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 Thursday (2/12) in North and Central CA surf at top spots was 8-10 ft and clean with solid sets but a bit of a wait in between. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 2 ft overhead and lined up and clean but a little funky. In Southern California up north surf was waist high with chest high sets and clean and lined up later with new swell starting to show. Down south waves were waist high and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a cleaner dose of the dateline swell with waves 10-12 ft and a little jumbled but rideable at better big wave breaks. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline swell at head high with reasonably clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a broad gale that was over the dateline Sun-Mon (2/9) with 32 ft seas was still hitting the Hawaiian Islands and with cleaner conditions. This swell was also starting to hit the US West Coast with pristine conditions in effect but small swell size. More swell production from this gale is occurred through Wed (2/11) with surf for the US West Coast expected through the weekend but fading in Hawaii late Friday. Another co.cgiex gale is forecast to start developing on the Dateline and West Gulf regions over the coming weekend (2/14) but again even more fragmented than the previous one with one fetch north of Hawaii on Sat (2/14) producing a tiny area of 32 ft seas and a broad area tracking off Japan to the dateline Sun-Tues (1/17) with 26-28 ft seas targeting Hawaii well. Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (2/12) the jet was pushing east off Southern Japan at 180 kts tracking over the dateline then weakening to 120 kts while falling into the residuals of a broad trough north of Hawaii. There was limited support for gale development in this trough. the jet then .cgiit at 135W (600 nmiles west of Northern Baja with then northern branch tracking up and over Vancouver Islands with the southern branch heading southeast towards the equator. Over the next 72 hours solid winds are to build to 190 kts off Japan and over the dateline then falling into a newly developing trough just north of Hawaii on Sat (2/14) offering good support for gale development but then pinching off on Sun night (2/15) with gale production backing off there. But a new broad but gentle trough is to be developing off Japan pushing towards the dateline offering some odds for support of gale development. The .cgiit point to hold near 135W. Beyond 72 hours 180 kts winds to continue pushing flat off Southern Japan reaching to the dateline and then to a point just north of Hawaii into Wed (2/18) but with no trough in.cgiay and support for gale development dropping off some. Still 180 kt winds to hold steady there into Thurs (2/19) with the .cgiit point retrograding some to 150W. though no troughs are forecast, wind speeds alone warrant some support for gale development. No a bad pattern at all.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (2/12) swell from a broad gale previously on the Dateline was hitting Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Dateline Gale below). Otherwise generic low pressure associated with the remnants of that gale were fading but still circulating in the Gulf of Alaska while a new small low was trying to develop on the southern dateline. Over the next 72 hours that low is to slowly start getting better organized and becoming of interest Fri PM (2/13) with a small area of 40 kt northwest winds building 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii with seas on the increase. By Sat AM (2/14) a tiny area of 45 kt northwest winds are forecast with seas building to barely 30 ft over a tiny area at 35N 170W targeting Hawaii down the 325 degree path. 40 kt winds to be falling southeast in the evening with seas 32 ft at 32N 164W (331 degs HI). On Sun AM (2/15) 35 kt northwest winds are to be 500 nmiles north of Hawaii with 28 ft seas at 30N 159W (350 degs HI). Fetch is to be down to barely 30 kts Sun PM (2/16) with 24 ft seas at 28N 153W bypassing HI and barely on the 260 degree track to NCal and the 268 degree track to SCal. The gale is to fade after that. There's decent potential for a small pulse of swell mainly for Hawaii late Sunday night and fading into Monday AM (2/16).
Hawaii: For.cgianning purposes on Oahu expect swell arrival at sunset Sun (2/15) peaking overnight with swell maybe 8 ft @ 13-14 secs Monday (2/16) at sunrise (10 ft Hawaiian) and fading. Swell Direction: 325-331 degrees
Another fetch with semi tropical origins started to develop off Japan on Fri (2/6) with 45 kt west winds over a tiny area and building some while pushing east. It was still west of the dateline on Sat AM (2/7) with 40 kt west winds over a decent sized and a small area of up to 45 kt west winds with 32 ft seas at 35N 169E (304 degs HI). In the evening fetch was fading to 40 kts while the gale reorganized with seas holding at 32 ft at 34N 177E (306 degs HI). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the the core at 21Z and reported seas at 29.5 ft with one reading to 33.2 ft where the model projected 32 ft seas. The model was slightly over hyping the seas. Sun AM (2/8) 40 kt west winds were rebuilding as the gale crossed the dateline with seas 31 ft over a broader area at 37N 177W (320 degs HI, 285 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). 40 kt northwest winds were building in the evening over the same area with 32 ft seas at 36N 171W (324 degs HI, 281 degs NCal, 288 degs SCal). Winds were fading from 35 kts from the northwest Mon AM (2/9) with 32 ft seas over a moderate sized area at 35N 167W (328 degs HI, 281 degs NCal, 287 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the western flank of the gale at 10Z and confirmed 28.2 ft seas with one reading to 32.6 ft where the model suggested 33 ft seas. The model was over hyping the seas. Another pass occurred at 20Z and seas were confirmed at 22.8 ft with one reading to 27.5 ft where the model suggested 25 ft seas. The model again was over-hyping it. Winds were fading from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 28 ft at 33N 160W (350 degs HI, 273 degs NCal, 280 degs SCal). A slow fade to follow with the remnants effectively stationary north-northwest of Hawaii into Wed PM (2/11) when seas fall to 20 ft at 28N 156W (263 degs NCal, 270 degs SCal) and aimed pretty well south of CA.
Much large but raw local swell possible for the Islands and smaller but a cleaner mix of direct and sideband swell for CA possible.
Hawaii: Swell fading into Fri AM (2/13) from 6.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 320-326 degrees
North CA: Swell fading Fri (2/13) from 6.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (9 ft). Residuals fading on Sat (2/14) from 5.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 275-284 degrees
Southern CA: Most energy to arrive and peak Fri AM (2/13) at 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5 ft) holding through the day as period drops toward 15 secs. Swell fading Sat (2/14) from 3.1 ft @ 14 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 275-287 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 (2/12) a weak pressure pattern was in control with high pressure inland and a light offshore regime was in control. Light winds Friday but then building from the north late at 15 kts for North CA reaching into northern Central CA on Saturday. but by Sunday a northeast flow is to take over North CA (20+ kts) fading to calm and holding Mon into Wed (2/18). Perhaps modest high pressure to build off the North Coast on Thurs (2/19) with north winds building to 20 kts. No precipitation is forecast for the state.
Surface Analysis - 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 a broader fetch is to try and develop streaming off Japan starting late Sat (2/14) with winds 35 kts but not getting much traction initially. By Sun AM (2/15) 40 kt northwest winds are to be taking hold with 24-25 ft seas developing near 35N 152E (300 degs HI). Winds to fade to 35 kts in the evening over a broad area aimed east with seas 26-28 ft at 33N 155E (296 degs HI). 35-40 kt west winds to continue Mon AM (2/16) with a broader area of 28 ft seas at 32N 160E targeting primarily Hawaii (298 degs). Winds to push east in the evening fading in coverage from 35-40 kts with seas 29 ft at 34N 165E (302 degs HI). Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Tues AM (2/17) with seas fading from 28 ft over a broad area at 34N 173E (304 degs HI). Fetch is to be nearly gone in the evening. 15-16 sec period swell possible for the Islands.
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 Thursday (2/12) the daily SOI was down at -12.10. The 30 day average was falling from -11.40 and the 90 day average was falling slightly at -7.54. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a modest Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a weak steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (3.5 months). A weak high pressure system was south of Tahiti with no change forecast for the next 7 days likely causing the SOI to move somewhat higher. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate westerly wind anomalies continued over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline and continuing neutral south of Hawaii. Mostly neutral anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong west anomalies in the western Kelvin Wave Generation Area near 150E. A solid Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued in.cgiay and has been blowing since 1/15 (almost a month in duration). This is a significant event. A week from now (2/20) a mix of weak west and east anomalies are to develop over the Maritime Continent likely signaling the end of the WWB. Light east anomalies are to develop on the dateline. And modest east anomalies are forecast southeast of Hawaii, and on to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to start fading 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 2/11 are in sync initially. They both suggest a modest Active Phase of the MJO was holding on the dateline. Beyond the models diverge with the Statistic model depicting the Active Phase moving east over the next 18 days and fading south of Hawaii while the Inactive Phase of the MJO moves from the Indian Ocean cleanly into the West Pacific. The Dynamic model has the Active Phase holding it's ground but loosing strength on the dateline and fading steadily 15 days out, but with the Inactive Phase still contained in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/12 has been all over the.cgiace. It now depicts a dead neutral pattern in control and holding for the next 40 days, with no MJO indicated. This perhaps could be a El Nino signal, but likely isn't. 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 (2/12) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with pockets of slightly cooler water depicted off Central America but loosing ground. TAO data suggests neutral anomalies are covering a region from 120W to Ecuador with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 120W into the West Pacific with 2 pockets of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area and a second south of Hawaii. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps have faded to 0.5, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase briefly had an impact on water temps, but is for the most part now loosing ground in fit's and starts, with temps slowly on the increase.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming. As of 2/12 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was rebuilding control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a new pocket of +3 deg anomalies was building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB occurring at the surface just west of there for the past month has had the desired effect, pushing more warm water to depth. Satellite data from 2/7 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm just east of the dateline indicative of an open pipe with an embedded Kelvin Wave, but neutral anomalies from 120W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (2/7) indicates +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies are continuing to expand between 150E-135W with a core at +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-155W, suggestive that another Kelvin Wave is in flight. Theoretically the peak of what was though to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if this was to be a single year event. But if this is a true multiyear Midoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe (as appears to be the case). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 1/26 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over a small area of the far West Pacific, but mainly east to west over the rest of the equatorial Pacific. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets to 135W. Pockets of moderate east anomalies were just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east. But we suspect that might be attributable tot he current upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase in flight now.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 2/12 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to hold through July then slowly rising to +1.0 degs C by Oct. From there temps hold at +1.0 degs into Oct 2015. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year steady state Midoki event. 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, Midoki 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