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 (1/9) North and Central CA surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and hacked by northwest wind. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest high and clean and well lined up. In Southern California up north surf was waist to maybe chest high and lined up wit some texture but basically clean and well rideable. Down south waves were waist high and clean but not exceptional, but still showing a little energy. Hawaii's North Shore was getting North dateline swell at 3 ft overhead on the face and clean at protected break - still some warble running through it. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting east windswell at waist to chest high and chopped from trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Sideband swell from a weak gale that developed on the dateline Mon-Tues with up to 28 ft seas aimed due east targeting mainly the US West Coast was hitting Hawaii and pushing towards Central CA for the weekend. A small gale was off the Pacific Northwest today with 30 ft seas aimed east, targeting Central CA northward. Swell by Sat for CA (1/11). A stronger local gale is forecast producing a small area of 42 ft seas late Fri-Sat (1/11) possibly setting up larger north angled swell for CA on Sunday. Perhaps a stronger gale develop on the dateline Tues-Wed (1/15) with up to 32 ft seas targeting the Islands best.
Note: NDBC has issued a schedule to start repairing buoys as of 11/12/13. Unfortunately no buoys of interest to California are scheduled through September 2014. TOA Array (El Nino Monitoring) buoys are set for maintenance in April 2014.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/9) the jetstream was riding slightly off Japan with winds to 190 kts, then splitting some on the dateline. the northern branch rejoining the main stream northwest of Hawaii forming a weak trough there, with the main flow ridging up into British Columbia. A weak secondary split occurred just west of Hawaii with the southern branch peeling off tracking southeast over Hawaii then bound for the equator. Only the little and weak trough well northwest of Hawaii held any support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours winds to hold solid at 180 kts tracking off Japan, but pushing more flat eastward putting eastward pressure on the split point moving it just east of the dateline (170W) by Sun (1/12). A very weak trough to develop just west of the split point offering a smidgen of support for gale development there. East of the split the northern branch is to take most of the energy and direct it up into North British Columbia. A bit of a trough is to develop in the northern branch on Fri (1/10) tracking through the Gulf offering decent but short lived support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to build off Japan with winds at 200-210 kts Mon-Wed (1/15) with something resembling a trough holding just west of the split point, and the split point is to move to 160W or just north of Hawaii. Increasing support for gale development there holding into late Thurs (1/16). The split flow to continue supporting high pressure over the Eastern Pacific, but increasingly loosing coverage.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (1/9) swell from a the Dateline Gale (see below) Mon-Tues (1/7) was hitting Hawaii and bound for the US West Coast. Energy from the Dateline Gale (below) tracked east and in combination with a more supportive jetstream flow aloft, start redeveloping off the Pacific Northwest. A gale develop in the Gulf on Wed PM (1/8) producing 40 kt northwest winds over a small area and seas building from 24 ft at 46N 158W - bypassing any route into Hawaii. By Thurs AM (1/9) 45 kt west winds were in-play with the gale tracking due east and seas building to 30 ft at 49N 147W (309 degs NCal). By evening the gale is to be pushing into North Vancouver Island with 40 kt west winds and seas 28 ft over a tiny area up at 50N 136W just east of the 319 degree track to NCal. Swell is already in the water mainly focused on the Pacific Northwest.
Sideband energy is forecast pushing into Northern CA on Sat AM (1/11) with pure swell 6.5 ft @ 16 secs (10 ft faces but shadowed in the SF Bay Area) from 308) degrees.
Over the next 72 hours:
Another gale is to develop Fri (1/10) just off the Pacific Northwest building quickly generating northwest winds to 55 kts in the evening and seas 37 ft at 48N 147W (308 degs NCal). A tiny area of 50 kt northwest winds to be just off Vancouver Island on Sat AM (1/11) generating 44 ft seas at 46N 136W (315 degs NCal). The storm to move onshore over North Oregon in the evening. If this develops some degree of larger raw swell is possible for the Pacific Northwest with very north angled swell for NCal.
For planning purposes expect very north angled swell arriving in North CA on Sun near 7 AM at 13 ft @ 17 secs (22 ft) but completely shadowed by the Farallons relative to the San Francisco area. Swell Direction: 308-312 degrees
Additional ill defined 35 kt fetch to persist in the Northwestern Gulf Sat-Sun (1/12) producing 24-26 ft seas offering 14-15 sec period sideband swell for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA well into next week.
An ill formed gale developed off the Northern Kuril Islands late Sat (1/4) with winds to 35 kts in pockets and tracking east. This system reached the northern dateline region Monday AM (1/6) producing 35-40 kt west winds and seas of 24 ft at 45N 172E aimed east targeting the US West Coast mainly. By evening the fetch held still at near 40 kts with seas building to 28 ft at 44N 177E aimed east (325 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). By Tues AM (1/7) this system was dissipating with seas from previous fetch fading from 28 ft at 44N 175W (335 degs HI, 296 degs NCal).
Sideband energy hit Hawaii starting later Wednesday and is to hold into Friday fading from 4.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (6 ft) from 325 degrees.
Limited well decayed background swell is expect for NCal from 296-297 degrees starting on Sat AM (1/11) with period 15 secs but likely buried in other more local swell.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/9) north winds were in control at 20 kts for Central CA to 20 kts late and up to 25 kts near Pt Conception. 15 kt north winds are forecast for all of Central CA on Friday 9lighter for NCal) and starting to fade off Pt Conception as the day progresses. Saturday low pressure and a front to reach extreme North CA, but make no further progress southward. A generally light wind flow is forecast for North and Central CA down into Southern CA. High pressure to return on Sunday (1/12) ridging into South Oregon setting up north winds for Central CA at 15 kts early (up to 25 kts Pt Conception) and on the increase late. The high to start pushing inland Monday with winds turning offshore for the whole state continuing into Tuesday and Wednesday. Perhaps a light northerly flow on Thursday (1/16). But overall the high pressure blockade which has been protecting CA (to the detriment of our water supply) is to remain in-place, but is to be smaller than any time this season, with a large area of low pressure trying to push it inland later next week.
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were in play. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing gale activity is forecast aimed up into our forecast area.
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 another gale is forecast tracking from the Southern Kuril Islands east approaching the dateline late Mon (1/13) with 35-40 kt west winds and seas 28-32 ft near 42N 169E (312 degs HI). On Tues AM (1/14) with a small area of 45 kt west winds to develop embedded in a broader area of 40 kt northwest winds with seas building to 36 ft over a tiny area at 41N 176E (315 degs) targeting Hawaii. Fetch to hold while pushing southeast in the evening with seas 34 ft at 40N 179W (320 degs HI/292 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Wed AM (1/15) with seas fading from 28-30 ft at 36N 171W (324 degs HI/290 degs NCal). Additional development possible on Thurs AM (1/16) with 40 kts west winds and 28 ft seas at 34N 170W (319 degs HI) and 28 ft seas also at 44N 165W pushing east (295 degs NCal). More of the same is forecast in the evening with 30 ft seas North of Hawaii aimed east. Something to monitor.
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 planet. 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 split 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).
As of Thursday (1/9) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 12.87. The 30 day average was up to 1.26 and the 90 day average was up some at 1.84. The nearterm trend based on the SOI was indicative of a neutral if not weakly Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was just above neutral territory suggestive of an overall neutral MJO pattern. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends, so the move into positive readings is not unexpected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate west anomalies over the far western Maritime Continent turning light easterly over the Eastern Maritime Continent then turning neutral on the dateline holding that way south of Hawaii and on into Central America. A week from now (1/17) strong west anomalies continue forecast building over the Western Maritime Continent turning light easterly over the dateline holding south of Hawaii then turning neutral and continuing into Central America. In all this suggests a neutral Phase of the MJO is currently over the West Pacific but potentially turning Active a week out.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/8 are mostly in-sync. Both suggest a very weak and small Active Phase is fading over the dateline region and fade while easing east 5 days out while a stronger Inactive Phase builds in the East Indian Ocean. The statistic model has the Inactive Phase pushing into the far West Pacific 8-15 days out and fading while the dynamic model has the Active Phase rebuilding and tracking east over the same period. It's anybodies guess what will happen but it would be nice if the dynamic model was right. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 1/9 suggests a very weak Active Phase is over the West Pacific and tracking east, expected to push into Central America near Jan 24. In parallel a new moderate Inactive Phase is to set up in the west on Jan 29 easing east and moving into the East Pacific 2/18 while a new stronger Active Phase builds behind it starting 2/13. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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 now (1/9) a completely neutral water temp pattern covers the equator from Central America to the Philippines other than one pool of slightly negative water temps south of Hawaii, and even that is fading. Other than that, equatorial water temps are biased on the warm side of neutral (+0.25 degs C). It remains similar to previous updates over the past 2-3 weeks (since 12/12/13). This pool of warm equatorial water started developing over the East Pacific mid-October in sync with a building Active Phase of the MJO. This pocket of warmer water continues over Chile and all of Peru too, but has eroded slightly over the past week. The California cool plume tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California remains in-place and unchanged, driven by offshore winds and upwelling. The wall of warmer than normal water just off the North CA coast remains displaced west, held off by high pressure and local upwelling all the result of much offshore winds. Still, thousands of nmiles of warmer water is lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast. In short, there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing yet, but there are some interesting suggestions of such a pattern trying to develop. And certainly there's no troubling cool water on the charts and if anything, warm water is getting the upper hand. We remain in a pure neutral pattern (as neutral as it can get). It will take at least 3 months from the time the cool eddy ended off the Galapagos and a fully neutral pattern developed (mid-Sept) till anything helpful to the jetstream manifests in the upper atmosphere (mid-Dec).
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a pocket of warm water 2 deg C above normal remains poised off of and pushing into South America from a point at 75 meters depth near 100W. This is the tail end of an eastward moving Kelvin Wave. This is good news in that it is expected to provide slight warming to the already warming surface warm pool near the Galapagos (a good thing) over the next 30-45 days. The hope is this will add some fuel to the jetstream over the next 2 months.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 1/9 are holding steady. The model has been continuously suggesting some form of warming starting in Feb-March 2014 building to + 0.75-1.0 deg C by late July 2014. The recent run has backed to the low end of that scale with temps projected to +0.6 C by Aug 2014. For the immediate future (this Winter) a neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering near 0.0 deg C through late January, then a slow but steady increase is to set in. A consensus of other models suggests slow warming, but not passing beyond mildly positive territory till Spring of next year.
Overall the immediate outlook remains nothing stellar, but trending towards something that would be considered right on the threshold of warm, by Summer 2014, assuming one were to believe the models. Other models suggest a continuation of neutral conditions, though trending warmer. All this is good news. If anything the ocean is in a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts.
We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern by early 2014. The weak presence of the Inactive Phase of MJO in the summer of 2013 still seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. But with the ocean turning neutral, we suspect the atmosphere will make the turn as well over the next few months (into Dec 2013). This is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. It is becoming apparent we've finally recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
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