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 Thursday (10/16) in North and Central CA surf was 3-4 ft overhead and lined up and reasonably clean coming from the Gulf but with some warble and lump in the water. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and clean but a little inconsistent. In Southern California up north surf was chest high and clean and lined though a little soft coming from the Gulf. Nice lines coming through. Down south waves were chest high on the sets but pretty hacked by northwest wind. Hawaii's North Shore was getting small sideband Gulf swell with waves up to chest high and clean and fun looking. The South Shore was getting background swell with waves up to waist high and clean but pretty weak. On the East Shore local windswell was near chest high and chopped with trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A small gale low developed in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on Mon-Tues (10/14) producing up to 28 ft seas providing north angled swell for the US West Coast on Thursday (10/16) expected fading into Friday. The extratropical remnants of Typhoon Vongfong had redeveloped off Kamchatka on Wed (10/15) pushing over the Northern Dateline region on Thurs (10/16) with seas to 35 ft and are projected pushing through the Gulf of Alaska over the weekend with 28-30 ft seas. Something to monitor. A weaker gale to develop in the Central Gulf Tues-Thurs (10/23) with seas 20-24 ft. And tropical Storm Ana is east-southeast of Hawaii with winds 50 kts and expect to build while pushing northwest tracking just south of Hawaii on Sat (10/18) with winds barely hurricane force (65 kts) then track just barely south of Oahu and Kauai with winds 50-55 kts. A fairly active early season pattern continues.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (10/16) the jetstream was ridging gently while pushing off North Japan tracking just south of the Central Aleutians with winds building to 140 kts, then fading to 120 kts while falling into a weak trough off the Pacific Northwest Coast. Residual winds were pushing inland over North CA. Limited support for gale development in the Gulf trough. Over the next 72 hours additional winds to build over the dateline feeding the Gulf trough by Fri (10/17) at 140 kts and holding into early Sunday. Decent support for gale development forecast. Beyond 72 hours that trough is to pinch off just west of North CA on Mon (10/20) while more 140 kts winds start building into the Gulf forming another trough Tues (10/21) holding while easing east into Thurs (10/23). Decent support for gale development forecast. But back to the west a big ridge is to build over the dateline forcing the jet up into the Bering Sea before falling hard south into the Eastern Gulf. High pressure to be in control of the dateline region.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (10/16) low pressure was still circulating in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska, the remnants of a gale there Mon-Tues (10/14) that generated the swell hitting Central CA on Thurs (10/16) and pushing into Southern CA (See Small Gulf Gale below). Otherwise a new gale was tracking through the Northern Dateline region bound for the Gulf (see Another Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours the Gulf Gale is to be the only systems of interest.
Small Gulf Gale
The remnants of an extratropical storm that moved from the dateline into the Gulf last week redeveloped again in the Northern Gulf on Mon (10/13) aided by a favorable upper level jetstream flow generating 35-40 kt northwest winds early and 20 ft seas at 50N 152W targeting the Pacific Northwest. In the evening northwest winds built to 40 kts over a modest sized area with 26 ft seas building at 51N 150W (312 degs NCal) again targeting the Pacific Northwest down into North CA. Winds held at 40 kts Tues AM (10/14) while falling southeast producing 27 ft seas over small area at 47N 144W (304 degs NCal). Fetch is to fall southeast in the evening and be fading from 25 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 22 ft at 44N 139W (303 degs NCal). This system to fade thereafter.
A decent but raw pulse of swell is possible for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA. A rather windy and wet pattern is possible for that area too.
Southern CA: Core swell energy is to hit overnight with swell fading Fri AM (10/17) from 3.2 ft @ 14 secs (4.5 ft) fading to 2.6 ft @ 13 secs (3.5 ft) late. Swell Direction: 308-314 degrees
Another Gulf Gale
The extratropical remnants of Typhoon Vongfong moved from a position just east of the Kuril Islands on Tuesday (10/14) pushing off Kamchatka on Wed AM (10/15) with 45 kt west winds and turning east, with the core barely south of the Aleutians. By evening fetch built in coverage at 45 kt from the northwest with the core of the low over the Aleutians and was approaching the dateline with seas 35 ft over a tiny area at 48N 171E (306 degs NCal, 324 degs HI). The core of the gale was tracking just south of the Central Aleutians near the dateline Thurs AM (10/16) generating 45 kt northwest winds and 35 ft seas at 47N 179E (305 degs NCal, 330 degs HI). The model suggests this system is to start falling east-southeast in the evening with a broader fetch of 35 kt northwest winds just east of the dateline with 30 ft seas at 46N 173W (299 degs NCal, 336 degs HI). By Fri AM (10/17) a decent sized area of 35 kt northwest winds are to be positioned in the Western Gulf with pressure dropping in the core of the low and seas 28 ft at 44N 166W (296 degs NCal, 348 degs HI). 40 kts winds to build in the lows west quadrant in the evening as it moves squarely into the Gulf with seas building and 26 ft seas from previous fetch holding at 43N 160W (295 degs NCal, 301 degs SCal). By Sat AM (10/18) the gale is to build with 40 kt northwest winds in.cgiay and seas up to 32 ft at 45N 158W (297 degs NCal, 303 degs SCal). Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 35-40 kts falling southeast with the gale moving east with seas still 32 ft at 43N 150W (294 degs NCal, 300 degs SCal). The gale is to still continue pushing east on Sun AM (10/19) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and 28 ft seas at 43N 147W (295 degs NCal, 300 degs SCal). This system is to be gone by evening.
Small 18 sec period swell is already in the water from when this gale was approaching the dateline targeting Hawaii and the Us West coast. But with this system forecast to redevelop in the Gulf over the weekend and move closer to both the Islands and the mainland, more and better sized swell generation is possible. This is something to monitor with sideband energy possible for Hawaii and more direct energy for the US West Coast.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Ana was 650 nmiles southeast of the Big Island of Hawaii on the 140 degree track with winds 50 kts and seas 20 ft and building. A steady west-northwest track is forecast with winds reaching hurricane force (65 kts) on Fri PM (10/17) and holding into Saturday AM with the core of the storm tracking to within 100 nmiles of the southwest top of Hawaii . Ana is to approach Oahu's south shore Sun AM (10/19) with winds down to 55 kts (tropical storm force) and just barely pass the south shore of Kauai Mon (10/20) before sunrise with winds down to 50 kts. The GFS model suggests Ana turning to the north thereafter possibly rebuilding, but not reaching north of 26N by Thurs PM (10/23). Monitor this situation closely.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (10/16) a weak nearshore pressure pattern was in.cgiay with another broad low circulating off the US West Coast. This low and associated front is to move into Oregon on Friday with south winds over Cape Mendocino Thurs PM reaching south to Monterey Bay Friday mid-day. Light rain for Cape Mendo Fri AM reaching to the Golden Gate Fri PM and dissolving. Light south winds to follow Saturday until Sunday when another low and front approach northernmost CA with rain down to Monterey Bay late afternoon Monday, but winds remaining light. Perhaps high pressure is to try and get a toe in the door on Tuesday AM with northwest winds 15 kts near Point Conception building northward late to the Golden Gate, but advancing no further north with more low pressure deflecting in in the Gulf. Wednesday north winds to remain over Central CA at 15 kts fading on Thursday but still northerly 10+ kts.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch was occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
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 the remnants of hurricane Ana are to track north moving towards the Gulf of Alaska into Thurs (10/23). Another modest gale is to start developing in the Gulf of Alaska late Tues (10/21) with a broad area of 30-35 kt northwest winds and 18 ft seas taking shape at 46N 153W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast. 30-35 kt northwest winds to hold Wed AM (10/22) with 22 ft seas building at 47N 153W. Winds are to hold in the same area in the evening with 24 ft seas peaking at 46N 153W (298 degs NCal, 15 degs HI). 35 kt north winds to hold while the gale eases east Thurs AM (10/23) with seas 26 ft over a tiny area at 46N 150W. A quick fade to follow. Something to monitor.
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).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Thursday (10/16) the daily SOI was down to -14.44. The 30 day average was down some oat -3.61 and the 90 day average was down some at -7.10. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a rebuilding Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO. A weak low pressure regime is forecast holding south of Tahiti and is to continue for the next week with gently falling SOI numbers expected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated neutral anomalies over the Maritime Continent turning modestly westerly on the dateline continuing south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies are indicated from there to the Galapagos. A week from now (10/24) weak east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline fading to neutral and extending to a point south of Hawaii. Light west anomalies are forecast from there into and over the Galapagos. A modest Westerly Wind Burst developed in the West Pacific 9/28-10/8, then faded. But residuals from it redeveloped over the dateline starting 10/12 and are forecast to hold into 10/18. This pattern suggests the area favorable for tropical development has moved to the area between Hawaii and the dateline and is to continue shifting east. The TOA array indicates westerly anomalies over the entire West and Central equatorial Pacific. It is presumed an Active Phase of the MJO was in control there and is pushing east.
Looking at the trend over the past few months there has not been a extended period of enhanced trades so far this year, and we're over 280 days into the year. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies (suppressed trades) which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25-7/6, then again 7/11-7/20, building into a WWB and holding through 8/10. Light westerly anomalies developed again 8/20-8/22, 8/29-9/2, 9/10-9/17, and stronger 9/20-10/8 (a WWB) west of the dateline with another starting 10/12. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. A Kelvin Wave (modest at this point) is in-flight associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August and another developing Kelvin Wave is being fed in the dateline region by the two WWBs over the past 20+ days. Compared to La Nina where enhanced trades (20+ kts) would be blowing non-stop, we're in great shape and have been all year. No easterly anomalies of interest have occurred all year. It would be hard to make a case stating some flavor of weak El Nino was not in.cgiay at this point.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/15 are generally in sync. They both suggest a modest Inactive MJO pattern over the West Pacific. Both the Statistic and Dynamic models depict this Inactive Phase to hold for the next 15 days but not building any and not tracking east any. The ultra long range upper level model run 10/16 depicts a weak Inactive pulse is developing in the West Pacific and is to track east reaching the East Pacific 11/5. Another weak Active Phase to follow starting 11/3 in the West Pacific reaching the East Pacific on 11/25. Recent experience this year suggests this model overhypes any projected Inactive Phases. The models are calibrated assuming a neutral global weather pattern, and typically either overcall weather events during La Nina and undercall then during El Nino in the Pacific Basin. This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some gentle guiding impact on the atmosphere above. 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 (10/16) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, down some from the peak of the Kelvin Wave eruptions in late June in the east, but up some since early Sept and building slowly. TAO data suggests 0.5 deg C anomalies present from Central America to 160W, and then +1.0 deg anomalies from there west into 150E (Kelvin Wave Generation Area), suggesting more warm water is poised to track east. Contrary to expectations, warm water is NOT building on the surface in the NINO 3.4 region at the moment (nor is it fading). We suspect we've been in a week upwelling phase there. But a new Kelvin Wave is poised to erupt over the Galapagos and better subsurface signals are developing. but it's still mixed signals for now.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California. And serious warm water is entrenched along the California coast and building in coverage, the exact opposite of the trend of the past 3+ years.This is significant in that is suggests the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weakened relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is mostly normal/neutral except for cool water streaming off Southern Chile pushing west reaching up to the equator near 140W. The significant feature of late is that this pocket is in rapid decline and being r.cgiaced with normal if not slightly warmer than normal waters. Given this situation, it suggesting a warm regime is getting the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin, rather than isolated only to the North Pacific as it has been most of this year. Overall the total amount of warmer than normal water in the North Pacific remains most impressive, while the South Pacific is starting to trend in the same direction.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue solidly warm. As of 10/16 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with two embedded pockets of +2 deg anomalies at from 180W and 110W tracking towards the Galapagos. This is good news in that it indicates the pipe is open and at least one if not two Kelvin Waves are in flight. The leading edge of the first Kelvin Wave is theoretically now reaching the Galapagos (though there's no surface evidence of such). Satellite data from 10/10 depicts a broad area of +5 cm anomalies are covering the dateline region and tracking east reaching the Galapagos, indicative of a Kelvin Wave starting to impact that area. This is as predicted. Other models collaborate the presumption of Kelvin Wave genesis. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (10/10) indicates the first modest Kelvin Wave has developed in the west reaching east to 100W but is making no easterly headway. a bit of a colling follows (the presumable upwelling phase) and a new Kelvin wave is building back at 145E-175W, in sync with the satellite data and warmer and larger than this last one. It is assumed steady light westerly anomalies and 2 recent WWBs events over the past 20 days are feeding more warm water into the pipe. At this time we are well over the proverbial 'hump' and some sort of warm event is underway. As the first or the pair of Kelvin Waves arrives at the Galapagos now, more warm water will reinforce the existing warm pool theoretically pushing things into minimal El Nino territory. And if when the second Kelvin Wave pushes east (about 3 months from now or Feb 10) then we are set. Of course what is good enough to feed storm develop and what constitutes an official El Nino are two different things. We are focused on the former. The quandary now is whether this will be a one year event, or something longer.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 10/6 suggests an unchanged pattern. The current is pushing west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. If anything it's moving into the moderate to strong category from the West Pacific to a point south of Hawaii. On and just south of the equator the current was generally pushing east to west in the moderate category. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest between 130E-170E and in pockets reaching to the Galapagos. There were no significant east anomalies indicated. This data suggests a somewhat mixed picture but continued slightly better than the last update and improving incrementally.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 10/16 are stable and in an interesting way. It suggests water temps have built to +0.5 deg C and are to start increasing building to +0.75 deg C in early November and are to hold if not build to +0.9 through the Winter into Spring. But the real interesting part is that water temps are hold decently still at +0.8 into May 2015, then start building from there, pushing +1.4 degs C by July. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event. See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: A series of downwelling Kelvin Waves have been generated starting in Aug 2013, followed by a stronger one in Oct-Nov, and a massive one in Jan-April 2014. A weaker one followed in July with yet another developing in October. The only interruptions have been when the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle took over. Water temps in the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle have held remarkably consistent from May-June 2014 onward, even during upwelling phases. Continued suppressed trades with embedded weak westerly anomalies developed in the West Pacific in July and have held through present time producing the latest Kelvin Wave with 2-3 degs C in flight now. Water temps have held in the Galapagos triangle in the +1.5 degree range for several months now. Certainly there is nor has been any signs of easterly anomalies or a shut down of the Kelvin Wave pipe for better than a year now. This is a huge step forward.
Assuming westerly anomalies continue in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (west of the dateline), more warm water will migrate east. This seems reasonable seeing how there has been virtually no easterly anomalies for the first 9 months of this year. And trades tend to weaken during Fall months in the northern hemi, meaning we're just now starting to reach the point in time where Westerly Wind Bursts should have the best support for development. Most El Nino's do not develop till the Fall, including the Super El Nino of '83/83. Only a few (namely the '97 Super El Nino) developed and survived strong through the summer and over the span of an entire year. A more 'normal' development life cycle would favor the alternating 'downwelling/upwelling' Kelvin Wave cycle. See currently Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here . Notice the alternating eastward migrating 'cool' and 'warm' cycles (upwelling/downwelling Kelvin Waves). Also note the CFSv2 model accurately depicted the upwelling Kelvin Wave Phase, with water temps in Nino1.2 fading in August then redeveloping in September.
Finally, there's the 'feedback loop' consideration. As far as we're concerned it is in.cgiay. The largest argument in favor of that is the total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of mult.cgie tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline. And the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific is most telling. And then the near record pulse of tropical activity off Mexico (8/18-9/20) resulting in Lowell, Super Hurricane Marie, followed by Odile and Polo (though these last 2 produced no swell) and finally Rachel. And then even a few inches of snow in the Sierra on Sept 27 and again on Oct 15. The last time any of this happened was during the '97 and '83 El Ninos. And now mult.cgie recurving tropical systems pushing off Japan reaching the Gulf of Alaska in October. The only argument against the feedback loop now is a weak west moving Pacific Counter Current (rather than flowing east).
Only once the ocean and atmosphere are co.cgied 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 can result. 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 from our perspective. 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. We have passed that threshold. As of 9/2, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in.cgiace were gone except the Pacific Counter Current.
Note that what we consider 'teleconnected' and what NOAA considers threshold El Nino conditions are two different things and serve different purposes. We are focused on monitoring weather events that contribute to the production of open ocean storms mainly in the Pacific Basin that may or may not have the same impacts as a full blown El Nino. So our criteria is certainly less than the threshold of NOAAs. That said, considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, and the Kelvin Wave that preceded it, it seem hard to believe that at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had been developing since perhaps as early and Aug of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). Monitoring the number, location and track of tropical systems in the North Pacific over October will help to put the final nail in coffin, though given the current track record, it is only a formality at this time. We will continue monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which has already been productive) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which is nonexistent) are key. But at this time odds continue stacking up in favor that a global teleconnection is now established. If that's true, the focus then becomes estimating how deep the ENSO cycle will become, or whether it will stay shallow but transition into a multi-year event. At this time we're predisposed to the multiyear, Midoki scenario. And that is actually the better of all options.
At a minimum the ocean is well past recharge mode, with cold water from the multiyear 2010-2013 La Nina cycle dispersed and temperatures on the rise. Officially we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. But given all current signs, from a winter storm and swell production perspective, atmospheric transition is well underway. Even if we never reach official El Nino status this is a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. Still lingering concerns about what appears to be a decadal bias towards a cooler regime (since 1998) will temper our forecasts.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no believable 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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