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.
Tuesday, April 28, 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 2.6 ft @ 6.0 secs with swell 0.7 ft @ 14.5 secs. Wind northwest 6-8 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 1.8 ft @ 7.1 secs from 258 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 0.8 ft @ 15.9 secs from 211 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.0 ft @ 15.8 secs from 195 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.6 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 3.5 ft @ 13.5 secs. Wind northwest 3-7 kts nearshore. Water temp 52.5 degs.
On Tuesday (4/28) in North and Central CA surf was head high on the sets and lightly chopped, warbled and mushed out with fog. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist high or so and relatively clean, but weak and mushy. In Southern California up north surf was near flat at maybe knee high and clean but with some light warble running through it. Down south waves were up to waist high and clean but weak and unremarkable. Hawaii's North Shore was getting locally generating north windswell bigger than expected at 2-3 ft overhead and clean with trades in effect. The South Shore was tiny with waves maybe thigh high on the sets and clean. The East Shore was getting the sane windswell with waves 2-3 ft overhead and chopped from easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific relative to Hawaii windswell from a fetch that was 600 nmiles north of the Islands on Sun-Mon (4/27) was hitting the Islands. Relative tot he US West Coast no swell was in the water. But there was.cgienty of locally generated north windswell. For the most part no swell production is forecast for the North Pacific beyond. Maybe a small gale is possible in the Gulf on Sun (5/3) generating 18 ft seas aimed east over a tiny area. But that's it. Down south remnants of a strong storm were still producing 38 ft seas off South America, but that system was effectively gone. Previously it produced up to 54 ft seas on Sun-Mon (4/27) while tracking over the Southeast Pacific with most energy targeting Chile and Peru but with solid sideband energy forecast radiating up into California. Another small but fairly strong gale is forecast tucked up along the east coast of New Zealand on Wed-Thurs (4/30) with seas to 44 ft aimed northeast. Certainly some swell to result for Hawaii. And another decent system is forecast for the South Central Pacific on Mon-Tues (5/5) with 44-46 ft seas aimed somewhat northeast. So the charts are teasing.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (4/28) high pressure at 1032 mbs was positioned 900 nmiles north of Hawaii and ridging east generating 20 kt trades pushing over the Islands and generating local east windswell. Also larger windswell from the north relative to Hawaii was in the water having been previously generated Sun-Mon (4/27) (see details below). Otherwise the Hawaiian high pressure system was starting to ridge east towards the US West Coast, generating 15-20 kt north winds along the Central CA coast, making for modest north windswell. On Wednesday (4/29) the high is to start impacting the US West Coast with north winds building to 25 kts early over north and Central CA waters with the gradient lifting north on Thurs (4/30) and perhaps an eddy flow setting up for Central CA. The gradient is to slowly fade and take aim more out to sea into Fri (5/1) though winds to still be in the 25 kt range from the north-northeast, with windswell relative to California slowly fading but not out completely.
Hawaiian Cutoff Low
A weak cutoff low was 500 nmiles north of Hawaii on Sat (4/25) generating 30 kt northeast winds targeting only open ocean and pushing well west of Hawaii. That low eased 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). Windswell continued 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. It is to fade by Wed AM (4/29) turning more easterly, looking more like tradewinds windswell (6.5 ft @ 9 secs (5.5. ft) from 65 degrees.
No other swell producing fetch is forecast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (4/28) high pressure at 1032 mbs was north of Hawaii ridging east generating north winds at 15-20 kts along the North and Central CA coasts. On Wednesday the high is to impact the Central Coast with north winds on the increase at 25 kts for all of Central CA pushing near 30 kts over North CA holding Thursday but lifting north to Cape Mendocino with a possibly eddy flow setting up for Central C late. On Friday more of the same is forecast but with north winds turning more north-northeast with an eddy flow more possible for Central CA. Winds over Cape Mendo to fade to 25 kts on Sat (5/2) with the eddy flow holding over Central CA. Winds to fade in areal coverage over Cape Mendocino Sunday (5/3) with the eddy flow still in.cgiace then holding Monday. The gradient to fall south on Tues (5/5) with 15-20 kts north winds taking over all of North and Central CA.
Jetstream- On Tuesday AM (4/28) a .cgiit flow was in control over the South Pacific with most energy in the southern branch of the jet. A trough was building under New Zealand with 140 kt winds flowing up into it, but nothing impressive. The southern branch then was ridging south over the Central Pacific, then forming another trough outside of the California swell window and west of the Southern tip of South America. Both troughs were offering support for gale development, but nothing over the top. Over the next 72 hours the trough under New Zealand is to be pushing up along the east coast of New Zealand with winds 120 kts pushing due north offering good support for gale development. But that trough is to collapse on Thurs (4/30). And to the east and large ridge is to build pushing into Antarctica east of 140W totally shutting down support for gale development there. Beyond 72 hours starting Fri (5/1) a new trough is forecast building east of New Zealand with 120 kt winds feeding up into it and slowly easing east but also slowly loosing energy. Still, some support for gale development is possible into Sun (5/3). By Tues (5/5) a ridge is to start building under New Zealand but then lifting up into a new trough over the Southeast Pacific being fed by 140 kt winds building to 150 kts later offering great support for gale development. Something to monitor.
On Tuesday (4/28) remnant low pressure from Storm #2S was still circulating in the far Southeast Pacific generating 35 kts westerly winds, but outside of our forecast area and not generating any seas of interest. But seas previously generated from Storm #2S were still pushing east and decaying from 38 ft pushing towards Chile (see Storm #2S below). High pressure at 1024 mbs was over the mid-southern latitudes of the Central Pacific generally pushing the storm track south there. Over the next 72 hours starting Tues PM (4/28) a new gale is to building under New Zealand (see Possible New Zealand Gale below).
South Pacific Storm #2S
On Sat PM (4/25) a small but potent storm started developing southeast of New Zealand with 60-65 kt west winds and seas building from 40 ft seas at 60S 166W (183 degs HI, 202 degs SCal, 200 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti). The Jason-2 satellite passed near the core at 06Z Sun (4/26) reporting seas at 43 ft with one readying to 46.4 ft where the model suggested seas should be 44-45 ft. The model was doing a good job. Fetch built in areal coverage aimed more east-northeast Sun AM (4/26) at 60 kts with seas 50 ft at 60S 150W (195 degs SCal, 193 deg NCal). The Jason-2 satellite passed over the outer periphery of this storm and reported seas 36.3 ft with one reading to 42.7 ft where the model was projecting 36-38 ft seas. In the evening winds held at 55 kts over a solid area aimed north-northeast and lifting east-northeast with seas building to 54 ft at 55S 137W targeting Chile, Peru and up into Central America with sideband energy tracking up into California (189 degs Scal, 187 degs NCal). The Jason-2 satellite made a pass near the core at 05Z Mon (4/27) and confirmed seas at 47.1 ft with one reading to 53.9 ft where the model was projecting 48-49 ft seas. On Mon AM (4/27) fetch was 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). The Jason-2 satellite made 2 passes over the north and south periphery of the storm. It reported 41.2 ft seas with one reading to 48.7 ft where the model suggested seas should be 39-40 ft. The model was on the money. In the south quadrant it reported seas to 30-32 ft where seas should have been 29 ft. Fetch was fading in the evening from barely 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). The Jason-2 satellite passed directly over the core of the storm at 03Z Tues (4/28) and reported seas at 42.2 ft with one readying up to 50.6 ft where the modeled suggested 41 ft seas should be. Again, the model was spot on.
This storm has completed it's lifecycle and was strong and impressive. Jason-2 satellite data has confirm what the model has been projecting, with a good correlation between all the data points. Most energy was aimed east-northeast at Chile up into Peru, but solid sideband energy is forecast radiating up into Central America and the US West Coast. A solid long period swell is in the water.
South CA: Expect swell arrival starting sunset Sat (5/2) with period 25 secs and pure swell maybe 2.3 ft @ 25 secs late (5.5 ft faces). Swell building steadily as period drops to 22 secs early Sun (5/3) with swell 3.6 ft @ 22 secs (7.9 ft with sets to 10.0 ft). Swell pushing 4.3 ft @ 20 secs late (8.5 ft with sets to 10.7 ft). Swell to continue upwards peaking on Mon (5/4) AM at 4.4 ft @ 19 secs (8.4 ft faces with sets to 10.5 ft). Swell still solid but fading some on Tues (5/5) at 4.1 ft @ 17 secs (7.0 ft with sets to 8.7 ft). Residuals on Wed (5/6) with period fading from 16 secs. Swell Direction: 185-195 focused on 190 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival starting sunset Sat (5/2) with period 25 secs and pure swell maybe 2 ft @ 25 secs (5 ft faces). Swell building steadily as period drops to 22 secs mid-day Sun (5/3) with swell 3.3 ft @ 22 secs (7.3 ft with sets to 9.0 ft). Swell to continue upwards peaking on Mon (5/4) at 4.0 ft @ 20 secs (8.0 ft faces with sets to 10 ft). Swell still solid but fading some on Tues (5/5) at 3.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (6.3 ft with sets to near 8 ft). Residuals on Wed (5/6) with period fading from 16 secs. Swell Direction: 183-193 focused on 188 degrees
Possible New Zealand Gale
A small gale is forecast developing south of New Zealand on Tues PM (4/28) generating 40-45 kt southwest winds and 27 ft seas at 51S 165E. By Wed AM (4/29) a tiny fetch of 55 kt southwest winds is to be in.cgiay lifting northeast with seas on the increase, pushing 42 ft over a tiny area at 49S 174E. In the evening winds are to be tracking northeast and holding at 45-50 kts with seas building to 44 ft over a tiny area at 45S 179E. Winds to be fading from barely 45 kts Thurs AM (4/30) with seas fading from 40 ft up at 41S 176W. this system to be gone by evening with winds 35 kts and seas mostly from previous fetch fading from 34 ft at 40S 166W. Something to 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 a small gale is to develop in the Gulf on Sat-Sun (5/3) producing 35 kt northwest winds perhaps generating 18-19 ft seas aimed mainly east towards California. Something to monitor.
Otherwise the Cape Mendocino pressure gradient is to slowly fade through Sun (5/3) with north winds and windswell from it fading out.
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) As of Tues (4/28) the daily SOI was dropping at -15.40.The 30 day average was falling from -2.78 and the 90 day average was falling from -4.60. 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 Tues (4/28) a weak pressure pattern was in.cgiay. the models suggest low pressure is to be building just south of New Zealand on Mon-Tues (5/5) which 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 strengthening some while passing a point south of Hawaii. weak westerly anomalies continued from there into the 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 light westerly on into the Galapagos. A week from now (5/6) modest westerly anomalies are to start at 130E (over the Maritime Continent) building to moderate.cgius strength west of the dateline, continuing to a point south of Hawaii, then dissipating. Neutral anomalies are forecast east of there except turning to moderate westerly over the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least westerly anomalies) are to hold if not build a week out (a good sign) and positioned well in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area.
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 4/27 suggests a dead MJO signal was in.cgiay. No anomalies were occurring. The Statistic model suggests a continuation of the same for the next 15 days while a weak Active Phase develops in the Indian Ocean but making no headway east. 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 4/28 depicts a strong Active MJO pattern in.cgiay over the East Pacific and is to ease east reaching Central America on 5/4. A weak Inactive Phase to build in the far West Pacific 5/4 pushing east and fading as if hits Central America on 5/25. A dead neutral pattern is to set up after that through 6/7. 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 (4/27) 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, building some in the latest image. This pocket started forming on 3/28, faded some, and has been trying to rebound some, but with only limited success. But today's (4/28) hi-res imagery clearly indicates warm water building near the Galapagos and along the entire Peruvian and Ecuadorian Coasts. This is something to monitor because if anomalies in this area continue to build, it could be the start of the pattern we were looking for last year. 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. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps warmed some, currently at +1.0 degs, but are not warming beyond that limit. One would expect this area to start warming after the big Spring Kelvin Wave starts erupting and advecting west, starting maybe a month out (5/28).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are no longer warming but are pushing hard east. As of 4/28 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 130W, and it's leading edge 9at +5.0 C) 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 4/23 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E with a core to +10 cm from 145W to the Galapagos indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (4/23) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 175E-80W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 175E-80W and +1.5 deg anomalies from 157W-85W. And a building core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 146W-110W. In short, a strong Kelvin Wave is in flight tracking east and starting to impact the Galapagos. 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 4/28 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 +2.2 degs C, and continuing to +2.5 degs by Oct and 2.8 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 another gale is to build tracking southeast of New Zealand on Sun AM (5/3) with a tiny area of 50 kt southwest winds and seas building. By evening a solid fetch of 45-50 kt southwest winds are to be in.cgiay tracking east with seas building to 33 ft at 57S 157W. On Mon AM (5/4) winds are to be building to 55 kts aimed well northeast with 42 ft seas at 56S 148W. In the evening 50 kt southwest winds to continue with seas building to 46 ft at 52S 139W. The storm is to rapidly fade Tues AM 95/5) with winds dropping from barely 45 kts and seas dropping from 41 ft at 50S 131W. This system to continue fading. If all goes as forecast a decent swell should result for the entire Pacific Basin though only with sideband energy for Hawaii.
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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