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.
On Thursday (1/15) in North and Central CA surf was 2-3 ft overhead at top breaks and clean and lined up. A bit inconsistent but not too bad. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high to 2 ft overhead, lined up and pristine clean but generally soft. Still it was a beautiful day. In Southern California up north surf was head high and peeling nicely with just light texture on it and looking fun. Down south waves were shoulder to head high and clean with nice lines pouring through. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new dateline swell with waves 8 ft Hawaiian and clean, looking very nice indeed. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap windswell at waist high and face and clean early with light south wind in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a gale that developed on the dateline pushing east Sun-Mon (1/12) with seas briefly to 34 ft and secondary energy on Tues (1/13) adding more 24 ft seas into the mix was hitting California. Swell from another gale that briefly developed just west of the dateline Mon PM-Tues AM (1/13) with 27 ft seas was hitting Hawaii from a westerly direction and bound for the US West Coast over the weekend. And yet another weak but broad area of 20-22 ft seas developed over the dateline Wednesday re-building to 25 ft Thurs-Fri (1/16) just northwest of Hawaii offering sizable but shorter period energy mainly for Hawaii for the early weekend, with secondary energy tracking to the US West Coast for early next week. The models continue to hint at a larger and stronger storm building off Japan on Sun (1/18) tracking east with seas building to 44 ft pushing to the dateline the rapidly fading just east of there on Tues (1/20) with seas fading from 30 ft late. Possible legit swell for Hawaii if one is to believe the models. Secondary fetch to continue generating 28-30 ft seas on the dateline and just east of there into early Fri (1/23). Much more swell possible for the Islands.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/15) the jet was pushing solidly east off Japan at 150 kts falling gently into a broad but shallow trough over the dateline then ridging northeast with winds building to 170 kts 1200 nmiles west of North CA, then starting to .cgiit as it pushed to 140W with the southern branch track falling due south while the northern branch tracked northeast pushing into Central Canada. There was solid support for gale development over the dateline. Over the next 72 hours winds are to slowly fade in the majority of the jet as the apex of the dateline trough moves to a point 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii early Sat (1/17) with winds there fading to 130 kts and support for gale development diminishes. The .cgiit point is to moves slightly east to 135W with the northern branch pushing into the Pacific Northwest. But no additional eastward progress is expected. Of more interest is to be a new batch of 190 kt winds building over Japan and starting to push east with 140 kts winds reaching the dateline. Beyond 72 hours winds over Japan to hold at 180-190 kts Sat-Sun (1/18) and starting to fall into what appears to be a developing trough just west of the dateline. Support for gale if not storm development building. The trough is to push east to the dateline Mon (1/19) with winds in the jet starting to fade to 170 kts, then ridging slightly east of there pushing into the Central Gulf of Alaska with a new .cgiit point developing at 155W. Continued support for gale development in the dateline trough. The jet to continue solid with 150 kt winds streaming from well inland over Asia into the Pacific, forming a modest trough on the dateline and continuing to a point north of Hawaii into Wed (1/21) with the .cgiit point reaching to 150W. Good support for gale development is indicated in the dateline trough. In all a very nice jetstream flow looks to be setting up an extended window of support for gale if not storm development. The big issue remains that the .cgiit point is to remain off the CA coast, suggesting no chance of rain inland. This jet pattern is being supported by the Active Phase of the MJO now over the West Pacific (see MJO/ENSO section below).
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (1/15) swell from a gale the developed on the dateline Sat-Sun (1/11) was hitting California (see Dateline Gale below) but past it's prime. Modest swell from another gale that developed in the West Pacific on Mon-Tues (1/13) was hitting Hawaii. (see West Pacific Gale below). Yet another dateline gale started developing on Wed PM (1/14) (see Second Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a tiny gale is forecast developing mid-way between Japan and the dateline on Fri (1/16) producing 45 kt northwest winds generating 32 ft seas at 35N 157E in the AM (298 degs HI) and 32 ft seas in the evening at 34N 163E (298 degs HI). Winds to be fading from 35 kts Sat AM (1/17) with seas fading from 27 ft at 34N 171E (300 degs HI). This gale to dissipate after that. Small swell is possible for Hawaii but it will likely get buried by a stronger storm/swell forecast to follow directly behind (see Long Term Forecast below).
On Sat PM (1/10) a low pressure system started building over the West Pacific easing east and expanding in coverage, but lacking in organization. One small area of 35 kt west winds was starting to build approaching the dateline and pushed over it in the evening building to 45 kts over a tiny area generating a small area of 23 ft seas at 37N 180W targeting Hawaii. Winds briefly built to 45 kts Sun AM (1/11) with seas to 29 ft at 36N 171W (328 degs HI). Winds faded some from 40 kts but pushing east in the evening with a small area of 34 ft seas at 36N 160W (339 degs HI) mostly bypassing Hawaii and aimed better at the US West Coast (279 degs NCal, 285 degs SCal). 35 kt west winds faded in the Gulf Mon AM (1/12) with 28 ft seas moving to 38N 154W (281 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). Secondary fetch started rebuilding in the same area Tues AM (1/13) at 35-40 kts and forecast nearly holding into the evening resulting in a short lived area of 25 ft seas possible near 39N 147W in the evening targeting the US West Coast (284 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal).
North CA: Residuals fading Fri AM (1/16) from 5.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 279-284 degrees
Southern CA: Residuals fading Fri AM (1/16) from 3.2 ft @ 14 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 285-292 degrees
West Pacific Gale
On Mon PM (1/12) a new broad fetch of 30-35 kt west winds was tracking east embedded in the southern periphery of the larger co.cgiex gale in the West Pacific that was filling the entire Northern Pacific. 22 ft seas were building west of the dateline at 30N 170E (292 degs HI). Fetch built briefly to 40 kts overnight then started fading from 35 kts Tues AM (1/13) with seas 27 ft at 30N 172E (292 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). Fetch was fading from 30 kts Tues PM over the dateline with seas fading from 26 ft at 30N 180W (297 degs HI, 280 degs NCal). The fetch quickly dissipated after that. Modest west swell possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Swell has already hit Hawaii (Thurs AM 1/15). Swell to continue on Fri AM (1/16) at 7.3 ft @ 14 secs (10.0 ft) slowly fading through the day.
North CA: Swell expected to arrive later on Fri building to 6 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell to continue building overnight with reinforcing energy building on Sat AM (1/17) pushing 5 ft @ 14-15 secs (7 ft). Residuals expected on Sun (1/18) holding at 5 ft @ 13 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 280-285 degrees
Second Dateline Gale
Yet another broad but ill-defined gale developed near the dateline starting Wed PM (1/14). 30 kt northwest winds were covering a broad area targeting Hawaii well generating 22 ft seas near 35N 173E (305 degs HI). That fetch pushed east some Thurs AM (1/15) generating a broader area of 22 ft seas at 35N 180W (311 degs HI). The gale is to consolidate some Thurs PM with 30-35 kt west-northwest winds taking shape generating 24 ft seas at 35N 170W (324 degs HI, 280 degs NCal). Those winds to hold Fri AM (1/16) while pushing east with seas barely hanging on at 23 ft at 37N 167W (331 degs HI, 284 degs NCal). Fetch fading from 25-30 kts in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 22 ft at 38N 160W (284 degs NCal).
Hawaii: Another pulse of swell is expected for the Islands starting Sat AM (1/17) with swell rebuilding to 8.6 ft @ 14 secs (12.0 ft). Residuals to continue on Sun (1/18) fading from 7.1 ft @ 13-14 secs early (9.5 ft). Residuals dropping Mon AM (1/19) from 5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 305-320 degrees
North CA: Swell to start becoming noticeable on Mon (1/19) with swell 7 ft @ 14-15 secs (10 ft). swell to continue on Tues (1/20) at 6.5 ft @ 14 secs (9.0 ft) early, fading from there. Residuals on Wed (1/21) fading from 4 ft @ 12 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 284 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/15) high pressure was continuing to barely hold on over and just west of California waters while low pressure was pushing into the Pacific Northwest with a front barely reaching extreme North CA. A steady offshore flow as in effect for most all of California. Perhaps a light northerly flow to set up Friday afternoon and again Saturday afternoon for the Point Conception area, then back to offshore Sunday. High pressure is to be pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest on Monday with north winds for offshore waters off North and Central CA at 20 kts continuing Tuesday (1/20) but looking more like a summer time gradient focused over Cape Mendocino, fading some Wednesday but still present at 15-20 kts over outer waters. Light rain possible for the Cape Mendocino area Fri-Mon AM (1/19) but making no real southern headway.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
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 a far more organized and strong storm remains forecast developing off Japan on Sun AM (1/18) with 50-55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 42 ft at 36N 158E (301 degs HI). In the evening 50 kt northwest winds to track east-southeast targeting Hawaii directly generating 46 ft seas at 34N 166E (298 degs HI). 45-50 kt westerly fetch to continue pushing solidly east on Mon AM (1/19) generating 46 ft seas at 34N 173E (303 degs HI). The gale is to start lifting slightly northeast Mon PM with an fetch of 40-45 kt west winds producing 45 ft seas at 35N 178E starting to target the US West Coast as well (309 degs HI, 285 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). Fetch is to be rapidly fading Tuesday AM (1/20) from barely 40 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 41 ft seas at 36N 174W (mostly bypassing HI 319 degs, aimed well at NCal at 285 degs, SCal 291 degs). Large swell targeting the Islands is possible.
On Tues PM (1/20) a new broad fetch of northwest winds is to be developing over the dateline at 35-40 kts generating 32 ft at 35N 172W (281 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). Fetch to hold into Wed AM (1/12) with seas 28-30 ft over a broad area near 35N 170W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. More of the same is forecast through Thurs (1/22). Much backup swell is possible. Certainly something to monitor.
Note: 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. 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. 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).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Thursday (1/15) the daily SOI was up some at 8.44. The 30 day average was rising some from -5.29 and the 90 day average was up some at -7.05. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (2.5 months). Weak low pressure is to start building over Tahiti on Sat (1/17) holding well into the following week keeping the SOI somewhat negative. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest west anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning neutral approaching the dateline. Anomalies turned light west again just beyond the dateline continuing south of Hawaii and then turned neutral from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong west anomalies from 140E to 160E. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) was in.cgiay but fading. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was making good progress over the West Pacific. A week from now (1/23) neutral anomalies are to set up over the Maritime Continent with moderate west anomalies covering the dateline to a point southeast of Hawaii. Light west anomalies are to be from there reaching to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue pushing from the West Pacific to the Central and East Pacific.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/14 are in sync. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was in control over the dateline. The Statistic model depicts the Active Phase moving east over the next 15 days eventually positioned south of Hawaii. The Dynamic model depicts the Active Phase fading and dissipating over the dateline 10 days out. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be building in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 1/15 depicts a solid Active Phase already over the East Pacific today and tracking east and all but gone. A moderate Inactive Phase is to follow in the west starting 1/20 pushing east into 2/19 while a new modest weak Active Phase builds in the West Pacific 2/14 reaching the dateline 2/24. The model has backed off the strength of future MJO Phases, perhaps offering some hope for longer term El Nino development. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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. As of the most recent low res imagery (1/15) a modestly warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific but not getting any warmer recently. A weak El Nino signature is barely holding on. Cool water is developing east of the Galapagos to Peru while warm water has traction just west of the Galapagos reaching west to 160W (the result of the eruption of a Kelvin Wave that peaked 12/21). But that warm water is now in decline. TAO data suggests barely +0.5 deg C anomalies or less are fading from a point south of Hawaii to the Galapagos. +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding over the West Pacific west of 160W. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.0, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase was taking control.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are cooling. As of 1/15 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was barely hanging on under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E and loosing coverage. No embedded Kelvin Waves were in flight. Satellite data from 1/8 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the West and Central equatorial Pacific, indicative of an open pipe, but neutral anomalies from 140W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (1/8) indicates +1 deg anomalies are continuing to develop between 130-140E reaching east to 175W, suggestive that another Kelvin wave might be in the early stages of development. Theoretically the peak of El Nino occurred (12/21) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected if this is to be a single year event. If it is a true multiyear Midoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 1/1 is still mixed. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. It is strongest north of New Guinea and again south of Hawaii. But on the equator a steady modest east to west flow was in control from 85W to the dateline. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific west of the dateline then north of the equator in pockets into the East Pacific, with pockets of stronger east anomalies just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern but generally supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 1/15 for the Nino 3.4 region remain 'off the chart'. It suggests water temps are down some at +0.6 deg C and are to hold through April 2015. But the interesting part remains that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in late June 2015, pushing +2.0 degs C by Sept 2015 and +2.1 degs by October. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event, and not a weak one either. See the chart based version here - link. A consensus of other models are not as optimistic though.
Analysis: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring through 2014 in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves have warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay. The telconnections we are focused on contribute to the production of open ocean storms (and therefore swells) mainly in the Pacific Basin that may or may not have the same impacts as a full blown El Nino. So our criteria is certainly less than the threshold of NOAAs.
The focus now becomes whether it will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 timeframe. At this time we're assuming the situation with move to a multiyear, Midoki event (the better of all options).
Officially we remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. We are now looking for signs of a continued Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming East Pacific equatorial waters for the 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest 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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table