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.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 5.3 ft @ 7.7 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 8.1 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.6 ft @ 7.0 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 12.9 secs. Wind northwest 8-10 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 1.1 ft @ 14.3 secs from 250 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.3 ft @ 14.7 secs from 210 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.3 ft @ 13.9 secs from 214 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 8.6 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 5.9 ft @ 12.5 secs. Wind south 16-20 kts. Water temp 54.1 degs.
On Sunday (4/5) in North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and pretty warbled from south winds at exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high and clean but weak but consistent. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and weak with texture and some warble intermixed. Down south waves were waist to chest high and trashed by south winds. Hawaii's North Shore was getting wrap around windswell at waist to chest high of so on the sets and warbled from brisk trades. The South Shore was pretty much near flat with occasional waist high sets coming through and clean. The East Shore was getting 2 ft overhead east windswell and chopped from brisk trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
High pressure remained in control in the Gulf of Alaska with low pressure pushing down the Pacific Northwest coast only generating local wind. Swell from a s small gale that tracked through the Northern Gulf Wed-Thurs (4/2) with 20-22 ft seas was hitting California modestly. Also swell from a gale that developed over a brief window off Japan Thurs (4/2) with 26 ft seas aimed south was pushing minimal sideband energy towards Hawaii arriving on Mon (4/6). Another gale to develop off Kamchatka Sat (4/4) tracking northeast generating 22 ft seas briefly, then faded while impacting the Central Aleutians on Sun (4/5). No swell of interest to result. Down south a weak gale pushed under New Zealand on Wed (4/1) with 36 ft seas tracking flat east but quickly fading. Sideband swell is in the water pushing northeast. Longer term 2 tiny gales are forecast, one in the Southeast Pacific on Tues (4/7) with 36 ft seas mainly targeting Chile and Peru, and another east of New Zealand possible on Sat (4/11) with 38 ft seas aimed northeast. But both are to be tiny in areal coverage meaning swell production will be hampered and limited. We're in that awkward time between seasons.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Sunday (4/5) the jet was .cgiit tracking off Asia with the southern branch pushing off the Northern Philippines tracking east over Hawaii and into Baja and weak while the northern branch tracked off the Northern Kuril Islands with winds to 140 kts, but fading quickly while tracking over the Aleutians before diving south in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska with winds 90 kts forming a trough off Oregon, then pushing inland over Central CA. Limited support for low pressure development in that trough. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast but with winds in the northern branch building to 130 kts on Tues (4/7) but lifting north more and tracking through the Bering Sea while the trough off Oregon pushes inland over Central CA. A new trough is to try and build in the Central Gulf on wed (4/8) but somewhat pinched off offering only limited support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the northern branch is to fall south some, but still landlocked by the Aleutians. A bit of a trough is to hold in the far Eastern Pacific off British Columbia down into California perhaps offering some support for weather, but nothing that would be considered a real gale. And then on Sun (4/12) another trough is forecast starting to build in the Gulf theoretically supported by 130 kts winds flowing into it. Perhaps more weather for the US West Coast with luck. Very drop counts.
Surface Analysis - On Sunday (4/5) high pressure at 1032 mbs was in the Southwestern Gulf of Alaska while very weak low pressure was off Oregon and another in the Bering Sea, remnants of a gale previously off Kamchatka (see Kamchatka Gale below). Also small swell from a gale that developed in the West Pacific was pushing towards Hawaii (see West Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
West Pacific Gale
Another gale developed Wed PM (4/1) in the West Pacific with 40 kt north winds developing off Japan. This system tracked east Thurs AM (4/2) with 45 kt north-northwest winds over a small area generating 23 ft at 37N 158E. Winds to fade fast in the evening from 35 kts with seas dropping from 27 ft at 35N 163E targeting Hawaii somewhat down the 299 degree track though aimed more south of there. This system is to be gone by Fri AM (4/3) with seas fading from 20 ft at 32N 168E. Perhaps small swell for Hawaii to result.
Hawaii: Small mostly shadowed sideband swell expected for Oahu arriving later Mon (4/6) building to 1.5 ft @ 15 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell fading Tues AM (4/7) from 1.7 ft @ 13 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 299-303 degrees
A small gale developed just off Kamchatka Sat PM (4/4) tracking northeast. 40 kt west winds were getting traction on the oceans surface just south of the Western Aleutians generating 22 ft seas at 48N 166E targeting mainly the Aleutians. By Sun AM (4/5) that fetch was down to 30 kts and lifting up into the Bering Sea with 20 ft seas at 50N 172E mostly shadowed to everyone by the Central Aleutians. Beyond the system is to be tracking through the Bering Sea while falling apart. No additional swell production is possible. There low odds of tiny sidebands well reaching Hawaii at best.
Hawaii: tiny swell building late on Wed (4/8) peaking Thurs (4/9) at 1.8 ft @ 13 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 325 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Sunday (4/5) no tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (4/5) high pressure at 1030 mbs continued in control north of Hawaii while weak low pressure at 1008 mbs was off Oregon falling southeast. light rain was falling down to the San Francisco Bay Area with snow forecast in Tahoe by the evening. 3 inches of accumulation possible. A south wind regime was over Central California with a weak front pushing down the coast. North winds at 20 kts were over Pt Conception. The low is to be building on Monday (4/6) centered just off Cape Mendocino with a front and south winds pushing down the coast reaching Monterey Bay late Monday evening and Morro Bay Tues AM. Heavy rain for the North Coast on Monday. North winds at 15 kts to build in behind Tues evening over the the entire state. Moderate rain for all of Central CA on Tues AM reaching into Southern CA late. Another 10 inches of snow possible for Tahoe. A generally modest north winds flow is forecast Wednesday at 10 kts but up to 15 kts for Pt Conception into Southern CA with rain gone by sunrise. A light wind pattern to take over on Thursday as another low builds off the Northern Coast with a front pushing into the North and Central Coast from the west on Friday with south winds 20-25 kts. No winds forecast on Sat (4/11) while rain builds Friday night into Saturday AM then fading with north winds returning on Sunday at 15 kts and clear skies.
No swell producing fetch of interest is occurring. Over the next 72 hours a tiny gale is forecast developing on the southern edge of the California swell window on Tues AM (4/7) generating 45-50 kt southwest winds and 32 ft seas at 49S 123W. In the evening southwest winds are to be pushing northeast and fading from 45 kts with 36 ft seas at 46S 118W targeting mainly Chile and Peru with sideband energy reaching up into Southern CA on the 180 degree track. By Wed AM (4/8) fetch is to be fading from 40 kts tracking east with seas fading from 35 ft at 43S 110W targeting only Chile and Peru with sideband energy into Central America. Not much is expected from this system given it's small footprint. Something to monitor none the less.
Small New Zealand Gale
On Tues AM (3/31) a new gale developed in the South Tasman Sea tracking east with 45 kt west winds over a small area. By evening 50-55 kt west winds were in.cgiay over a small area aimed east with 34 ft seas over a tiny area at 58S 164E. 45 kt southwest winds were pushing east Wed AM (4/1) with 34 ft seas over a small area at 57S 178E (194 degs HI) (210 degs SCal, 209 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). Winds to be fading from 40 kts in the evening with 32 ft seas at 58S 170W. This system to be gone after that. Possible tiny sideband swell to result for Hawaii and shadowed swell for the US West Coast.
Oahu: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (4/9) at 1 ft @ 16 secs (1.5-2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 190 degrees
California: Rough data suggests swell arrival starting Fri (4/10) at 6 Pm with swell 1.2 ft @ 18 secs (2.0-2.5 ft) and size slowly building, with period 17 secs near 8 AM Sat (4/11) at 1.3 ft @ 17 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell peaking and pushing 2 ft @ 16 secs (3 ft) on Sun (4/12). Swell Direction: 210-213 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 low pressure is to try and start building in the Gulf of Alaska Fri-Sun (4/12) but winds are to not exceed 25 kts. No seas of interest to result.
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 Sunday (4/5) the daily SOI was holding at 7.70. The 30 day average was rising slightly from -10.72 and the 90 day average was rising some at -6.45. The near term trend based on the daily and 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. Weak high pressure was in control south of Tahiti and expected to slowly give way to lower pressure by Tues (4/7) and falling SOI values into Fri (4/10). A weak high pressure regime to develop after that. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak to modest westerly anomalies were still over a small area of the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then turning to light east anomalies and holding to a point south of Hawaii. Light to modest east anomalies continued on to the Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area fading to neutral at a point south of Hawaii. A moderate Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) occurred from 1/15-2/20 then regenerated 2/25 building to the strong category on 3/7, peaking 3/10 and holding to 3/17. A more modest version of it continued into 3/27 before fading out 3/30. This was already a decent event attributable to the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it became strong in March, and supported Kelvin Wave development. A week from now (4/13) weak westerly anomalies are to hold in pockets over the Maritime Continent reaching almost to the dateline. neutral anomalies are forecast from there to a point south of Hawaii, continuing on to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to be fading but not gone a week out.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/4 suggests a moderate version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the dateline while the Active Phase of the MJO was building in the Eastern Indian Ocean. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to continue holding near the dateline but slowly fading and almost gone 15 days out with the Active Phase starting to push into the West Pacific in the modest category. The Dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to start fading 5 days out and totally dissipate, only to redevelop in the far West Pacific 10 days out and pushing east. The ultra long range upper level model run on 4/5 depicts a moderate Active MJO pattern in.cgiay in the West Pacific slow easing east into Central America on 4/25. A modest Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific 4/25 tracking east into 5/12. 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 (4/2) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime has taken control of the entire equatorial Pacific. And warmer water is getting traction along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts pushing north up to the equator, with marked warming depicted between the Galapagos and the mainland. This is something not seen last year at this time. Warmer water extends west from there but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator. until it reaches the dateline. TAO data indicates +0.5 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific with a warmer pocket to +1.0 degs from Peru to 115W with a larger pocket of +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies from 140W to the dateline and beyond. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are steady at +0.65 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 4/5 a +3.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a large pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continues building in coverage positioned at 150W, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 created a Kelvin Wave and additional strong westerly anomalies in March are feeding more warm water into that Kelvin Wave. It is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. But according to TAO data, +3 degs anomalies are already rushing east, flowing into the Galapagos ahead of schedule and deflecting up and down the South America Coast. Satellite data from 3/29 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 155E with a core to +10-15 cm over the dateline to 130W indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (3/29) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 162E-95W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-105W and +1.5 deg anomalies from 180W-120W. And now a building core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 168W-139W. Their coverage is building while pushing east. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave, and strong at that, is in-flight. A quick analysis of last years Large Kelvin Wave event that occurred in this same time frame, and this years event are remarkably similar in size and strength. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred last December (12/21/14) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if last year 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 4/2 is improving. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific and with a solid pulse just west of the Galapagos. A very weak easterly current was positioned 2-3 degrees south of the equator. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator from Hawaii to the Galapagos.
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 4/5 for the Nino 3.4 region have sky rocketed. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.7 degs C, and continuing to +2.2 degs by Oct and 2.35 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 model is likely just picking up on the Kelvin Wave in flight. Much more warm water would be too be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop. 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 until Fed 2015 and then very weak at that. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay with some greater force dictating the pattern (possibly the PDO). 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 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 a small gale is forecast developing east of New Zealand tracking east on Sat (4/11). 45-50 kt southwest winds to be aimed well to the north with seas building to 37 ft over a tiny area at 48S 162W. Something to monitor, but far from guaranteed.
Perhaps another system to develop in the South Tasman Sea on Sat (4/11) too with 45 kt southwest winds. Something to monitor relative to Fiji.
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