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 (2/18) in North and Central CA surf was 3-5 ft overhead and relatively clean but lurpy and warbled. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to maybe waist high and soft and clean early. In Southern California up north surf was chest high and clean and lined up but not particularly powerful. Still it was nice. Down south waves were chest high and pushing out of the north, with light northerly texture. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more northerly swell with waves head high to maybe 1 ft overhead on the peak and clean. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting wrap-around swell at shoulder high and slightly chopped with southeast trades on the increase.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Secondary fetch in the Gulf of Alaska was producing 22 ft seas Mon-Tues (2/18) targeting the US West Coast with swell arrival expected mid-week. And a gale built off the Kuril Islands on Mon (2/17) holding stationary there with up to 34 ft seas over a small area targeting the US West Coast, but closer to Hawaii. Swell for the Islands Thurs-Fri (2/21). A bit of a break then a small gale is forecast developing well north of Hawaii on Sun (2/23) with maybe a small area of 30 ft seas resulting with a second similar fetch in the same area on Tues (2/25). Perhaps more swell to result mainly for the US West Coast.
Note: NDBC has updated their buoy maintenance .cgian. 46012, 46013 and 46014 are scheduled for maintenance in May 2014. There is no schedule for 46059 or 46006.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/18) the .cgiit in the jetstream in the west was finally fading as energy from the Active Phase of the MJO started to build over Japan. There winds were 150 kts flowing flat east on the 33N latitude, reaching to the dateline then starting to .cgiit slightly, but not completely. Instead a broad swath of 70-110 kt winds pushed east, impacting a range from Hawaii and northward to the Southeastern Aleutians, and then into the entire US West Coast from Pt Conception to Vancouver Island. No troughs of interest were present offering no support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours winds to build to 190 kts off Japan with 160 kt reaching the dateline on Thurs (2/20), then .cgiitting with the northern branch tracking weakly up into the Gulf with winds 90 kts and the southern branch falling southeast over Hawaii heading towards the equator. And by late Friday 190 kt winds to be on the dateline with a weak trough just east of there in the Western Gulf. The .cgiit flow is to still be present east of there with the northern branch ridging up into Alaska and then falling southeast inland over Canada. Beyond 72 hours the consolidated jet in the west is to be pushing further east reaching to 150W or north-northeast of Hawaii by Sunday (2/23) with winds still 180 kts just east of the dateline and a weak trough holding in the Gulf. The jet is to hold this pattern into Tues (2/25) with a consolidated jet reaching to 140W (1100 nmiles west of Dana Point CA). The trough is to hold in the Gulf easing slowly east with 180 kt winds feeding into it from over the dateline. Good support for gale development possible.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (2/18) moderate swell originating from a Gale in the Gulf on Sun (2/16) producing 26 ft seas was continuing to hit North and Central CA, but on the way down some.
Possible Secondary Gulf Energy
Additional 30-35 kt northwest to west winds built in the Central Gulf Mon evening (2/17) generating 20-22 ft seas at 44N 150W (295 degs NCal). Fetch held at 30-35 kts over a small area Tues AM (2/18) pushing east and generating more 22 ft seas near 47N 143W (308 degs NCal) and targeting primarily Oregon and Washington. 30 kt west winds to hold into Wed AM just off the Washington Coast with 20-22 ft seas down to 47N 135W or in the 317 degree path to NCal.
More swell of 7 ft @ 13-14 secs period northwest angled swell (303-310 degrees) is expected to result for Central CA by mid-Wed (2/19).
A gale was starting to build over Japan on Sat (2/16) pushing into open waters off North Japan Sun AM (2/16) with with 45 kt northwest winds and seas building to 28 ft at 37N 147E aimed south of even Hawaii. In the evening 45 kt westerly winds took hold off Japan with 32 ft seas building at 37N 152E (300 degs HI). The gale held position and strength Mon AM (2/17) with 40-45 kt west-northwest winds over a larger area and seas holding at 32 ft at 37N 158E aimed well down the 305 degree path to HI (296 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds were fading in the evening with 27 ft seas at 35-40N 162E (299-306 degs HI, 294-300 degs NCal). Fetch and seas were fading from there with 35 kt west winds Tues AM (2/18) and seas fading from 25 ft over a solid area at 36-41N 160E (300-307 degs HI, 295-299 degs NCal). This system is effectively dead with no additional fetch forecast.
Possible decent swell for Hawaii with much lesser energy into the US West Coast. Expect swell arrival in Hawaii on Thurs afternoon (2/20) with swell to 3 ft @ 18 secs (5.0 ft) building to 5.7 ft @ 15-16 secs (8.5 ft). Swell fading from there. Swell Direction: 300-305 degrees
Small swell for NCal starting Sat afternoon (2/22) to 2 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft) peaking Sun afternoon (2/23) at 2.8 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 294-300 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (2/18) high pressure at 1024 mbs was in control off Pt Conception wit north winds 15 kts along the coast there and near calm up in San Francisco and light south up in Cape Mendocino. By Wednesday late AM high pressure is to be in firm control bringing north winds to the entire coastal California area pushing 20 kts for the entire state (except Southern CA) holding through Thursday (2/20). Perhaps some slackening of those winds Friday as high pressure starts ridging into the Pacific Northwest on Saturday. The high to start fading Sunday with a light northerly flow (5 kts for North and Central CA in the afternoon). Winds fading even more Monday as low pressure builds in the Gulf of Alaska. And then south winds to building into all of North and Central CA Tuesday (2/25) but only 10 kts up north and 5 kts down south. Assuming the jet cooperates, another rain event is possible long term.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were in.cgiay. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing gale activity is forecast aimed up into our forecast area.
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 small gale is to develop 1000 nmiles north of Hawaii Sun AM (2/23) tracking east with 40-45 kt west winds over a tiny area with seas building from 24 ft at 38N 162W. 45 kt west winds building into the evening with seas building to barely 32 ft at 39N 155W targeting primarily the US West Coast (285 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds to be fading Mon AM (2/24) with 32 ft seas at 38N 149W (284 degs NCal). Fetch to be fading from there.
But another tiny gale is to develop in the same area Mon PM (2/25) 40 kts in the Gulf with winds to 40-45 kts over a small area and 30 ft seas near 40N 150W Tues PM (2/25) aimed east. This system is a long way from forming still but is worth watching. Small swell possible for the US West Coast.
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).
As of Tuesday (2/18) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 8.36. The 30 day average was down to 4.44 and the 90 day average up slightly to 6.31. This appears to finally be a reversal of an unexpected upward spike in the SOI during January tied to decreasing surface waters temps in the Central Equatorial Pacific. The near term trend based on the SOI was indicative of a new Active Phase of the MJO associated with a strong Westerly Wind Burst over the West Pacific in January. The longer term pattern was still indicative of the Inactive Phase, but was improving. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate.cgius strength westerly anomalies over the Maritime Continent continuing weakly westerly over the dateline. East anomalies were south of Hawaii midway to Central America, then turning neutral into Central America. The westerly anomalies are part of a new Active Phase of the MJO. They are situated directly over an area where a previous strong Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) started 1/8, peaking 1/28 and then faded while moving over the dateline. A week from now (2/26) strong westerly anomalies are forecast holding over the Maritime Continent fading on the dateline then turning light easterly south of Hawaii half way to Central America. Neutral anomalies are forecast from there into Central America. In all this suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was gaining control of the West Pacific to the dateline with the Inactive Phase holding over the Central Pacific. And with a previous WWB likely creating a large Kelvin Wave with yet another possible WWB setting up now, things are getting most interesting. Still, the cool pool in the Central Pacific is pe.cgiexing.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/17 are reasonably in agreement. Both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was rebuilding over the far West Pacific with the Inactive Phase all but gone over the Central Pacific. The statistic model suggests the Active Phase is peaked out and is to slowly fade over the next 15 days, never making it to the dateline. Conversely the dynamic model suggests the Active Phase peaking 5 days out then holding while slowly while tracking east to the dateline 15 days out. Either way some flavor of the Active Phase is projected, which is good news. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 2/18 suggests a stronger Active Phase was over the West Pacific and is to track east while holding, moving inland over Central America on Mar 12 or almost a month away. This is what we want to see if some flavor of El Nino were to develop. A modest Inactive Phase is to start developing in the far West Pacific 3/7 and track east, reaching the East Pacific at the end of the run or 3/30. Another Active Phase to follow directly. The consensus is that some prolonged Active Phase of the MJO is developing (which is good news) and is to hold for the next 3-4 weeks. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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 now (2/17) the ground truth is that a cool water regime continues to hold on the equator now starting along the coast of Peru and reaching east to 150W. This suggests the pools influence is tracking slow east. If anything it has strengthened in terms of coverage and concentration. This cool pool was likely the source of the rising SOI during later January. What remains pe.cgiexing is that a Westerly Wind Burst was occurring at the same time this cool regime developed. Water temps are -0.5 deg C below normal over that region extending to 170W, moderating some from a week ago. The pool of slightly warmer water that previously was on the equator nestled up to and off Ecuador, Chile and Peru has dissipated with cooler water taking root. Any previous suggestion of what looked like a weak El Nino signature has been erased in the mid-Pacific. The previous California cool.cgiume tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California is gone with warm waters continuing just off the North CA coast. Thousands of miles of warmer water lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast is moving east and almost reaching the coast. A sympathetic cool pool that had developed off Africa remains dissipated.
Current thinking by NOAA is that the cool pool in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific is tied to the upwelling (backside) of the previous Kelvin Wave currently impacting South America, and that as that portion of the wave moves inland, temperatures will rise again. But there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing from a surface water temp perspective. But there's also some suggestions that normal convergence point of an eastward shifted Walker Circulation might be developing on the dateline, with west anomalies west of it and east anomalies east of it, all converging and pushing up on the dateline itself. This would be expected if the early stages of El Nino were in.cgiay. But for now we'll remain conservative and suggest we are in a pure neutral pattern, with tendencies towards a cooler state in the east and downwelling and warmer temps in the west as of 2/17. Still, two back to back WWBs co.cgied with easterly anomalies directly east of them is suspicious.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator remain most impressive. Cooler than normal water (-2 deg c) that was 100m down at 110W (off Central America) has moderated to -1 C and moved to 100W. There's some signs the entire pool is still loosing it's grip. But for now this cool patch is continuing to block any warm flow trying to move east. But at the same time a large area of warm water at now up to 5 deg C is building under the dateline and increasing in temp and coverage with it's leading edge moving east now to 100W (+1 deg C) and is tracking under the cool pool. This is the start of a new large Kelvin Wave generated by 24 days of modest to strong westerly anomalies west of the dateline (a Westerly Wind Burst). All warm water from a previous Kelvin Wave is dissipated with the cool pool behind it a normal response to the previous warm wave. The hope is the January WWB over the Maritime Continent has set up another Kelvin Wave that will add more fuel to what is hopefully the start of at least a small warm event. The concern is that the current cool pool might try to put a cap on the upwhelling of this new Kelvin Wave as it tries to impact the South America coast. But it's still way too early to know with any certainty how this will.cgiay out. But signs remain promising.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 2/18 are holding steady. The model has been continuously suggesting some form of warming starting in Feb 2014 building to + 0.75-1.0 deg C by late July 2014. Recent runs are in the +1.0 deg C range by Oct 2014 (down from 1.3-1.4 C earlier). For the immediate future (this Winter) an effective neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering below +0.5 deg C through April. But a slow but steady increase is to set in. If anything, those increase are starting to appear on the current water temp.cgiots. A consensus of other models suggests slow warming, but not passing beyond mildly positive territory till Spring of next year.
Overall the immediate outlook remains nothing stellar, but trending towards something that would be considered right on the threshold of warm, by Summer 2014, assuming one were to believe the models. All this is good news. If anything the ocean is in a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts. We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern by early 2014. But, the recent developing cool pool at depth off Central America gives us cause for concern. The weak presence of the Inactive Phase of MJO in the summer of 2013 still seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. But with the ocean turning neutral, we suspect the atmosphere will make the turn as well over the next few months (into March 2014). This is a better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. It is becoming apparent we've finally recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
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