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 Saturday (3/15) in North and Central CA surf was maybe chest high and warbled and a bit wonky even with calm local winds and unremarkable. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high and clean but weak. In Southern California up north surf was waist high with some bigger sets and pretty nicely lined up with clean conditions early. Down south waves were waist high with a few chest high sets and clean but a bit weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting dateline swell with waves 3 ft overhead or so but a bit warbled with sideshore trades in effect and building. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were chest to head high and chopped with northeast trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A pair of weak fetch areas associated with a single gale tracked east over the dateline Tues-Wed (3/12) with 32-34 ft seas offering modest swell for both Hawaii and the US West Coast for the weekend. Remnants of that system redeveloped while tracking northeast through the eastern Gulf Fri-Sat (3/15) producing a tiny area of 44 ft seas aimed east. Swell expected for the US West Coast for late Sunday into Monday (3/17). And one last gale is forecast for the Northern Dateline Sun (3/16) with 34 ft seas aimed east. After that things really settle down.
Note: NDBC has updated their buoy maintenance .cgian. 46012, 46013, 46026 are scheduled for maintenance in May and 46014 in Aug 2014. There is no schedule for 46059 or 46006. Most operations are focused on repairing the TAO array (ENSO monitoring buoys on the equator).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/15) the jetstream was pushing off Japan near 30N with a thin stream of 150 kt winds then ridging slightly northeast before .cgiitting before reaching the dateline. The northern branch ridged up over the Central Aleutians then fell back south into the Gulf of Alaska while the southern branch fell southeast over Hawaii then rejoined the main flow in the Gulf. From there the jet ridged northeast up into British Columbia. There was only limited support for gale development in a pinched trough that was positioned just east of where the .cgiit jet re-merged. Over the next 72 hours energy level are to drop way off and below the critical 140 kt threshold by Monday (3/17) with the jet becoming diffuse. Some flavor of a consolidated flow to hold east of the dateline with a big .cgiit remaining over the East Pacific. No support for gale development is indicated. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to .cgiit just off Japan with 2 parallel flow tracking across the width of the North Pacific by Thurs (3/20) but with the northern branch starting to migrate northward, pushing up into the Bering Sea by Sat (3/22). A weak return flow is forecast falling into the Gulf perhaps offering a slight opportunity for low pressure to form there. But overall support for gale development is to drop off.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/15) swell associated with a gale that tracked over the dateline (Tues-Wed 3/12) was hitting Hawaii and weakly bound for the US West Coast (see Dateline Gale below). Also swell from a gale that formed in the Gulf was pushing towards the US West Coast.
Over the next 72 hours another broad gale is forecast developing just east of Kamchatka and south of the Aleutians on Saturday AM (3/15) producing 35 kt west winds and building some into the evening with winds to 40 kts and tracking east. Seas building from 32 ft at 49N 169E over a small area. This system is to track flat east Sun AM (3/16) with 40-45 kt west winds holding and seas building to 34 ft at 50N 177E. 40 kt west winds to be tracking east Sun PM and fading in coverage with seas fading from 32 ft at 50N 174W. A quick fade to follow. No additional swell producing fetch is forecast. One last pulse of 17-18 sec period swell could result, mainly for the US West Coast targeting NCal from 308 degrees and well decayed upon arrival.
Another small gale is to try and build just east of the Southern Kuril Islands Mon AM (3/17) with 40 kt northwest winds while the gale itself lifts quickly northeast. The gale is to be moving into the far western Bering Sea Tues PM (3/18). Sea are to peak Monday PM at 28 ft over a tiny area at 43N 167E targeting mainly Hawaii down the 315 degree path. Maybe small 15 sec periods well to result there.
A tiny gale developed west of the dateline Tues AM (3/11) with 45 kt west winds tracking flat east and seas 32 ft over an infinitesimal area at 42N 176E (295 degs NCal) with a secondary fetch and 34 ft seas at 35N 163E. This gale tracked flat east with winds fading to 40 kts in the PM with seas fading to 30 ft at 43N 180W (295 degs NCal) and again back at 35N 160E (299 degs HI). 45 kt west winds rebuilt in the main fetch over tiny area tracking east Wed AM (3/12) with seas 34 ft moving up to 43N 176W (296 degs NCal) and the secondary fetch providing 28 ft seas at 34N 165E (299 degs HI). More of the same is occurred in the evening with 40 kt west winds in the 2 fetch areas tracing east with seas 36 ft up at 42N 168W (293 degs NCal) and 24 ft in the secondary fetch at 35N 174E (304 degs HI). The more southerly fetch is to target Hawaii with the northerly fetch targeting the US West Coast. But relative to the US West Coast, the fetch is to be so small and so far away as to be negligible. Both system were fading Thurs AM (3/13) with 29 ft seas up at 42N 160W (291 degs NCal) and 20 ft seas down at 35N 176W (314 degs HI). Limited sideband swell for Hawaii with more direct energy for the US West Coast, but well decayed upon arrival assuming all goes as forecast.
Hawaii: Expect swell fading some Saturday (3/15) at 6 ft @ 14 secs (8.5 ft) with secondary swell (from the northern more fetch) arriving at 4.5 ft @ 14-15 secs early (6.5 ft) from 330 degrees. Swell fading from 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft) on Sunday (3/16). Swell Direction: 300-310 degrees
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Saturday (3/15) mid-AM building to 5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 296 degrees
Remnants of the Dateline Gale (above) started redeveloping north of Hawaii on Thurs PM (3/13) with 45 kt west winds building over a small area and seas regenerating from 26 ft down at 38N 167W. Winds built to 50-55 kts Fri AM (2/14) as the gale started lifting gently northeast aimed due east with seas building to 37 ft at 39N 157W (284 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). The fetch continued lifting northeast in the evening with northwest winds 50 kts and seas 45 ft up at 42N 150W (291 degs NCal and 1295 nmiles out, 297 degs SCal). 40 kt west winds were lifting north Sat AM (3/15) with 36 ft seas at 44N 143W (299 degs NCal) and targeting primarily the Pacific Northwest but energy down to Central CA. This system is to fade fast thereafter.
This system is expected to produce another short pulse of energetic swell for the US West Coast mainly from Pt Conception northward starting late Sunday into Monday (3/17).
North CA: Expect swell arrival Sun (3/16) late morning with period 20 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to peak at sunset with pure swell 9.2 ft @ 17 secs (15-16 ft). Swell fading some overnight as period drops off. Swell down to 8 ft @ 15 secs (12 ft) by sunrise Mon (3/17). Swell Direction: 288-291 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (3/15) high pressure at 1026 mbs was trying to ridge into the North CA coast. North winds at 10-15 kts were in.cgiay for North and most of Central CA offshore locations but calmer nearshore. Southern CA was protected. On Sunday the high is to be ridging onshore more but with a lighter northerly flow over outer waters. A new high pressure system is to sneak in Monday generating 20 kt north winds for all of North and Central CA weakening slightly on Tuesday but still 15+ kts nearshore everywhere north of Pt Conception. A summer like gradient to persist over Cape Mendo on Wed with 25 kt north winds there and 10-15 kts down to PT Conception building to 30 kts on Thursday over Cape Mendo. The gradient to slowly fade Friday into Saturday. It looks like Spring is taking root.
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 high pressure at 1032 mbs is to start taking over the dateline Fri-Sat (3/22) locking down the North Pacific from storm development.
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 Saturday (3/15) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down to -25.99. The 30 day average was down some to -8.24 and the 90 day average down slightly to 1.18. The near term trend based on the SOI was indicative of the Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a small area of weak easterly anomalies over the far Western Maritime Continent with a small area of weak westerly anomalies over the dateline holding to a point south of Hawaii. Weak east anomalies were near 140W then faded to neutral from there to Central America. The westerly anomalies are part of the current Active Phase of the MJO. A week from now (3/22) weak west anomalies are forecast taking root again over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline and extending to a point south of Hawaii. Modest easterly anomalies are to hold over an increasing area east of there extending almost into Central America. In all this suggests a neutral Phase of the MJO was in control of the West Pacific and dateline regions but with the Active Phase possibly rebuilding a week out. This setup is very interesting with a previous WWB having likely created a large Kelvin Wave tracking towards South America in January (starting 1/8, peaking 1/28 then fading the first week of Feb) followed by a second strong WWB in Feb-Mar (as strong as the first one starting 2/15 and peaking 2/20-3/2 then faded 3/10) setting up and offering yet more potential to transport warm water east. And if yet a third westerly wind burst occurs as forecast, this would be significant. Certainly something to monitor. Of historical note: The big El Nino's of 82/32 and 97/98 both started forming in the February timeframe and progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months. Still the cool pool in the Central Pacific remains pe.cgiexing (more below).
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/14 remain diametrically opposed. They both initially suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was over the dateline and fading with a modest Inactive Phase trying to build from the Eastern Indian Ocean into the West Pacific. 5 days out the statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to be all but gone while tracking east with a strong Inactive Phase moving from the Indian Ocean into the West Pacific and getting stronger and approaching the dateline 15 days out. This would be the normal progression in a normal year. Conversely the dynamic model (GEFS) suggests the Active Phase has also peaked over the dateline and is to slowly fade there 4-5 days out, but giving up no ground and if anything retrograding and rebuilding 8-15 days out keeping the Inactive Phase bottled up over Indonesia for the next 15 days. Clearly the dynamic model output is what we are hoping to see, but we have no sense this will really occur. The ultra long range upper level model is updating again and suggests the Active Phase is to push east from the Central Pacific and move into South America 3/30 while a very weak Inactive Phase tries to build but gets no legs. A neutral pattern to hold 3/30-4/14. Then a very weak Active Phase is to develop over the West Pacific 4/9 tracking east into 4/24 reaching the Central Pacific. . The consensus is that the current Active Phase of the MJO is likely done and is fading and the next 5-7 days are critical in determining the long term evolution of a warmer pattern. 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 (3/13) a cool water regime that has set up in the equatorial East Pacific continues to be fading over the eastern equatorial Pacific and is almost dissipated. If anything warm water from the north is cutting off the flow pushing northwest off Peru to the Galapagos, with at least a neutral temperature pattern suggested there if not warming slightly. The only cool water remaining is from the Galapagos westward to a point south of Hawaii, remnants of a previous push of cool water. This cool pool was likely the source of the rising SOI during January. What remains pe.cgiexing is that a Westerly Wind Burst was occurring at the same time (in Jan) this cool regime developed. And the cool pool held if not built more while yet another Westerly Wind Burst developed in Feb-Mar. The previous California cool.cgiume tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California is gone with very warm waters pushing into the North CA coast and building down to the equator. In fact, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water as is the West Pacific (north and south). This is good news. A sympathetic cool pool that had developed off Africa remains dissipated.
Current thinking by NOAA and others 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 an equal argument that suggest the cool pool is tied to easterly anomalies over the East Equatorial Pacific. With easterly anomalies forecast to rebuild in this region over the next week, it will be interesting to see if the cool anomalies reemerge. This would lend credence to the theory that the 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 upwards on the dateline itself. If anything this convergence point appears to be migrating slowly to the east. 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 warmer state (but not realized yet) with upwelling in the east and downwelling and warmer temps in the west as of 3/15. Still, two back-to-back strong WWBs co.cgied with easterly anomalies directly east of them cannot be ignored.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator are of most interest and remain most impressive. Of Note: A NOAA ship has reached the eastern equator region and has started working on the TOA buoy array. The first and second row in the array (95W and 110W) returned to operation on Fri (3/14) with sensors again starting to report water temps at depth. This is a good and critical step forward in monitoring eastbound Kelvin Wave activity. With this new data it has become apparent that cooler than normal water (-2 deg C) that was 100m down at 110W (off Central America) has moderated to near neutral and appears to be being overrun by warmer water with a pocket of +2 degree water there 50 meters down. The hard barrier between warmer water at depth and cooler waters at the surface in the east Pacific has been broken. If anything, more surface warming seem imminent. Of great interest is a large area of very warm 5 deg C above normal water in.cgiace and believed to be tracking east with it's core 150 meters down at 155W with it's leading edge at 120W (+1 deg C) and is tracking east. Given the lack of sensors between 150W and 120W exact details concerning the leading edge remain sketchy. Regardless, a large Kelvin Wave has been generated by 24 days of modest to strong westerly anomalies west of the dateline in January (a Westerly Wind Burst) and was likely reinforced by a second WWB in Feb-Mar. The hope is the developing Kelvin Wave under the mid equatorial Pacific will fuel to what is hopefully the start of at least a small warm event. But it's still way too early to know with any certainty how this will.cgiay out but all signs suggest something positive developing.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 3/15 have rebounded. The model has been continuously suggesting some form of warming starting in Feb 2014 (but that did not happen) building to +0.25 deg C by late July 2014. Recent runs are back up to +1.4 deg C range by Oct 2014 (down from 1.3-1.4 C earlier). For the immediate future (this Spring) an effective neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering below +0.5 deg C until April 1. But starting then a slow and 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. Regardless of the WWBs etc, we are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for the Spring of 2014 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern developing by May. Still the cool pool at depth off Central America gives us cause for concern. But this is a better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. It seems 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 though there's increasing chatter that it could be as early as 2014 - which would be an anomaly in itself). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms). We've turned the corned, but it is still unknown what impact it will have on the atmosphere especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
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