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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: October 16, 2010 12:21 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
Swell Potential Rating = 2.5 - California & 0.5 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' 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 10/11 thru Sun 10/17
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   

Improving Gulf Gale Pattern Forecast
Madden Julian Oscillation Moving into the Active Phase


New Swell Classification Guidelines (Winter)

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: 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.

On Saturday (10/16) North and Central California was getting muddled locally generated windswell at chest high with warbled and texture intermixed with modest onshore winds.  Southern California was getting pieces of the same windswell intermixed with southern hemi swell producing waves at waist high up north and clean. Down south southern hemi swell was barely obvious with rare sets at maybe waist high and textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting waist high north windswell and clean early with light trades in effect. The East Shore was getting tradewind generated northeast windswell at chest high with chopped conditions. The South Shore was getting occasional knee to thigh high southern hemi sets with clean conditions but pretty minimal.     

The forecast for North and Central CA is for more local windswell on Sunday at 4.0 ft (faces) with small southern hemi swell at 3.0 ft.  Monday local windswell continues at 4.5 ft and then 4 ft on Tuesday (10/19). Wednesday more of the same is expected with Gulf windswell at 4.5 ft and then tiny Gulf swell on Thursday pushing possible 7 ft. Southern California is to see maybe knee high northern windswell at exposed breaks for Sunday Monday and Tuesday and maybe Wednesday. New Gulf swell possibly builds later Thursday at waist to chest high. Also minimal southern hemi swell is expected dropping from waist high on Sunday with thigh high leftovers on Monday.  The North Shore of Oahu is to see no swell of interest till Wednesday (10/20) when Gulf swell arrives at 8 ft (faces) and up to 10 ft on Thursday. The East Shore is to see no tradewind generated east windswell through the week (10/23). The South Shore is to see perhaps a small push of knee to thigh high southwest swell on Monday dropping to knee high Tuesday and then gone.  

No real swell producing fetch has occurred or is forecast until a decent gale drops from the Bering Sea into the Northwestern Gulf on Monday setting up 26 ft seas then fading to 20 ft while pushing into the Central Gulf late Tuesday. Possible fun sized mid-period swell to result pushing towards Hawaii and the US West Coast if all goes as forecast. Another weaker one is to follow tracking over the northern dateline Thursday (10/21) with 24 ft seas.

Down south no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast. It's over for this part of the Pacific.

At this point we are focused on the North Pacific and just waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to start positively influencing the storm track.  


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

North Pacific

On Saturday (10/16) the North Pacific jetstream was trying to wake up with a nice stream of 130 kt winds tracking off Northern Japan ridging gently to the dateline and starting to push into the Western Gulf of Alaska. No troughs of interest were developing yet and there was no indications of support for gale development at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours the wind energy over the dateline is to start dropping southeast forming a trough in the Gulf of Alaska by late Sun (10/17) with wind energy from the west stating to push into that trough at up to 150 kts, but fading some on Monday. Still, this should improve odds for support of gale development in the Gulf. Beyond 72 hours the trough in the Gulf is to hold and get better infused with wind energy building on the dateline, with winds forecast feeding into the Gulf at 170 kts on Thursday (10/21) and holding into next weekend (10/23). But the trough itself is to become less defined, and almost totally flatten out by the weekend, limiting the ability of the jet to assist in gale production. Still, this is a more more favorable upper pattern than what has occurred for quite a while. 

At the surface on Saturday (10/16) a near gale strength low was starting to build in the Eastern Bering Sea with fragments of less energetic wind dropping south of the Aleutians. Weak high pressure at 1028 mbs was 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and was barely ridging into the Pacific Northwest generating a weak pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA and producing north winds there at 20 kts, resulting in minimal short period north windswell along the Central CA coast. Trades were below 16 kts over the Hawaiian Islands with no windswell being generated. Over the next 72 hours high pressure north of Hawaii is to continue pushing into the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia setting up a slightly more defined pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino CA Sun-Mon (10/18) producing north winds there to maybe 25 kts making for short period north windswell tracking down into Central CA for the late weekend and early workweek. But the high is to be tracking too far to the north with respect to Hawaii to produce trades or any east windswell. But of far more interest is to be the gale (previously located in the Bering Sea) that is now to be tracking east through the Northern Gulf of Alaska (see details below).


Possible Gulf Gale
A broad gale is to start building in the Eastern Bering Sea on Sat-Sun (10/17) with 35 kt northwest fetch starting to fall south of the Aleutian Islands Sunday AM at 50N 170W aimed best at the Pacific Northwest with sideband energy aimed at Hawaii from a very northerly angle. This fetch is to hold and build in coverage Sunday evening. The fetch is to be fading by Monday AM down to 30-35 kts at 50N 160W then dissipating by the evening. 25 ft seas to result Sun PM at 49N 170W building to 27 ft Monday AM (10/18) at 48N 165W then fading Monday PM from 25 ft at 47N 162W with 20 ft residuals Tues AM at 45N 158W. Possible 15 sec period swell is to result targeting primarily the US West Coast with sideband energy reaching south towards Hawaii. Will monitor.


North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height


No tropical systems of interest were being tracked.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (10/16) a light onshore wind pattern was in.cgiay over Central CA with modest high pressure ridging into the Pacific Northwest setting up a mild gradient over Cape Mendocino generating 20 kt north winds there and pushing to 15 kts down over outer waters of the Central Coast but not reaching nearshore. More of the same is forecast Sunday with winds to 25 kts over North CA but remaining off the coast from Pt Arena southward and holding into Monday before the gradient totally dissolves on Tuesday (10/19). Still, a fair amount of warble is likely to be reaching into all Central CA breaks during this timeframe. By Wednesday (10/20) the gradient is to be gone with low pressure moving closer to the coast from the Central Gulf, tracking northeast with a light local wind regime expected into Friday. Another Gulf low is to be building Fri/Sat (10/23) with a certified cold front forecast reaching Northern CA on Saturday and south winds pushing maybe to Pt Reyes. Certainly looks like an obvious change of seasons setting up.

A dusting of snow continues on the upper mountain at Whistler. We've built a local snow and wind model for that area and will be posting shortly.


South Pacific

On Saturday (10/16) a rather energetic ridge continued pushing south well over the Ross Ice Shelf (Southwest Pacific) and building eastward offering no potential to support gale production. For the next 72 hours that ridge is to continue tracking east while forming a bit of a trough ahead of it and starting to dig out decently off extreme southern Chile late Saturday (10/16) possibly supporting gale development, but well east of any great circle track up into the US West Coast (much less Hawaii). The trough is to be pushing into Southern Chile on Tues (10/19) and out of the picture entirely. Beyond 72 hours a weak trough is to start building under New Zealand mid-week but being undercut but weaker energy tracking over mainland Antarctica. No support for surface level gale development indicated.

At the oceans surface on Saturday (10/16) no swell producing fetch was occurring at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours a new gale low pressure system is to be building in the extreme Southeast Pacific on Sun (10/17) with a broad fetch of 40-45 kt southwest winds aimed all at southern Chile. No swell to result pushing even into Mexico.


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 hrs m ore low pressure is to be building west of the dateline on Wed (10/20) with winds at 30-35 kts and pushing over the dateline early Thurs then fading generating seas at 25 ft Wed PM at 50N 175E. Maybe some minimal 14 sec period swell to result. But the core of this system is to be a long ways away from either Hawaii or CA. Residual energy from this system is to try and hold together while tracking into the Western Gulf of Alaska on Sat (10/23) with winds 25 kts and seas in the 18 ft range. There's some suggestion this gale could redevelop there. There's also suggestions of a tropical systems developing in the mid-West Pacific lifting north and northeast and interacting with the jetstream next weekend (10/23) and building. Something to monitor.


See the official El Nino/La Nina forecast now posted at the link below 

As of Saturday (10/16) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising after a 3 days dip (not much). The daily SOI was at 23.70. The 30 day average was up to 23.70 with the 90 day average at 21.90 and incrementally rising (it can't get much higher).  

Wind anomalies as of Friday (10/15) at the 850 mb level (approx 5000 ft up) as defined by models indicated that the MJO continues raging, likely signaling the end of El Nino's last vestiges aloft and suggesting the La Nina Fall season has indeed started. Fading but still solid easterly anomalies were holding on over the the Eastern PAcific from a point south of Hawaii into Central America over the equator, indicating a fading Inactive Phase of the MJO. But in the West a very strong Active Phase (west anomalies) was filling the Indian Ocean and tracking into the far Western Pacific with the core over the Philippines. The Inactive Phase is forecast to quickly exit east over Central America through 10/20 with the Active Phase starting to reach solidly over the dateline at that same time, and then moderating while filling the Pacific though 10/30 and slowly decaying through 11/4. A weak version of the Inactive Phase is to be building in the Indian Ocean behind it. This is looking to be the first real Active Phase of the MJO so far this Fall and offers at least a tease of some potential fuel to support formation of North Pacific gales starting 10/18 and continuing for a few weeks thereafter (into the first week in November). It is pretty typical for MJO Phases to be not well defined during summer months or during El Nino years, and to then become much more apparent as Fall develops, with the effects at the surface more obvious then too. The swing from Active to Inactive and back to Active becomes more pronounced too during La Nina years. So this is not unexpected. We'll be following the phase shifts much more closely this Winter because only during the active Phase will there be good potential for storm development.  

Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (10/14) continues to indicate that downright colder than normal waters (-2 C degs or cooler) continue to expand their grip on the equator covering solidly from South America west to the dateline and beyond and are in fact getting cooler and covering a larger area over time, extending the whole way to New Guinea.  The coldest waters extended from a point off South America pushing gently northwest towards the dateline, a clear signal of strong easterly winds there and solid upwelling. Feeder bands of cooler than normal water continued building off the US West Coast and South America sweeping fully to the dateline, only serving to reinforce what is already an impressive La Nina pattern, suggesting stronger than normal high pressure has built in both hemispheres and upwelling is in full effect in the Gulf of Alaska and off South America.  Looks like a classic La Nina setup.  Below the surface on the equator no Kevin Wave activity was present and if anything colder than normal water was building strong over the dateline and pushing east (sort of like a cold Kelvin Wave). This pocket was -5 degs below normal (getting a little warmer than previous readings of -7 degs in mid- Sept. but this is still not good.  

Over the entire Equatorial Pacific trades were blowing all the way to the Philippines and beyond. And now from a historical perspective these easterly winds were now fully anomalous, blowing harder than normal from the east to the west, as would be expected looking at all the other data. But this is a rather recent development, with only normal winds indicated prior to 9/11. The interesting twist to all this is that the Pacific current that runs along the equator turned abruptly from flowing towards South America to flowing towards the Philippines in mid-March (2010), right as the SOI started it's impressive drive into positive territory and the North Pacific winter storm machine abruptly shut down. And it has not wavered since. But trades never waiver from the normal range.  This suggests trade wind anomalies might be a byproduct of the Pacific equatorial current change and not the other way around i.e. the trades do not drive the temperature change initially, but the current change does. And then the atmosphere responds in kind to the change, building high pressure and reinforcing the flow and water temps. Said a different way, the change in the current might actually foretell a coming change in the trades, and then with the advent of the trade wind change, it only serves to reinforce the current in a self a.cgiifying loop, until such time as the cycle runs it's course and the self feeding system collapses over a multiyear period. At that time the current then switches direction, and a whole new self-enforcing cycle stars anew. Something to consider (regarding the formation and El Nino/La Nina).     

El Nino is effectively gone and slowly losing it's grip on the global upper atmospheric weather pattern. Still some lingering impact might continue through early Fall 2010, but likely not enhancing the storm track in the South Pacific any longer. The expectation is that we'll see a building moderate.cgius strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) for the remainder of 2010 extending well into 2011 and likely to early 2012. In short, the next year and half is going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance.  That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity.     

See more details in the   El Nino update.


South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

Details to follow...


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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Local Interest

New Weather Model Server Stormsurf has installed another weather model production server. This has enabled us to spread the load across more servers allowing us to post both wave and weather model updates much quicker.  Also we are testing new content (like North America jetstream, winds and precipitation, local wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments). The model menus will be updated shortly with these new links.   

Interview with Stormsurf: Coastviews Magazine has written up a very nice article on Stormsurf in their latest edition. You can read it here:

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Stormsurf Precip Models Upgraded! On 2/20 we upgraded some of the broader precipitation models driven by the hi-def GFS model to include snow fall. The algorithm used is similar to the recently released snow models for the Southwest US in that the areas where snow is expected are identified and the exact amount of snow forecast over a 3 hr window is e.cgiicitly color coded. For East and West Coast US interests the following links provide good exa.cgies:
West Coast:
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Wave Model Upgrade Status Report: At this point we believe the installation of the new wave models is complete, with no problems being reported, the server stabilizing and the much requested return of the old style hemispheric Surf Height models now operational (again) and running side-by-side along the new ones. We thank you for your patience and input as we went though this process.  Your feedback helps guide our efforts and ultimately results in a better product for everyone.  Now we're off to start providing better menus to some wave model products most of you probably haven't uncovered yet (site specific graph and text forecasts), updateing the wave model FAQs and then upgrading the Weather Models.  

New Wave Model Facts: Click HERE to read more about the new wave models. Important info.

Story About Stormsurf: The folks at SurfPulse (and specifically author Mike Wallace) have written up a really nice article about Stormsurf, complete with some good pics. Learn about how we came to be and a little of where we are going. Check it out here:

Stormsurf Video: Just for fun - here's a clip about Stormsurf that ran on Bay Area TV a while back. Thought you might enjoy it:

Time Zone Converter By popular demand we've built and easy to use time convert that transposes GMT time to whatever time zone you are located. It's ion left hand column on every page on the site near the link to the swell calculator.

Need Chiropractic Help? Visit our friends at Darrow Chiropractic. Not only will Dr. Darrow fix you up, he might give you some big wave surfing tips too! See more here:

Stormsurf Google Gadget - Want Stormsurf content on your Google Homepage? It's si.cgie and free. If you have Google set as your default Internet E.cgiorer Homepage, just click the link below and a buoy forecast will be added to your Google homepage. Defaults to Half Moon Bay CA. If you want to select a different location, just click on the word 'edit', and a list of alternate available locations appears. Pick the one of your choice. Content updates 4 times daily. A great way to see what waves are coming your way! .xml

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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table


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