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 (2/26) in North and Central CA surf was chest to shoulder high and clean early but generally soft. Just windswell. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to waist high and clean but unremarkable. In Southern California up north surf was thigh to waist high, clean and rideable but nothing great. Down south waves were waist to near chest high and clean but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was modest sized and clean but a bit warbled with waves to head high to maybe 1 ft over and fun. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
No swell producing weather systems were occurring over the North Pacific. High pressure was building along the US West Coast setting up a pressure gradient and north winds with local short period north windswell in control. A tiny gale is to drop southeast from the northern dateline region Fri-Sat (2/28) resulting in a tiny area of 24 ft seas targeting Hawaii well. And a small gale is to develop off North Japan on Fri-Sat (2/28) producing a small area of 28 ft seas aimed east but not migrated even half way to the dateline. Perhaps more small swell to result for Hawaii. A small gale developed the Southeast Pacific on Mon-Tues (2/24) with 36 ft seas aimed north setting up semi decent early season summer swell targeting the US West Coast. But a quiet pattern is in.cgiay with the MJO now in the Inactive state. Spring has sprung.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (2/26) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan with winds 140 kts but .cgiitting just off the coast with the northern branch tracking northeast and pushing up into the Bering Sea near the dateline. The remaining energy tracked east pushing over the dateline then .cgiitting again over Hawaii with the northern branch pushing northeast and tracking into Washington, then falling south down the US West Coast. There was no support for gale development with the jet weak and fragmented. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with the jet .cgiit over Japan with the northern branch tracking up the Kurils and into the Bering Sea with the southern branch weak and tracking east over Hawaii. A bit of a transitory trough to form over the Kurils on Fri-Sat (2/28) with 120 kt winds feeding it offering a modicum of support for gale development. Beyond 72 hrs the same .cgiit pattern is to continue with no clear support for gale development over the North Pacific indicated.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (2/26) no swell producing weather systems were in.cgiay other than windswell for California. Small swell from a gale that tracked from Japan to the dateline Thurs-Sun (2/22) was fading out in Hawaii.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast other than windswell for California. Fetch from a pressure gradient along the California coast on Thurs (2/26) driven by high pressure at 1032 mbs off Cape Mendocino is to fade some with north winds 25-30 kts in the evening and windswell generation potential fading some but still present. High pressure is to elongate northward into the Northern Gulf on Fri AM (2/27) generating a broad fetch of 20-25 kt north winds extending from North Vancouver Island to the Channel Islands producing more windswell relative to Oregon and all of California holding reasonably into the evening. The gradient and north fetch is to consolidate Saturday (2/28) at 25 kts and up to 30 kts late becoming isolated to Cape Mendocino with 20 kt north fetch reaching south to offshore waters of Morro Bay resulting in more north windswell relative to California. The gradient to start fading Sun (3/1) with winds down to 20 kts late and mostly positioned well off the coast. Still, windswell development expected.
A tiny gale is forecast developing on the north dateline region on Fri AM (2/27) with 35 kt north winds over a tiny area falling south-southeast. By evening 40 kt north winds to be in.cgiay over a small area with 22 ft seas building at 41N 171W aimed south. 40 kt north winds to be falling south Sat AM (2/28) with 26 ft seas over a tiny area at 37N 170W targeting Hawaii (338 degs). Fetch is to be gone by the evening with seas fading fast from 20 ft at 35N 164W (342 degs). If all goes as expected some small swell is possible for the Islands early next week (Mon AM 3/2).
Also a small gale is forecast developing over North Japan on Fri AM (2/27) producing a small area of 40 kt west winds trying to get traction off North Japan. Winds to continue at 40 kts in the evening reaching out over exposed waters with seas building to 28 ft over a small area at 41N 155E. West winds fading from 35-40 kts Sat AM (2/28) with 26 ft seas fading at 41N 159E. This system to be gone by nightfall with no upper level support left over the North Pacific for gale development. 23 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 44N 163E. Maybe some swell to result for Hawaii.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/26) high pressure at 1034 mbs was holding just off Southern Oregon and building into North and Central CA at 25 kts. A fade is to start on Fri (2/27) but still 20-25 kt north winds are forecast for North and Central CA holding on Sat (2/28). A summer like gradient is in.cgiay. On Sun (3/1) 30 kt north winds are forecast over Cape Mendocino and 20-25 kts north winds well off the Central CA coast then fading some early Monday (3/2). But on Tuesday more high pressure and north winds are to build at 25 kts nearshore for all of North and Central CA, finally dissipating on Wed (3/4). Light winds by Thursday for all locations.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Early Season Gale
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Tues (3/3) at 4 PM with period 18 secs and size tiny but building (2.0 ft @ 18 secs - 3.5 ft). Swell to starting peaking near 3 AM on Wed (3/4) with pure swell 3.2 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft) and holding well through the day. Swell fading as period drops from 3 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5-5.0 ft) early on Thurs (3/5). Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
On Mon AM (2/23) a small gale started to develop in the South Central Pacific generating 35 kt southwest winds. By evening it was rapidly deepening with pressure 968 mbs forming a gradient with high pressure at 1028 mbs just east of New Zealand generating 50 kt south winds over a tiny area with 45 kt south winds over a modest area. Seas were building from 33 ft at 53S 143W (195 degs SCal, 193 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite confirmed seas at 32.5 ft with one reading to 35.7 ft where the model indicated 32 ft seas. The model slightly under-hyped it. On Tuesday AM (2/24) fetch was fading from 45 kts over a decent size area aimed north with 36 ft seas at 50S 135W (190 degs SCal, 188 degs SCal). On Tues PM winds were fading from 40 kts again aimed due north with seas fading from 30 ft at 48S 132W (190 degs SCal, 188 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the north quadrant and confirmed seas at 31.5 ft with one reading to 35.9 ft where the model suggested 30 ft seas. Again the model slightly under-hyped it. No additional fetch of interest occurred. A nice little early season pulse of southern hemi swell is expected to push north.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Tues (3/3) at 8 PM with period 18 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to starting peaking near 10 AM on Wed (3/4) with pure swell 2.7 ft @ 17 secs (4.5 ft). Swell fading from 2.9 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft) on Thurs (3/5) at noon. Swell Direction: 187-193 degrees
Otherwise 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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast. A far more limited windswell pattern is projected relative to California fading out on Tues (3/3).
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 (2/26) the daily SOI was holding at -12.80. The 30 day average was falling from -0.76 and the 90 day average was steady at -6.09. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a fading 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 (4 months). A weaker pressure pattern was over Tahiti but expected to build just slightly by the weekend (2/28) then fading some early next week with low pressure developing south of Tahiti. beyond high pressure is to regain some footing. SOI values increasing/decreasing with the local pressure pattern. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a small area of weak westerly anomalies were over the Maritime Continent building on the dateline and continuing south of Hawaii. East anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to a point south of Hawaii. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started on 1/15 finally faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but appears to be regenerating more to the east starting 2/25. This is already a decent event and supported Kelvin Wave development, with more support currently occurring. A week from now (3/6) modest westerly anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then fading at a point south of Hawaii. Light easterly winds to continue from there into the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to start migrating east a week out and fading only slightly.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/25 suggests a weak Inactive Phase was over Indonesia trying to push east but a weak Active Phase was still in control over the dateline. Beyond the Statistic model suggest the Inactive Phase is to push into the West Pacific 10-15 days out with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean, while the Dynamic model suggests a dead neutral pattern setting up 5 days out and holding through the 15 day mark. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/26 depicts a weak Active Phase in Central Pacific and slowly pushing east reaching Central America while fading through 3/16. A modest Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/13 and tracking east through 4/2. A weak Active Phase to follow in the West starting 3/28 and heading east. Our best guess is the MJO is falling into a weak and listless pattern having little positive influence on the storm track. It's not surprising given the time of the year. 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 (2/26) 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. But those pockets are loosing ground with warmer water encroaching from Chile northward. TAO data suggests 0.0-+0.5 anomalies are covering a region from Ecuador to roughly 145W with more solid +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 150W 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 stabilized at 0.7, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. The upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle briefly had an impact on water temps, but has lost ground. Still, this being a Modoki El Nino, cooler water would be expected in the NINO 1.2 area (near the Galapagos and Peruvian Coast).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming and expanding. As of 2/26 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a pocket of +3-4 deg anomalies continued building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has created a Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly May 1. Satellite data from 2/22 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm over and pushing 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 (2/22) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding between 155E-118W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-135W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies at 168W. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave is in flight. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21/14) 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 is actually occurring). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 2/20 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over patches in the West Pacific reaching east with less energy north of the equator in the East Pacific. But solid east current was in control over and south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets reaching to the Galapagos. No real easterly anomalies were present. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 2/26 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 +1.55 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