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 (2/5) in North and Central CA surf at top spots was head high and blown out with south winds setting up moderate chop. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high or so and pretty warbled and weak. In Southern California up north surf was thigh to maybe waist high and textured from the north and lined up, but weak. Down south waves were waist high and clean but pretty foggy. Hawaii's North Shore was getting local windswell at head high and blown out with Kona westerly winds and whitecaps in control. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting thigh high windswell with clean conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
No real swell of interest was occurring in either Hawaii or California. Low pressure was filling the North Pacific generating mult.cgie embedded fetch area. The first tracked northeast off California to Oregon with seas 22 ft Wed-Thurs (2/5). The second was north of Hawaii on Thurs (2/5) with 24 ft seas northwest of Hawaii and expected to fade while pushing east. Another patch of 22 ft seas to push north of Hawaii late Fri (2/6) with 22 ft seas building to 28 ft just off Central Southern CA on Sun PM (2/8) then moving directly into North CA Mon AM. And one more system is forecast tracking to the dateline Sun (2/8) then holding there with 28-30 ft seas into Mon PM (2/9). Much mid-grade semi raw swell possible for all locations, likely accompanied by weather.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (2/5) the jet was pushing flat east off Southern Japan with winds building to 190 kts as it tracked over the dateline, then faded slightly while pushing north of Hawaii, .cgiitting 600 nmiles off the Southern CA coast. The jet was making good eastward progress with no .cgiits indicated, but also no clear cut troughs defined, though there was a sense one was trying to develop as the jet moved into the Gulf of Alaska. Limited support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours winds to holding in the 180 kt range over the dateline and moving into the Gulf with a trough starting to dig out north of Hawaii late Fri (2/6) looking good for supporting gale development. That trough to push east while loosing wind energy into Sun AM (2/8) 600 nmiles off Central CA and moving inland 24 hours later with a .cgiit in the jet developing at 145W. Support for gale development in that trough continually fading. But 190 kt winds to start rebuilding over the dateline on Sun (2/8). Beyond 72 hours a new trough is to develop north of Hawaii late Monday fed by 180 kts continuing east Wed (2/11) offering good support for gale development. A thin ridge is to build over the US West Coast with a .cgiit west of it at 130W preventing weather from moving onshore. And yet another patch of 190 kts winds is forecast in the jet approaching the dateline from the west on Thurs (2/12) With the remaining energy continuing to fall into the semi-perpetual trough now established north of Hawaii. Continued support for gale development in the Gulf north of Hawaii. Overall a nice long positive setup is projected.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (2/5) no swell of interest was hitting either Hawaii or California other than residual Gulf swell pushing into Southern CA (see Gulf Gale below). But that situation should be short lived. A broad area of diffuse low pressure was filling the Northern Pacific with 3 embedded low pressure cells tracking east in it's southern periphery. And a broader system is forecast for the dateline (see Dateline Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours three systems are to be of interest:
A fetch was 1200 nmiles west of Central CA on Tues PM (2/3) producing a small area of 35-40 kt southwest winds and starting to generate some seas of interest. The fetch rapidly lifted north with 35 kt southwest winds holding into Wed AM (2/4) resulting in 20 ft seas at 35N 140W making no eastward progress. By evening the gale was tracking fast north with all it's 35 kt southerly fetch aimed at Vancouver Islands northward and seas 22 ft at 42N 135W (off Cape Mendocino CA to Lincoln City OR). This system pushed off Washington Thurs AM (2/5) with 35 kt south winds and 24 ft seas targeting Vancouver Island directly. But no fetch or seas of interest were forecast other than those aimed at the Pacific Northwest. Small sideband swell is possible for the US West Coast.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (2/5) building to 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft) at sunset and buried in local south windswell. Swell fading on Fri (2/6) from 6.5-7.0 ft @ 11 secs (7 ft). Swell Direction: 245-260 degrees
Southern CA: Swell arrival possible on Fri AM (2/6) building to 2.9 ft @ 12 secs (3.5 ft) later. Swell fading Sat AM (2/7) from 2.9 ft @ 11 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 255-265 degrees
The next fetch developed on the dateline Tues PM (2/3) generating 30-35 kt west winds over a tiny area and 22 ft seas at 37N 178E. 40 kt west winds were falling southeast Wed AM (2/4) with seas building to 24 ft at 35N 177W with a better sized footprint targeting Hawaii. 35-40 kt west fetch continued in the evening over a tiny area with 26 ft seas moving to 34N 170W again targeting Hawaii well (320 degs). Fetch faded from 30-35 kts Thurs AM (2/5) just 650 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii with 24 ft seas at 32N 164W (343 degs HI). Fetch to be fading from 35 kts in the evening with 21 ft seas at 30N 155W targeting the US West Coast (270 degs NCal, 278 degs SCal) more than Hawaii. Residual 30 kt west fetch to start lifting northeast Fri AM (2/6) off the US West Coast generating 19 ft seas at 30N 145W (263 degs NCal, 274 degs SCal). A quick fade to follow but with 18 ft seas tracking northeast positioned 600 nmiles off Central CA in the evening 35N 136W (266 degs NCal). Something to monitor.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting before sunrise on Fri (2/6) at 8 ft @ 13-14 secs (10.5 ft) building into mid-morning at 8 ft @ 14 secs (11 ft). Residuals into Sat AM (2/7) fading from 7.5 ft @ 12 secs (9.0 ft). Swell Direction: 315-325 degrees
NCal: West windswell likely starting Sat afternoon (2/7) building into Sun AM (2/8) at 7 ft @ 12-13 secs (8.5 ft) from 265-270 degrees
SCal: Swell to arrive late Sun (2/8) afternoon at 3.1 ft @ 13 secs (4 ft) peaking overnight with residuals on Mon AM (2/9) at 3.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 270 degrees
Yet a third broader fetch of 35 kt west fetch is to develop just northwest of Hawaii on Fri AM (2/6) with seas building from 20 ft at 33N 175W targeting Hawaii. Winds to continue at 30-35 kts from the northwest in the evening positioned 575 nmiles north-northwest of Hawaii producing 20 ft seas at 30N 163W. The fetch is to quickly pass north of the Islands Sat AM (2/7) and building in coverage with 35 kt west winds building targeting the south end of the US West Coast. Seas building from 22 ft at 29N 152W. Theoretically 35-40 kt west winds to building in the evening with seas pushing 24 ft over a small area at 28N 145W (256 degs NCal, 266 degs SCal). Winds to build to 45 kts pushing east Sun AM (2/8) with 26 ft seas at 33N 135W (261 degs NCal, 274 degs SCal). 35-40 kt west fetch to be lifting northeast and just off San Francisco in the evening with 28 ft seas at 36N 130W (265 degs NCal). Fetch is to be moving inland over North CA Mon AM (2/9) with 22 ft seas 50 nmiles off Cape Mendocino. Possible solid but raw swell for Southern CA up into Central CA if this materializes.
Hawaii: Rough data suggests swell arrival late Sat (2/7) afternoon building to 9.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (11.5 ft). Swell Direction: 320 degrees.
North CA: Raw swell possible on Monday (2/9) at 13 ft @ 14 secs (18 ft). Swell Direction 255-265 degrees
Southern CA: Raw swell possibly arriving Mon afternoon (2/9) building to 3.9 ft @ 13 secs (5 ft) late and heading up from there, peaking overnight. Swell still 4.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (6.0-6.5 ft) early Tues AM (2/10). Swell Direction: 265-270 degrees
Southern CA: Residuals on Fri (2/5) fading from 2.3 ft @ 12-13 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 289 degrees
A gale started winding up in the Gulf of Alaska Fri PM (1/30) (really just the reformed remnants of the Kuril Island Gale and the North Dateline Gale) generating 35-40 kts winds over a small area in it's south quadrant targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. Seas built from 17 ft. On Sat AM (1/31) 50 kt winds were in the gales southeast quadrant barely aimed east at Central CA northward but really targeting Canada and with 40 kt north winds aimed at Hawaii. A small area of 28-30 ft seas were targeting Central CA northward at 42N 152W (290 degs NCal) and 24 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii from 45N 160W (356 degs HI). 35 kt north and west winds to continue in the evening generating 25 ft seas targeting Hawaii at 41N 160W (345 degs HI) and 27 ft seas at the US West Coast at 42N 152W (290 degs NCal). Only west winds remained Sun AM (2/1) at 35 kts aimed at the US West Coast with 22-23 ft seas at 40N 152W (285 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). This system dissipated after that. Modest swell for the Islands and a little more for California up into the Pacific Northwest.
Another fetch is forecast starting to develop off Japan on Fri (2/6) with 45 kt west winds over a tiny area and building some while pushing east. It is to still be west of the dateline on Sat AM (2/7) with 40 kt west winds over a decent sized area with 32 ft seas at 35N 169E (304 degs HI). In the evening fetch is to be fading to 35 kts while the gale reorganizes with seas fading to 30 ft at 34N 175E (305 degs HI). Sun AM (2/8) 40 kt west winds to be rebuilding as the gale crosses the dateline with seas 31 ft over a broader area at 37N 176W (320 degs HI, 285 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). 40 kt northwest winds to be building in the evening over the same area with 30 ft seas at 37N 173W (323 degs HI, 284 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal). Winds to be fading from barely 40 kts from the northwest Mon AM (2/9) with 29 ft seas over a broad area at 35N 170W (325 degs HI, 281 degs NCal, 287 degs SCal). Winds to be fading from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 26 ft at 31N 167W (318 degs HI, 275 degs NCal,282 degs SCal). A slow fade to follow with the remnants effectively stationary north-northwest of Hawaii into Wed PM (2/11) when seas fall below 20 ft.
Much large but raw local swell possible for the Islands and smaller but cleaner swell for CA possible. .
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (2/5) a front associated with a co.cgiex low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska was off San Francisco with south winds 20 kts there to 35 kts up in Cape Mendocino and rain building slowly over North CA reaching down to Pt Reyes late evening. The front to push down to Big Sur on Friday with 35 kt south winds forecast north of there. Light south winds 15 kts to Pt Conception. Heavy rain for North CA working its way to the Bay Area late afternoon and fading while pushing to Morro Bay late. Snow possible for high elevations of the Sierra starting 7 PM. The front to loose it's punch and fade on Saturday but scattered light rain continuing Sat reaching south to Santa Barbara and continuing over North and Central CA. Snow slowly fading for higher elevations of the Sierra. Another low to move up to the coast on Sun (2/8) with south winds 25 kts from Monterey Bay northward. Rain for all of North and Central CA starting early. Solid snow for medium elevations starting Sun PM. Wind turning west to northwest later Monday and rain chances fading everywhere through the day. Snow slowly fading in the Sierra. High pressure rebuilds Tuesday with north winds 15-20 kts over the entire state except protected breaks in Southern CA. Winds fading to light on Wednesday and light offshore Thursday.
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 the large gale filling the North Pacific is to fade out. But with the jet still strong and more troughiness building, it seems likely more gale development will occur. But the model has not picked up on it yet in lower levels of the atmosphere.
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 (2/5) the daily SOI was rising some at -1.00. The 30 day average was falling from -9.61 and the 90 day average was rising slightly at -7.75. 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 steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (3.5 months). Weak high pressure is forecast south of Tahiti thru (2/12) likely causing the SOI to move somewhat higher. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated strong westerly wind anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading to modest on the dateline and turning neutral south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated strong west anomalies in the heart of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. A solid Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) continued in.cgiay since 1/15 but has not made any eastward progress. A week from now (2/13) modest west anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline. Mostly neutral anomalies are forecast from there to a point south of Hawaii, and on to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to continue holding over the West Pacific to the dateline.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/4 are in sync initially. They both suggest a modest Active Phase of the MJO was holding a bit west of the dateline. Beyond the models diverge with the Statistic model depicting the Active Phase moving east over the next 15 days and fading some south of Hawaii while the Inactive Phase of the MJO moves from the Indian Ocean almost making headway into the West Pacific. The Dynamic model has the Active Phase holding it's ground and strength in the West Pacific maybe making it to the dateline with the Inactive Phase still contained in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/5 depicts a modest Active Phase over the Central Pacific and forecast to track east into Central America by 2/15. A moderate Inactive Phase is supposed to develop in the Central Pacific 2/10 and be easing into Central America on 3/5 while a new solid Active Phase takes over the West Pacific. 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 (2/5) a weak warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific and not getting any warmer. In fact, pockets of slightly cooler water are depicted off Central America. A weak El Nino signature remains barely holding on. Cool water also is holding east of the Galapagos to Peru. Warm water has traction just west of the Galapagos all the way to Indonesia. TAO data suggests neutral to negative anomalies (-1.0 degs C) are covering a region from 130W to Ecuador, with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 130W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.8, 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 now loosing ground with temps again on the increase some.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming. As of 2/4 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was rebuilding control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a new pocket of +2 deg anomalies with a core at +3 degrees was building in coverage under the dateline, suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave and likely associated with the new WWB occurring at the surface there. More warming is expected. Satellite data from 1/28 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 (1/28) indicates +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies are continuing to develop between 175E-160W reaching east to 145W, suggestive that another weak 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 (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 2/5 for the Nino 3.4 region have stabilized. It suggests water temps are at +0.7 deg C and are to hold through May then falling just slightly to +0.6 degs C by June. From there temps hold at +0.6-0.8 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 through 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. 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