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 (10/30) North and Central CA had west angled swell from the Gulf at head high and reasonably clean but a little warbled with good form. Down south in Santa Cruz the same swell was producing waist high waves and mostly covered in fog. Southern California up north was chest high on the sets and lined up but wind was getting on it. Down south waves were waist high or a little more on the sets and well lined up and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting solid Gulf swell with waves 2-3 ft overhead on the sets and clean though a little warble was in it. The South Shore was small with sets in the waist high range and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around Gulf swell at head high and pretty bumpy.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell was hitting both Hawaii and California from a gale that was in the Western Gulf of Alaska Sunday (10/28) producing seas in the 20-22 ft range aimed mostly at the US West Coast. Waves to hold in some form through the workweek relative to the West Coast. Another system tried to develop on the dateline Mon-Tues (10/30) but not doing much with seas only in the 19 ft range, but is expected to travel east and finally wrap-up in the Northern Gulf late Thursday with seas in the 32-36 ft range aimed south and southeast. Most swell energy is to be aimed at the US West Coast but some energy is to track south into Hawaii if one is to believe the models. It isn't real till wind actually starts blowing on the oceans surface generating seas. There's suggestions of a weaker system starting to develop on the dateline by Tues (11/6). But the overriding issue remains the dampening influence of the Inactive Phase of the MJO in the West and Central Pacific for the next 2 weeks.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (10/30) the jet was a little more consolidated running flat off Central Japan on the 35N latitude with a pocket of 130 kts winds over Japan and a smaller pocket on the dateline with yet a third tiny pocket off the US west Coast, before finally moving into Oregon. There was limited troughing associated with all three pockets offering very modest support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours the wind pocket on the dateline is to push east forming a bit more of a defined trough in the Northern Gulf Thurs-Fri (11/2) with winds to 150 kts offering some decent support for gale development, then quickly lifting northeast beyond. Wind energy off Japan to flow east but not do much initially. Beyond 72 hours something that almost looks like trough is to try and build on the dateline Monday (11/5) but never really get organized. A bit of a split in the jet is to be occurring inland over Siberia leaching some wind energy from the main flow, preventing solid support for gale formation over the greater North Pacific.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (10/30) remnants of Part 2 of the Dateline/Gulf Gale were moving towards the US West Coast, starting to impact the Pacific Northwest. Winds were 20-25 kts or below gale force (35 kts) offering no support for real swell development. Swell from the previous incarnation of this system was hitting both Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Dateline/Gulf Gale below). Otherwise another low pressure system was over the dateline and developed a tiny fetch of 30 kt west winds during the day Monday (10/29) at 31N 175E pushing to 39N 179E Tuesday AM (10/30) resulting in a speck of seas to 20 ft on the dateline Tues AM (10/30) at 39N 179E, good for background swell of 13 secs for Hawaii with luck by Friday (11/2). Otherwise no no fetch or seas of interest forecast.
Over the next 72 hours the weak system currently on the dateline and tracking across the North Pacific (see above) is to start developing in the Northern Gulf on Thursday AM (11/1) with north fetch building from 35-40 kts targeting Hawaii down the 180 degree path and also starting to take aim on the US West Coast. By evening 40-45 kt northwest winds are to be in the Northern Gulf aimed at both Hawaii and the US West Coast (Pacific Northwest down to Central CA) with seas building from 22 ft. A solid fetch of 50-55 kt northwest winds are forecast Friday AM (11/2) with seas to 34 ft over a tiny area up at 49N 152W (305 degs NCal) and a tiny area of 32 ft seas aimed south at Hawaii at 51N 158W (360 degs HI). 50 kt west winds to be wrapping into the gales south quadrant in the evening with 36 ft seas at 48N 147W targeting the Central CA coast (306 degs) northward but aimed best at British Columbia. Saturday AM (11/3) west fetch to be fading from 30-35 kts with most fetch at 40 kts in it's east quadrant tracking north towards Alaska. 26-28 ft seas fading at 45N 148W (309 degs NCal). This system to be gone by evening. This is not to be an ideal setup, but at least some small and very north angled swell could result for Hawaii with better size targeting the US West Coast. Something to monitor.
Dateline/Gulf Gale (Part 2)
On Saturday AM (10/27) the Dateline Gale redeveloped while stalled in the Western Gulf with a moderate area of 30-35 kt west winds building and seas regenerating to 18 ft. In the evening those winds to built to 35 kts with seas up to 23 ft at 43N 163W (296 degs NCal). The gale started pushing east Sunday AM (10/28) with winds fading from 30 kts and seas 22 ft at 42N 158W. The gale faded from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 18 ft at 40N 152W. The gale died on Monday from a swell production standpoint, with it's remnants pushing up towards the Pacific Northwest coast on Tues (10/30).
A rideable 13-14 sec period swell could be generated pushing towards the US West Coast with very limited sideband energy reaching down into Hawaii.
Hawaii: Swell has already hit Hawaii and is to be fading from 3 ft @ 11 secs on Wed (10/31). Swell Direction: 345+ degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Wednesday (10/31) pushing 5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6.0 ft) mid-day then fading steadily, down to 5 ft @ 11-12 secs (5.5 ft) Thursday and 4 ft @ 10 secs early Friday (11/2). Swell Direction: 285 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Tuesday (10/30) no tropical system of interest were occurring. Tropical Storm Rosa was 600 nmiles southwest of Cabo San Lucas Mexico with winds 35 kts traveling west-northwest, forecast to build to maybe 45 kts on Wed (10/31), then fading while falling southwest. No swell to result.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (10/30) low pressure was starting to move into outer California coastal waters shunting weak high pressure to the south resulting in dead air and fog locally except in the extreme northern edge of the state where a southerly flow was starting to build in association with the leading edge of the low. The low was also starting to impact the Pacific Northwest. The front from this system is to push down to Monterey Bay late Wednesday evening with very light south winds reaching perhaps Morro Bay. Rain starting early Wed (10/31) for the Cape Mendo region pushing south to Pt Reyes at sunset and to Monterey Bay by 11 PM then on down to Pt Conception by late morning Thursday (11/1), dissipating there. A few sprinkles possible for Tahoe Thursday AM with very high snow levels perhaps reaching down to the Yosemite high country. A light wind flow to follow for the entire coast Thursday (11/1) into Friday with more low pressure scheduled building for the Gulf of Alaska, but fading just as quick. Weak high pressure to try and get a nose into Pt Conception on Saturday building northward Sunday with north winds to 15 kts a bit off the entire Central Coast late in the day and holding through Monday. That high to finally push nearshore for most of North and all of Central CA Tuesday (11/6) generating north winds at 15 kts.
Surface - On Tuesday (10/30) no swell producing fetch of interest was occurring. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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 a new gale is to build just west of the dateline on Tues (11/6) with 30-35 kt northwest winds and seas in the 20 ft range at 38N 174E targeting Hawaii down the 311 degree path. Given the weak jetstream forecast, no additional development is projected. Maybe some weak 13 sec period swell to result for Hawaii.
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 (10/30) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was down some at -3.81. The 30 day average was down some at 2.32 with the 90 day average up at 0.12. This is neutral territory and not indicative of El Nino.
Current equatorial wind analysis indicated modest east anomalies over the Maritime Continent (WPac) with light west anomalies on the dateline fading to neutral beyond and extending into Central America. This is indicative of the Inactive Phase of the MJO over the West Pacific. A week from now (11/7) modest east anomalies are forecast continuing over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then near neutral over the Central Pacific. This suggests that the Inactive Phase of the MJO is to hold over the West Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 10/29 are nearly in agreement suggesting a moderate Inactive Phase is in control of the West Pacific. The statistical model suggests it is to fade over the next 2 weeks and gone by 11/12 with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean and pushing into the West Pacific. The dynamic model suggests only weakening in the Inactive Phase 2 weeks from now with the Active Phase also fading, moving towards a neutral pattern by 11/12. Given the demise of what was almost an El Nino pattern earlier in the year, we believe a return to a normal MJO cycle is likely with the Inactive and Active Phases becoming more pronounced and regular. This Inactive Phase is evidence of that, and if the theory is correct, the Active Phase should appear as scheduled and with equal strength by mid-November. An increase in swell producing storms would seem likely then. But until then storm production in the North Pacific is to remain dampened.
More warm water in the equatorial East Pacific means more storm production in the North Pacific during winter months (roughly speaking). A warm pool that built and peaked off Ecuador 7/2 fed my multiple Kelvin Waves earlier has been steadily loosing ground, and is now almost gone. Pulses of cooler than normal water continue tracking through the core of the warm pool (as of 10/29) signaling it's demise. A neutral water temp pattern is taking shape. A weak Kelvin Wave propagated east both subsurface (2-3 deg C anomaly at 118W) and at the surface (1 deg C anomaly), moving east of 120W and off the charts by 9/17. It appears to be erupting along the Central American coast but is doing little to replenish the warm water pool and is only holding it at a steady state. A second Kelvin wave developed due to a prolonged WWB event that started Sept 2 in the West Pacific and continued for 21 days in a row through 9/22 then faded on 9/25 only to return with gusto on 9/28 before finally dissipating on 10/9. The resulting Kelvin Wave is to provide reinforcing warming expected 90 days out (Dec). This Kelvin Wave was evidenced by 2 deg C warmer than normal subsurface water building under the dateline around 10/23, and has since (10/30) reached 3 deg C and is located to the east at 150W. But it will only be enough to keep things in the normal range and not add any net additional warm water into the mix when it hits the Central American coast.
And what appears to be a strengthening MJO pattern (both Active and Inactive Phases) suggests that El Nino is not forming, but instead is dissipating. Latest projections from the CFSv2 model are not supporting any form of El Nino development either but rather a return to a neutral state by November or almost a return to La Nina with -0.6 deg C water temps by January into February, then slowly returning to normal if not slightly warmer by June 2013. Likely another false start or at best a weakly warmer pattern developing.
At this time there is no atmospheric evidence of a El Nino pattern in-play. Remnants of La Nina are almost gone in terms of their affects on the atmosphere. We believe we're in a hybrid atmospheric state with the trend shifting more towards the normal category. La Nina is dissipating but El Nino is not materializing.
Though no El Nino is imminent, we are in a better place than the previous 2 years under the influence of La Nina. We are in a neutral pattern with limited bias on the warm side. The expectation is this winter will be followed by at least another year of slightly warmer temps ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out. And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts before a legit El Nino forms).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Finally updated 10/6/12
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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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table