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 Saturday (2/14) in North and Central CA surf was 6 ft on the face at top breaks and clean but with underlying lump and a bit on the slow and weak side. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high on the sets and clean and lined up. In Southern California up north surf was waist to maybe chest high and clean and lined up. Down south waves were about the same in the waist to chest high range and clean but with a little too much tide on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover dateline swell with waves head high or so and pretty hacked with southwest winds in control. The South Shore was flat and chopped. The East Shore was getting wrap around leftover dateline swell at thigh high with 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-Wed (2/11) was fading along the US West Coast and gone in Hawaii. Another small gale was developing north of Hawaii on Sat (2/14) producing a tiny area of 30 ft seas aimed well at Hawaii while another broader gale is forecast to track off Japan moving to the dateline Sun-Wed (1/18) with 26-28 ft seas the theoretically rebuilding some on the dateline again with 28 ft seas pushing east and fading Thursday (2/19) north of Hawaii. Possible swell for both the Islands and the mainland. But beyond nothing is indicated though the jetstream still looks healthy.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (2/14) the jet was pushing east off Southern Japan at 190-200 kts tracking over the dateline and falling into a developing trough just northwest of Hawaii offering decent support for gale development there. The jet then .cgiit just east of Hawaii (150W) with then northern branch tracking up and over Vancouver Island with the southern branch heading southeast towards the equator. Over the next 72 hours the trough north of Hawaii is to deepen while pushing east to 150W then pinching off there on Sunday (2/15) as it hits the .cgiit point. Continued support for gale development is suggested in that trough until then. 180 kts winds to continue pushing off Japan at that time with hints of a gentle trough starting to develop west of the dateline offering limited odds to support gale development there. That trough is to ease east reaching a point just west of the dateline on Tues (2/17) with winds in it still 180 kts. Beyond 72 hours the trough is to fade some after crossing the dateline on Thurs (2/19) but still 170 kt winds are to be pushing flat off Japan and over the dateline reaching the .cgiit point at about 155W. No real troughs are indicated though support for gale development is possible. By Sat (2/21) 160-170 kts winds are to still be flowing off Japan and over the dateline reaching a point north of Hawaii with a gentle trough trying to develop west of the dateline offering limited support for gale development there. The semi permanent .cgiit is to still be in.cgiay at 150W making no eastward headway. Not a bad pattern, but not particularly energetic either.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (2/14) residual swell from a broad gale previously on the Dateline was fading along the US West Coast (see Dateline Gale below). A new compact gale was developing north of Hawaii (see Hawaiian Gale below). And a new gale was starting to organize just east of Japan (See 72 hour forecast below).
Over the next 72 hours a broader fetch is to try and develop streaming off Japan starting late Sat (2/14) with winds 35 kts getting a little traction initially with seas 24 ft at 37N 151E. By Sun AM (2/15) 40 kt northwest winds are to be taking hold with 28 ft seas developing near 35N 152E (300 degs HI). Winds to fade to 35-40 kts in the evening over a broad area aimed southeast with seas 28 ft at 33N 155E (296 degs HI). 35-40 kt west winds to continue Mon AM (2/16) with a decent sized area of 28 ft seas at 32N 160E targeting primarily Hawaii (294 degs). Winds to push east in the evening fading in coverage from 35-40 kts with seas 29 ft at 31N 167E (293 degs HI). Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts Tues AM (2/17) with seas fading from 28 ft over a smaller area tracking due east at 32N 174E (298 degs HI). Fetch is to be down to 35 kts pushing east in the evening with 25 ft seas at 34N 180W (306 degs HI, 282 degs NCal, 289 SCal). 35 kt east winds to continue tracking east Wed AM (2/18) with 25 ft seas at 34N 178W. 35 kt west winds to continue in the evening with 26 ft seas at 36N 177W. Fetch is to fade from there. Perhaps some very westerly 15-16 sec period swell possible for the Islands with lesser size for the US West Coast. Something to monitor.
On Fri PM (2/13) low pressure 1000 nmiles northwest of Hawaii was slowly starting to get better organized and becoming of interest with a small area of 40 kt northwest winds building and seas on the increase from 26 ft at 34N 170W (321 degs HI).. By Sat AM (2/14) a tiny area of 45 kt northwest winds were in.cgiay with seas building to barely 30 ft over a tiny area at 30N 168W targeting Hawaii down the 320 degree path. 40 kt winds to be falling southeast in the evening with seas 25 ft at 29N 160W (347 degs HI). On Sun AM (2/15) 35 kt northwest winds are to be 500 nmiles northeast of Hawaii with 22 ft seas at 29N 154W. The gale is to fade after that. There's decent potential for a small pulse of swell mainly for Hawaii later Sunday night and fading into Monday AM (2/16) with small sideband swell for exposed breaks in California.
Hawaii: In Oahu expect swell arrival near 9 AM Sun (2/15) peaking at sunset reaching 9.8 ft @ 15 secs (14.5 ft Hawaiian). Residuals on Monday (2/16) at sunrise at 6.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft) and fading. Swell Direction: 321-330 degrees
North CA: Sideband swell arriving on Wed AM (2/18) pushing 4 ft @ 14 secs (5.5 ft) from 260 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday (2/14) a weak pressure pattern was in control with high pressure over Vancouver Island driving a 20 kt northeast windflow over outer waters off North CA and north at 15 kts off Central CA. By Sunday a light north flow is to settle in at 10 kts or less and weaker still into Mon and Tuesday. Wed (2/18) modest high pressure to build off the North Coast with north winds 15-20 kts there fading some on Thursday. Light winds on Friday and Saturday everywhere except northeast 20 kts north of Cape Mendocino. Until the jet consolidates over the Northeast Pacific no precip is forecast for California.
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 no swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.
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 Saturday (2/14) the daily SOI was up to -2.70. The 30 day average was falling from -11.76 and the 90 day average was up slightly at -7.34. 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 modest 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 (2/22) weak 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 fading east into 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 2/13 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, with the Inactive Phase also fading in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/14 has been all over the.cgiace. It now depicts a weak active pattern in the West Pacific and slowly pushing east, moving into Central America on 3/16. A weak Inactive Phase is to develop in the West Pacific 3/1 pushing east into 3/26 while a new weak Active Phase starts developing in the West. This weaker than normal pattern 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 2/14 a +1.0 C anomaly flow had rebuilt 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 2/14 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.0 degs C, and continuing to +1.25 degs by Nov. 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