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 (3/24) in North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft over, and bigger early. A modest onshore texture was in.cgiay from light west winds. It's rideable but not much more. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high on the sets and clean and weak. In Southern California up north surf was waist to maybe chest high and very soft looking like pure windswell, but somewhat clean though lots of intermixed lump was present. Down south waves were chest high and nearly chopped, but lined up coming from the west. Hawaii's North Shore was small with chest high sets and very clean, but weak and inconsistent. A beautiful looking day though. The South Shore was getting southern hemi swell from ET PAM at shoulder to maybe head high on the sets and clean. An early taste of Summer. The East Shore was flat with no windswell of interest indicated and clean with no trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a small gale that tracked east through the Gulf Fri-Sat (3/21) while pushing east with 20-22 ft seas was hitting the US West Coast. Another gale was pushing east through the Gulf on Tues-Wed (3/26) with a small area of 22 ft seas targeting mainly the US West Coast. And another gale is forecast forming off North Japan on Wed (3/5) tracking east over the dateline with 26 ft seas late Thurs (3/26), then pushing up into the Gulf of Alaska on Sat (3/28) with 20 ft seas. Possible swell for HI and CA. In all, steady small surf from the west and northwest is likely. But after that a quieter pattern is projected. Swell from the remnants of Super Pam that tracked through the Southwest Pacific producing 39 ft seas on Wed (3/18) was hitting Hawaii. This system tracked east and rebuilt Fri-Sun (3/22) in the East Pacific with seas building to 42 ft aimed east-northeast. Small swell is heading towards the US West Coast. The models suggest a slowly building pattern in the southern hemi long term.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (3/24) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan and consolidated with winds building to 150 kts over a broad area ridging slightly over the dateline, then weakening and falling southeast forming a weak trough north of Hawaii, then ridging again pushing up into and over the Pacific Northwest. Limited support for gale development was occurring in the Hawaiian trough. Over the next 72 hours wind energy is to build to 180 kts over the dateline ridging slightly northeast through Thurs (3/26), then falling southeast into a pinched trough with it's apex 600 nmiles northeast of Hawaii, then .cgiitting with most energy ridging hard northeast up into British Columbia. Limited support for gale development over the dateline easing east into Friday (3/27) with winds building there to 190 kts. Beyond 72 hrs the jet is to be weak and .cgiit over the West Pacific consolidating Saturday north of Hawaii with winds to 140 kts barely forming a trough, then .cgiitting again at 140W with energy pushing up into British Columbia and down into Baja. But after that the jet is to weaken substantially and almost .cgiit in pockets across it's width Mon (3/30) and only continuing that pattern into early Wed (3/1) offering no support for gale development. The close of the 2014-2015 Winter Season appears to be at hand.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (3/24) residual swell from a previous Gulf Gale was hitting Southern CA and moderating in North CA (see Gulf Gale below). A new gale was tracking through the Gulf (see Another Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours
South CA: 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
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).
Another Gulf Gale
A broad area of low pressure started building in the Gulf of Alaska on Tues AM (3/24) producing 35 kt northwest winds positioned due north of Hawaii with seas building from 17 ft. Winds to hold while tracking east in the evening with seas on the increase, building to 22 ft at 40N 156W targeting the US West Coast (286 degs NCal). The gale is to be tracking northeast Wed AM (3/25) with east with winds fading from 30 kts and sea fading from 20 ft at 41N 150W targeting only the US West Coast (285 degs NCal). This system is to be gone after that. Assuming all goes as forecast some modest swell to possibly result for NCal on Sat (3/28). Something to monitor.
West Pacific Gale
Another gale is forecast forming over the Kuril Islands Wed AM (3/25) with 35-40 kt northwest winds and seas building while pushing east. 35 kt west winds to hold in the evening with seas building from 21 ft over a small area at 36N 159E targeting Hawaii. 35 kt west winds to hold Thurs AM (3/26) with 24 ft seas at 38N 167E. 35 kt west winds to hold in the evening with seas 26 ft at 38N 174E. 30-35 kts west winds to race into the Western Gulf on Fri AM (3/27) with seas from the original fetch fading from 20 ft at 40N 180W and a new fetch building east of it with winds 35 kts and seas building to 20 ft over a small area at 41N 158W. Generic 30-35 kt west fetch to continue pushing east from there over a fragmented area generating 24 ft seas tracking northeast up into the Gulf into Sat (3/28), then fading late. Something to monitor relative to both Hawaii and the US West Coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storm activity is being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/24) high pressure was in control off California generating 20-25 kt north winds off Pt Conception, but light from San Francisco northward. North winds to 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 building late, pushing 15-20 kts on Saturday (3/28) and up to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino. A summer like gradient to continue Sunday at up to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino falling south and covering all of North and Central CA Mon (3/30) and Tuesday.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is occurring nor forecast to occur over the next 72 hours.
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 shadow 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 (184 degs NCal, 187 degs SCal) aimed northeast with seas from previous fetch still 42 ft at 41S 127W. More 45 kt southwest fetch continued in the evening with 38 ft seas at 40S 125W pushing northeast. Fetch was fading from 40 kts Sun AM (3/22) with 32 ft seas fading at 46S 125W and 38S 120W aimed from California southward though most energy was targeting Peru.
Swell from all positions to be hitting California at the same time, making for a spread of directions.
Hawaii: Swell arrival started Tues (3/24) with swell 2.4 ft @ 16 secs late (4 ft). Swell to continue Wed (3/25) with swell fading from 2.4 ft @ 14-15 secs early (3.5 ft). Residuals fading from early Thurs (3/26) at 1.9 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 190-197 degrees
South CA: Swell arrival expected Fri AM (3/27) with swell 2 ft @ 20 secs (4 ft) and inconsistent but starting to build late. Swell to become solid Sat AM (3/28) at 3 ft at 17-18 secs peaking late at 3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.5-6.0 ft with sets to 7 ft). Swell holding near 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5 ft with sets to 6 ft) through the day Sun (3/29). Swell fading from 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) Mon (3/30). Swell fading from 3 ft @ 14 secs Tues (4 ft). Swell Direction: Primarily 185-195 degrees but some energy at 218 degrees.
North CA: Swell arrival expected Fri (3/27) building to 2.3 ft @ 20 secs (4.5 ft) late. Swell to become solid Sat AM (3/28) at 2.6 ft at 18-19 secs (4.5-5.0 ft with sets to 6 ft). Sun (3/29) swell holding near 2.7 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.5 ft). Mon (3/30) swell fading from 3 ft @ 16 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 6 ft). Swell fading from 2.6 ft @ 14-15 secs Tues (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: Primarily 184-194 degrees but some energy at 215 degrees.
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.
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 (3/24) the daily SOI was up at 3.70. The 30 day average was falling from -10.94 and the 90 day average was up some at -6.61. 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 slowly track southeast. Steady modestly negative SOI values are possible. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate westerly anomalies were still over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then continuing from there to a point south of Hawaii. Weak west anomalies continued near the Galapagos Islands too. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate.cgius strength 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 3/23. 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 (4/1) weak westerly anomalies are to continue in pockets over the East Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline. Weak east anomalies are forecast south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are expected from there to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to be fading a week out. This was 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 3/23 suggests a solid Active Phase of the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) was fading 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 dissipate a week out while the Inactive Phase starts pushing into the West Pacific in the moderate to strong category 7 days out and continuing east through the next 15 days. The Dynamic model suggests the Active Phase also fading while pushing east, completely gone 8 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 3/24 depicts a weak Active Phase fading out in the East Pacific. A modest Inactive Phase is entering the West Pacific tracking east, and is to be fading with it's remnants eventually pushing into Central America 4/15. Another moderate Active Phase to start developing in the West Pacific on 4/13 pushing east and holding reaching the East Pacific on 5/3. And Inactive Phase is to follow. 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 (3/23) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific. Now warmer water is starting to get traction along the Peruvian Coast pushing north up to the equator. TAO data suggests 0.0-+0.5 anomalies are building over the entire equatorial East Pacific with warmer anomalies at +0.5-1.0 degs building eastward from 120W 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 +0.6 degs, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue warming and expanding. As of 3/24 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 155W, 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. But according to TAO data, warm water is already rushing east, starting to flow into the Galapagos ahead of schedule. 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 3/24 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 +1.4 degs C, and continuing to +1.9 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. The mid-March consensus Plume suggests a continuation of Modoki ENSO. 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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