40 kt southwest winds developed in this area southeast of New Zealand Wed AM (9/14) generating 29-30 ft seas at 56S 175W. In the evening things finally got organized with 45-50 kt southwest winds building while tracking east well southeast of New Zealand with 37 ft seas at 59S 160W. On Thurs AM (9/15) 45 kt southwest fetch tracked east over the Southeast Pacific with seas still 37 ft at 56S 145W. In the evening fetch is to be fading from 40-45 kts from the west-southwest with 37 ft seas fading at 53W 133W. A new small fetch of 45 kt southwest fetch is develop Fri AM (9/16) with seas 33 ft at 54S 129W. The gale is to fade and move east out of the California swell window in the evening. If all develops as forecast some southern hemi swell could result for Hawaii and more so for California but really targeting Central America down into Chile.
Small NZ Gale
On Tues AM (9/6) a gale was tracking east through the South Tasman Sea with southwest winds 45 kts generating 33 ft seas at 48S 155E targeting mainly New Zealand. It tracked east into the evening impacting southern New Zealand with 40 kt south winds and seas fading from 32 ft at 45S 165E impacting southern New Zealand directly. On Wed AM (9/7) 40 kt south winds were starting to become exposed just east of Southern NZ with seas 27 ft at 49S 171E aimed well to the north over a tiny area. In the evening that fetch continued lifting north at 40-45 kts over a small area generating 28 ft seas at 47S 178E aimed well to the northeast. That fetch continued north Thurs AM (9/8) at 40 kts with 28 ft seas at 42S 179W. This system is to fade in the evening. Small swell to result for Tahiti and Hawaii. The fetch is to be too small and seas not high enough to have much impact relative to California.
Hawaii: Swell building Thurs to 1.8 ft @ 15 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell fading Fri (9/16) from 1.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 198 degrees.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hours another gale is forecast starting to develop in the Eastern Gulf on Wed PM (9/21) generating a small fetch of 30 kt west winds down near 40N 155W (1200 nmiles north of Hawaii) and starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Thurs AM (9/22) the gale is to rapidly build with 45-50 kt west winds setting up lifting northeast with seas to 22 ft aimed east and building from there. But the anticipated fast northeast track is to limit the winds ability to get traction on the oceans surface. Something to monitor.
Another low pressure system of tropical origins is to be racing east from south of Japan on Mon (9/19) over the dateline and into the Western Gulf on Thurs (9/22). Some potential from this one too.
Beyond 72 hours a small storm is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific on Sun PM (9/18) with 50-55 kt south winds and seas building from 33 ft at 54S 140W. The issue is the winds are to be from the south, but the fetch is to be moving east fast, not allowing those winds to get much traction on the oceans surface. On Mon AM (9/19) fetch is to be building in coverage at 50 kts still aimed north winds seas 36 ft at 52S 129W. In the evening up to 55kt south winds are to move to the edge of the California swell window with seas 38 ft at 53S 121W. On Tues AM (9/20) are to be fading from 45-50 kts aimed northeast now targeting Chile well with seas to 41 ft at 53S 108W and outside the Ca swell window. Something to monitor.
More details to follow...
La Nina Fading Some
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 all but gone except for remnants in the upper atmosphere. La Nina is developing but weaker than expected.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wednesday (9/14) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific and holding strength over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA is on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south). Anomalies were neutral over the equatorial East Pacific and from the east over KWGA.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies were strong over the equatorial East Pacific and the KWGA. The forecast suggests strong east anomalies continuing over the whole area through 9/18 , the starting to collapse on the dateline on 9/20 indicative and all but gone by 9/22. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 9/14 a weak Active MJO signal was over the far West Pacific. The Statistic model projects that pattern to continue for the next 2 weeks. The dynamic model depicts much the same but with this Active Phase fading 2 weeks out.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (9/12) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was very weak and not discernible. The forecast projects it barely becoming visible over the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out. The GEFS model depicts the same thing. No real affect from the Active Phase of the MJO is forecast.
40 day Upper Level Model: (9/15) This model depicts a building moderate Active MJO pattern over the West Pacific. The Active Phase is to track east and fade out over Central America by 10/15. A modest Inactive Phase to follow in the West starting 10/7 moving to Central America 10/25.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): This model depicts a very weak Inactive MJO pattern developing over the KWGA with a small pocket of east anomalies in.cgiay there. No coherent MJO signal or at worst a weak Inactive Phase is forecast continuing into 9/23 with east anomalies gone by 9/17. After that a completely neutral MJO signal is forecast 9/24-10/28 with a somewhat more defined west anomaly wind pattern setting up in the KWGA starting 11/1 holding through 12/10 associated with the Active Phase of the MJO. Overall the MJO signal is very weak now and is to hold as we move into Fall. La Nina is having the effect of dampening the MJO, but not biasing it towards the Inactive Phase. There's no suggestion of a major pulse of east anomalies developing in the KWGA. This is good news and very unexpected.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/15) Actual temperatures are stratifying with warm water in the West Pacific at 30+ degs C (reaching east to 166E) and the 28 deg isotherm line reaching east to only 173W but getting steeper, suggesting a hard break between warm water in the west and cool water in the east at depth. Warm anomalies at +1 degs rule from the West Pacific to 170W with weak negative anomalies east of there from 175W towards Ecuador (-1 degs or less). The cool subsurface flow looks less defined at depth to -2 degs in the far West Pacific and -1.0 degs near 140W, but neutral in between. The Kelvin Wave pipeline is a mixed bag of slightly cooler and neutral water. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 9/10 depicts a pocket of +1-2 deg anomalies building in the West Pacific to 170W. Cool water -2-3 degs below normal was under the the equator forming a bubble in a broad pocket from 170W upwelling at 160W extending to 90W. La Nina is in control of the ocean at depth, but not strongly so.
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.
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (9/14) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates a weak cool pocket developing along the coast of North Peru tracking continuously towards the Galapagos. Those cooler waters flow west from the Galapagos out to 110W but not continuously, then become more established from 110W out to at least 160W with with peak temps -1.0 degs. La Nina is in control of surface waters, but weak, with remnant El Nino warm water holding in pockets mainly east of 110W. Almost no warm water remains anywhere in the Nino 3.4 region, but warm water still is having an influence in the Nino 1.2 region.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (9/14): A neutral trend is over waters of Chile and Peru extending west to the Galapagos. Mostly cool pockets are in control from the Galapagos westward out to 160W through a few warming pockets still exist. A neutral trend is off Africa.
Hi-res Overview: (9/14) A La Nina cool pool is present in the Central Equatorial Pacific from 115W to 180W. But neutral to slightly warmer temps are from Ecuador out to 115W. No cool waters exist along Ecuador and Peru suggestive of westward dis
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (9/15) Today's temps were rising from +0.622 degs.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (9/15) temps are rising from -0.701 degs. Temp are oscillating warm to cool and back in 2-3 week cycles within a range from -0.3 to -1.0 degs. Temps bottomed out at -1.0 degs near 7/21-7/26.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (9/13) This model suggests La Nina has peaked in Aug at -0.65 degs. Temps are to rise to -0.4 degs in Oct, dipping back to -0.55 degs in early Dec before starting to rise to neutral in Feb 2017 and up to +0.4 by April and +0.55 by June. This is very interesting with the model holding the strength of La Nina at not even real La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Aug Plume depicts temps have nearly reached their peak minimum, down at -0.5 to -0.6 by Nov and holding there to Feb, then rising. This is up again from last months peak low temp of -0.7 degs and barely in La Nina territory. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Deco.cgiing (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (9/15): The daily index was down some at +20.68. The 30 day average was up slightly at +11.16. It transitioned from negative to positive (first time in 2 years) on 5/27. The 90 day average was up some at +6.14, transitioning from negative to positive the first time in years on 7/20. El Nino is gone in all dimensions of the SOI Index now.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (9/15) Today's value was down slightly at -0.90. During El Nino this year 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 after that La Nina took over with it falling steadily dropping as low as -1.50 in early Aug. It has been retreating from the peak recently.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues positive, though much weaker in July than June (as expected with La NIna setting in).
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Aug) are: +0.79, +1.23, +1.55, +1.59, +1.41, +0.76, +0.18 and now -0.66 in Aug.
The Washington EDU index (Jan-July) are: +1.54, +1.75, +2.40, +2.62, +2.35, +2.03 and +1.25.
The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been positive since then. 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.
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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table