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.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Thursday, May 5, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 5.3 ft @ 14.3 secs with swell 3.2 ft @ 14.8 secs from 319 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.9 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 13.9 secs from 189 degrees. Wind northwest 2 kts. Water temperature 60.3. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.9 ft @ 10.4 secs from 257 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.2 ft @ 13.1 secs from 207 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.4 ft @ 13.9 secs from 208 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 7.8 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 5.6 ft @ 10.0 secs from 304 degrees. Wind southeast 4-6 kts. Water temp 53.2 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (5/5) in North and Central CA surf was chest high and heavily textured with intermixed lump but not choppy. At Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high and clean but inconsistent and weak. In Southern California up north waves were knee high and clean and weak and swamped by tide. Down south waves were head high on the sets and reasonably clean early with some texture on it it, but overall decent when the sets came. Hawaii's North Shore was getting new swell from Japan with waves head high with top spots 2 ft overhead on the sets and clean and looking quite fun. The South Shore was small with set waves thigh to waist high at top spots and clean. The East Shore was getting windswell producing waves at thigh high and chopped with moderate trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale developed just off Japan on Sat (4/30) producing up to 30 ft seas, but quickly dissipated before reaching the dateline. Swell has hit Hawaii. A gale is developing today (5/5) in the Western Gulf of Alaska with seas forecast to 22 ft aimed east. Small sideband swell is possible for Hawaii with more direct energy for the US West Coast. After that the North Pacific is to go dormant. Down south a gale formed southeast of New Zealand on Fri-Sat (4/30) lifting northeast with seas to 34 ft. Small swell is expected for all our forecast locations. Perhaps a small gale to form southeast of New Zealand on Sat (5/7) with seas to 38 ft over a tiny area aimed east. Low odds for swell to result. Nothing else to follow. In all, a very quiet pattern is taking hold. Get what you can and be thankful for it.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (5/5) a high a.cgiitude jetstream pattern was in.cgiay with three troughs depicted, one over Japan, one in the Western Gulf being fed by 120 kt winds and one just off Southern CA being fed by 100 kts winds. In between two solid ridges separated the troughs, one on the dateline and the other in the Gulf reaching north to the Bering Sea and the Northern Gulf respectively. There was decent support for gale development in the Western Gulf trough. But the others had insufficient upper wind support to be reasonably productive. Over the next 72 hours all three troughs are to ease east, with the Japan trough moving to the dateline, the Gulf trough moving to a point north of Hawaii and pinching off later Fri (5/6) and the California trough moving inland over Southern CA on Fri-Sat (5/7) while weakening providing only the chance of rain, but no fetch. Beyond 72 hours the dateline trough is to move to the Gulf of Alaska on Sun (5/8) being fed by 110 kt winds then getting cut off while falling southeast but still circulating well off the CA coast on Tues (5/10) slowly pushing closer to the coast into Thurs (5/12). Back to the west the jet is to flatten out by Mon (5/9) with winds 140 kts pushing off Japan tracking east over the dateline and reaching up into the Northwestern Gulf with most energy tracking from there into Alaska other than s a small .cgiit of energy feeding the aforementioned trough off California. That same general pattern to hold into Thurs (5/12). Overall the pattern is to not be too bad. But with cold air fading rapidly in the Northern Hemi, there are not much dynamics to support gale formation.
On Thursday (5/5) swell from a gale previously off Japan was hitting Hawaii (see Japan Gale below).
Otherwise a gale was developing in the Western Gulf of Alaska. It formed Wed PM (5/4) generating a small fetch of 40 kt west-northwest winds and seas building from 20 ft over a tiny area at 43N 167W. the gale was lifting northeast Thurs AM (5/5) wit winds fading from 35 kts from the west with seas 22 ft at 45N 161W. Fetch is to be fading from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 19 ft at 46N 157W.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/8) late pushing 2.6 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.5 ft). Swell to peak Mon AM (5/9) at 3.5 ft @ 12 secs (4 ft). Swell fading through the day. Swell Direction: 297 degrees
Over the next 72 hours despite good upper level support no solid gales are forecast down in lower levels of the atmosphere.
A gale developed off Japan on Sat AM (4/30) with 45 kt west winds and seas building from 30 ft at 43N 155E. In the evening fetch is to fade from 35 kts with seas 28 ft at 42N 158E. Fetch is to be fading Sun AM (5/1) from 30-35 kts from the west winds seas 23 ft at 43N 162E. The gale is to be gone by evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 46N 168E. Small swell possible for Hawaii with luck.
Hawaii: Swell fading on Fri (5/6) from 2.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 310 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (5/5) light winds were in control of the coast with weak low pressure developing. Light south winds forecast for the state 5 kts by afternoon. Light precip developing late afternoon mainly for Southern CA with light rain for the Sierra and light snow for mainly the Southern Sierra late afternoon into the evening. Friday (5/6) no change is forecast with light winds and patchy showers mainly late afternoon but reaching well up into Northern CA now. Light snow of the Southern Sierras at higher elevations. No change Saturday with light winds but less rain early and more focused on Southern and Central CA. Light snow for the Southern Sierras later afternoon. Light winds on Sunday with rain and light snow confined to the Southern Sierra. Monday northwest winds to 20 kts for North CA and 10 kts down into Central CA. Precip is gone by sunrise. Light winds and clear skies Tuesday (5/10) through Thursday with more weak low pressure just off the coast.
On Thurs AM (5/4) no swell producing fetch was occurring. Swell from a small gale that formed well southeast of New Zealand over the weekend was pushing north towards Hawaii and the US West Coast (see New Zealand Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a small compact storm is forecast forming south of New Zealand on Fri (5/6) with 55 kt west winds and seas building from 36 ft at 58S 167E. 50 kt west winds to continue in the evening with seas building to 40 ft over a pinpoint sized area at 59S 180W, pushing more southeast than east. Fetch is to rapidly fade while tracking east Sat AM (5/7) from 40 kts with seas fading from 35 ft at 58S 168W. 35 kt southwest fetch to finally take hold in the evening but seas area to be fading from 29 ft at 58S 159W. 35 kt southwest fetch to hold Sun AM (5/8) with seas 27 ft at 55S 149W. The gale to dissipate after that. Something to monitor.
New Zealand Gale
A new gale developed south of New Zealand on Thurs PM (4/28) generating a small fetch of 45 kt southwest winds starting to get traction on the oceans surface. By Fri AM (4/29) a solid fetch of 45 kt south winds were in.cgiay in the deep Southwest Pacific with seas building from 27 ft at 62S 179W aimed north. That gale built more reaching storm status in the evening producing core fetch at 50 kts from the south aimed well north with seas starting to develop from 34 ft at 61S 172W. By Sat AM (4/30) a 1100 nmile long fetch of 35 kt south winds were in.cgiace with a core to 40 kts generating 32 ft seas at 59S 168W. The fetch faded in the evening from 30-35 kts lifting north generating 27 ft seas at 52S 164W. Fetch was gone by Sun AM (5/1) with seas dropping from 24 ft at 45S 159W.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Fri (5/6) with swell building to 1.4 ft @ 16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Additional energy moving in Sat (5/7) at 1.5 ft @ 17 secs (2.5 ft). Swell still holding on Sun (5/8) at 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Residuals fading on Mon (5/9) from 1.8 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Dribbles left on Tues (5/10). Swell Direction: 185-190 degrees.
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/8) building to 1.7 ft @ 18-19 secs (3 ft) later. Swell continues on Mon (5/9) at 2.5 ft @ 17 secs (4 ft). Swell holding on Tues (5/10) at 2.6 ft @ 16 secs (4 ft). Swell Direction: 205 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/8) building to 1.4 ft @ 18-10 secs (2.5 ft) later. Swell continues on Mon (5/9) at 2.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell holding on Tues (5/10) at 2.2 ft @ 16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 203 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 no swell producing fetch is forecast.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
More details to follow...
Cooler Temps Holding in Equatorial East Pacific
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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. 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).
Overview: The 2014-2016 El Nino is fading out. La Nina is emerging.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wed (5/4) no west winds were occurring in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA). Anomalies were very light from the west at 170E-165W from 2S and points southward, but nowhere else. This is mostly attributable to El Nino.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Weak west anomalies are forecast fading by 5/7. Neutral to light east anomalies to follow. At that time El Nino is to be officially dead.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 5/4 a weak Inactive MJO signal was over the West Pacific and dateline regions. The Statistic model projects this pattern fading rapidly with a neutral pattern taking control and holding for the next 2 weeks. The dynamic model depicts a weak Inactive pattern holding over the West Pacific for the next 2 weeks. In all no enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/5) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO collapsed in the Indian Ocean but building some energy. It is to emerge building into the East Indian Ocean over the next 2 weeks. The GEFS model depicts a weaker version of the same thing.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (5/5) A modest Inactive Phase was developing in the far West Pacific and is to reach the dateline 5/13, tracking east into Central America through 5/28. A weak Active pulse to follow 5/20 in the far West Pacific tracking east into Central America through 6/10. With the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely an Active Phase will have any real positive impact.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests no MJO signal was present over the dateline. It also depicts west anomalies are weak over the dateline and are providing next to no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts no MJO signal till 5/10 but weak west anomalies from El Nino are to hold in the KWGA till then. But by 5/12 a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO is to set up with west anomalies collapsing and not forecast to result for the foreseeable future. El Nino is to be dead as of 5/12. At least as of now, no east anomalies are forecast through July.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/5) Actual temperatures continue to retreat daily. A pocket of 29-30 deg temps were building in the far West Pacific with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating west from 144W. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing. One last little pocket of +1 deg anomalies exist tracking west between 170E to 147W and no more than 35 meters deep. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface warm reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are at depth racing east reaching Ecuador at -1 degs with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 120W. This cool pool is already erupting near Ecuador. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, we now have a cold river pushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 4/28 the reservoir is all but gone with +1-2 degs above normal temps confined to a pocket between 170EW to 135W and 30 meters deep and tracking west. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were undercutting it and upwelling near Ecuador. The onset of La Nina has begun.
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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (5/4) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water has taken over the equator region with negative anomalies along the coast of Peru pushing north and then extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos out to 135W peaking at -2 degs. La Nina is in control of surface waters, though remnant El Nino warm water is 3 degs north and south of the equator and on the equator from 145W westward but getting undercut fast. Cool water is also starting to develop south of Mexico.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/3): A neutral trend has developed over waters off Peru but a cooler than normal trend continues from Ecuador west over the Galapagos building out to nearly the dateline (160W). Cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface driven by trades. The Warm pool is in total collapse.
Hi-res Overview: (5/3) The El Nino signal is dissipating. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remains 3 degs north and south of the equator and west of 160W. But a thin stream of cooler than normal water extend from Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to 155W. Negative temps are building in the Nino1.2 region.
TAO Data: (5/4) +.0.5 anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific from 160W to the dateline tacking west with +1.0 degs anomalies north and south of that region. Negative anomalies up to -1.0 were from Ecuador to 138W. The warm water signature was in steep decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/5) Today's temps were rising some at +0.633, up some from +0.351 on 4/30, and up from -1.329 degs on 4/26
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/5) temps were steady at +0.967. But the overall trend is that of a steady decline that set in starting early February.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
Pacific Counter Current: As of 4/16 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 90W to 140E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is getting firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/5) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid May falling -1.0 degs in early July, holding then easing down to -1.25 degs in Sept stabilizing there into Jan 2017. This is in solid La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-April Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.8 by December. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (5/4): The daily index was rising rapidly as expected at -0.10, retreating from a near peak of -45.30 on 4/20. The 30 day average was rising from -18.02, with the most recent peak at -19.07 (4/30). The 90 day average was steady at -14.99. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the 30 day average suggested that the atmosphere still thinks El Nino is in.cgiay.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 5/5 high pressure was building southwest of Tahiti. This same pattern is to get well entrenched by Sat (5/7) and hold into Wed (5/11). Maybe weak low pressure to follow. The SOI is expected to start steadily rising based on the Tahiti contribution likely shutting down any enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/5) Today's value was rising slightly at +1.02. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 then fell until 4/14, when it started rising again peaking 4/23 at +1.12.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53 and up to +1.75 in Feb. Then in March it spiked to +2.40. Impressive. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.
Conclusion: This El Nino is the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based primarily on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected effect producing 13 significant class swells in the North Pacific (16 expected). From a pure El Nino perspective, this event is over and transitioning towards La Nina. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and momentum will affect the upper atmosphere into the late Fall of 2016.
The question now turns to how much the jet will be enhanced by remnants of El Nino for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
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