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 (3/21) in North and Central CA surf was head high with a few overhead peaks and clean with a little lump underneath but not bad. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to head high on the biggest peaks and clean but generally soft. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and clean and rideable coming from the west. Down south waves were waist high and soft with a little texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more sideband Gulf windswell with waves head high and pretty clean early with trades in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting the same Gulf sideband swell with waves waist to chest high and chopped with east-northeast trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Generic windswell from a weak and fragmented gale that was in the Gulf the past week is hitting California and Hawaii but unremarkable. Of slightly more interest is a small gale that fell southeast from the North Dateline region on Wed (3/18) with 20 ft seas pushing towards Hawaii, then faded but was reinforced on Fri-Sat (3/21) while pushing east with 20-22 ft seas targeting the US West Coast. Slightly more energetic but still small swell is expected for both locales. Perhaps some stronger gale activity to follow in the Gulf on Tues-Wed (3/26) with a small area of 28 ft seas developing targeting both Hawaii and the US West Coast with a less defined but broader area of 20-22 ft seas tracking over the dateline Thurs-Sat (3/28) pushing up into the Gulf of Alaska. In all, a steady diet of small but rideable surf from the west and northwest appears likely. And the remnants of Super Pam tracked through the Southwest Pacific driven by the jetstream producing 39 ft seas on Wed (3/18), then fading while tracking east, but rebuilding Fri-Sun (3/22) in the East Pacific with seas building to 42 ft aimed east-northeast. Small swell is heading towards Hawaii and the US West Coast but the focus is South America.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (3/21) the jet was tracking flat east off Southern Japan with winds barely 140 kts in one small pocket there but quickly falling to the 80-90 kt range and loosing a little cohesiveness over the dateline, then reconsolidating some and pushing directly up to North-Central CA and moving inland there. A faint dip in the jet was present mid-way between Hawaii and California suggestive of a weak trough. But with only 110 kt winds flowing into it, no real support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours wind energy is to build somewhat in the jet in the west with 160 kts winds projected just east of Japan by Tues (3/24) ridging slightly then falling southeast some over the dateline forming a weak trough northwest of Hawaii. But winds are to fade just east of the apex of that weak trough dropping to 80 kts then ridging slightly and pushing into Southern Oregon. Still there is to be some building support for gale development possible just east of the dateline. Beyond 72 hrs winds are to continue building east of Japan into Thursday (3/26) ridging slightly northeast at 180 kts not forming a trough yet, then .cgiitting just east of Hawaii supporting high pressure off California. That wind pocket is to track east and slowly loose energy by Sat (3/28) with it's core due north of Hawaii and winds down to barely 140 kts still having not formed a legitimate trough. The .cgiit point in the East Pacific is to get pushed east to 140W still supporting high pressure off California. But the pattern and energy levels looking weakly supportive of gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (3/21) remnant low pressure from a weak gale that tracked from the North Dateline to the Gulf Wed-Fri (3/20) was still circulating in the Eastern Gulf (see Gulf Gale below) but was no longer producing winds capable of generating swell. Weak windswell from a previous fragmented gale in the Gulf was still hitting Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Over the next 72 hours a broad area of low pressure is to start building in the Gulf of Alaska on Tues AM (3/24) producing 40+ kts northwest winds with seas building from 22 ft at 40N 166W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Winds to hold while falling southeast some in the evening with seas on the increase, building to 28 ft at 39N 161W again targeting the 2 previous targets. The gale is to be tracking east with a core of 35-40 kt west winds holding Wed AM (3/25) with seas fading some from 26 ft at 39N 153W targeting only the US West Coast now. The gale is to be fading in the evening while lifting northeast with winds dropping from 30 kts and seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 147W. This system is to be gone after that. Assuming all goes as forecast some decent but modest swell to possibly result with period in the 14-15 sec range. Something to monitor.
A gale developed in the Gulf Wed AM (3/18) producing 35 kt northwest winds just south of the Eastern Aleutians generating 20 ft seas at 47N 172W targeting Hawaii somewhat. Fetch faded from 30-35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 45N 170W (340 degs HI). The gale dissipated from there but low pressure continued circulating in the Gulf. Secondary fetch tracked east over the dateline Thursday AM (3/19) and became absorbed into the remnant Gulf low Thurs PM (3/19) with fetch building from 35 kts aimed east and seas building from 20 ft at 39N 172W (332 degs HI). By Fri AM (3/20) 35-40 kt west winds continued tracking east over the Central Gulf producing 22 ft seas at 37N 161W aimed mainly at the US West Coast (348 degs HI, 280 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). Winds were fading from 30-35 kts in the evening with 20 ft seas at 38N 152W targeting Central CA well (NCal 280 degs, 290 degs SCal). The gale lifted northeast Sat AM (3/21) with winds fading from 25-30 kts with 18 ft seas fading at 40N 147W (285 degs NCal). Possible sideband swell for Hawaii Sat PM (3/21) with more direct energy for Central and North CA on Mon (3/23).
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sat sunset (3/21) at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs (6 ft) peaking overnight then fading Sun AM (3/22) from 4.3 ft @ 12 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 330-340 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon AM (3/23) peaking near 6 ft @ 12-13 secs mid-day (7.5 ft). swell fading Tues AM (3/24) from 5 ft @ 11-12 secs (6 ft). Swell Direction: 285 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Mon evening after dark (3/23) peaking near sunrise Tues AM (3/24) at 3.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.0 ft). Residuals continuing on Wed AM (3/25) at 2.6-2.8 ft @ 11-12 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 288-290 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm activity is being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (3/19) a weak pressure pattern was in control locally off California with low pressure in the Gulf pushing east. Winds were light north along the immediate coast 5 kts or so. Light west winds are forecast Sunday along the entire CA coast as low pressure moves inland over Oregon. Light rain building for North CA Sunday late afternoon reaching Pt reyes near 10 PM, then slowly fading overnight. 5-10 kt west winds are expected for North and Central CA on Monday but up to 20 kts for Pt Conception. Light rain projected from Cape Mendocino down to Pt Arena all day. High pressure takes control on Tuesday (3/24) with 25 kt north winds for Pt Conception but generally light from San Francisco northward. Light rain for Cape Mendocino all day. North winds build over all of North and Central CA on Wed (3/25) at 15-20 kts then fading to 10-15 kts Thursday. North winds continuing Friday at 10-15 kts from Pt Conception northward and 15-20 kts on Saturday (3/28).
Surface Analysis - The extratropical remnants of what was Super Typhoon Pam on Tues AM (3/17) were just east of Central New Zealand producing 50-55 kt west winds and seas to 34 ft at 41S 171W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast somewhat (190 degs HI, 215 degs NCal, 218 degs SCal), but mainly aimed east of the great circle tracks up there. 45-50 kt west winds held over a small area in the evening with 32 ft seas continuing at 42S 170W aimed like before. More of the same occurred Wed AM (3/18) with 45-50 kt west winds and 38 ft seas at 42S 169W aimed east and higher seas aimed southeast (towards Antarctica) (190 degs HI, 215 degs NCal, 218 degs SCal). Fetch was fading in the evening with seas aimed more southeast than east. Maybe 32 ft seas aimed east at 42S 163W. Limited odds for small sideband swell pushing north towards Hawaii and the US West Coast. Better odds for Central America and points southward.
This system tracked east traveling through the tahiti swell shadowed relative to California with seas in the 32-36 ft range, then regenerated Fri PM (3/20) with 50-55 kt south winds building and 40 ft seas developing over a tiny area at 42S 136W aimed east-northeast (189 degs NCal, 192 degs SCal). Additional 45-50 kt south fetch developed Sat AM (3/21) feeding up into the core fetch with seas building from 36 ft at 42S 133W (187 degs NCal, 184 degs SCal) aimed northeast with seas from previous fetch still 42 ft at 41S 127W. More 45 kt southwest fetch is forecast in the evening with 42 ft seas at 40S 125W pushing northeast. Fetch is to be fading from 40 kts Sun AM (3/22) with 34 ft seas fading at 45S 120W aimed from California southward though most energy to be targeting Peru.
Something to monitor.
Over the next 72 hours 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 another gale is forecast forming over the Kuril Islands Wed AM (3/25) with 35 kt northwest winds and seas building while pushing east. 40 kt west winds to hold in the evening with seas building from 22 ft over a small area at 37N 158E targeting Hawaii. 35-40 kt west winds to hold Thurs AM (3/26) with 22 ft seas at 37N 162E. 35 kt west winds to hold in the evening with seas 22 ft at 35N 170E. The main fetch is to fade on the dateline Fri AM (3/27) with a new fetch building east of it with winds 35 kts and seas building to 24 ft over a small area at 43N 160W. Generic 35 kt west fetch to continue pushing east from there generating 20 ft seas pushing northeast up into the Gulf into Sat (3/28). Something to monitor relative to both Hawaii and 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).
(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 Saturday (3/21) the daily SOI was down some at -18.80. The 30 day average was falling from -8.81 and the 90 day average was falling at -7.63. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a building Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady state Active Phase of the MJO. Weak lower pressure was holding west of Tahiti and expected to hold into Mon (3/23) and beyond, possibly coalescing into a tropical storm late in the workweek. Steady modestly negative SOI values are possible. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a moderate westerly anomalies were still over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then continuing from there to a point southeast of Hawaii. Weak west anomalies continued near the Galapagos Islands too. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area extending to a point south of Hawaii. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) started on 1/15 then faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but regenerated on 2/25 positioned more to the east building to the strong category on 3/7. It peaked on 3/10 but held solidly to 3/17. A more modest version of it continued into 3/21. This is already a decent event before it rebuilt on 3/7 and was supporting Kelvin Wave development. But with these additional strong west winds, far more warm water transport is now in progress. A week from now (3/28) weak westerly anomalies are to continue over the East Maritime Continent building to modest strength on the dateline continuing to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are expected from there to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to start fading on the dateline a week out. This is a significant WWB and moving into the range of the historic event of last year at this same time.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 3/19 suggests a solid Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was in.cgiay over the dateline while a very strong Inactive Phase was over the Eastern Indian Ocean. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to start fading while barely moving east, completely gone 15 days out south of Hawaii. Meanwhile the Inactive Phase is to be pushing into the West Pacific in the moderate to strong category starting 10 days out. The Dynamic model suggests the Active Phase also fading while pushing east, completely gone 10 days out. But this model suggests the Inactive Phase is to totally dissipate too, with a dead neutral pattern in.cgiay 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/21 depicts a weak Active Phase fading out in the East Pacific. A strong Inactive Phase is to enter the West Pacific 3/24 tracking east and fading, pushing into Central America 4/15. Another moderate Active Phase to start developing in the West Pacific on 4/10 pushing east and holding reaching the East Pacific on 4/30. A very active MJO pattern is projected. 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 (3/19) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific. A pocket of cooler water along the Peruvian Coast advecting west over the Galapagos was fading with warmer water starting to di.cgiace it. TAO data suggests 0.0-+0.5 anomalies are building over a region from Ecuador to roughly 130W with warm anomalies at +0.5-1.0 degs building eastward from 130W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies on the dateline. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are holding at +0.5 degs, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. With 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 continue warming and expanding. As of 3/21 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continues building in coverage now positioned at 150W, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has created a Kelvin Wave. And with strong westerly anomalies now in.cgiay in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area, additional warming is expected beyond. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Satellite data from 3/14 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm over and pushing from west of the dateline to a point south of Mexico with a building peak to +10 cm from 170E to 135W, indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. Neutral anomalies cover from 110W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (3/14) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding while easing east between 163E-108W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 168E-118W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies from 137W-172E. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave, and strong at that, 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 3/12 was more encouraging than previous indications. 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. A very weak east current was in control south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - strong west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets south of Hawaii, then moving back centered on the equator in the East.
This data suggests a general west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 3/21 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 +1.2 degs C, and continuing to +1.7 degs by Nov, then dropping off. 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