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Pacific Storm and Surf Forecast
Updated: Tuesday, May 10, 2016 5:06 PM
Buoys: Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Buoy Forecast:
Northern CA - Southern CA - Hawaii - Gulf of Alaska - Pacific Northwest
Pacific Links:  Atmospheric Models - Buoy Data - Current Weather - Wave Models
Forecast Archives: Enter Here
A chronology of recent Mavericks Underground forecasts. Once you enter, just click on the HTML file forecast you want to review (e.g. 073199.html equals July 31, 1999). To view the maps that correspond to that forecast date, select the html file labeled 073199 maps.html
2.0 - California & 1.0 - Hawaii
Using the 'Winter' Scale
(See Swell Category Table link at bottom of page)
Probability for presence of largest swells in near-shore waters of NCal, SCal or Hawaii.    

Issued for Week of Monday 4/18 thru Sun 4/24

Swell Potential Rating Categories
5 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Significant swell
4 = Good probability for 1-2 days of Significant swell
3 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Intermediate/Advanced swell
2 = Good probability for  1-2 days of
Intermediate/Advanced swell
1 = Good probability for 3 or more days of Impulse or Windswell
0 = Low probability for 1-2 days of Impulse or Windswell   

More Southern Hemi Swell Pushing Northeast
One Small NPac Pulse for HI

Swell Classification Guidelines

Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
- 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).
- 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.
- up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.

Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.

On Tuesday, May 10, 2016 :

  • Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 6.0 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 4.2 ft @ 10.3 secs from 343 degrees.
  • Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 15.9 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 15.8 secs from 196 degrees. Wind west 8 kts. Water temperature 62.1. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.1 ft @ 13.9 secs from 251 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.5 ft @ 16.5 secs from 212 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.4 ft @ 15.8 secs from 203 degrees.
  • Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 7.2 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 4.7 ft @ 9.1 secs from 322 degrees and southern hemi swell 2.6 ft @ 16.1 secs from 203 degrees. Wind west 2-4 kts. Water temp 55.6 degs.


    Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys

Current Conditions
On Tuesday (5/10) in North and Central CA surf was chest high with a few bigger sets and pretty unorganized though clean. Mostly just windswell. At Santa Cruz surf was chest high with some bigger sets coming from the southern hemi and clean and lined up but infrequent. In Southern California up north waves were knee to waist high and clean but weak and barely rideable. Down south waves were shoulder to head high with a few bigger sets and clean and lined up but sparse. Hawaii's North Shore was getting windswell with waves waist to maybe chest high and clean but pretty weak. The South Shore was still getting small southern hemi swell with waves shoulder high at top spots with maybe a head high peak and clean and lined up. The East Shore was getting north windswell with waves head high and chopped by northeast trades.

See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.

Meteorological Overview
A small gale developed off the Kuril Islands on Mon (5/9) with seas to 23 ft. Small swell is radiating towards Hawaii. After that the North Pacific is to go dormant. 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 Hawaii and hitting California. A 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). Small swell is possible for California and points south of there. Additional follow on fetch is to follow over the same area of the South Pacific into Wed (5/11) with seas 28-30 ft aimed northeast offering more swell for the same locations. But after that, nothing else of interest is forecast. The transition to a summer weather pattern is nearly complete.

Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours

North Pacific

On Tuesday AM (5/10) the jet was ridging north over Japan then pushing east off the Central Kuril Islands falling into a trough over the dateline being fed by 140 kt winds and offering some support for gale development there. From there the jet ridged northeast and .cgiit with most energy tracking up into Alaska with the remainder falling into a cutoff trough over the Gulf offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to ease east moving into the Western Gulf by Thurs (5/12) still being fed by 150 kt winds offering more support for gale development while the cutoff trough in the Gulf slowly fades while moving east approaching California. Beyond 72 hours the cutoff trough is to move over North CA on Sat (5/14). Otherwise 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 winds exceeding 100 kts and no troughs of interest forecast. But on Sun (5/15) a bit of a trough is forecast developing just west of the dateline being fed by 120 kt winds building to 140 kt winds by Tues (5/17) repositioned over the dateline and offering some decent support for gale development, at least per the upper level charts.

Surface Analysis
On Tuesday (5/10) small swell from a gale previously off the Kuril Islands was pushing towards Hawaii (see Kuril Island Gale below). Otherwise weak high pressure was over the dateline at 1028 mbs and no low pressure systems of interest were occurring.

Over the next 72 hours a gale is forecast to developing in the Western Gulf on Fri (5/13) generating 30 kt northwest winds over a small area starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By the evening winds to build to 35 kts with seas building to 20 ft at 40N 163W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. The gale to start moving fast to the northeast on Sat AM (5/14) with winds fading from 30 kts and seas fading from 17 ft at 41N 159W. Small 12 sec period swell possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast.

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


Tropical Update
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.

California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (5/10) high pressure was in the Northeast Gulf ridging south forming the usual pressure gradient over North CA generating 20 kts north winds there. But that is to fade later in the day. Otherwise a light wind pattern was in control of the remainder of California. Light winds are expected Wednesday (5/11) through Friday. Saturday weak high pressure is to start building into South and North CA later in the day with northwest winds 15-20 kts in those locations building into North CA on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday northwest winds to continue at 20 kts for all of North and Central CA but shadowed in Southern CA.

South Pacific

Surface Analysis  
On Tuesday AM (5/10) swell from a small gale that formed well southeast of New Zealand on Fri (4/29) was impacting the US West Coast (see New Zealand Gale below).

Also another gale formed Fri-Sun (5/8) in the South Central Pacific (see South Pacific Gale below).

Over the next 72 hours no additional swell production is forecast other than is what is documented in the South Pacific Gale below.


New Zealand Gale
A new gale developed south of New Zealand on Thurs PM (4/28) generating a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Fri AM (4/29) a solid fetch of 45 kt south winds were in.cgiay in the deep Southwest Pacific with seas building from 27 ft at 62S 179W aimed north. That gale built more reaching storm status in the evening producing core fetch at 50 kts from the south aimed well north with seas starting to develop from 34 ft at 61S 172W. By Sat AM (4/30) a 1100 nmile long fetch of 35 kt south winds were in.cgiace with a core to 40 kts generating 32 ft seas at 59S 168W. The fetch faded in the evening from 30-35 kts lifting north generating 27 ft seas at 52S 164W. Fetch was gone by Sun AM (5/1) with seas dropping from 24 ft at 45S 159W.

Southern CA: Swell holding on Tues (5/10) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Swell fading Wed (5/11) from 2.4 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Thurs (5/12) from 1.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 205 degrees

North CA: Swell holding on Tues (5/10) at 2.2 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell fading Wed (5/11) from 2.1 ft @ 14-15 secs (3 ft). Residuals fading Thurs (5/12) from 1.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 203 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 to develop over the same area on Tues PM (5/10) with southwest winds 40 kts and seas 27 ft at 50S 158W. Wed AM (5/11) 35-40 kt south fetch is to be in control with seas building to 28 ft 44S 150W. That fetch is to hold into the evening with seas 27-28 ft at 45S 140W. Fetch to fade 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 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 200 degrees. More swell to follow

North CA: Swell arrival expected on Mon (5/16) to 2.0 ft @ 18 secs (3.5 ft). Swell holding Tues (5/17) at 2.1 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 197 degrees. More swell to follow.


South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height




Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future

North Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

South Pacific

Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.

More details to follow...


El Nino is Dead but La Nina Not Fully In Control
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 Mon (5/9) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) except calm south of it near 160E. Anomalies were neutral over the entire region, meaning this is normal for this time of year.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Weak east anomalies are over the KWGA and are forecast holding through 5/17. El Nino is officially dead.

Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East

Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:  
OLR Models: As of 5/9 a modest Inactive MJO signal was over the West Pacific and dateline regions. The Statistic model projects this pattern fading rapidly with a weak Active pattern taking control 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts a stronger 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.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/10) 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 far stronger Active Phase developing and nearly reaching the Maritime Continent 2 weeks out.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (5/10) 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 6/10. With the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely an Active Phase will have any real positive impact.
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 in.cgiay offering no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO and no anomalies in the KWGA through 6/4. A weak active Phase to follow but still not anomalies are forecast through 8/8. El Nino is dead. At least per this model no east or west anomalies are forecast.

CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc

Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/10) 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 back to 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. 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 5/3 the reservoir is all but gone with +1-2 degs above normal temps confined to a pocket between 165EW 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.
Satellite Imagery
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (5/9) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water has taken 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 130W 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 140W westward but getting undercut. Cool water is rebuilding some along south coastal Mexico.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/9): Cooler than normal trend continues from the Galapagos west building out to 145W. Cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface driven by trades. Warmer water is holding on the equator from 145W and west of there. Warm water is building back along the California coast due to relaxing of high pressure and north trades there.
Hi-res Overview:
(5/9) 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 150W. Negative temps are fading in the Nino1.2 region suggesting at least a temporary retreat of La Nina.

Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/10) Today's temps were steady at +0.504, up much from late April when the crashed down to -1.329 degs (4/26).
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/10) temps were steady at +1.055 and have been since 4/15. But the overall 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
(5/10) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) early May falling -1.0 degs in late June, holding then easing down to -1.25 degs in Sept 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 (5/10): The daily index was falling some at 8.10, retreating from a near peak of -45.30 on 4/20. The 30 day average was rising from -12.62, with the most recent low peak at -19.07 (4/30). The 90 day average was rising at -13.88. 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 5/10 weak high pressure was southwest of Tahiti. High pressure is to build some into Friday (5/13) then hold into Tues (5/17). The SOI is expected to steadily rise based on the Tahiti contribution, likely shutting down any enhancement for the jetstream and fueling La Nina.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/10) Today's value was falling some at +0.90. 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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