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.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.1 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 3.1 ft @ 9.3 secs from 356 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 13.0 secs from 247 degrees. Wind northwest 4-12 kts. Water temperature 62.4. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.3 ft @ 11.3 secs from 255 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.9 ft @ 13.7 secs from 213 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.8 ft @ 13.6 secs from 210 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 2.1 ft @ 13.8 secs from 212 degrees. Wind northwest 2-4 kts. Water temp 56.7 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (5/12) in North and Central CA surf was waist high at better breaks and clean with decent form early but with the usual gloomy conditions. At Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high coming from the southern hemi and clean and reasonably lined up but infrequent. In Southern California up north waves were thigh high or so and clean and lined up, but weak. Down south waves were waist high and clean and rideable but weak. At least the bottom seems to be repairing itself. Hawaii's North Shore was getting windswell with waves waist high and a little crossed up and just barely rideable at select breaks. The South Shore was near flat and clean. Maybe some thigh to waist high sets. The East Shore was getting northeast windswell with waves thigh high and chopped by northeast trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A small gale developed off the Kuril Islands on Mon (5/9) with seas to 23 ft. Small swell is radiating towards Hawaii, expected on Fri (5/13). The models have improved some with a small gael forecast in the Gulf on Mon (5/16) with 23 ft seas and another in the Western Gulf on Thurs (5/19) with 18 ft seas projected. So maybe some small pulses of swell to result. Down south a gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Fri-Sat (4/30) lifting northeast with seas to 34 ft. Small swell is fading in California. A small gale formed in the Southeast Pacific on thurs-Fri (5/6) with 26-28 ft seas aimed well north. Maybe small swell for CA for the weekend. And another small gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Sat (5/7) with seas to 33 ft over a small area gently lifting northeast into Sunday (5/8) with additional follow on fetch over the same area of the South Pacific continuing into Wed (5/11) with seas 28-30 ft aimed northeast offering more swell for the same locations. Small swell is possible for California and points south of there for next week. But after that, nothing else of interest is forecast. The transition to a summer weather pattern is nearly complete.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (5/12) a generally fragmented pattern was in.cgiay over the North Pacific. But in that pattern, there was a somewhat cohesive flow tracking northeast off Japan then was joined by another flow near the dateline forming a trough in the Western Gulf being fed by 160 kt winds offering some support for gale development there. From there the jet .cgiit in the Gulf with the main flow tracking north into Alaska with the remaining energy pushing east into North CA but also forming a cutoff trough well off the CA coast but only supported by 90 kts winds. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to ease east moving into the Western Gulf by Fri (5/13) and pinching off offering nothing of interest. Remnants of that trough to still circulate in the Gulf but not providing support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to be generally flowing east from Japan over the dateline and into North CA focused on the 38N latitude line, but with no troughs of interest forecast. But on Mon (5/16) a bit of a trough is forecast developing on the dateline being fed by 130 kt winds building to 140 kt winds by Tues (5/17) but getting a little pinched off, but not closing off into Thurs (5/19) offering some decent support for yet one more gale to develop.
On Thursday (5/12) small swell from a gale previously off the Kuril Islands was pushing towards Hawaii (see Kuril Island Gale below).
Otherwise three weak and ill formed low pressure systems were strung across the North Pacific, one over the Kurils, one near the dateline, and one west of California. None of these were generating winds of even 20 kts, therefore offering no swell production capacity.
Over the next 72 hours a low pressure system is forecast to developing in the Western Gulf on Fri (5/13) generating 25 kt northwest winds over a small area and getting minimal traction on the oceans surface. No seas of interest are forecast. But by Sunday AM (5/15) additional low pressure is to merge with it generating 30 kt northwest winds with seas building to 18 ft at 38N 168W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. The gale to start lifting northeast in the evening with winds building to 35 kts and seas to 23 ft at 42N 163W pushing northeast. a decent sized fetch of 30 kt west winds to be lifting northeast on Mon AM (5/16) with seas fading from 21 ft at 44N 158W. 19 ft seas to track northeast from there into building to Tues AM (5/17) at 48N 152W. Small 11-12 sec period swell possible for Hawaii with somewhat larger 12-13 sec period swell from the US West Coast. Something to monitor.
Kuril Island Gale
On Sun PM (5/8) a gale started developing just off the Kuril Islands producing 35 kts northwest winds and 19 ft seas at 45N 158E. Fetch tracked southeast on Mon AM (5/9) still at 35 kts with seas building to 23 ft at 44N 162E (313 degs HI). Fetch fading fast from there dropping to 30 kts with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 170E. The gale dissipated after that.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri (5/13) building to 2.8 ft @ 13 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell holding into Sat AM (5/14) at 2.8 ft @ 12-13 secs (3.5 ft), then fading through the day. Swell Direction: 313-315 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/10) a weak pressure and wind pattern was in control of California coastal waters. Weak low pressure was 750 nmiles off the coast. Light winds to continue Friday as low pressure moves closer but fades. Saturday weak high pressure is to start building into South and North CA later in the day as low pressure moves inland over Oregon. Wind to be light early then building from the northwest to 15-20 kts mainly over the southern half of Central CA down over the Channel Islands building into North CA on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday northwest winds to continue at 20 kts for all of Central CA building to 30 kts for North CA (on Tues) but shadowed in Southern CA. Wednesday AM the standard summer time pressure gradient is to be in.cgiay with 30 kts north winds over North CA but light in Central CA and and eddy flow in Southern CA. But on Thursday high pressure is to fall south winds northwest winds 20 kts over all of North and Central CA.
On Thursday AM (5/12) swell from a small gale that formed well southeast of New Zealand on Fri (4/29) was fading along the US West Coast (see New Zealand Gale below).
Also swell from a gale that formed in the Southeast Pacific on Thurs (5/5) was pushing north towards CA (see Southeast Pacific Gale below).
Swell from yet another gale that formed Fri-Sun (5/8) in the South Central Pacific was also pushing northeast (see South Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no additional swell production is forecast.
Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale formed in the Southeast Pacific on Thurs AM (5/5) with 30-35 kts south winds building and seas on the increase. By evening a broad area of 35 kt south winds and an embedded area of up to 45 kt winds produced seas to 28 ft at 45S 132W. South fetch fading from 30-35 kts Fri AM (5/6) with seas fading from 26-28 ft at 40S 128W. This system was not impressive in terms of fetch but it did track hard north and was positioned well north in the South Pacific with swell expected to push well into CA and Mexico.
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri (5/13) building to 2.5 ft @ 15 secs late (4 ft). Swell fading on Sat AM (5/14) fading from 2.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Fri (5/13) building to 2.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft). Swell fading on Sat AM (5/14) fading from 2.5 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 192 degrees
South Pacific Gale
A small compact storm started forming south of New Zealand on Fri (5/6) with 50 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft at 57S 168E. Winds faded to 40 kts then rebuilt to 45 kts in the evening with seas building to 31 ft over a tiny area at 57S 177W, pushing more southeast than east. Fetch faded while tracking east Sat AM (5/7) from 40-45 kts with seas building to 34 ft at 57S 165W. 40 kt southwest fetch finally took hold in the evening but seas were fading from 31 ft at 56S 154W aimed better to the northeast. 40-45 kt south fetch held Sun AM (5/8) lifting well north with seas 33 ft at 53S 149W. In the evening 40 kt south fetch started fading with seas still 32 ft at 50S 143W. The gale to dissipate after that. Decent unshadowed swell to result for California (196-203 degrees).
Additional 50 kt west-southwest fetch built over the West Pacific on Mon AM (4/9) with 32 ft seas building over a small area at 59S 160W. Fetch faded from 40 kts in the evening with seas 33 ft at 56S 154W. A broad area of 35 kt southwest fetch faded Tues AM (5/10) with seas fading from 28 ft 54S 148W. Additional background swell was being generated targeting Peru up into Central America with sideband swell into California.
Additional fetch developed over the same area on Tues PM (5/10) with southwest winds 40 kts and seas 26 ft at 51S 158W. Wed AM (5/11) 35-40 kt south fetch was in control with seas building to 28 ft 44S 150W. That fetch held into the evening with seas 27 ft at 45S 140W. Fetch faded from there.
Southern CA: Swell arrival expected on Sun (5/15) building to 1.8 ft @ 19 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) late and inconsistent. Swell to build on Mon (5/16) to 2.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (4.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (5/17) from 2.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft). Swell fading some on Wed (5/18) from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft) with new energy building underneath at 2 ft @ 17-18 secs late (3.5 ft). A new pulse of energy building on Thurs (5/19) from 2.6 ft @ 16-17 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 200 degrees.
North CA: Swell arrival expected on Mon (5/16) to 1.8 ft @ 18 secs (3.0 ft). Swell holding Tues (5/17) at 2.0 ft @ 16 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell fading Wed (5/18) from 1.7 ft @ 14-15 secs (2.5 ft). Additional swell arriving on Thurs (5/19) pushing 1.9 ft @ 17 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 197 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 another gale is forecast forming in the Southwestern Gulf on Wed (5/18) with 35 kt north winds building in coverage while lifting north into the evening with seas building to 18 ft at 37N 174W. no swell producing fetch is forecast. On Thurs AM (5/19) the gale is to fade from 30 kts while lifting slowly north with seas holding at 18 ft at 40N 174W. Windswell possible for Hawaii if all comes to pass as forecast.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
More details to follow...
La Nina Starting to Surge
MJO Turning Inactive
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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. 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).
Overview: The 2014-2016 El Nino is fading out. La Nina is emerging.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wed (5/11) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA). Anomalies were neutral over the entire region, meaning this is normal for this time of year. The El Nino calm pocket is gone.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies are over the KWGA and are forecast building through 5/19 to moderately strong levels. El Nino is dead.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 5/11 a modest Inactive MJO signal was over the West Pacific and dateline regions. The Statistic model projects this pattern fading with a weak Active pattern taking control 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts the moderate Inactive pattern holding over the West Pacific for the next 2 weeks with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean trying to move west, but not making it. In all no enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO and if anything some suppression of it is possible attributable to the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/12) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO building in the Indian Ocean and forecast to continue building while easing east towards but not reaching the Maritime Continent to moderate strength. The GEFS model depicts a stronger Active Phase developing and nearly reaching the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (5/12) A modest Inactive Phase was in the Central Pacific and is to reach Central America 5/20. A weak Active pulse to follow starting 5/25 in the far West Pacific tracking east into Central America through 6/10. Another Inactive Phase is to start in the West Pacific on 6/8 moving almost to Central America on 6/21. With the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely the MJO will have any real positive impact on storm production, but it speaks to the possible buildup of La Nina longer term.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was building over the dateline with no anomalies or maybe light east winds in.cgiay offering no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO and light east anomalies in the KWGA through 6/2. A weak Active Phase to follow with only very weak west anomalies are forecast through 6/11. After that the MJO is to be weak with no anomalies or only light east anomalies into 8/10. El Nino is dead per this model no west anomalies or interest forecast.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/12) Actual temperatures continue to retreat daily. A pocket of 29-30 deg temps were building in the far West Pacific with the 28 deg isotherm line easing east some from 138W. Temps were down to 24 degs under the Galapagos. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing fast. One last little pocket of +1 deg anomalies exist tracking west between 178W to 130W and no more than 35 meters deep. It has grown a little the past 2 days but that is expected to be short lived. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface warm reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are at depth racing east reaching Ecuador at -1 degs with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 118W. This cool pool is already erupting near Ecuador. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, a cold river is rushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/8 the reservoir is effectively gone with +1 deg anomalies confined to a shrinking pocket between 170E to 138W and 30 meters deep and tracking west. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were in.cgiay in the west Pacific and tracking east, undercutting the warm pool above it and upwelling near Ecuador. La Nina has begun.
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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (5/11) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water continues over the equator region with negative anomalies along the coast of Peru pushing north and then extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos out to 140W with signs of it build out to 155W peaking at -1.5 degs but mostly -0.5-1.0 degs. La Nina is in control of surface waters, though remnant El Nino warm water is 3 degs north and south of the equator and on the equator from 155W westward but getting undercut.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/11): A cooler than normal trend continues from the Galapagos west out to 145W with signals of it build west to 160E. Cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface then driven west by trades. Warmer water is holding on the equator north of the equator. Warm water is building back along the California coast due to relaxing of high pressure and north trades there, at least for the moment.
Hi-res Overview: (5/11) The El Nino signal is dissipating. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remains 3 degs north and south of the equator and west of 160W. But a thin stream of cooler than normal water extends from Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to 155W. .
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/12) Today's temps were steady at +0.429, up much from late April when the crashed down to -1.329 degs (4/26).
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/12) temps were crashing here down falling 0.65 degs the last few days from +1.155 down to 0.589 degs today. The long term trend is that of a steady decline that set in starting early February.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
Pacific Counter Current: As of 5/7 the current was strong in pockets from the east on the equator from 90W to 150E and consistently moderate east over that region. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/12) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid-May, falling to -1.0 degs mid-June, then easing down to -1.25 degs in early Aug stabilizing there into Jan 2017. This is in solid La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-April Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.8 by December. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (5/12): The daily index was falling some at -10.10, retreating from a near peak of -45.30 on 4/20. The 30 day average was rising from -12.36, with the most recent low peak at -19.07 (4/30). The 90 day average was falling at -14.18. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the 30 day average suggested that the atmosphere still thinks El Nino is in.cgiay.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 5/12 high pressure was southwest of Tahiti. High pressure is to build some into Sat (5/14) then start fading and all but gone by Tues (5/17) and hold into Thursday. The SOI is expected to rise some initially then fall based on the Tahiti contribution but not provide any enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/12) Today's value was steady at +0.91. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 then fell until 4/14, when it started rising again peaking 4/23 at +1.12.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53 and up to +1.75 in Feb. Then in March it spiked to +2.40. Impressive. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.
Conclusion: This El Nino was the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory due to it's westward di.cgiacement. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected effect producing 13 significant class swells in the North Pacific (16 expected). From a pure El Nino perspective, this event is over and transitioning towards La Nina. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and momentum will affect the upper atmosphere into the late Fall of 2016.
The question now turns to how much the jet will be enhanced by remnants of El Nino for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
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