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 (2/17) in North and Central CA surf was waist high with perhaps a few chest high peaks at top spots, but many breaks were waist high or less. Conditions clean with fog/overcast in effect. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high on the sets and clean. In Southern California up north surf was knee high on the sets and textured. Unremarkable. Down south waves were waist to chest high and weak with sunny skies and a light texture on it. Fun when it comes. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover local gale swell with set waves chest to maybe head high and clean but generally weak. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around leftover swell at thigh to waist high with lightly chopped conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small sideband swell from a small gale that was north of Hawaii on Sat (2/14) producing a tiny area of 30 ft seas to arrive along the US West Coast on Wed (2/18). Also swell from a broader gale that was tracking off Japan moving to the dateline Sun-Wed (1/18) with 26-28 ft seas to arrive in the Islands later on Thurs (2/19). That gale is to theoretically hold strength while easing east from the dateline Thursday (2/19) with 24-26 ft seas, then fade out north of Hawaii on Friday (2/20). Possibly more swell for the Islands and lesser energy for the mainland. Beyond a very weak weather system is forecast pushing from Japan Fri-Sat (2/21) and not reaching the dateline intact.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/17) the jet was pushing east off Southern Japan at 170 kts tracking to the dateline with winds up to 190 kts and falling slightly into a weak trough there before reaching a point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii and fading fast, .cgiitting at 150W with the northern branch pushing north up into North Canada. There was some support for gale development in the trough on the dateline. Over the next 72 hours the trough is to push east reaching a point north of Hawaii on Thurs (2/19) with winds still 180 kts in it's apex offering good support for gale development. But winds are to be weakening south of Japan and the big .cgiit is to be holding over the East Pacific. The trough is to hold north of Hawaii into late Friday while the extent of the strongest winds in the jet slowly fade. Beyond 72 hours the Hawaiian trough is to fade and effectively pinch off by Sun (2/22) while a new weak trough tries to organize while pushing east through the West Pacific. That trough to reach the dateline on Mon (2/23) but with only 120-130 kts kt winds feeding it with the .cgiit point holding at 150W. Limited support for gale development is possible. But by late Tues (2/24) a .cgiit is to be developing off Japan with 60% of the jets energy starting to track northeast bound for the Bering Sea and the remnants of the trough on the dateline are to be pinching off. A very fractured jetstream flow looks likely beyond with little support for low pressure development possible.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (2/17) residual swell from a gale previously north of Hawaii was hitting the Islands and bound for the US West Coast (see Hawaiian Gale below). And a new gale was pushing east from Japan (See Japan gale below).
Over the next 72 hours yet another small gale is to start developing off Japan on Thurs (2/19) with 40-45 kt northwest winds over a small area in the evening and 24 ft seas building at 33N 148E aimed southeast. Winds to fade to 35 kt Fri AM (2/20) with 25 ft seas at 30N 156E (292 degs HI). Winds to be fading from 30-35 kts in the evening with 24 ft seas at 30N 161E. Fetch is to collapse Sat AM (2/21) with seas fading from 21 ft at 31N 169E (293 degs HI). Small swell possible for the Islands if all goes as forecast.
A reasonably broad fetch developed streaming off Japan starting Sat (2/14) with winds 35 kts getting a little traction later with seas 22 ft at 37N 152E. By Sun AM (2/15) 40 kt northwest winds were taking hold just off North Japan with 25 ft seas developing near 35N 152E (300 degs HI). Winds faded to 35 kts in the evening over a broad area aimed southeast with seas 27 ft at 33N 155E (296 degs HI). 35 kt west winds continued Mon AM (2/16) with a decent sized area of 26 ft seas at 31N 157E targeting primarily Hawaii (293 degs). Winds pushed east in the evening fading in coverage from 35 kts with seas 26 ft at 30N 162E (292 degs HI). Fetch was rebuilding some Tues AM (2/17) at 40 kts over a small area aimed east with seas 27 ft over a moderate area tracking due east at 31N 171E (293 degs HI). Fetch is to be down to 35 kts pushing east-northeast in the evening with 27 ft seas at 33N 177W (304 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 291 SCal). 30-35 kt east winds to continue tracking east Wed AM (2/18) with 25 ft seas at 34N 178W (308 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). 35 kt west winds to continue in the evening over a smaller area with 26 ft seas at 35N 177W (309 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). 30 kt northwest fetch is to hold there Thurs AM (2/19) with 24 ft seas at 35N 171W (323 degs HI, 283 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). 30-35 kt east fetch to hold into the evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 36N 166W (280 degs NCal, 287 degs SCal) and fading from there. Perhaps some very westerly 15-16 sec period swell possible for the Islands with lesser size for the US West Coast.
HI: Expect swell arrival at sunset Thurs (2/19) with period 17 secs and size 3 ft @ 17 secs (5 ft). Swell building overnight and holding decently through the day Fri (2/20) at near 6 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft). Swell holding Sat AM (2/21) at 6.4 ft @ 13-14 secs early (8.5 ft) and fading from there. Swell Direction: 293-300 initially and shadowed in Haleiwa moving to 310 degrees and becoming less shadowed.
NCal: Swell arrival Sun (2/22) building to 3.5 ft @ 16-17 secs later (6 ft). Swell peaking on Mon (2/23) at 4.5 ft @ 15 secs (6.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (2/24) at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 -6.0 ft). Swell Direction: 280-284 degrees
On Fri PM (2/13) low pressure 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii was slowly starting to get better organized and becoming of interest with a small area of 40 kt northwest winds building and seas on the increase from 26 ft at 34N 170W (321 degs HI).. By Sat AM (2/14) a tiny area of 45 kt northwest winds were in.cgiay with seas building to barely 30 ft over a tiny area at 30N 168W targeting Hawaii down the 320 degree path. 40 kt winds to be falling southeast in the evening with seas 25 ft at 29N 160W (347 degs HI). On Sun AM (2/15) 35 kt northwest winds are to be 500 nmiles northeast of Hawaii with 22 ft seas at 29N 154W. The gale is to fade after that. There's decent potential for a small pulse of swell mainly for Hawaii later Sunday night and fading into Monday AM (2/16) with small sideband swell for exposed breaks in California.
North CA: Sideband swell arriving on Wed AM (2/18) pushing 4 ft @ 14 secs (5.5 ft) from 260 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 (2/17) weak high pressure was off Southern CA with a light winds pattern in.cgiay nearshore. Wed (2/18) modest high pressure to build off the North Coast to 1026 mbs with north winds 10-15 kts over North and Central CA nearshore waters, lifting north and forming a weak gradient over Cape Mendocino at 20 kts with 15 kt winds pushing down into Central CA. The gradient is to build Friday with 25 kt north winds over North CA pushing 30 kts late and 20 kt north winds nearshore in Central CA. More of the same on Saturday except light winds nearshore early in Central CA. The gradient is to collapse on Sunday with perhaps offshore winds taking control and fading to the light category on Monday. New high pressure is to start building off the Vancouver Coast on late Tuesday (2/24) with north winds possible mid-next week for North and Central CA. Until the jet consolidates over the Northeast Pacific no precip is forecast for California.
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 residuals from the second Japan gale to possible flare up slightly on the dateline late Sun (2/22) generating more 20 ft seas aimed east with a secondary fetch forming north of it on Monday (2/23) generating a tiny area of 26 ft seas. 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 Tuesday (2/17) the daily SOI was up to 9.60. The 30 day average was rising from -9.98 and the 90 day average was up slightly at -7.08. 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 high pressure system was over Tahiti with a small low tracking south of Tahiti but likely to have no impact on the SOI. No change forecast for the next 7 days likely causing the SOI to move somewhat higher. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest westerly wind anomalies continued over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline and continuing neutral south of Hawaii. Mostly neutral anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest west anomalies in the western Kelvin Wave Generation Area from 140E to 180W. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued in.cgiay and has been blowing since 1/15 (almost a month in duration). This is a significant event. A week from now (2/25) weak east anomalies are to develop over the Maritime Continent likely signaling the end of the WWB. Neutral anomalies are forecast on the dateline. And modest east anomalies are forecast southeast of Hawaii continuing into 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 2/16 suggest a weak 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 west of the dateline and fading away 15 days out, with the Inactive Phase also fading in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/17 depicts a building active Phase in the West Pacific and slowly pushing east, moving into Central America on 3/19. It's depicted much stronger now than a few days ago. A modest Inactive Phase is to develop in the West Pacific 3/1 pushing east into 3/29 while a new weak Active Phase starts developing in the West. This upper model seems to be the most sensitive of the three, but then always over exaggerates the after effects. Best guess is the Active Phase of the MJO might pulse again in the West Pacific a week out. If not, then the Active Phase will likely fade out. Either way, no big change from the already established winter pattern is expected. 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 (2/16) 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 roughly 120W to Ecuador with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 120W 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 have faded to 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 for the most part now loosing ground in fit's and starts, with temps slowly on the increase.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming. As of 2/17 a +1.0 C anomaly flow had rebuilt 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 for the past month has had the desired effect, pushing more warm water to depth. Satellite data from 2/7 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 (2/12) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are continuing to expand between 150E-125W with a core at +1.0-1.5 degs from 168E-145W, suggestive that another Kelvin Wave is in flight. This one should arrive the first week of May in the Galapagos. 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 Modoki 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 2/17 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.1 degs C, and continuing to +1.45 degs by Nov. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino. but it is too early to believe that just yet.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, Modoki 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