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.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 4.6 ft @ 9.9 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 8.7 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 4.3 ft @ 6.0 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 14.3 secs. Wind northwest 8-10 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 1.3 ft @ 10.2 secs from 258 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 15.6 secs from 219 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.6 ft @ 15.0 secs from 219 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 8.7 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 5.0 ft @ 12.4 secs. Wind northwest 14-21 kts nearshore. Water temp 52.7 degs.
On Saturday (4/25) in North and Central CA surf was head high and chopped, but there was some swell under the chop. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high on the sets and heavily textured and chopped outside the kelp line. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and clean but weak and with a little north texture on it. Down south waves were chest high on the sets and chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was waist to maybe chest high and clean but weak. The South Shore was tiny with waves maybe waist high on the sets with light south winds adding some heavy texture. The East Shore was getting chest high southeast windswell and chopped from southerly winds.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small swell originating from the Gulf of Alaska on Wed-Thurs (4/23) producing 26 ft seas was hitting Central and North California but with poor local conditions. Otherwise no swell is in the water and no swell production is forecast for the North Pacific beyond. Down south swell from a tiny and weak gale that was tucked up along the east side of New Zealand on Mon-Tues (4/13) producing up to 32 ft seas was hitting Southern CA and unremarkable. Beyond the models suggest a small gale (a primer) was pushing northeast through the Southeast Pacific Sat (4/25) generating 32 ft seas targeting mainly Peru. But a far stronger system remains on the charts developing in the deep south Central Pacific on Sun (4/26) tracking east-northeast while building with seas to 58 ft late Sunday into early Monday on the eastern edge of the CA swell window, fading as it steams towards Chile into early Tues (4/28). Certainly something to monitor. Another tiny gale is forecast tucked up along the east coast of New Zealand on Thurs (4/30) with seas to 34 ft aimed northeast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Saturday (4/25) low pressure was tracking through the Northern Gulf of Alaska forming a gradient with high pressure at 1036 mbs over the dateline generating 25 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii. Also a weak cutoff low was 500 nmiles north of Hawaii generating 30 kt northeast winds targeting only open ocean and pushing well west of Hawaii.
Over the next 72 hours this cutoff low is to ease east with 30-35 kt northeast winds continuing targeting the Islands Sun (4/26) resulting in 18 ft seas pushing towards Hawaii. Swell arrival on Oahu expected on Mon AM (4/27) pushing 5 ft @ 12 secs (6 ft faces) mixing with swell arriving from Kamchatka (see Kamchatka Gale below). Windswell to continue on Tues (4/28) coming from the northeast at near 6-7 ft @ 10 secs (6.5 ft faces) but raw and turning from 35 degrees.
No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Gulf Gale
A small gale developed in the Northern Gulf on Wed AM (4/22) generating a small area of 45 kt west winds and 22 ft seas at 53N 152W 9317 degs NCal). Winds slowly faded but still 40 kts in the evening with seas to 26 ft over a small area aimed east at 52N 147W aimed east at Central Canada (315 degs NCal). The gale was pushing east on Thurs AM (4/23) and fading from 35 kts with seas dropping from 23 ft at 50N 140W and on the edge of the 319 degree path into Central CA and fading. No further swell development is forecast. Small north angled swell possible mainly for the Pacific Northwest with limited exposure for North California.
NCal: Residuals expected Sun AM (4/26) at 5.0 ft @ 10-11 secs early (5 ft faces). Swell Direction: 315+ degrees and shadowed in the SF Bay Area (less size there).
Also on Wed AM (4/22) another gale started pushing off Kamchatka generating 35 kt west-southwest winds aimed towards mainly the Western Aleutians. Seas on the increase. In the evening 35 kt west winds held starting to impact the Western Aleutians generating 23 ft seas at 50N 170E targeting Hawaii somewhat with sideband energy (326 degrees). 30 kt west winds were pushing east on Thurs AM (4/23) generating barely 22 ft seas at 50N 175E (332 degs HI). Fetch is to dissipate after that. Limited 13-14 sec period swell possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Whatever swell to result should arrive starting on Sat (4/25) at 6 PM with period 14 secs. Maybe swell of 3.5 ft @ 14 secs (4.5 ft faces) but that seems optimistic. Swell Direction: 326-333 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 (4/25) high pressure at 1028 mbs was off the South CA coast ridging somewhat east. Weal low pressure was over California moving inland. northwest winds at 15 kts were over much of the Central coast but less in the North and South. The high is to start moving inland with the local gradient developing but positioned south, with north winds 25+ kts over Pt Conception on Sunday and 15-20 kt northwest winds over Central CA north of Monterey Bay. Lighter for Cape Mendo. Low pressure from the Gulf is to be pushing towards Oregon on Mon (4/27) but the high is to be ridging northeast with 20 kt north winds for North and Central CA early, but fading to 15 kts later. North winds to still be 15-20 kts for North and Central CA on Tuesday with low pressure from the Gulf dissipating. On Wednesday new high pressure at 1034 mbs is to be building from north of Hawaii into the CA coast with north winds -25 kts for all of North and Central CA pushing near 30 kts Thursday, the lifting north to Cape Mendocino on Friday with an eddy flow possible for Central CA later. Winds over Cape Mendo to fade to 25 kts on Sat (5/2) with the eddy flow holding over Central CA.
Jetstream- On Sat AM (4/25) a .cgiit flow was in control over the Southwest Pacific with most energy in the southern branch of the jet, ridging south of New Zealand and tracking east down at 63S (ice is reaching up to 65S) while the northern branch was weak and pushing up to 23S. The southern branched tracked east and started troughing in the Southeast Pacific near 120W merged with the northern branch of the jet with 140 kts winds feeding into the trough offering good support for gale development there. The jet .cgiit again east of there pushing into southern South America. Over the next 72 hours wind energy is to start building in the southern branch over the Central South Pacific on Sun (4/26) with winds to 130 kts over a broad area starting to feed into the existing trough in the east into late Monday, offering good support for gale development there. But by Tuesday a ridge is to start pushing south over the Central Pacific shutting gale potential down. Beyond 72 hours starting Wed (4/29) a new trough is forecast building under New Zealand but with only 110 kts winds feeding up into it and slowly easing east. By Fri (5/1) the trough is to still be present while a second batch of 130 kt winds start start pushing up into the same trough with yet more winds at 130 kts building under New Zealand a poised to feed the trough yet again by late Sat (5/2). Improving odds for support of gale development there.
On Saturday (4/25) high pressure at 1028 mbs was locked east of New Zealand pushing the storm track to the south along the Ross Ice Shelf. A small low pressure system was building under New Zealand forming a gradient resulting in 50 kt west winds over a small area aimed east. This is to develop significantly in the days ahead (see South Pacific Storm #2S below). Also a fetch of 40 kt southwest winds was generating seas in the Southeast Pacific (see Southeast Pacific Gale below). Over the next 72 hours the only fetch of interest is to be the South Pacific Storm.
Southeast Pacific Gale
On Fri AM (4/24) a small gale started developing in the Central Pacific lifting northeast with winds 45 kts over a tiny area and seas building. In the evening the gale lifted northeast with winds still 45 kts over a tiny area aimed northeast with seas 30 ft at 50S 136W (189 degs NCal, 190 degs SCal). The gale tracked east with winds fading from 40 kts Sat AM (4/25) aimed northeast and seas building to 32 ft at 49S 128W (185 degs NCal, 187 degs SCal). This system to fade after that with fetch dropping from barely 40 kts and the core of the low dropping southeast. Seas fading from 32 ft at 45S 121W (180 degs NCal, 182 degs SCal). Some modest swell is pushing up towards the US West Coast, but primarily targeting Chile and Peru. The real point is this is to be a primer for what's to come behind.
South CA. Expect swell arrival on Sun 2 AM (5/3) with period 17 secs. Swell to 3.0 ft @ 16 secs later Sunday (4.8 ft). Swell Direction: 182-190 degrees
North CA. Expect swell arrival on Sun 9 AM (5/3) with period 17 secs. Swell to 2.8 ft @ 16 secs late Sunday (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 180-188 degrees
South Pacific Storm #2S
On Sat PM (4/25) a small but potent storm is forecast developing southeast of New Zealand with 55-60 kt west winds and seas building from 39 ft seas at 60S 166W (183 degs HI, 202 degs SCal, 200 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti). Fetch is to build in areal coverage aimed more east-northeast Sun AM (4/26) at 60-65 kts with seas 50 ft at 60S 150W (195 degs SCal, 193 deg NCal). In the evening winds to hold at 60 kts over a solid area aimed north northeast and lifting east-northeast with seas building to 57 ft at 57S 136W targeting Chile, Peru and up into Central America with sideband energy tracking up into California (189 degs Scal, 187 degs NCal). On Mon AM (4/27) fetch is to be fading from 50 kts with 45 kt winds over a solid area all from the south-southwest pushing well northeast with 52 ft seas at 53S 126W (183 degs SCal, 181 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 40 kts with 43 ft seas at 50S 117W and outside the CA swell window but aimed well north and targeting Chile and Peru well (sideband swell for SCal on the 179 degree track, 177 degs NCal). This system is to be gone by Monday evening. Secondary fetch is to form in this systems wake Tues PM (4/28) with south winds 55 kts and seas 35 ft at 52S 110W targeting only Peru and Chile but east of the CA swell window. 55 kt southwest winds to hold into Wed Am (4/29) generating up to 46 ft seas targeting Chile well at 50S 109W.
This system has been on the charts for days now and is holding well. It certainly seems like some solid swell will result. But nothing is guaranteed just yet. Winds are just now starting to get purchase on the oceans surface.
New Zealand Gale
A tiny gale developed tucked along the east edge of New Zealand Mon AM (4/13) producing 45 kt south winds and 28 ft seas over a pinpoint sized area at 46S 177E aimed north. This system held its ground while building in the evening with 40 kt south winds growing in coverage and seas building to 26 ft at 45S 1780E. This system built Tues AM (4/14) with 45-50 kt south winds and covering more area with seas to 32 ft at 45S 179W aimed due north. The gale faded in the evening but with 35-40 kt south winds over a solid area aimed north with 24-26 ft seas fading at 43N 172W. Winds were fading from 35 kts from the south on Wed AM (4/15) with seas 24 ft at 45S 178E. The gale dissipated after that. Perhaps some modest background swell to result for Hawaii.
Southern CA: Low odds for swell starting Fri (4/24) at 1.3 ft @ 15 secs (2 ft) building Sat (4/25) to 1.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell fading rapidly after that. Swell Direction: 218-220 degrees
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 small gale is to develop in the Gulf on Sat (5/2) producing 35 kts north winds perhaps generating 18 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii. Something to monitor but not realistic.
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).
Highlight - Warm surface water that appeared to be on the move east is now not so well defined. It has been on the dateline for the past year, but is now centered south of Hawaii (160W).
(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) As of 4/25 the daily SOI was uneven at 10.20.The 30 day average was rising from -3.59 and the 90 day average was rising from -4.73. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a weakening Active Phase of the MJO. As of Sat (4/25) weak high pressure was south of Tahiti and expected to hold into Tues (4/28). A slightly weaker pressure pattern to follow but nothing that would suggest falling SOI numbers. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest westerly anomalies were in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then weakening at a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies extended from there to Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate westerly anomalies over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area holding to a point south of Hawaii, then turning neutral on into the Galapagos. A week from now (5/3) modest westerly anomalies are to start at 150E (in the Eastern Maritime Continent) building to moderate strength over the dateline, continuing south of Hawaii, then fading some and positioned north of the equator but eventually reaching the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least westerly anomalies) are to hold if not build a week out (a good sign) but repositioned east, more outside the east end of the Kelvin Wave Generation Area than in it.
A moderate Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) developed from 1/15-2/20 then regenerated 2/25 building steadily into the strong category by 3/7, before peaking 3/10 holding to 3/17. A more modest version of it continued into 3/27 then slowly faded into 3/30 but not out even to 4/17. And now it appears to be rebuilding again. This was already a decent event attributable to the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it raged in mid-March. Not a hint of easterly anomalies all year so far. See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/24 suggests a dead MJO signal was in.cgiay. No anomalies were occurring. The Statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to remain near dead for the next 15 days while a weak Active Phase develops in the Indian Ocean pushing weakly into the West Pacific 15 days out. The Dynamic model suggests a dead neutral pattern in.cgiay slowly giving way to a weak Active Phase 10 days out, but with a stronger Inactive Phase building in the Eastern Indian Ocean seeping east. For now the models are generally in sync but for the longer term they are diametrically opposed. The ultra long range upper level model run on 4/25 depicts a modest Active MJO pattern in.cgiay over the Central Pacific and is to ease east reaching Central America on 5/10. A very weak Inactive Phase to build in the far West Pacific 5/1 pushing east and fading as if hits Central America on 5/21. A dead neutral pattern is to set up after that through 6/4. 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 (4/23) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime continues in control of the entire equatorial Pacific. And warmer water continues trying to get traction along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts pushing north up to the equator, with a small warm pocket depicted between the Galapagos and the mainland. This pocket started forming on 3/28, faded some, and was on the rebound some, but has started backing off as of 4/25. Still, this is something not seen last year at this time. Warmer water extends west from there but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator until it reaches the dateline, then expanding in areal coverage. It is this pocket of cooler water south of the equator that is of some concern, possibly limiting long term transition to a legit El Nino pattern. TAO data indicates +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years. +1.5 deg anomalies are now depicted advecting west from the Galapagos. And some interest, the pocket of +1.5 anomalies that have been locked over the dateline appears to be moving east, now centered at 155W with it's leading edge at 148W, but dissolving. (previously centered at 160W on 4/21). This was though to be significant suggesting that a mass transport of warm water at the surface and subsurface was in transit. But with it's demise, or at least loss of clear identity, that assumption is in doubt. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps warmed some, currently at +1.05 degs, but are not worming beyond that limit.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are no longer warming but are pushing hard east. As of 4/25 a +2.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a large pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continued holding coverage with its core at 132W, and it's leading edge now impacting the Galapagos and driven by the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 and additional strong westerly anomalies in March, feeding even more warm water into that Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave was expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Actual data suggests it hit on 4/23. According to TAO data, +4 deg anomalies are already rushing east, flowing into the Galapagos ahead of schedule and deflecting up and down the South America Coast, but not markedly so. Satellite data from 4/18 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E with a core to +10 cm from 150W to 85W indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (4/18) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175E-82W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 172E-85W and +1.5 deg anomalies from 162W-92W. And a building core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 148W-118W. In short, a strong Kelvin Wave is in flight tracking east. A quick analysis of last years Large Kelvin Wave event that occurred in this same time frame, and this years event are remarkably similar in size and strength. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred last December (12/21/14) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if last year was to be a single year event. But if this is a true multiyear Modoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe (as is actually occurring). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 4/17 is steadily improving. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire northern equatorial Pacific and with a strong pulse west of the Galapagos on the equator. A very weak easterly current was positioned 2-3 degrees south of the equator. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific north of the equator and building to the strong category and positioned directly over the equator in the east (130W to Ecuador). Sure looks like El Nino is setting up.
This data suggests a general west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 4/25 for the Nino 3.4 region have stabilized. It suggests water temps are at +1.0 deg C (confirmed) and are to slowly warm into July reaching +2.15 degs C, and continuing to +2.5 degs by Oct and 2.65 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino, and strong at that. But it is too early to believe just yet. The same thing happened last year. The model is likely just picking up on the Kelvin Wave in flight and will settle back down after it erupts over the Galapagos. But the recent migration of warm surface water south of Hawaii is starting to look more interesting suggesting a feedback loop might be developing and the core of the Walker circulation is easing east. But much more warm water would be too be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop, especially of the magnitude projected by the model (rivaling the all time great '97 El Nino). The mid-March consensus Plume suggests a continuation of Modoki ENSO, though some models are now suggesting something more. 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 until Feb 2015, and then very weak at that. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in.cgiay with some greater force dictating the pattern (possibly the PDO). The focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist if not strengthen in 2015. We are in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier (March-May). The real teller will be during the month of June. Water temps in the Nino 1.2 region are expected to be quite warm due to the arrival of a large Kelvin Wave currently in flight (see details above). If that warming is sufficient to start the classic El Nino feedback loop, then continued westerly anomalies and WWBs should continue through July-Sept and beyond, with a full scale El Nino developing. But if the cool upwelling Phase off the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The June to early July timeframe will either make or break development of a legit El Nino. Of note: The eastward migration of warm surface water from the dateline now positioned south of Hawaii is typical of a classic variety of El Nino, which did not occur at any point in time last year. Perhaps a true El Nino teleconnection is developing. But again, the real indicator will occur in June (see above).
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 a small gale is forecast developing south of New Zealand on Wed AM (4/29) generating 40 kt southwest winds and 32 ft seas at 50S 172E. In the evening winds are to be tracking northeast and building to 45 kts with seas building to 36 ft over a tiny area at 47S 178W. Winds to be fading from 40 kts Thurs AM (4/30) with seas fading from 34 ft at 43S 172W. Something to monitor.
And another similar gale is to right behind it tracking under New Zealand Thurs AM (4/30) with 50 kt southwest winds and seas building to 38 ft at 58S 163E. Winds to be fading from 45 kts in the evening and lifting northeast with 38 ft seas at 56S 177E. 40 kt south-southwest winds forecast Fri AM (5/1) with 32 ft seas at 52S 175W then dissipating. More respectable swell might result.
A nice little early season pattern is shaping up if one is to believe the models.
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