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 Tuesday (2/3) in North and Central CA surf at top spots was 2-3 ft overhead and clean with great conditions though inconsistent. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high at top spots and clean. In Southern California up north surf was waist high with some bigger peaks on the sets and clean and lined up. Down south waves were waist to chest high and heavily textured. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Gulf swell with local windswell on top at up to 2 ft overhead and trashed by Kona winds and rain. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting Gulf swell at head high to 1 ft overhead and clean.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a gale that developed in the Gulf of Alaska on Sat-Sun (2/1) with seas to 25 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii and 28 ft seas aimed southeast at the US West Coast.was hitting both locations. For the immediate future the Gulf of Alaska is to become more active, with a broad area of low pressure generating embedded fetch areas offering up 20 ft seas off California on Wed (2/5), 26 ft seas northwest of Hawaii on Thurs (2/5), another patch of 26 ft seas northwest of Hawaii late Fri (2/6) building to 34 ft off Southern CA on Sun (2/8) and one more system on the dateline on Mon (2/9) with 30 ft seas. Much mid-grade swell possible for all locations, though possibly.cgiagued by weather.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/3) the jet was pushing east off Southern Japan with winds building to 170 kts while tracking over the dateline, fading some and then .cgiitting north of Hawaii. The northern branch was pushing east into Oregon while the southern branch was falling southeast over Hawaii and eventually towards the equator. The .cgiit that has been locked west of the dateline was all but gone. A weak trough was trying to organize in the Gulf of Alaska, but it was too early to suggest it was contributing to support for gale formation just yet. Over the next 72 hours winds to build to 180 kts over the dateline with the .cgiit getting pushed further east, to 140W late Wed (2/4) and then inland over Oregon on Fri (2/6) as a trough starts building in earnest over the Central Gulf with being fed by 190 kts winds in the jet falling southeast from the dateline. Good support for gale development is suggested. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with winds holding at 180 kts on the dateline on Mon (2/9) with the trough still in.cgiay in the Gulf and a new .cgiit developing off California on Tuesday at 140W. Continued support for gale development in the Gulf north of Hawaii. Overall a nice setup is projected.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (2/3) swell from a gale that developed in the the Gulf of Alaska (see Gulf Gale below) over the weekend was hitting CA and HI.Of more interest was a broad area of low pressure filling the Northern Pacific with it's core just south of the Eastern Aleutians. In it's southern flank a series of 3 embedded yet distinct low pressure cells were tracking east. These are detailed below.
Over the next 72 hours three systems are to be of interest:
The first of these 3 areas is to be 1200 nmiles west of Central CA on Tues PM (2/3) producing a small area of 35-40 kt southwest winds and starting to generate some seas of interest. The fetch is to rapidly lift north with 35 kt southwest winds holding into Wed AM (2/4) resulting in 18-20 ft seas at 35-40N 138W making no eastward progress. By evening the gale is to be tracking fast north with all fetch aimed at Vancouver Islands northward and seas 20 ft at 40-45N 134W 9off Cape Mendocino CA to Lincoln City OR). This system to be pushing into Washington Thurs AM (2/5) with 35 kt south winds and 22 ft seas targeting that area directly. But no fetch or seas of interest are forecast other than aimed at the Pacific Northwest. Small sideband swell is possible for the US West Coast.
North CA: For.cgianning purposes expect swell arrival on Thurs (2/5) building to 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft) later and buried in local windswell. Swell fading on Fri (2/6) from 6.5 ft @ 11 secs (7 ft). Swell Direction: 245-260 degrees
Southern CA: Swell arrival possible on Fri AM (2/6) building to 3.1 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft) and holding. Swell fading Sat AM (2/7) from 2.9 ft @ 11 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 260-265 degrees
The second fetch to develop on the dateline Tues PM (2/3) generating 35 kt west winds over a tiny area and 22 ft seas at 37N 180W. 40 kt west winds to be falling southeast Wed AM (2/4) with seas building to 26 ft at 36N 177W with a better sized footprint targeting Hawaii. 40 kt west fetch to continue in the evening over a tiny area with 27 ft seas moving to 34N 171W again targeting Hawaii well (320 degs). Fetch to fade from 35 kts Thurs AM (2/5) just 650 nmiles north of Hawaii with 24 ft seas at 34N 163W (345 degs HI). Fetch to be fading from 35 kts in the evening with 21 ft seas at 32N 155W targeting the US West Coast (270 degs NCal, 278 degs SCal) more than Hawaii. Residual 30 kt west fetch to start lifting northeast Fri AM (2/6) off the US West Coast generating 18-20 ft seas at 32N 145W (264 degs NCal, 275 degs SCal). A quick fade to follow but with 18 ft seas tracking northeast positioned 600 nmiles off Central CA in the evening 36N 138W (268 degs NCal). Something to monitor.
Hawaii: For.cgianning purposes swell arrival starting at sunrise Fri (2/6) at 8 ft @ 13 secs (10.5 ft) building into mid-morning at 9 ft @ 14-15 secs (13 ft). Residuals into Sat AM (2/7) fading from 7.5 ft @ 12-13 secs ( ft). Swell Direction: 320-330 degrees
NCal: West windswell likely starting Sat PM (2/7) building into Sun AM (2/8) at 7 ft @ 12-13 secs (8.5 ft) from 265-270 degrees
SCal: Swell to arrive after dark on Sun (2/8) peaking overnight with residuals on Mon AM (2/9) at 3.1 ft @ 12-13 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 274 degrees
And yet a third broader fetch of 35 kt west fetch is to develop just northwest of Hawaii on Fri AM (2/6) with seas building from 22 ft at 33N 175W targeting Hawaii. Winds to build to 40 kt in the evening positioned 600 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii producing 24 ft seas at 30N 163W. The fetch is to quickly pass north of the Islands Sat AM (2/7) with 40 kt west winds building targeting the South end of the US West Coast. Seas building from 23 ft at 29N 152W. Theoretically 45 kt west winds to building in the evening with seas pushing 28 ft over a tiny area at 34N 148W. Winds to hold and push east Sun AM (2/8) with 34 ft seas at 34N 141W. 35 kt west fetch to be lifting northeast in the evening with 30 ft seas at 35N 134W. Possible solid swell for Southern CA up into Central CA if this materializes.
Hawaii: Rough data suggests swell arrival late Sat (2/7). .
A gale started winding up in the Gulf of Alaska Fri PM (1/30) (really just the reformed remnants of the Kuril Island Gale and the North Dateline Gale) generating 35-40 kts winds over a small area in it's south quadrant targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Seas built from 17 ft. On Sat AM (1/31) 50 kt winds were in the gales southeast quadrant barely aimed east at Central CA northward but really targeting Canada and with 40 kt north winds aimed at Hawaii. A small area of 28-30 ft seas were targeting Central CA northward at 42N 152W (290 degs NCal) and 24 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii from 45N 160W (356 degs HI). 35 kt north and west winds to continue in the evening generating 25 ft seas targeting Hawaii at 41N 160W (345 degs HI) and 27 ft seas at the US West Coast at 42N 152W (290 degs NCal). Only west winds remained Sun AM (2/1) at 35 kts aimed at the US West Coast with 22-23 ft seas at 40N 152W (285 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). This system dissipated after that. Modest swell for the Islands and a little more for California up into the Pacific Northwest.
Hawaii: Swell fading Wed AM (2/4) from 4.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 350-355 degrees
North CA: Swell to continue on Wed (2/3) at 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft) fading Thurs (2/4) from 5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6 ft) and down to 4 ft @ 11-12 secs (4.5 ft) on Fri (2/5). Swell Direction: 285 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell continuing on Thurs (2/4) at 2.5 ft @ 13 secs early (3.0-3.5 ft). Residuals on Fri (2/5) fading from 2.3 ft @ 12-13 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 289 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/3) weak high pressure at 1022 mbs was well southwest of Southern CA ridging slightly north setting up a weak to calm flow over California waters. Winds to start coming up from the south over Central and North CA on Wednesday with a front just off the coast. South winds to 25 kts late up into Cape Mendocino and 10-15 kt in San Francisco. The front to stall near San Francisco Thursday with south winds 20 kts there and rain building slowly over North CA reaching down to the Bay Area in the afternoon. The front to stall there holding on Friday. Rain for the Bay Area down to Monterey Bay then. Snow possible for high elevations of the Sierra. The front to loose it's punch and fade some on Saturday but rain continuing Sat reaching south to Morro Bay and continuing over North and Central CA. Another low to move up to the coast on Sun (2/8) with south winds 20 kts mainly just north of San Francisco. Rain for North and Central CA working it's way down to Point Conception late afternoon. Snow for high elevations Sun PM. Wind turning west 15 kts later Monday and rain chances fading everywhere. Snow fading in the high Sierra. High pressure rebuilds Tuesday with north winds 15-20 kts from Monterey Bay southward to Pt Conception.
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 yet another fetch is forecast starting to develop off Japan on Fri (2/6) with 45 kt west winds over a tiny area and building some while pushing east. It is to still be west of the dateline on Sat AM (2/7) with 40 kt west winds over a decent sized area with 32 ft seas at 33N 166E. In the evening fetch is to be fading to 30-35 kts while the gale reorganizes with seas fading to 26 ft at 32N 171E. Sun AM (2/8) 40+ kt west winds to be rebuilding as the gale crosses the dateline with seas 25 ft over a broader area at 34N 176W. 40 kt northwest winds to be building in the evening with 28 ft seas at 33N 168W. barely 45 kt west winds to continue Mon AM (2/9) with 30 ft seas at 37N 167W. Winds to be fading from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 28 ft at 36N 160W. A quick fade to follow.
And more energy is looking to be developing west of the dateline.
Certainly an improving pattern is looking to develop focused more in the Western and Central Gulf. of Alaska.
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 Tuesday (2/3) the daily SOI was falling some at -5.50. The 30 day average was falling from -9.40 and the 90 day average was holding some at -8.03. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a modest 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 (3.5 months). Weak high pressure is forecast south of Tahiti this week (2/5) likely causing the SOI to move somewhat higher. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate.cgius westerly wind anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline and holding south of Hawaii. Weak east anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate.cgius strength west anomalies in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued in.cgiay since 1/15 but has not made any eastward progress. A week from now (2/11) modest west anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral before reaching the dateline. Mostly neutral anomalies are forecast from there to a point south of Hawaii, and on to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue holding over the West Pacific to the dateline.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/2 are in sync initially. They both suggest a modest Active Phase of the MJO was holding a bit west of the dateline. Beyond the models diverge with the Statistic model depicting the Active Phase moving east over the next 15 days and fading some south of Hawaii while the Inactive Phase of the MJO moves from the Indian Ocean into the West Pacific. The Dynamic model has the Active Phase holding it's ground in the West Pacific maybe making it to the dateline and not loosing any strength with the Inactive Phase contained in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/3 depicts a modest Active Phase over the West Pacific now, and is forecast to track east into Central America by 2/20. A moderate Inactive Phase is supposed to push into the West Pacific 2/13 and be easing into Central America on 3/15 while a new solid Active Phase takes over the West Pacific. 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 (2/2) a weak warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific and not getting any warmer. In fact, pockets of slightly cooler water are depicted off Central America. A weak El Nino signature remains barely holding on. Cool water also is holding east of the Galapagos to Peru. Warm water has traction just west of the Galapagos all the way to Indonesia. TAO data suggests neutral to negative anomalies (-2.0 degs C) are covering a region from 130W to Ecuador, with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 130W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.6, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase briefly had an impact on water temps, but is now loosing ground with temps again on the increase some.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming. As of 2/2 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was rebuilding control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a new pocket of +2 deg anomalies with a core to near +3 degrees was building in coverage under the dateline, suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave and likely associated with the new WWB occurring at the surface there. Satellite data from 1/28 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm just east of the dateline indicative of an open pipe with an embedded kelvin Wave, but neutral anomalies from 120W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (1/28) indicates +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies are continuing to develop between 175E-160W reaching east to 145W, suggestive that another weak 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 (as appears to be the case). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 1/26 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over a small area of the far West Pacific, but mainly east to west over the rest of the equatorial Pacific. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets to 135W. Pockets of moderate east anomalies were just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east. But we suspect that might be attributable tot he current upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase in flight now.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 2/3 for the Nino 3.4 region have stabilized. It suggests water temps are at +0.7 deg C and are to hold through May then falling just slightly to +0.6 degs C by June. From there temps hold at +0.6 degs into Oct 2015. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year steady state Midoki event. See the chart based version here - link.
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 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 focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 Spring Unpredictability Barrier. At this time we're assuming the situation will move to a multiyear, Midoki event (the better of all options).
We remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. But we continue monitoring 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