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 (2/10) in North and Central CA surf at top spots was 8-10 ft and clean but a bit on the weak side and looking to be short period. Effectively big clean windswell. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 2-3 ft overhead and lined up and clean. In Southern California up north surf was head high with sets 1-2 ft overhead and clean and lined up. Very solid. Down south waves were 3 ft overhead at top spots and clean and pushing hard from the north. Solid surf for Southern CA indeed. Hawaii's North Shore was getting the leading edge of new datelines well with waves occasionally to 10 ft and chopped with westerly Kona winds in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline swell at shoulder high with clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a local gale that was off Central California on Sun (2/8) has already peaked and is heading down. Still solid surf was occurring along the coast Tues AM (2/10), but down from Monday. Also new swell from a broad gale that was over the dateline Sun-Mon (2/9) with 32 ft seas was starting to move into the Hawaiian Islands but accompanied by weather. More swell production from this gale is expected through Wed (2/111). Smaller swell to result for the US West Coast later in the week. Another co.cgiex gale is forecast to start developing on the Dateline and West Gulf regions over the coming weekend (2/14) but again more fragmented rather than cohesive. Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/10) the jet was pushing east off Southern Japan at 150 kts ridging slightly west of the dateline, then starting to fall southeast into a broad trough that was filling the Western Gulf of Alaska with winds 160 kts and the apex of the trough 500 nmiles north of Hawaii. The jet started ridging east of there then .cgiit 600 nmiles off the Central CA coast with the northern branch pushing inland over British Columbia. Good support for gale development in the Gulf trough. Over the next 72 hours the Hawaiian trough is to slowly fade with winds in it dropping below 140 kts by late Thurs (2/12). At the same time 180 kt winds are to be building over Southern Japan pushing east suggesting another pulse of the MJO and the storm cycle. Beyond 72 hours 190 kt winds are to be pushing over the dateline falling into what appears to be a developing new trough again positioned just north of Hawaii by Sat (2/14) and pushing east. But that is to fade fast while a new trough builds on the dateline late Mon (2/16) with winds 160 kts pushing 170 kts on Tues (2/17) offering good support for gale development. The jetstream is effectively forecast to pulse again, offering reasonable odds to support another storm cycle in the Dateline-Western Gulf region.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (2/10) swell from the third gale in a series was still hitting California but on it's way down. And swell from a broader gale on the dateline was hitting Hawaii and bound for California (see Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast other than leftovers from the Dateline Gale (below) as the atmosphere reorganizes.
Yet a third broader fetch of 35 kt west fetch developed just northwest of Hawaii on Fri AM (2/6) with seas building from 20 ft at 33N 175W targeting Hawaii. Winds built to 35-40 kts from the northwest in the evening positioned 525 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii producing 23 ft seas at 30N 163W. The fetch quickly passed north of the Islands Sat AM (2/7) and building in coverage with 35+ kt west winds building targeting the south end of the US West Coast. Seas were building from 25 ft at 29N 155W (260 degs NCal, 271 degs SCal). 30 kt west winds to push east in the evening with seas fading to 23 ft over a small area at 28N 145W (256 degs NCal, 266 degs SCal). Winds to build to 40 kts pushing east Sun AM (2/8) just off Southern CA with 22 ft seas at 33N 135W (261 degs NCal, 274 degs SCal). 35-40 kt west fetch to be lifting northeast and just off San Francisco in the evening with 28 ft seas at 36N 130W (265 degs NCal). Fetch is to be moving inland over North CA Mon AM (2/9) with 20 ft seas impacting Pt Reyes up to Cape Mendocino directly. Possible solid but raw swell for Southern CA up into Central CA if all goes a forecast.
Southern CA: Swell still 4.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.0-6.5 ft) early Tues AM (2/10) and slowly fading and up to 8 ft @ 13-14 secs at exposed breaks up north (10 ft). Swell fading on Wed (2/11) from 2.9 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) and up to 5.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (7 ft) at exposed breaks up north. Swell Direction: 265-270 degrees
Another fetch with semi tropical origins started to develop off Japan on Fri (2/6) with 45 kt west winds over a tiny area and building some while pushing east. It was still west of the dateline on Sat AM (2/7) with 40 kt west winds over a decent sized and a small area of up to 45 kt west winds with 32 ft seas at 35N 169E (304 degs HI). In the evening fetch was fading to 40 kts while the gale reorganized with seas holding at 32 ft at 34N 177E (306 degs HI). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the the core at 21Z and reported seas at 29.5 ft with one reading to 33.2 ft where the model projected 32 ft seas. The model was slightly over hyping the seas. Sun AM (2/8) 40 kt west winds were rebuilding as the gale crossed the dateline with seas 31 ft over a broader area at 37N 177W (320 degs HI, 285 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). 40 kt northwest winds were building in the evening over the same area with 32 ft seas at 36N 171W (324 degs HI, 281 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). Winds were fading from 35 kts from the northwest Mon AM (2/9) with 32 ft seas over a moderate sized area at 35N 167W (328 degs HI, 281 degs NCal, 287 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the western flank of the gale at 10Z and confirmed 28.2 ft seas with one reading to 32.6 ft where the model suggested 33 ft seas. The model was over hyping the seas. Another pass occurred at 20Z and seas were confirmed at 22.8 ft with one reading to 27.5 ft where the model suggested 25 ft seas. The model again was over-hyping it. Winds were fading from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 28 ft at 33N 160W (350 degs HI, 273 degs NCal, 280 degs SCal). A slow fade to follow with the remnants effectively stationary north-northwest of Hawaii into Wed PM (2/11) when seas fall to 20 ft at 28N 156W (263 degs NCal, 270 degs SCal) and aimed pretty well south of CA.
Much large but raw local swell possible for the Islands and smaller but a cleaner mix of direct and sideband swell for CA possible.
Hawaii: Swell arriving early Tues AM (2/10) before sunrise and building fast, peaking late morning at 10.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (16 ft Hawaiian). Swell holding Wed (2/11) at 9.3 ft @ 14 secs (13 ft Hawaiian). Swell continuing but slowly fading Thurs (2/12) at 9.2 ft @ 13 secs (12 ft) fading into Fri AM (2/13) from 6.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 320-326 degrees
North CA: Swell arrival on Thurs (2/12) building to 6 ft @ 16-17 secs (9.5 ft) and holding. Swell fading Fri (2/13) from 6.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (9 ft). Residuals fading on Sat (2/14) from 5.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 275-284 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival late Thurs to 1.8 ft @ 18-19 secs (3 ft), though that is likely overstated. Most energy to arrive and peak Fri AM (2/13) at 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft) holding through the day as period drops toward 15 secs. Swell fading Sat (2/14) from 3.1 ft @ 14 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 275-287 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 (2/10) weak high pressure at 1024 mbs was pancaked along the California coast with a broad low pressure system trying to make inroads towards the US West Coast from the west, but getting no upper level support from the jet. A light wind regime was in control early but expected to give way to north winds 15 kts over Central CA focused on Pt Conception. Winds are to be fading to light on Wednesday and then turning light offshore Thursday with low pressure in the Gulf dissipating. Light winds Friday and Saturday but brisk northeast over North CA (20+ kts) on Sat. A light winds regime is forecast in control through Monday (2/16) then turning just light from the north on Tues (2/17).
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 broad area of co.cgiex low pressure is to start building on the Dateline-Western Gulf region with mult.cgie embedded areas of fetch. The first fetch/gale is to start developing in the Western Gulf of Alaska on Sat PM (2/14) generating 40 kt northwest fetch with seas on the increase. By Sun AM (2/15) 45 kt west winds are forecast generating 30 ft seas over a small area at 41N 161W targeting mainly the US West Coast (352 degs HI, 287 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). Winds to fade from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 28 ft up at 42N 160W (289 degs NCal, 296 degs SCal). This gale to quickly dissipate thereafter. Small swell possible for the US West Coast with sideband swell for the Islands.
A new fetch/gale is to start building over the dateline on Mon AM (2/16) with west winds 35-40 kts generating a small area of 24 ft seas at 36N 178W aimed mostly east. By evening winds are to be fading from 35 kts lifting northeast with 24 ft seas fading at 37N 170W.
And a third broader fetch is to develop west of the dateline Mon AM (2/16) generating 35 kt northwest winds and a broader area of 24 ft seas at 30N 165E targeting primarily Hawaii. Winds to push east in the evening fading from 35 kts with seas 24 ft at 30N 173E. Fetch is to be fading from 30 kts Tues AM (2/17) with seas fading from 22 ft over a broad area at 30N 178E. 13-14 sec period swell possible for the Islands.
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 (2/10) the daily SOI was holding at -2.50. The 30 day average was falling from -10.42 and the 90 day average was rising slightly at -7.16. 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 weak steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (3.5 months). A weak trough was over Tahiti with high pressure over Darwin, though higher pressure is to build over Tahiti by Fri (2/14) likely causing the SOI to move somewhat higher. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate westerly wind anomalies continued over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline and continuing neutral south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong west anomalies in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. A solid Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued in.cgiay and has been blowing since 1/15. This is a significant event. A week from now (2/18) weal east anomalies are to develop over the Maritime Continent signaling the end of the WWB. Light east anomalies are to continue on the dateline. A mixed mostly neutral anomaly pattern is forecast from there to a point south of Hawaii, and on to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to start fading a week out.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/9 are in sync initially. They both suggest a modest Active Phase of the MJO was holding on the dateline. Beyond the models diverge with the Statistic model depicting the Active Phase moving east over the next 15 days and fading 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 but loosing strength on the dateline and fading steadily 15 days out, but with the Inactive Phase still contained in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/10 depicts a modest Inactive Phase already over the Central Pacific and projected easing into Central America on 3/2 while a new weak Active Phase takes over the West Pacific pushing east to the Central Pacific on 3/22. 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 (2/9) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with pockets of slightly cooler water depicted off Central America. TAO data suggests neutral anomalies are covering a region from 120W to Ecuador (still loosing ground and retreating from 130W as of 2/5), with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 125W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area and a second south of Hawaii. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps holding at +0.8, 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 slowly on the increase.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming. As of 2/10 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was rebuilding control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a new pocket of +3 deg anomalies was building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB occurring at the surface just west of there was pushing more warm water to depth. Satellite data from 2/2 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 (2/2) indicates +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies are continuing to expand between 160E-135W with a core at +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-160W, suggestive that another Kelvin Wave is in flight. Theoretically the peak of what was though to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if this was to be a single year event. But if this 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 2/10 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to hold through May then slowly rising to +1.0 degs C by June. From there temps hold at +1.0 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 late 2013 though 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 per NOAA. 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