Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
On Tuesday (7/1) in North and Central CA local windswell was producing surf in the chest high range and tattered at exposed break from south winds but cleaner at select protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing surf at waist high on the sets and clean. In Southern California up north windswell was producing waves in the thigh high range with clean conditions. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves in the waist to near chest high range on the sets with texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small with waves in the knee to thigh high range and clean and lined up. Trade wind generated east windswell was maybe knee high and lightly chopped at exposed breaks on the East Shore.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
No swell producing fetch is occurring or forecast for the North Pacific other than local windswell. In the southern hemisphere a small gale developed in the Southeast Pacific on Wed-Thurs (6/26) generating 26-28 ft seas pushing well to the north. A small pulse of southerly angled swell is expected later in the week for California. Of more interest is a solid storm that formed on the eastern most edge of the Southern CA swell window on Saturday with 40 ft seas aimed northeast then peaking Sun (6/29) with 52 ft seas outside the CA swell window targeting mainly Chile and Peru. Theoretically a solid pulse of sideband energy is to radiate up into Southern CA and then North CA over the weekend from the earlier incarnations of this storm with luck. The models also hint at some form of small gale developing east of New Zealand on Sun (7/6) with a small area of 28-30 ft seas aimed somewhat to the northeast. Small swell for Tahiti and Hawaii possible.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (7/1) trades were mostly below the 15 kt threshold east of the Hawaiian Islands producing no rideable easterly windswell along east facing shores there. High pressure was trying to gain some influence in the Gulf of Alaska but was boxed in by low pressure off the Canadian Coast and another over the dateline. Still enough of the high was ridging towards the North CA coast to generate up to 20 kt north winds over outer water off mainly Central CA to produce minimal windswell for exposed breaks. An eddy flow was in control of Central CA nearshore waters.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to remain generally suppressed as low pressure from the dateline pushes east and into the Gulf of Alaska. Bare 20 kt north winds to continue over the south Cape Mendocino area Wed (7/2) pushing 25 kts more centered over Cape Mendocino Thursday as high pressure tries to get re-established. But those winds to start fading Friday dropping to barely 15 kts Saturday (7/5) as the dateline low moves into the Gulf. Modest sized short period north windswell fluctuating with the strength of the high from North Ca down into Central CA.
15 kt easterly trades to redevelop east of Hawaii on Wed (7/2) as low pressure clears out of Gulf and high pressure starts to get better footing. East trades to peak in areal coverage extending from North CA over the Islands on Thurs (7/3) at 15 kts producing limited easterly windswell, then faltering some on Friday as the high fades and the trades with it, gone on Saturday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Douglas is just west-northwest of the island of Clarion tracking west-northwest with sustained winds 35 kts. No strengthening is forecast with Douglas expected to dissipate on 7/6.
Tropical Storm Elida is 150 nmiles south of Manzaillo Mexico with sustained winds 40 kts and is drifting. No significant strengthening is forecast with an eventually turn to the west forecast.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (7/1) high pressure was weakly ridging towards the California coast from the Gulf of Alaska at 1024 mbs generating barely 20 kt north winds over a limited area off the Central and North CA coasts. A nearshore eddy (south wind) flow was in effect for Central CA. Wednesday that fetch is to move closer to the Central Coast with winds mostly 15 kts reaching down to Pt Conception then building to 20 kts on Thursday AM and lifting north with 25 kts winds over Cape Mendocino late in the day and 15 kt north winds nearshore south of there. The gradient is to fade Friday over Cape Mendo with north winds barely 20 kts and 15 kt north winds pulling away from the Central Coast. The gradient is to fade more on Saturday then start rebuilding Sunday with 20 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino but remaining away from nearshore Central CA waters. north winds to 25 kts over Cape Mendocino on Monday and Tuesday with an eddy flow in play for Central CA.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (7/1) a trough was in place under and pushing up over New Zealand but with only 60 kt winds in it offering no real support for gale development. From there the jet fell south ridging over the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf before finally starting to form another trough and lifting northeast over the far Southeast Pacific. But that trough started only after pushing east of the Southern CA swell window, with 120 kt winds flowing up into it, offering support for gale development only relative to Chile and Peru. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to ease east and track under the southern tip of South America Thurs (7/3) into Friday while the rest of the jet maintains a zonal flow (flat west to east) and displaced way down at 72S offering no support for gale development. Beyond 72 hours a new weak trough is to start building just southeast of New Zealand late on Fri (7/4) with the southern branch merging with the northern branch, but north bound winds only 60-70 kts, offering no real support for gale development. But by Mon (7/7) 110 kt winds to build up into this trough while it pushes east offering better support fro gale development relocated in the Central Pacific, but pinching off later Tues evening (7/8) with a southward displaced zonal flow again taking over.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (7/1) swell from a weak gale previously in the Southeast Pacific was pushing north towards California (see Weak Southeast Pacific Gale below). Stronger swell from a large and powerful gale on the edge of the California swell window (see Storm #2S below). Otherwise no swell producing fetch was occurring. And none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
Weak Southeast Pacific Gale
On Wed AM (6/25) a gale started circulating in the Southeast Pacific producing a fetch of mostly 35 kt southwest winds with one small core to nearly 45 kts. Seas were on the increase. In the evening it started lifting north with 40 kt winds aimed well north and positioned north of the core with 45 kt in the gale core also aimed north in the vicinity of 56S 121W. Seas were building from 26-28 ft in a diffuse are near 54S 130W. On Thurs AM (6/26) 35-40 kt south winds were still blowing with 26 ft seas at 46S 130W and a second area of 28 ft seas at 54S 120W both aimed north-northeast. 40 kt south winds continued into the evening barely in the CA swell window with 25 ft seas up at 38S 121W targeting California and points southward into Central America.
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (7/3) with period 18 secs early building to 2.2 ft @ 17 secs late (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell to peak on Fri (7/4) at 2.4 ft @ 16 secs early (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft) Sat AM (7/5). Swell Direction: 187 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (7/3) afternoon with swell building to 1.6 ft @ 18 secs late (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell to peak on Fri (7/4) at 2.4 ft @ 16-17 secs later (4.0 ft). Swell fading from 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft) Sat AM (7/5). Swell Direction: 184 degrees
Southeast Pacific Storm #2S
On Fri PM (6/27) a new storm formed in the Southeast Pacific generating 50 kt south-southwest winds at 60S 140W (192 degs SCal, 189 degs NCal). Seas were on the increase. Sat AM (6/28) a broad area 45-50 kt southwest winds were positioned on the eastern edge of the CA swell window producing a moderate size area of 35 ft seas at 56S 127W (185 degs SCal, 183 degs NCal). This fetch built to 55 kts in the evening at 58S 118W (SCal 180 degs, NCal 178 degs) with seas building to 44 ft at 55S 116W, barely in the SCal swell window at 179 degrees and outside the NCal swell window at 177 degrees. By Sun AM (6/29) a solid area of 55 kt south winds were in control aimed due north with 52 ft seas building at 54S 109W targeting mainly Chile up into Peru with sideband energy targeting exposed break of South CA (175 degs) and North CA (171 degs). In the evening 55 kt due south winds continued with seas still a solid 50 ft lifting northeast at 50S 105 W targeting all of South America and with sideband energy at South and North California up the 173 and 169 deg paths respectively. A quick fade occurred Mon AM (6/30) with winds dropping from 45 kts still over a good sized area and seas fading from 43 ft at 48S 96W and of no use to California.
Winds were confirmed by the WindSat satellite and most impressive, with 36 hours of 55+ kt winds aimed well towards South America and up towards California. No direct passes of the Jason-2 satellite occurred over the core, but the best pass occurred on Sun PM 0z with a 15 reading average of 42.2 ft with a peak reading of 47.5 ft reported southeast of the core where seas were modeled at 44-45 ft. Analysis of other passes suggested the model was fairly close on track with actuals.
This is to be a solid swell producing system for Central and South America with a combination of limited sideband and more direct swell from early in the storms life hitting California. This swell is expected to result in green light for the first contest of the ASP Big Wave World Tour in Pico Alto Peru. Swell height there are forecast at 10.0-1.5 ft @ 18-20 secs (18-21 ft Hawaiian) on Thurs (7/3) focused on 206 degrees. See all the action at: http://www.aspworldtour.com/events/2014/mbwt
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (7/5) with swell 2.3 ft @ 22-23 secs early building to 3.0 ft @ 22 secs late (6.6 ft with sets to 8.3 ft). Swell to peak Sun AM (7/6) with pure swell 3.6 ft @ 21 secs (7.5 ft with sets to 9.5 ft). Period down to 19 secs late. Swell continues Mon AM (7/7) at 3.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5.8 ft with sets to 7.2 ft). Swell on Tuesday (7/8) to be 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5.3 ft with sets to 6.4 ft). Much water moving around during sets. Long lulls. Swell Direction: 173-185 degs with most energy east of 176 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (7/5) with period 23 sec early and swell building to 2.3 ft @ 22 secs late (5.0 ft with sets to 6.3 ft). Swell to peak Sun (7/6) with pure swell 3.3 ft @ 20 secs later (6.6 ft with sets to 8.3 ft). Swell continues Mon AM (7/7) at 3.3 ft @ 19 secs (6.2 ft with sets to 7.8 ft). Swell on Tuesday (7/8) to be 3.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.5 ft with sets to 6.8 ft). Much water moving around during sets. Long lulls. Swell Direction: 169-183 degs with most energy east of 172 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 try and make a limited comeback on Sunday (7/6) off North CA generating a tiny area of 20 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino building to 25 kts on Monday and holding for at least 36 hours. Limited small north short period windswell possible for North and Central CA.
Relative to Hawaii trades to remain limited to just the direct Hawaiian Islands on Sun (7/6) but then building on Mon (7/7) extending from California to the Islands at 15 kts in patches and building in coverage into Tuesday. Small rideable easterly windswell possibly developing.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the planet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to split resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
As of Tuesday (7/1) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was holding at -22.78. The 30 day average was down at -2.42 and the 90 day average was down some at 3.21. The near term trend based on the 30 day SOI was indicative of an Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO turning Active. Another low pressure system is tracking south of Tahiti on Tues-Wed (7/2) likely holding the SOI negative, but will then fade back to a neutral if not slightly positive pressure pattern beyond. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated moderate plus strength west anomalies over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline. Neutral anomalies continued from the dateline to a point south of Hawaii and from there into the Galapagos. These westerly anomalies are good news. A week from now (7/9) light easterly anomalies are forecast over the equatorial Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline and building south of Hawaii to the modest range continuing into the Galapagos. The GFS model continues to indicate trades have collapsed in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area and are to maintain that orientation for the next week. The TOA array continues to indicate westerly anomalies developed 6/25 west of the dateline (at the surface - the ground truth) and are holding into 6/30 in the moderate range. Previously an Easterly Wind event occurred in the West Pacific 6/13-6/19 building to the moderate plus category and it appears it turned off the warm water flow to the east (more below).
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
Previously a series of WWBs occurred 1/8-4/20 creating a large Kelvin Wave that is now impacting Ecuador, the Galapagos and Peru. And weak westerly anomalies continued through the month of May. This was very similar situation that led up to the big El Nino's of '82/32 and '97/98. But in those instances the WWBs and Kelvin Wave generation progressed non-stop through the Summer and Fall months.
An article presenting a Comparison between the genesis of the 1997 El Nino and this 2014 WWB event has been posted here.
A second analysis from 5/28 is posted here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 6/30 are turning more out of sync again. They both suggest a dead neutral MJO signal is in effect in the extreme West Pacific. 5 days out the statistic model suggests and Inactive Phase is to start building over the Maritime Continent drifting east and moving weakly into the West Pacific 15 day out. The dynamic model has made a 180 degree reversal, now indicating the Inactive Phase is to totally disperse in the next 5 days and a new stronger Active Phase is to build over the West Pacific 10-15 days out. This is exactly what is needed. The ultra long range upper level model suggests a weakening but still coherent MJO signal over the next 40 days, with a new modest Inactive Phase developing in the West Pacific 7/6 pushing east through 8/5, with a Weak Active Phase behind it starting in the West Pacific 7/31. We remain skeptical regarding this model regarding the Inactive Phase , especially in light of the change in the 2 week Dynamic model above. This Inactive Phase continues to slowly degrade with each consecutive run of the upper level model. A very weak MJO pattern is what one would expect if an El Nino were to develop. If a neutral pattern actually prevails in July (regardless of the models prediction) it provides some hope that perhaps the warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some impact on the atmosphere above and the model is just not adept and picking up on these clues. We're at the point where weak westerly anomalies should be standard in the West Pacific, attributable to warming waters temps over the width of the equatorial Pacific. 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 imagery (6/30), a warm water regime remains in control from Ecuador west over the Galapagos and drifting west from there with warm anomalies extending on to the dateline. Hi-res SST monitoring site depicts +2.25-3.0 deg anomalies embedded in the triangle. But there are suggestions that water temps are starting to decrease with a small pocket of neutral anomalies developing directly off the coast of Ecuador. And in the past week small pockets of +4 degree anomalies in the triangle have vanished. All this suggests the bulk of the warm water produced by the massive Kelvin Wave generated by Westerly Wind Bursts in Jan-April has reached the surface in the east (3 months later) and is now dispersing. Those waters are advecting west, tracking into the Nino 3.4 region. But that is the tail of the proverbial dog, while Westerly Wind Bursts are the nose. The issue remains getting more warm water into the pipe to eventually erupt near the Galapagos. But as of right now, the pipe is empty.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water as is the West Pacific (north and south). There is only the weakest signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California, as would be expected for this time of year. This is significant in that is suggests high pressure induced north winds are less than normal off California for this time of year. And the only cool water present is streaming off Southern Chile pushing west almost reaching up to the equator, but getting shunted south by the warm water on the equator. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific is impressive.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are fading. Residual warm subsurface water from the previous Kelvin Wave have dropped 1 degree in the past week and are currently +4 deg C above normal. The core is 50 meters down at 110W. Temps previously were up to +6 degs C above normal on 6/21. As best as can be identified this Kelvin Wave covers a smaller area now, starting at 145W building into Ecuador with the core between 120 and 100W. Satellite data as of 6/27 continues to downgraded the areal coverage of the Kelvin Wave again with increased surface water heights only 0 to +5 cms limited to 125W into Ecuador. This is a significant downgrade in the past 5 days. And subsurface models as of 6/26 depicted the flow from the West Pacific to the east was completely cut off. For all practical purposes, the flow has been turned off. That said, a small pocket of +0.5-1.0 anomalies are in place under the dateline, perhaps suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave trying to take shape. And with a week or two of westerly anomalies forecast, perhaps the hose will reopen. But if easterly anomalies develop 2 weeks into July in association with a predicted development of the Inactive Phase of the MJO (per the 40 day upper model), the flow will again be cut off. A WWBs is required, and soon.
The Pacific Equatorial Surface Counter-Current (from 2N to 2S from the Philippines to the Galapagos) as of 6/27 continued tracking strongly anomalously east to west from the Galapagos to the dateline (through the heart of the Nino 3.4 region), the exact opposite direction it should be to build warm waters in the East Pacific. Event worse, the actual current was tracking strongly east to west over the same area too. This pattern started 6/17. But, the current is still flowing west to east in the far West Pacific, and if anything, has built in the past 5 days. The assumption is the change in direction in the current was attributable to development of easterly winds in the same area in mid-June.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/1 have stabilized suggesting water temps building to +1.0 deg C by early Sept building to +1.5 deg C by Nov (up +0.4 deg over the last week or so) holding into Jan 2015, then fading. Previous forecast peaked at +1.75 in Nov 2014, so we're 0.25 degs off that mark.
Analysis: Assuming it will take 2-3 months for the tail end of the big Kelvin Wave generated by the WWB that ended effectively on 5/1 to erupt over the Galapagos and Ecuador, the existing warm pool should start completely dissipating by 8/1 with neutral water temps taking over the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle, unless something develops to reinforce it. And even if a new WWB in the West Pacific that started 6/28 were to continue to develop, it would not reach the Galapagos till 9/28. So there's a 8 week 'hole' with no warm water to resupply the Ecuador triangle (8/1-9/28) even if reinforcements develop immediately (unless some unknown process is occurring continuing to push warm water eastward). It almost seems like an insurmountable challenge at this time. This is what occurred in the 2012 False-Start El Nino, only this years situation is on a much larger scale. Of course the other consideration is that we're in the 'upwelling' Phase of the Kelvin Wave. It's normal after a downwelling Kevin Wave impacts the Ecuador coast, that some period of upwelling (cooling) occurs. But without another WWB building on the dateline to set up another downwelling Kelvin Wave event, then the developing El Nino pattern would dissipate. So monitoring surface wind anomalies in the West Pacific are critical to determining the future of this years potential El Nino pattern.
As of right now we're waiting for a feedback loop to develop, reinforcing the warm water flow and buildup of warm water off Central America into the Fall. The big concerns are the easterly wind event of the week of 6/17, the development of a west moving Pacific Counter Current, a dissipating Kelvin Wave and the degradation of peak water temps in the Ecuador triangle. What is needed is another Westerly Wind Burst or at least continued westerly anomalies, and no hint of Easterly anomalies. That appears to be trying to happen at the moment. Anything that reduces or suppresses trades in the equatorial West Pacific will suffice to continue the transport mechanism. So out-and-out west surface winds are not required. The macro level concern is that the East Pacific warm pool has NOT been in place long enough to develop a coupling with the atmosphere above it, though there are some signs that a coupling is starting to develop (low pressure tracking over the dateline and into the Gulf resulting in northwest swell for the US West Coast, reduced high pressure induced north winds along the CA coast). Only once the ocean and atmosphere are coupled on a global level (that is the ocean has imparted enough heat into the atmosphere to start changing the global jetstream pattern) can one begin to have confidence that a feedback loop is developing and a fully matured El Nino is in-play. About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. From a skeptics perspective, that's another month before anything is guaranteed, and exactly the same time the warm pool is to be dispersed. But if we're just in the 'Upwelling Phase' of the Kelvin Wave Cycle, and more west anomalies and a new Kelvin Wave are being generated in the West Pacific, then all will remain on-track. The next 2 -3 week are critical.
Overall the immediate outlook remains unchanged, but potentially trending towards something that would be considered warm by Aug-Sept 2014. At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Regardless of the WWBs etc, we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern at this time with neither any form of El Nino or La Nina present or imminent. But given all current signs, atmospheric transition appears to be underway, and hopefully intensifying into Fall. There remains 2 months ahead where any number of hazards could derail this event. But this is a better place than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. And it seems apparent we've recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. In a normal situation one would expect there to be at least one or two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). Historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms). We've turned the corner, but we'll remain cautious and not say to much yet, especially in light of what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours the models hint at a semi cutoff gale forming east of New Zealand on Sun (7/6) with up to 45 kt southwest winds over a tiny area and like sized seas 28-30 ft near 44S 160W aimed somewhat to the northeast. Secondary winds energy to produce 27 ft seas pushing better to the north on Tues (7/8) at 48S 160W. Decent swell possible for Tahiti and maybe Hawaii with shadowed energy for California. At least it's something to monitor.
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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