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 (4/12) in North and Central CA local north windswell was producing waves in the waist to chest high range and chopped at exposed breaks with south eddy wind on it. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh to maybe waist high and clean but weak. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. Down south waves were waist high on the sets and clean but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting a decent pulse of Japan swell with waves 3-4 ft overhead and clean. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting wrap around Japan swell with waves waist high or so but chopped from easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A weak gale developed off Northern Japan Mon-Tues (4/8) with 26-28 ft seas targeting Hawaii with swell hitting there now. Minimal energy from this system to reach the US West Coast too. Another weak gale is developing off Northern Japan on Sat-Sun (4/13) with 24 ft seas again targeting primarily Hawaii. After that the North Pacific goes silent, likely staying that way as we move into summer.Down south a small gale formed in the far Southeast Pacific on Sun (4/6) with 36 ft seas over a tiny area targeting Chile, on the edge of the SCal swell window. Swell for Scal on Mon-Tues (4/15). Another tiny gale is developing in the far Southeast Pacific on Fri-Sat (4/12) expected to produce a small area of 34 ft seas aimed north. Possible small swell mainly for Mexico up into SCal. Nothing else of interest is to follow behind.
Note: NDBC has updated their buoy maintenance plan. 46012, 46013, 46026 are scheduled for maintenance in May and 46014 in Aug 2014. There is no schedule for 46059 or 46006. Most operations are focused on repairing the TAO array (ENSO monitoring buoys on the equator) and fortunately the first set of those buoys (at 95W and 110W) are back in operation (see MJO/ENSO update below). TAO Buoys at 125W are no longer scheduled. Instead NOAA will focus on buoys at 140W and 170W in September.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Saturday (4/12) the jetstream was pushing off Japan with winds building to 160 kts midway to the dateline forming a weak and broad trough there offering minimal support for gale development. East of there the jet held together to the dateline then fell into a steep almost pinched off trough 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii and in the Gulf, then split with the northern branch tracking up into West Alaska and the southern branch falling over Hawaii the turning east tracking into Northern Baja. No support for gale development in the Gulf trough. Over the next 72 hours the pocket of wind energy west of the dateline is to stretch out and weaken but still is to be producing 150 kts winds over the dateline and ridging northeast up into the Western Gulf. with the faintest signs of a gentle trough over the northern dateline, but likely not strong enough to support gale development. The trough previously in the Western Gulf is to move over Vancouver Island on Tuesday (4/15) offering nothing to support gale development. And the jet is to be split 1000 nmiles north of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hours wind speeds are to really settle down by Fri (4/18) to 100 kts over the width of the jet with all troughs fading but the split dissipating too. Instead a flat west to east flow is forecast centered on the 40N latitude line resulting in a pure zonal flow and holding into the weekend. No support for gale development is forecast.
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (4/12) swell from a gale previous off Japan was hitting Hawaii (see Japan Gale below). Also another small gale was trying to develop just off Northern Japan on Sat AM (4/12) producing 35 kt west winds over a small area and 24 ft seas at 41N 156E targeting mainly Hawaii. 35 kt west winds to push east-southeast through the day into the evening resulting in more 24 ft seas at 38N 162E (303 degs HI). Fetch is to fade from 30-35 kts Sun AM (4/13) approaching the dateline with 22 ft seas fading at 40N 167E. 30-35 kt west winds are to be fading in coverage in the evening with seas holding at 22 ft up at 43N 173E (319 degs HI). A small pulse of 35+ kt west winds to develop into Mon AM (4/14) with seas building to 24 ft over a small area at 44N 177E (322 degs HI) then quickly fading out. Maybe some small swell to result for Hawaii later during the workweek.
No other swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
A weak gale developed off the Southern Kuril Islands on Mon (4/7) with 35-40 kt west winds and seas building to 26 ft in the evening at 44N 158E (312 degs HI). Fetch was fading from 35-40 kts Tues AM (4/8) with seas peaking at barely 28 ft at 43N 163E (313 degs HI). Residual 30-35 kt westerly fetch to hold into the evening with seas 26 ft at 40N 170E (312 degrees HI). Fetch to fade from 30 kts Wed AM (4/9) with 24 ft seas fading at 43N 174E (319 degs HI). Perhaps some small swell to result for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival starting late Fri (4/11) with swell 4.8 ft @ 16-17 secs (7.5 ft). Swell peaking overnight then fading from 6 ft @ 14-15 secs (8.5 ft) Sat AM (4/12). Swell Direction: 312 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (4/12) high pressure at 1026 mbs was ridging inland over Canada forming a pressure gradient over extreme North CA generating 25-30 kt north winds there, a typical summer like pattern. A weak eddy flow (south winds) was in control of the Central CA coast with light winds into Southern CA. Sunday the gradient is to fade but high pressure is to start building along the coast, the leading edge of a high at 1034 mbs north of Hawaii. Monday a light 10 kt northerly flow expected along the Central Coast through the day building late as the leading edge of the high pushes east. 20 kt north winds expected over Northern CA with a light flow over Southern CA. By Tues AM high pressure is to build strong into the coast with north winds 20 kts for all of North and Central CA pushing into nearshore Southern CA in the evening. North winds to remain in play for North and Central CA and over the Channel Islands Wednesday at 20+ kts then moderating Thursday, but still 20 kts over North CA but fading to 15 kts for most of Central CA with almost an eddy flow setting up over Pt Conception. Friday 15 kt north winds to continue for all of North and Central CA fading but still near 15 kts on Saturday (4/19). Looks like we're in for a taste of a real Spring pattern. .
Surface - Swell from a small gale that was in the far Southeastern Pacific on Sun-Mon (4/7) has hit Chile with sideband energy heading towards Southern CA (see 1st Southern Hemi Gale below). another gale was forming in the same general area on Fri-Sat (4/12) but tracking better to the north (see 2nd Southern Hemi Gale below). Otherwise over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
1st Southern Hemi Gale
A modest sized gale developed in the Southeast Pacific on Sun AM (4/6) producing a tiny fetch of 45 kt southwest winds and seas on the increase from 28 ft near the edge of the Southern CA swell window. The Jason-2 satellite passed directly over the fetch at 18Z and confirmed seas at 27.8 ft wit one reading to 30.3 ft where the model suggested 32 ft seas should be. The model was over hyping this fetch some. In the evening a small area of 45-50 kt southwest winds were tracking due northeast with seas building to 36 ft over a tiny area at 57S 124W (182 degs NCal, 185 degs SCal). Fetch was lifting further northeast on Mon AM (4/7) but fading from 40 kts due south of SCal with 34 ft seas at 53S 117W (180 degs SCal) targeting primarily Chile up into Peru. The Jason-2 satellite again passed right over the fetch confirming seas at 31.8 ft with one reading to 35.2 ft where the model indicated 34 ft seas. The model was right on track. Perhaps sideband energy for Southern CA with some small early season swell for Chile.
SCal: Whatever swell was generated to arrive starting Mon PM (4/14) just before sunset with pure swell pushing 2 ft @ 17-18 secs (3 ft faces). Tues AM (4/15) swell to peak at 2.2 ft @ 17 secs (3.5 ft faces with sets to 4 ft). Swell to be fading Wed AM (4/16) from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3 ft faces). Low wave count per set with sets rare. Swell Direction: 185 degrees
2nd Southern Hemi Gale
Another small fetch of 40-45 kt south to almost southwest winds developed in the far Southeast Pacific on Fri PM (4/11) producing a small area of 28 ft seas at 50S 128W aimed due north at Southern CA (185 degs). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the fetch at 18Z and confirmed seas at 26.5 ft with one reading to 29.6 ft where the model projected 26 ft seas. The model was on track. The fetch is to build to 45 kt Sat AM (4/12) but still small in areal coverage aimed due north with seas building to 34 ft at 50S 121W (183 degs SCal). Fetch is to be fading from barely 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft over a tiny area at 44S 120W (182 degs SCal). This system is to be gone by Sun AM (4/13). Maybe some small southern hemi swell to result for Mexico and Southern CA with luck. Will monitor.
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 high pressure is to be set up off Central CA at 1032 mbs on Mon (4/14) with weak low pressure pushing into the Gulf of Alaska from the dateline perhaps setting up a pressure gradient and generating 35 kt southwest winds Tues PM (4/15) with low pressure perhaps coalescing in the Northeastern Gulf on Wed-Thurs (4/17) into the weekend. But at this time no solid fetch capable of generating seas above 20 ft is 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 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 Saturday (4/12) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up hard to 29.34. The 30 day average was rising at -4.80 and the 90 day average was rising at -0.22. The near term trend based on the 30 day SOI was indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. The 30 day SOI was rising from the lowest point it's been since the El Nino of '09/10 and suggesting whatever occurred during the Jan-March timeframe to push it negative is over. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate plus west anomalies over the far Western Pacific north of Australia reaching almost to the dateline but turning to light easterly anomalies there and holding to a point south of Hawaii. Weak easterly anomalies continued from there along the equator the rest of the way to the Galapagos. A week from now (4/19) modest west anomalies are expected to hold over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then fading. Neutral anomalies are forecast from there south of Hawaii turning to weak westerly anomalies from there to the Galapagos. In all this suggests a building Active Phase of the MJO was developing in the West Pacific and is to hold for the next week. This is good news. Wind anomalies were just be enough starting (4/7) to be considered a minimal Westerly Wind Burst and are to hold for 4/17, likely minimally restarting the warm water transport mechanism feeding a pre-existing subsurface warm pool. Previously a pattern of multiple strong Westerly Wind Bursts occurred Jan-March, but then started moderating in late March, but never give way to a fully Inactive Phase with any hint of easterly anomalies developing west of the dateline. A previous WWB created a large Kelvin Wave tracking towards South America in January (starting 1/8, peaking 1/28 then fading the first week of Feb) followed by a second strong WWB in Feb-Mar (as strong as the first one starting 2/15 and peaking 2/20-3/2 then fading 3/10) setting up and offering yet more reinforcing transport warm water east. And then a third weak westerly wind burst developed (starting 3/12 and faded out by 3/28). As of right now this series of events is significant and is certainly something to monitor, but does not mean El Nino is in-play. And now with yet another weak westerly wind anomaly event in-play, the pattern is becoming more than coincidental and suggests some degree of pattern change for the tropics. Of historical note: The big El Nino's of '82/32 and '97/98 both started forming in the February timeframe and progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months. A article presenting a Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and this 2014 WWB event has been posted here.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/11 are in general consensus. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was taking over the West Pacific with no positive OLR anomalies indicated in the tropical West Pacific. The core of the Active Phase was over the Eastern Maritime Continent with it's leading edge seeping towards the dateline and respectable in coverage. The Active Phase is to continue moving into the West Pacific over the next 15 days per the statistic model and still be in play west of the dateline 15 days out. The dynamic model suggests this pulse is to only last till 5 days out, then dissipating but with a dead neutral pattern taking hold and lasting through the end of the 15 day model run. The ultra long range upper level model continues to show solid strength of the overall pattern as compared to months previous, with the Active Phase now peaking west of the dateline, and is fade while slowly moving east through 4/27. A equally strong Inactive Phase is to build over the West Pacific 4/23 tracking east while holding together pushing into Central America 5/12. Behind it a weak Active Phase is to develop about 5/7 pushing towards the east reaching the East Pacific 5/22. As hoped for, it appears westerly anomalies will persist over the West Pacific the first two weeks of April. For now we will wait to see if or how strong this WWB event turns out to be. But this scenario does strongly suggest a change in the Tropical Pacific weather pattern, a required prerequisite to the formation of El Nino. Longterm this signal (suppressed trades in the far equatorial West Pacific) will have to hold into at least August with warm water building greater than 0.5 deg C over the tropical East and Central Pacific (120W to 170W) before one could declare the development of El Nino. And there is much unknown as we traverse the Spring 'Unpredictability Pattern" (mid-March through early June). The whole pattern could just as easily collapse and return to a neutral pattern like last year. It's just too early to know. 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 the most recent imagery (4/10) a thin but distinct warm water regime has taken over the entire equatorial Pacific west of the Galapagos ranging in the +0.5-1.0 deg C range. A small isolated cool upwelling flow east of the Galapagos is fading and making no westward progress. Elsewhere the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water as is the West Pacific (north and south). This is good news. There are no signs of a sympathetic cool pool developing off Africa. There are no real signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California either. The only cool water present is streaming off Southern Chile pushing northwest almost reaching up to the equator, but getting shunted south by the warm water falling south from the Northern Hemisphere. The next big development, should it occur, will be the much anticipated upwelling of warm water along the western coast of the Galapagos announcing the arrival of a massive Kelvin Wave currently positioned under the Central Equatorial Pacific. This should occur anytime in the next 2 weeks.
Subsurface waters temps on the equator are of most interest and remain most impressive. Of great interest is a large area of very warm +5.0 deg C above normal water in-place and tracking east with it's core 150 meters down somewhere between 160W and 100W. Some sites are reporting water temps in excess of 6.0 degrees C, but the location of those readings are not near active TOA array sensors and are projections from models rather than the ground truth. Current data suggests it's leading edge is at least at 95W (+5 deg C) and passing the east most line of buoys in the TOA array (95W) and right on the cusp of erupting on western shores of the Galapagos (at 90W). Given the lack of sensors between 155W and 110W, exact details concerning the core remain sketchy. Regardless, a large Kelvin Wave has been generated by 24 days of modest to strong westerly anomalies west of the dateline in January (a Westerly Wind Burst) and reinforced by a second WWB in Feb-Mar with yet a third in March with trades suppressed since then. The hope is the Kelvin Wave under the mid equatorial Pacific will fuel to what is hopefully the start of at least a small warm event. The Kelvin Wave has also been confirmed via satellite in the form of increased surface water heights at +10 cm (one small pocket at + 15 cm just west of the Galapagos on 4/8), suggesting warm water at depth is displacing the surface upwards. But surface heights are falling on the dateline to 150W, suggesting all the warm water is now migrating into the East Pacific. When and if this large Kelvin Wave erupts along the South American coast, the increase in water temps should reduce trades in the area, which in turn could support yet more warm water building (heated by the sun). Aided by yet another WWB in the West Pacific and more eastward moving warm subsurface water, a feedback loop could develop, reinforcing the warm water flow and buildup off Central America into the Fall. But we're a long ways from that occurring just yet.What is needed is another Westerly Wind burst of some magnitude, but right now only a weak event is occurring. Still, anything that suppresses trades will suffice to continue the transport mechanism, including just neutral trades.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 4/12 are holding. The model has been continuously suggesting some form of warming starting in March 2014 (which did occur). It now suggests water temps building to +1.0 deg C by early June peaking at +1.95deg C by Nov 2014. For reference, the big El Nino of '82/83 was at +2.0 degs and '97/98 was +2.2 degs). A consensus of other models suggests slow warming, but not passing beyond mildly positive territory till Spring.
Overall the immediate outlook remains unchanged, but potentially trending towards something that would be considered warm by June 2014, assuming one is to believe the models and the subsurface water configuration. Beyond, a host of other promising signs have developed, including multiple westerly wind bursts, changes in the wind circulation pattern on the equator (Walker Circulation), a large Kelvin Wave moving towards Central America, increased sea surface height anomalies confirm by satellite etc. All of this is good news. At a minimum the ocean is in a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures on the rise in fit's-and-starts. Regardless of the WWBs etc, we are in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern at this time with neither any form of El Nino or La Nina present or imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for the Spring of 2014 with perhaps warming developing by May in the equatorial Pacific and possibly increasing during the summer, intensifying into Fall. Monitoring the affects when and if the Kelvin Wave arrives along the equatorial East Pacific will be key to the potential evolution of a warm event. Still there remains 6 months ahead where any number of hazards could derail this event, the most recent being a collapse of the westerly winds in the West Pacific. But this is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. And it seems apparent we've finally recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. In a normal situation one would expect there to be at least one or two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). Historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms). We've turned the corner, but it is still unknown what impact it will have on the atmosphere especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
See a 'Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and the 2014 WWB Event' Here (posted 4/5/2014)
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing weather systems of interest are 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