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 (7/8) in North and Central CA local windswell was producing surf in the thigh to maybe waist high range and warbled from southerly winds. Down in Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing surf at head high to 1 ft overhead on the sets and clean in kelp protected areas. In Southern California up north windswell was producing waves in the waist high range with textured conditions mid-day. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves in the shoulder to head high range on the sets and lightly textured mid-day. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small with waves in the knee high range or so and clean but weak. Trade wind generated east windswell was producing waves at knee to maybe thigh high and 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 and limited to North and Central CA. Typhoon Neoguri was tracking north expected to impact the south most Island of Japan later on Wednesday (7/9). In the southern hemisphere swell from strong Storm #2S had peaking in California and was on the decline and only at the most exposed south facing breaks. Otherwise a small gale developed off the northwestern tip of New Zealand on Thurs (7/3) with 30 ft seas, possibly setting up small background swell for Hawaii and the US West Coast by the weekend. And a slightly broader but still small and weak gale developed southeast of New Zealand late on Sun (7/6) pushing hard northeast on Mon-Tues (7/8) with 30 ft seas aimed northeast towards Tahiti, Hawaii and the US West Coast. But after that, nothing is forecast.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (7/8) trades were 15 kts in patches within 1000 nmiles east of the Hawaiian Islands offering only minimal support for generation of easterly windswell along east facing shores there. Weak low pressure was over the dateline region with high pressure in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska generating a weak pressure gradient along the South Oregon and extreme North California coasts producing a small area of 25 kt north winds limited to Cape Mendocino resulting in small north short period windswell radiating south into Central CA. Typhoon Neoguri was tracking towards Japan (see Tropics section below).
Over the next 72 hours low pressure from the dateline is to move northeast and is to cut energy out of high pressure off the Pacific Northwest, resulting in dissipation of the gradient and north winds over Cape Mendocino by late Thurs (7/10) with windswell fading out. Easterly trades relative to Hawaii to hold through Wednesday (7/9). But a new high pressure system is to start building over the dateline Fri (7/11) reinforcing trades over the Hawaiian Islands Thurs-Fri (7/11) at 15 kts continuing to generate minimal easterly windswell at exposed breaks along east facing shores.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Typhoon Neoguri was developing on Sat (7/5) tracking northwest from a position 800 nmiles east of the north most Island of the Philippines with winds 115 kts. This system peaked Monday AM (7/7) turning north with winds 130 kts (150 mph sustained) putting it into minimal Super Typhoon status positioned 400 nmiles east of Taiwan. By Tues AM (7/8) Neoguri was 325 nmiles southwest of Southern Japan with winds down to 105 kts and tracking north. A turn to the northeast is forecast in the evening into Wed AM (7/9) wit winds fading from 80 kts moving inland over southern Japan late in the evening and then tracking west-northwest over the core of Japan eventually up the Kuril Islands.
It is to get no clean exposure in to North Pacific waters other than the time it was east of Taiwan on Mon AM (7/7) with seas estimated at 40 ft at 22 N 127E (284 degs HI, 298 degs NCal). Small sideband swell with period 17 secs is possible for Hawaii starting Sat (7/12) at 1.0 ft @ 17 secs (1.5 ft) with slightly more direct energy for North CA on Sun (7/13) at 1.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (2 ft).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (7/8) high pressure was 1028 mbs off Northern California with a weak gradient of north winds at 25 kts in place over Cape Mendocino waters with an eddy flow in control from Pt Arena southward. A broad area of 20-25 kt north winds to be in play on Wed (7/10) then fading Thursday with the eddy flow (south wind) over Southern and Central CA holding. The gradient and any winds are to fade to nil for Friday and Saturday (7/12) except north winds building over Pt Conception to 20 kts late. That flow to build in coverage Sunday but still centered over Pt Conception then lifting rapidly north Monday with 25 kt north winds again in play over Cape Mendocino Tues (7/15) with an eddy flow taking over Central and South CA again.
Jetstream - On Tuesday (7/8) the southern branch of the jet was in a zonal configuration running flat west to east and displaced south down on the 70S latitude line if not further south across the width of the South Pacific. Remnants of a trough that was now cutoff was positioned east of New Zealand but with only 60-70 kt winds tracking up it's westerly flank extending up into the northern branch of the jet at 30S with winds to 160 kts at the merge point offering limited but fading support for gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere. Otherwise a ridge was building under New Zealand pushing southeast and actively suppressing support for the development of gales. Over the next 72 hours the ridge is to sweep east with a second ridge developing under New Zealand late on Wed (7/9) also sweeping east Thursday down at 70S actively eliminating the odds for trough formation. Beyond 72 hours the same split pattern is forecast to continue but with less energy in the southern branch, but still displaced down at 70S offering no support for trough formation or gale development in lower levels of the atmosphere.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (7/7) swell from powerful storm on the edge of the California swell window (see Storm #2S below) was still impacting the California coast at exposed breaks, but on the way down. tiny swell from a small gale that was in the Tasman Sea is pushing towards mainly Hawaii (see Tasman Sea Gale below). Swell from another small gale east of New Zealand is in the water pushing towards Tahiti, Hawaii and California (see New Zealand Gale below).
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.
Southern CA: Swell energy fading on Wednesday (7/9) from 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) early with residuals 2.0 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 173-185 degs with most energy east of 176 degrees.
North CA: Swell energy fading on Wednesday (7/9) from 3 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) with residuals 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 169-183 degs with most energy east of 172 degrees.
Tasman Sea Gale
A small gale was trying to organize in the Tasman Sea on Wed PM (7/2) with 40 kt winds aimed north over a tiny area and seas building from 24 ft at 40S 164E. On Thurs AM (7/3) 40 kt south winds built in coverage with seas up to nearly 30 ft over a tiny area at 36S 168E. This system peaked 6 hours later (18Z) with 30 ft seas at 33S 171E (209 degs HI and partially shadowed by Fiji, 230 degs NCal, 232 degs SCal). Fetch was fading fast in the evening from 40 kts with 28 ft seas fading at 30S 174E. Swell has already p ast Fiji and is pushing towards Hawaii, with little energy possible for the US West Coast with luck.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Tues (7/8) with period 17 secs and size building. Swell to peak Wed afternoon (7/9) with swell 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Residuals fading on Thurs (7/10) from 1.8 ft @ 14 secs (2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 209 degrees
California: Expect swell arrival on Sat AM (7/12) with period 17 secs peaking late with pure swell 1.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (2 ft). Swell fading Sunday (7/13) from 1.4 ft @ 15 secs early (2 ft). Swell Direction: 230 degs NCal, 232 degs SCal.
New Zealand Gale
A gale developed south of New Zealand on Sun PM (7/6) with southwest winds building from 45 kts over a small area and seas to 28 ft at 59S 175E. A decent fetch of 40 kt south-southwest winds built Mon AM (7/7) pushing well to the northeast with seas building to 26 ft at 54S 175W. In the evening fetch was holding at 40 kts still aimed north-northeast with seas building to 30 ft over a tiny area at 46S 170W (214 degs SCal and shadowed, 211 NCal and barely shadowed, 188 degrees Hawaii). By Tues AM (7/8) south winds were fading from 35 kts with 28 ft seas fading over a tiny area at 39S 162W. This system dissipated after that. A decent pulse of swell to result for Tahiti with small energy for Hawaii and smaller and shadowed energy for California.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sun (7/13) with swell building to 2.3 ft @ 17 secs (4 ft) late. Swell building into Mon AM (7/14) reaching 3.0 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.5 ft with sets to 5.8 ft) and holding. Swell fading Tues (7/15) from 3.1 ft @ 14-15 secs early (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 188 degrees
California: Rough data suggests swell arrival on Wed noon (7/16) with period 17 secs and size building. Swell Direction: 211 NCal and 214 degs SCal.
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 weak high pressure is to hold in the Central North Pacific but displaced west of the California coast through Sat (7/12) with no north wind generation of interest expected. But Sunday high pressure is to start building east with north winds building from 15 kts pushing 20+ kts over Cape Mendocino by Mon (7/14) and 25 kts Tuesday with windswell on the increase for North and Central CA. And eddy flow looks likely for Central CA too.
Relative to Hawaii, as high pressure moves east from the dateline towards the Eastern Gulf, trades to fade some in coverage east of Hawaii but still holding in the 15 kt range in patches within 1000 nmiles east of Hawaii through Tues (7/15). Limited small and weak easterly windswell to persist along east facing shores of the Hawaiian Islands.
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 (7/8) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was up to 10.96. The 30 day average was up to -4.29 and the 90 day average was steady at 2.48. The near term trend based on the 30 day SOI was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a neutral Phase of the MJO. High pressure and a rising SOI is to be the rule relative to Tahiti till about Thurs (7/10) as another low pressure system develops just south of Tahiti likely driving the SOI negative through the weekend. Yet another low to possibly follow mid-next week. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a mix of weak east and west anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning easterly near the dateline. East anomalies continued from the dateline to a point south of Hawaii, dying to neutral there, and held into the Galapagos. A week from now (7/16) light east anomalies are forecast over the entire equatorial Maritime Continent to the dateline turning neutral south of Hawaii and holding into the Galapagos. The GFS model indicates trades holding some in the eastern Kelvin Wave Generation Area weakening on Thursday then collapsing Saturday (7/12) and holding, maybe starting to rebuild in the far east mid-next week. Previously an Easterly Wind event occurred in the West Pacific 6/13-6/19 building to the moderate plus category but does not appear to have turned ff the warm water flow to the east (more below), though it was close. The TOA array indicated westerly anomalies developed 6/25 west of the dateline (at the surface - the ground truth) and held through 7/6 in the moderate range, then turned neutral on 7/7. Additional data from the TOA array with live sensors on the surface indicate weak west anomalies (0-+2 m/s) have continued in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area though the months of May and June between 145E-165E, offering some more encouragement.
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 7/7 are back in sync. They both suggest a weak Active MJO signal is in effect in the extreme West Pacific. 5 days out the statistic model has it fading, moving to dead neutral 10-15 days out. The dynamic model suggests a weak Active Phase is to continue building holding in the modest category 5-15 days out. If this occurs it would be good news. The ultra long range upper level model for weeks has been suggesting a building Inactive Phase of the MJO taking over the equatorial Pacific over the month of July. But as of the 7/3 run that pattern collapsed and is now replaced with a weak Active Phase starting in the west on 7/6 and continuing plodding slowly east through 8/16. An Inactive Phase is to set up in the Indian Ocean and maybe start making progress into the extreme West Pacific on 8/12. This is a major upgrade and good news. A very weak MJO pattern biased Active is what one would expect if an El Nino were to develop. If a neutral pattern actually prevails in July it provides hope that the warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some impact on the atmosphere above. As said before, we're at the point where weak westerly anomalies should be standard in the West Pacific if El Nino where developing, 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 (7/7), 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. But most of it is confirmed east of 120W (in the Nino 1 & 2 regions). 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 building pocket of neutral to -0.5 anomalies developing directly now building off the entire coast of Peru and drifting northwest. This appears to be more than just local upwelling. Small pockets of +4 degree anomalies in the triangle have vanished and the coverage of the +2.25 degree anomalies is shrinking. We suspect 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 starting to disperse. Those waters are advecting west, tracking barely into the Nino 3.4 region, but not getting much reinforcements to fill in the whole area. This remains 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.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water as is the West Pacific (north and south). Even the weakest signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California is fading, as would be expected if El Nino was in play. 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 barely +4 deg C above normal, and fading. 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 150W building into Ecuador with the core between 120W and 100W. Satellite data as of 7/2 continues to downgraded the areal coverage of the Kelvin Wave again with increased surface water heights only 0 to +5 cms limited to 115W into Ecuador. This is a significant downgrade in the past 10 days. Subsurface models as of 7/2 depicted the flow from the West Pacific to the east was still open, but with no significant warm water in it. But, the pipe was not closed. That said, a small pocket of +0.5-1.0 anomalies are in place under the dateline and building, suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave trying to take shape. And with a week or two of westerly anomalies forecast, perhaps more warm water will start pushing east. Still, it's 2-3 months before it will arrive at the Galapagos or the end of Sept.
The Pacific Equatorial Surface Counter-Current (from 2N to 2S from the Philippines to the Galapagos) as of 7/2 continued tracking 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. And the actual current was tracking fairly strong east to west over the same area too. But the strength of this flow was down from previous data. This pattern started 6/17. And better, the current is flowing west to east in the far West Pacific, and if anything is building over the past 7 days, suggestive of a new Kelvin Wave taking shape. The assumption is the change in direction in the current was attributable to development of easterly winds in the same area in mid-June, and could possibly change if westerly winds continue to hold in the West Pacific.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 7/8 have downgraded suggesting water temps building to +1.0 deg C by early Sept peaking at + 1.4 deg C (down from the +1.55 deg C predicted in early July) holding into Jan 2015, then fading. Previous forecasts peaked at +1.75 in Nov 2014, so we're 0well 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. A new WWB appears to be developing in the West Pacific (starting 6/28), and even if it were to continue, it would not reach the Galapagos till 9/28. So there's a 8 week 'hole' with no significant warm water to resupply the Ecuador triangle (8/1-9/28). This will likely cause water temps to decease some in the Nino1+2 regions. If no additional Westerly Wind Bursts occur, warm water in all Nino region will dissipate. This is what occurred in the 2012 False-Start El Nino. Of course the other consideration is that the June easterly wind burst was the start of 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 could 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 no swell producing fetch 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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