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, May 31, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 3.6 ft @ 10.5 secs with swell 1.3 ft @ 10.6 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.6 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 15.0 secs. Wind southeast 6-10 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 0.9 ft @ 13.8 secs from 237 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.8 ft @ 14.1 secs from 209 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.3 ft @ 14.6 secs from 201 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 6.1 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 3.7 ft @ 13.1 secs. Wind south 5 kts nearshore. Water temp 54.5 degs.
On Sunday (5/31) in North and Central CA southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist high and textured at exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz waves were up to chest high on the sets and clean coming from the south. In Southern California up north southern hemi swell was knee to thigh high and clean early. Down south waves were up to waist high early and clean coming from the south. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and warbled with sideshore winds. The South Shore was getting new New Zealand swell with waves waist to chest high and clean and lined up but inconsistent. The East Shore was flat and textured with northeasterly winds.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no swell was in the water and no swell producing weather systems are forecast for the next week other than small hurricane swell for Southern California from Hurricane Andres. Regarding windswell, trades were suppressed relative to Hawaii and are forecast to remain that way for the next week. Relative to California, high pressure generated north winds were suppressed and expected to hold that way until Wed (6/3) when high pressure moves up to the coast and Cape Mendocino pressure gradient starts developing, becoming productive on Thursday. From the southern hemisphere, swell from a broad but modest strength system that developed southeast of New Zealand on Mon (5/25) generating 40 ft seas aimed north-northeast was starting to hit Hawaii and eventually bound for the the US West Coast. Beyond that, only a weak and poorly organized gale is forecast in the Southeast Pacific on Mon-Tues (6/2) generating up to 28 ft seas aimed northeast. Small swell might result.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Sunday (5/31) weak low pressure was 50 nmiles west of North CA suppressing high pressure in the Northeastern Pacific with a light wind flow in control of California. No windswell was in the water nor being produced. Relative to Hawaii trades were less than 15 kts and no windswell was being produced.
Over the next 72 hours low pressure off the CA coast is to move inland on Mon (6/1) with high pressure developing behind it, starting to impact the Central and North Coasts of CA on Tuesday building to near 20 kts on Wednesday (6/3) and then forming a gradient over Cape Mendocino on Thursday with winds up to 30 kts there holding if not building in coverage on Friday. Small windswell developing then for North and Central CA. Relative to Hawaii trades to try and develop starting Wed (6/3) but just barely reaching the 15 kt threshold and only in patches east of the Islands, and fading later Thursday with no real windswell resulting.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Hurricane Andres was 700 nmiles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas Mexico on Thurs AM (5/28) with winds 50 kts tracking northwest. Andres built to hurricane strength in the evening and peaked Sat PM (6/30) with winds 100 kts at 15N 116W or 1100 nmiles south-southwest of Dana Point on the 175 degree path tracking northwest (163 degs NCal). A turn to the northwest followed Sun AM (5/31) with winds down to 90 kts at 15.4N 117.8W or 1080 nmiles south of Dana Point on the 180 degree track. A steady fade is forecast while this system tracks west-northwest, falling to tropical depression status Wed PM (6/3). Small swell is expected reaching Dana Point on Mon (6/1) morning with swell 3.4 ft @ 14 secs (4.5 ft) early fading to 13 secs near sunset. Residuals on Tues (6/2) fading from 2.6 ft @ 12 secs (3 ft faces). Swell Direction: 175 degrees
Another tropical system is forecast forming 700 nmiles south-southwest of Cabo on Thurs (6/4).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Sunday (5/31) weak low pressure was 500 nmiles east of North California keeping high pressure at bay and resulting in a weak wind flow along the CA coast. More of the same is forecast Monday as low pressure slowly starts easing east and over Central CA. High pressure is to develop behind getting a toe in the door on Tues (6/2) with north winds building to 15-20 kts later for North and Central CA, pushing 20-25 kts Wednesday and focusing near Cape Mendocino on Thursday at 30 kts pushing 35 kts late. And eddy flow (south winds) to develop for Central CA on Friday with the gradient holding over Cape Mendocino producing more 30 kt north winds, slowly giving up ground into Saturday AM then fading into Sunday (6/7).
On Sunday AM (5/31) the jet was .cgiit over New Zealand but the two branches merged over the Central South Pacific tracking east on the 33S latitude line with winds building to 190 kts over a small pocket at the merge point, then fading significantly before pushing into Chile. There was something that sort of resembled a trough at the merge point where the two streams joined, but only 80 kt winds were pushing up into that trough offering only minimal support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to hold together through Tues AM (6/2) while tracking east, but winds are to get progressively weaker offering little support for gale development. And by late Tuesday winds are to start peeling off tracking east off the bottom of the .cgiit flow, pushing nearly over Antarctica in the Southeast Pacific and shutting down any potential for gale development over the entire South Pacific. Beyond 72 hours a well defined ridge is to continue to hold over the Southwest Pacific building east and taking over the entire South Pacific by Fri (6/5) offering no support for gale development. But on Thurs (6/4) there is some hints of a trough starting to form just southeast of New Zealand barely reaching north to 55S by Friday tracking east into late Saturday before dissipating. Winds are to only be 80 kts pushing up into it offering only low odds to support low pressure in lower levels of the atmosphere.
On Sunday (5/28) one more swell was tracking northeast, originating from a gale previously southeast of New Zealand (see Broad New Zealand Gale below). Residual fetch from that gale was trying to organize in the Southeast Pacific blowing at 30-35 kts from the southwest with seas starting to build from 23 ft.
Over the next 72 hours that fetch is to continue developing some on Sun PM (5/31) producing 35-40 kt southwest winds and 27 ft seas over a small area at 35S 124W. More 35-40 kt southwest fetch to develop Mon AM (6/1) generating 27 ft seas at 40S 134W continuing into the evening with winds still 35-40 kts with seas peaking at 28 ft at 38S 128W but aimed almost due east. More 35 kt southwest fetch is expected on Tues AM (6/2) generating 29 ft seas at 38S 123W, then fading in the evening. Small 15 sec period swell might result somewhat targeting California but mainly Central America down into Peru.
Broad New Zealand Gale - Swell #2S (HI)
A broad fetch started developing under New Zealand on Fri PM (5/22) generating 40 kt southwest winds and starting to get traction resulting in 29 ft seas at 58S 155E. By Sat AM (5/23) that fetch became more defined with a solid area of 40 kt south-southwest winds developing with one patch to 45 kts embedded generating 32 ft seas aimed northeast over a modest sized area at 53S 165E (219 degs CA and barely on the 201 deg track to HI). 45 kt south winds continued in the evening lifting north with seas 31 ft over a tiny area at 52S 166E (219 degs CA, barely in the 201 degs window to HI). By Sun AM (5/24) this system started taking shape with fetch fading from 40-45 kts but now covering a solid if not large area aimed due north with 30 ft seas at 48S 167E tucked right up under the Southeast New Zealand coast and mostly obscured by land. The Jason-2 satellite passed over the fetch and reported a 15 reading average of 34.5 ft with one reading to 38.1 ft where the model suggested 31 ft seas. The model was undercalling it. In the evening a secondary fetch built in the lows south quadrant at 45 kts aimed north with 32 ft seas redeveloping a bit to the east at 54S 177E again aimed north (195 degs HI, 212 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti, 213 degs SCal and in the heart of the shadow). This system peaked on Mon AM (5/25) with fetch building over a moderate area aimed north at 45 kts with a a core to 50 kts from the south with seas to 34 ft at 50S 179E (195 degs HI, 213 degs NCal and unshadowed, 215 degs SCal and still barely shadowed). Winds were fading from 45 kts in the evening with seas peaking at 41 ft at 50S 177W (193 degs HI, 211 degs NCal and barely shadowed, 212 degs SCal and shadowed). The Jason satellite passed just south of the core of the fetch at 02Z 5/26 reporting a 15 reading ave of 40.4 ft with one reading to 46.8 ft where the model projected 37-38 ft seas. The model was down.cgiaying it. On Tues AM (5/26) winds were dropping from 40 kts from the southwest with seas fading from 36 ft at 48S 167W aimed northeast (186 degs HI, 207 degs NCal and shadowed, 210 degs SCal and barely shadowed). Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 45S 162W.
This system has developed pretty decently, especially considering the lack of solid upper level support from the jet. Solid swell is expected tracking towards Tahiti and Hawaii, but less so for CA given shadowing from Tahiti.
Hawaii: Swell was arriving as expected Sun AM (5/31) with period 19 secs early and building, forecast pushing 3 ft @ 18-19 secs late (5.5 ft with bigger sets). Swell building over night peaking Mon AM (6/1) at 3.6 ft @ 17 secs (6.0 ft with sets to 7.5 ft - excluding affects from favorable bathymetry). Swell still decent on Tues AM (6/2) fading from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5.0-5.5 ft). Residuals on Wed (6/3) at 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 186-201 degrees focused on 195 degrees
Southern California: Expect swell arrival on Tues (6/2) pushing 1.8 ft @ 18 secs (3 ft) near sunset. Swell to peak Wed (6/3) holding near 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell starting to fade Thurs AM (6/4) from 2.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 210-219 degs focused on 212 degrees
North California: Expect swell arrival on Tues (6/2) pushing 1.5 ft @ 19 secs (2.5 ft) near sunset. Swell to peak Wed (6/3) holding near 2.6 ft @ 18 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell starting to fade Thurs AM (6/4) from 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 207-219 focused on 212 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 high pressure is to hold off North CA into Friday (6/5) with the typical pressure gradient and north winds forecast to 30 kts over Cape Mendocino with an eddy flow (south winds) possible for all of Central CA. Windswell continuing for North and Central CA. The gradient is to fade with winds dying from 25 kts early on Sat (6/6) and windswell fading with it.
Relative to Hawaii trades to remain suppressed (not exceeding 15 kts) with no east windswell forecast.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) As of Sun (5/31) the daily SOI was falling from 4.10. The 30 day average was rising from -13.52 and the 90 day average was rising from -9.37. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of steady Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady state Active Phase of the MJO or a building weak El Nino. A building high pressure system is expected over Southeast Australia by Mon (6/1) at 1028 mbs fading 2-3 days later. No low pressure of interest is projected near Tahiti for the coming week. the net result is to be generally neutral SOI numbers for the next week.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak westerly anomalies in.cgiay over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching over the dateline building to the modest category south of Hawaii and holding to a point south of California, fading to neutral from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest west anomalies over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area, building to moderate strength on the dateline holding south of Hawaii and half way to the Galapagos (better than what the 850 mb model suggested). A week from now (6/8) a weak easterly anomaly pattern is to set up over the Eastern Maritime Continent (first of the year) with west anomalies developing in the modest category just east of the dateline building to moderate strength to a point south of Hawaii, fading some then redeveloping and building to moderate strength near the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least the area of westerly anomalies) is to be migrating east into the East Pacific. This is not supportive of Kelvin Wave development. A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May continuing into late May while easing east out of the Kelvin wave Generation Area. There has been zero easterly anomalies so far this year, but a small area is projected by 6/8. More westerly anomalies are needed, especially in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area if a legit El Nino is to develop.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/30 suggests a moderate Inactive MJO signal was moving into the far West Pacific trying to reach towards the dateline. The Statistic model suggests this Inactive Phase is to hold position and fade over the next 10 days, gone with a near dead neutral pattern in.cgiay at 15 days out. The Dynamic model is more troubling suggesting the Inactive Phase is to build over the next 10 days reaching the moderate category on the dateline. then start fading while tracking east 15 days out. This would not be a good thing and would suggest the atmosphere is not as co.cgied from a ENSO perspective as some might think. If this outcome were to develop, it would not be good and could stall the development of El Nino. The ultra long range upper level model run on 5/31 is picking up on this trend depicting a small but solid Active MJO pulse over the extreme East Pacific moving east and over Central America on 6/5 while a moderate Inactive Phase was trying to build over the far West Pacific and forecast pushing steadily east peaking on the dateline on 6/10 at moderate strength, then fading while tracking east and hitting Central America on 6/25. An very weak Active pattern is to develop over the far West Pacific starting 6/20 taking over the equatorial Pacific on 6/27 with no end in sight. The issue is we have to survive what is now looking like certain development of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the next 3 weeks. This could be a signal for the upwhelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave lifecycle (an atmospheric component of what is typically thought of as purely a oceanic pattern). 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 (5/28) a modest but defined warm water/El Nino-like regime continues developing over the entire equatorial Pacific, but now not getting any stronger. Warmer water has stalled it's buildup over Ecuador and the Galapagos, suggesting the most current Kelvin Wave impacting the coast peaked out on 5/24. It's development is better than last years strong Kelvin Wave, but still not striking. Warm water is in.cgiace along the Peruvian coast pushing north up to the equator. Warmer water extends west from the Galapagos along the equator but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator near dateline, no longer expanding in coverage close to the South America Coast (down to 20S) and if anything is loosing a little ground. In comparison to last years massive Kelvin Wave which hit at this time, the warming this year is looking much stronger. Compared to '97 (a super El Nino), it is similar near the Galapagos. But with warming now peaked and likely fading in the weeks ahead, and with a possible upwelling Phase starting, is seems unlikely any comparison to '97 will again be futile. 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 covering the entire area west of there to the dateline. Peak temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador are +4-5 degs above normal, but not warming and if any have given up some ground since 5/24. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are +1.1 degs above normal. One would expect this area to continue warming markedly as the big Spring Kelvin Wave starts erupting and advecting west into the Nino3.4 area, starting about 5/28. But the above data suggest that might not become a reality, similar to last year. Will monitor.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator under the dateline (160-180W) have warmed, up to +2-3 degs C, the result of a WWB earlier in May. And more warm water is falling down into it from the surface. So the pipe is open. But the big story remains very warm anomalies under the equator in the East Pacific pushing up and east into the Galapagos and Ecuador. As of 5/31 a large pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies were impacting the Galapagos Islands 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 is expected to start peaking over the Galapagos on 6/10. Peak water temps (anomalies > 4 degs C) still extend westward to 137W, meaning there is 3.5 weeks of peak warm water still in the pipe (into 6/15 maybe more). Also of interest is the apparent downwelling of more warm water on the dateline, the result of non-stop westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. That Kelvin Wave 9really just an extension of the current Kelvin Wave) should arrive on Aug 10. Satellite data from 5/23 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 165E with a core to +10 cm in pockets from 145W to the Galapagos, indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. But this image definitively indicates the Kelvin wave is on the decline compared to previous data. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (5/23) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 172E and the Ecuador coast (decreasing some) with +1.0-1.5 degs from 178E eastward (also decreasing) and +1.5 deg anomalies from 150W eastward (holding). And a core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated from 92W eastward with a small pocket of 2.5 degs anomalies now rolling off the chart. This suggests the peak of the Kelvin Wave has impacted or is impacting the coast. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
It is do or die time. Either the ocean temps will warm significantly enough to kick off some degree of real El Nino, or it's more Modoki El Nino. We'll know more as we move into the expected peak warming, June 1-10. The good news is westerly anomalies are holding over the dateline, complete with previous tropical development north of the equator, suggestive perhaps of developing co.cgiing between the ocean and the atmosphere (in the classic El Nino sense). The bad news is the model suggest weak east anomalies developing over the Kelvin wave Generation Area. Two tropical system in the West Pacific (Noul and Dolphin) have recurved northeast, and early in the season. And now a early season hurricane (Andres) has formed in the East Pacific with another forecast behind it. But these are symptoms of previous warm water in that area, and not a signal of anything new developing.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 5/22 continues to improve. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific with strongest velocity in the heart of the Kelvin Wave generation Area. Weaker velocities extended from the dateline to 110W, turning neutral near the Galapagos. A very weak easterly current was positioned 2-3 degrees south of the equator, weaker than 2 weeks ago. Anomaly wise - moderate to strong west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific reaching to the dateline, then moving just north of the equator and continuing modestly to 110W. A pocket of easterly anomalies was present just south of the equator from 145W-170W. This continues to look like El Nino is setting up.
Compared to 1997 at this time, the pattern and strength is similar. But in '97 the strongest anomalies were in the East Pacific near the Galapagos rather in the West Pacific. Looking 30 days ahead, if any similarities to '97 are to be maintained, strong to massive west to east velocities and anomalies will need to develop by the end of June.
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 (PDF Corrected) run 5/28 for the Nino 3.4 region remain solid. It suggests water temps are at +1.0 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm into July reaching +1.4 degs C, and continuing to +1.75 degs by Oct and +1.85 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. This suggests we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino, and solid 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 in July after it erupts over the Galapagos. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop (including surface warm water currently locked over the dateline), especially of the magnitude projected by the model. The mid-May consensus Plume suggests development of a modest El Nino with peak temps 1.2-1.5 degs above normal. 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 warming 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 of the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The real interesting thing is westerly anomalies and a certified WWB developed in early to mid May over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area indicating another Kelvin Wave is in development, much different than what occurred last year. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO is now trying to develop over the West Pacific (5/21), which already appears to be dampening the development of further westerly anomalies with the west winds anomaly pattern shifting to the equatorial East Pacific. The June to early July timeframe will either make or break development of a legit El Nino. If more WWBs develop, then odds of El Nino development increase. If not, then all the warm water that has moved east will effectively dissipate, much like it did in 2014. All the other signals (recurving early forming tropical systems, warm water along the US West Coast, falling SOI etc) all mean nothing unless there are solid WWBs to continuously build sea surface temp anomalies rover the Galapagos. In other words, the WWB are what drive El Nino, Everything else is symptoms.
We continue monitoring Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming East Pacific equatorial waters for the 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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