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 Tuesday (1/13) in North and Central CA surf was chest to shoulder high and clean and lined up and fun looking at the right breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high with a few bigger peaks at top spots. Wind was calm and conditions were beautiful. In Southern California up north surf was waist high with some bigger sets and lined up but soft. Clean conditions. Down south waves were waist high and almost blown out with north wind in control. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new dateline swell but quickly peaking at 9 ft Hawaiian early and already fading with clean conditions and light trades in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around dateline swell at head high to 1 ft overhead on the face and clean early with light south wind in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Residual swell from a small gale that developed on the dateline Wed (1/7) with seas to 33 ft was fading in California on Tuesday (1/13). Swell from a gale that developed on the dateline pushing east Sun-Mon (1/12) with seas briefly to 34 ft over a small area peaked first light Tuesday in Hawaii with some far smaller energy expected into the mainland. Remnants of that gale are redeveloping in the Gulf expected to produce 24 ft seas targeting California Tues PM (1/13) then rapidly fading while yet another gale briefly developed just west of the dateline Mon PM-Tues AM (1/13) targeting Hawaii with 27 ft seas from a westerly direction. Another gale is forecast for the Gulf on Tues-Wed (1/14) with 41 ft seas aimed east targeting the mainland. Any yet another weak but broad area of 20-22 ft seas is forecast moving over the dateline Wednesday building to 25 ft Thurs-Fri (1/16) just northwest of Hawaii offering sizable but shorter period energy mainly for Hawaii beyond. The models continue to hint at a larger gale building off Japan on Sun (1/18) tracking east with seas building to 44 ft fading some over the dateline (but still 40 ft) then possibly building to 46 ft just east of the dateline Tues (1/20) before fading in the Western Gulf. Possible real swell for Hawaii if one is to believe the models.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (1/13) the jet was pushing solidly east off Japan at 190 kts forming a broad but shallow trough while tracking over the dateline reaching to a point just northeast of Hawaii before .cgiitting with the southern branch track southeast and eventually over Baja while the northern branch tracked northeast pushing into Central Canada. There was solid support for gale development over the dateline with wind speeds holding in the impressive range. Over the next 72 hours winds are to continue in the 180-190 kt range but moving east centered in the Western Gulf and north of Hawaii with the resulting trough moving from the dateline to a point 900 nmiles northwest of Hawaii by Fri (1/16) with winds fading late. Good support for gale development in that area. The .cgiit point in the jet is to migrate east too, reaching 135W of 600 nmiles west of San Francisco. Beyond 72 hours winds and the trough are to slowly fade over the East Pacific with the .cgiit point holding just off the California Coast while a new pulse of wind energy builds over Japan at 180 kts tracking flat east, building close to 190 kts on Sat-Sun (1/18) and starting to fall into what appears to be a developing trough just west of the dateline. Support for gale if not storm development building. The trough is to push east to the dateline Tues (1/20) with winds in the jet starting to fade to 160 kts and reaching northeast up into the Gulf of Alaska with a new .cgiit point developing at 145W. Continued support for gale development there. In all a very nice jetstream flow looks to be setting up an extended window of support for gale if not storm development. The big issue is the .cgiit point is to remain off the CA coast, suggesting no chance of rain inland. This jet pattern is being supported by the Active Phase of the MJO now over the West Pacific (see MJO/ENSO section below).
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (1/13) swell from a gale the developed on the dateline Sat-Sun (1/11) was hitting Hawaii and moving towards the US (see Dateline Gale below). Modest fetch from another gale was developing in the West Pacific on Mon-Tues (1/13) (see West Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours yet another broad but ill-defined gale is to develop near the dateline starting Wed PM (1/14). 30 kt northwest winds to be covering a broad area targeting Hawaii well generating 21-22 ft seas near 35N 175E (305 degs HI). that fetch to push east some Thurs AM (1/15) generating a broader area of 22 ft seas at 35N 180W (311 degs HI). The gale is to consolidate some Thurs PM with 35 kt west-northwest winds taking shape generating 25 ft seas at 36N 173W (320 degs HI, 284 degs NCal). Those winds to fade some Fri AM (1/16) while pushing east with seas barely hanging on at 24 ft at 36N 168W (331 degs HI, 284 degs NCal). Fetch fading from 25 kts in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 22 ft at 38N 160W (284 degs NCal).
Hawaii: Assuming all goes as forecast another pulse of swell is expected for the Islands starting Sat AM (1/17) with swell rebuilding to 8.3 ft @ 14 secs (11.5 ft). Swell Direction: 305-320 degrees
North CA: Maybe some swell starting Mon (1/19) with period 14-15 secs. Swell Direction: 284 degrees
On Sat PM (1/10) a low pressure system started building over the West Pacific easing east and expanding in coverage, but lacking in organization. One small area of 35 kt west winds was starting to build approaching the dateline and pushed over it in the evening building to 45 kts over a tiny area generating a small area of 23 ft seas at 37N 180W targeting Hawaii. Winds briefly built to 45 kts Sun AM (1/11) with seas to 29 ft at 36N 171W (328 degs HI). Winds faded some from 40 kts but pushing east in the evening with a small area of 34 ft seas at 36N 160W (339 degs HI) mostly bypassing Hawaii and aimed better at the US West Coast (279 degs NCal, 285 degs SCal). 35 kt west winds faded in the Gulf Mon AM (1/12) with 28 ft seas moving to 38N 154W (281 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). Secondary fetch started rebuilding in the same area Tues AM (1/13) at 35-40 kts and forecast nearly holding into the evening resulting in a short lived area of 25 ft seas possible near 39N 147W in the evening targeting the US West Coast (284 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal).
Hawaii: Swell hit and peaked Tues AM (1/13) at 7.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (10 ft) just past sunrise. Residuals expected fading on Wed AM (1/14) from 6 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 320-330 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed (1/14) nearly peaking at sunset at 5.5 ft @ 16 secs (8.5 ft). Max size to occur overnight with residuals holding Thurs AM (1/15) at 6.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (9 ft). Residuals fading Fri AM (1/16) from 5.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 279-284 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Wed PM (1/14) under cover of darkness. Swell to start peaking Thurs late AM (1/15) at 3.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (5.0 ft) holding through the day. Residuals fading Fri AM (1/16) from 3.2 ft @ 14 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 285-292 degrees
West Pacific Gale
On Mon PM (1/12) a new broad fetch of 30-35 kt west winds was tracking east embedded in the southern periphery of the larger co.cgiex gale in the West Pacific that was filling the entire Northern Pacific. 22 ft seas were building west of the dateline at 30N 170E (292 degs HI). Fetch built briefly to 40 kts over night then started fading from 35 kts Tues AM (1/13) with seas 26 ft at 30N 172E (292 degs HI). Fetch is to be fading from 30 kts Tues PM over the dateline with seas fading from 25 ft at 30N 180W (297 degs HI). The fetch is to quickly dissipate after that. Modest west swell possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Thursday (1/15) near 1 AM with size tiny. By sunrise swell is to be building and peaking mid-day near 7.8 ft @ 14-15 secs (11.5 ft) and holding through the day. Swell to continue on Fri AM (1/16) at 7.5 ft @ 14 secs (10.5 ft) slowly fading through the day.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/13) high pressure was continuing to barely hold on over and just west of California waters while low pressure continued in the Eastern Gulf. A steady offshore flow as in effect for all of California. A calm wind pattern is forecast Wednesday and Thursday with perhaps light south winds for Cape Mendocino late in the day. Perhaps a light northerly flow to set up Friday afternoon and again Saturday afternoon for Southern Central CA, then back to offshore Sunday. High pressure is to be pushing inland over the Pacific Northwest on Monday with north winds for North and Central CA at 20 kts continuing Tuesday (1/20). No rain is forecast.
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 far more organized and strong storm is forecast developing off Japan on Sun (1/18) with 50-55 kt northwest winds and seas building from 38 ft at 37N 158E (302 degs HI). In the evening 50-55 kt northwest winds to track east-southeast targeting Hawaii directly generating 44 ft seas at 34N 167E (298 degs HI). 45 kt westerly fetch to continue pushing solidly east on Mon AM (1/19) generating 42 ft seas at 34N 175E (303 degs HI). Theoretically the gale is to start lifting northeast Mon PM with an increasingly consolidated fetch of 45 kt west winds producing 41 ft seas at 35N 178W starting to target the US West Coast as well (312 degs HI, 285 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). 45-50 kt west fetch is forecast into Tuesday AM (1/20) moving into the Western Gulf with 44 ft seas at 38N 171W (mostly bypassing HI 330 degs, aimed well at NCal at 288 degs, SCal 293 degs). In the evening fetch is to be fading from 45 kts with seas fading from 44 ft at 40N 168W (289 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). At this time there's 5% chance of this storm forming. Still, it's 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.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 Tuesday (1/13) the daily SOI was holding at 4.39 with a neutral pressure pattern near Tahiti. The 30 day average was rising some from -5.75 and the 90 day average was up some at -7.46. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (2.5 months). Weak low pressure is to start building over Tahiti on Sat (1/17) holding well into the following week keeping the SOI somewhat negative. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest west anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning neutral approaching the dateline. Anomalies turned light west south of Hawaii and then turned light east from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong west anomalies from 140E to 170E. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) in.cgiay. This suggests the Active Phase of the MJO was making good progress over the West Pacific. A week from now (1/21) neutral anomalies are to set up over the Maritime Continent with modest west anomalies covering the dateline to a point southeast of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are to be from there reaching to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue pushing from the West Pacific to the Central Pacific.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/12 are in sync. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was in control over the West Pacific with a weak Inactive MJO pattern all but gone south of Hawaii. The Statistic model depicts this weak Inactive Phase holding and lifting north over the Islands while the Active Phase itself moves east over the next 15 days and eventually straddling the dateline. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Inactive Phase fading entirely but the Active Phase also fading and dissipating over the dateline 15 days out. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is to be building in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 1/13 depicts a solid Active Phase over the West Pacific today and tracking slowly east and progressively fading as it reaches the East Pacific through 1/25. A moderate Inactive Phase is to follow in the west starting 1/25 pushing east into 2/22 while a new modest Active Phase builds in the West Pacific 2/12 reaching the dateline 2/22. This is the strongest we've seen the MJO all year, if not in several years, suggesting any hope for a legit El Nino are fading. 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 (1/12) a modestly warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific but not getting any warmer recently. A weak El Nino signature is barely holding on. Cool water is developing east of the Galapagos to Peru while warm water has traction just west of the Galapagos reaching west to 160W (the result of the eruption of a Kelvin Wave that peaked 12/21). But that warm water is now in decline. TAO data suggests barely +0.5 deg C anomalies or less are fading from a point south of Hawaii to the Galapagos. +1.0 deg anomalies are rebuilding near 170E. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.0, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0. The thought is the Upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase was taking control.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are cooling. As of 1/13 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was barely hanging on under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E. No embedded Kelvin Waves were in flight. Satellite data from 1/0 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the West and Central equatorial Pacific, indicative of an open pipe, but neutral anomalies from 140W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (1/8) indicates +1 deg anomalies are continuing to develop between 130-140E reaching east to 175W, suggestive that another Kelvin wave might be in the early stages of development. Theoretically the peak of El Nino occurred (12/21) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected if this is to be a single year event. If it 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. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 1/1 is still mixed. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. It is strongest north of New Guinea and again south of Hawaii. But on the equator a steady modest east to west flow was in control from 85W to the dateline. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific west of the dateline then north of the equator in pockets into the East Pacific, with pockets of stronger east anomalies just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern but generally supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 1/13 for the Nino 3.4 region have gone 'off the chart'. It suggests water temps are down some at +0.6 deg C and are to fade some to +0.5 degs through April 2015. But the interesting part remains that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in late June 2015, pushing +2.0 degs C by Sept 2015 and +2.2 degs by October. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event, and not a weak one either. See the chart based version here - link. A consensus of other models are not as optimistic though.
Analysis: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring through 2014 in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves have 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 telconnections we are focused on contribute to the production of open ocean storms (and therefore swells) mainly in the Pacific Basin that may or may not have the same impacts as a full blown El Nino. So our criteria is certainly less than the threshold of NOAAs.
The focus now becomes whether it will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 timeframe. At this time we're assuming the situation with move to a multiyear, Midoki event (the better of all options).
Officially we remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. We are now looking for signs of a continued 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