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 (11/6) in North and Central CA surf was chest to head high still coming from the Gulf with clean conditions and lined up, but weak. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high or so and clean, but weak and inconsistent. In Southern California up north surf was knee to maybe thigh high on the sets and lined up but weak with clean conditions. Down south waves were waist high with some chest high peaks and weak but clean. Hawaii's North Shore was getting Gulf sideband swell from the north with waves 2-3 ft overhead and lined up and clean with light offshore conditions. Best spot in the Pacific. The South Shore was thigh to maybe waist high and weak. The East Shore was getting Gulf sideband swell too with waves shoulder high and chopped by easterly trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A decent sized gale tracked east off Kamchatka Tues-Wed (11/5) with 25 ft seas and is forecast pushing into the Western Gulf by Fri (11/7) still with 23 ft seas, then fading. Swell to result. The remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri remain forecast turning extratropical right behind it on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Fri-Sat (11/8) generating possibly 44 ft seas aimed east, fading then being reinforced by more fetch generating more 25 ft seas into Tues (11/11). And perhaps another smaller system to develop on the dateline behind it and further south. Something to monitor. Certainly a more active pattern looks possible for the North Pacific.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (11/6) the jet was pushing east off North Japan at 170+ kts falling southeast into a trough in the Western Gulf of Alaska then pushing east into Oregon. Good support for gale development was occurring in this trough. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to build and steepen on Friday with 180 kt winds falling into it with it's apex reaching south to a point 600 nmiles north of Hawaii but starting to pinch off late, providing a short window to continue supporting gale development, then fading as it fully pinches on Sat AM (11/8). Back to the west a new patch of 150 kt winds to develop just east of the Kurils pushing flat east then carving out a bit of a broad trough into Sun (11/9) in the Western Gulf. Winds to build to 180 kts Mon AM (11/10) offering continued support for gale development north of Hawaii. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to only build with near 190 kt winds falling into it on Tues (11/11) before finally pinching off and collapsing late Wednesday. Another pocket of 140 kts winds to be building late Thursday (11/13) on the dateline pushing east-southeast setting up yet perhaps one more trough in the Gulf. A weak mini-ridge is to remain protecting the US West Coast driving the core of the storm track into British Columbia for the time being.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (11/6) swell from a gale that pushed off the Kamchatka Peninsula on Tues-Thurs (11/6) and was still tracking east was moving towards Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Kamchatka Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a stronger and broader storm is to form just south of the Aleutians and west of the dateline on Friday AM (11/7) in association with the developing extratropical remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri, with winds to 50 kts from the west and seas on the increase. West winds to build to 60-65 kts over a small area embedded in a large area of 50 kt west winds a bit west of the dateline and just south of the Aleutians moving to the Western Gulf with seas 39 ft at 51N 173E (330 degs HI, 307 degs NCal) and building quickly. By Sat AM (11/8) 55 kt west winds to move north of the Aleutians and shadowed to the North Pacific with 50 kt west winds just south of the Aleutians aimed mainly at the US West Coast with sideband energy at Hawaii producing 44 ft seas at 52N 174E (333 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). 45-50 kt west-northwest winds to hold in the evening just south of the Aleutians just west of the dateline generating 41 ft seas at 50N 177E (333 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). Sun AM (11/9) 45 kt westerly residual fetch to hold just south of the Eastern Aleutians with the core of the gale well up int the Eastern Bering Sea and shadowed by the Aleutians. Seas fading from 38 ft at 50N 180W (333 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). In the evening a new fetch of 35 kt west wind is to start building just west of the dateline and south of the Western Aleutians. Seas fading. 35-40 kt northwest fetch is to be pushing over the dateline Mon AM (11/10) with seas building some from 25 ft at 49N 177E (332 degs HI, 306 degs NCal). That fetch is to hold in the evening with seas building to 26 ft at 47N 180W (330 degs HI, 302 degs NCal). That fetch to push over the dateline Tues AM (11/11) barely at 40 kts with seas 25 ft at 45N 171W (340 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). Fetch to fade from 30-35 kts from the northwest in the evening over a small area with seas fading from 25 ft at 48N 165W. All this is still quite unbelievable but bears watching. Something to monitor.
A gale in the North China Sea started easing east with fetch reaching the open Northwest Pacific Tues PM (11/4) with west winds 35 kts and seas building to 25 ft at 46N 161E (315 degs HI, 305 degs NCal). Winds held at 35 kts easing somewhat east off the Kamchatka Peninsula Wed AM (11/5) with 25 ft seas over a solid area at 49N 167E (324 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). Fetch was pushing east and positioned just south of the Central Aleutians at 30-35 kt in the evening extending east to the Gulf with 23 ft seas at 48N 176E (330 degs HI, 305 degs NCal). This fetch held on the dateline while feeding in to a new gale in the Northern Gulf on Thurs AM (11/6) forming a decent fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii and California well. Seas were modeled at 23 ft at 46N 177W (331 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). 30 kt northwest winds to persist in the Western Gulf falling southeast in the evening with 23 ft seas at 44N 170W (339 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). Fetch to fall below 30 kts Fri AM (11/7) with seas fading from 21 ft at 42N 165W (345 degs HI degs, 292 degs NCal). If all this comes to pass some solid sized 14 secs period swell could result for Hawaii mid-weekend with solid utility class swell for California early next week.
Hawaii: For.cgianning purposes swell arrival expected near sunset Sat (11/8) with swell 4.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (7 ft) and building. Swell to peak overnight and still be solid Sun AM (11/9) at 9 ft @ 14 secs (12.5 ft Hawaiian). Period and size dropping later. Swell fading on Mon AM (11/10) from 6 ft @ 12-13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 320-345 degrees with most energy 330-335 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival late Sun night (11/9) with period 13-14 secs and size building. Swell to be 4.3 ft @ 13 secs (5.5 ft) early Mon (11/10) and building with a bit longer period building underneath, pushing 4.5 ft @ 15 secs mid-day (6.5 ft) and mostly shadowed in the SF Bay area. Swell fading Tues AM (11/11) from 4 ft @ 14 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 292-305 degrees with most energy from 297 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival overnight on Monday (11/10) peaking near sunrise Tues (11/11) at 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft) holding through the day. Residuals on Wed AM (11/12) fading from 1.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 295-311 degrees with most energy from 301 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Super Typhoon Nuri was in the far West Pacific about 600 nmiles east of the Central Philippines on Sun (11/2) at 18Z with winds peaking at 155 kts (178 mph) tracking north-northwest generating 48 ft seas. A turning to the north developed in the evening with winds still 155 kts and seas corrected at 38 ft. Nuri continued north-northeast into Mon AM (11/3) with winds still 155 kts and seas 50 ft at 19.8 N 133.6E. Nuri continued north-northeast into Tues AM (11/4) with winds down to 120 kts and seas 45 ft. A steady track to the north-northeast continued with Nuri 300 nmiles east-southeast of Tokyo Japan on Thurs AM (11/6) with winds 50 kts. From there a quick northeast track is forecast with Nuri turning extratropical and building quickly as it approaches the dateline during the day Fri (11/7) (see Short Term Forecast above).
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (11/6) high pressure at 1024 mbs was ridging into the Central CA coast generating north winds at 15 kts at exposed points, but generally less. Light rain was supposedly falling over Cape Mendocino. Weak high pressure and north winds building to 15 kts are forecast late Friday for all of North and Central CA. But northwest winds to die back to 10 kts or less Saturday fading to near calm Sunday but up to 20 kts for Cape Mendocino. Another low is to be building off the coast lifting north fast on Monday with a light wind regime forecast for the North and Central coasts and holding Tuesday. High pressure and northwest winds at 15 kts are forecast Wednesday for Central CA as another low builds off the coast lifting north. But none of these lows are to be strong enough to break the high pressure barrier dug in over the mainland and extending 600 nmiles out. Winds fading to 10 kts or less on Thursday (11/13) for Central CA and the same for North and South CA.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
A second system developed with 40 ft seas southwest of Tasmania on Wed AM at 55S 141E (2600 nmiles from Fiji on the 211 degree path). It tracked east with seas fading from 36 ft Wed PM at 54S 151E (2350 nmiles from Fiji on the 208 deg path). A quick fade followed. Limited size expected for Hawaii starting Thurs (11/6) at 1.1 ft @ 17-18 secs (2 ft) continuing on Fri (11/7) at 1.1 ft @ 15-16 secs (1.5-2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 215 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 yet another tropically fueled storm is to develop on the dateline on Thurs (11/13) with 50 kt northwest winds over a small area falling southeast with 36 ft seas at 41N 174W. 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 (11/6) the daily SOI was down at -27.17. The 30 day average was dropping at -10.59 and the 90 day average was down to -8.28. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a steady weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO. A weak low pressure trough was tracking east from a point south of Tahiti and is forecast slowly giving up ground into Mon (11/10) with 30 day average SOI numbers expected to move less negative. A bit of a rise is to follow with weak high pressure taking control of Tahiti.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated westerly anomalies unexpectedly building over the Maritime Continent turning to light westerly anomalies on the dateline. Neutral anomalies were indicated south of Hawaii continuing to the Galapagos. A week from now (11/14) modest east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent continuing over the dateline then turning to modest.cgius westerly anomalies south of Hawaii continuing east and over the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated neutral anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific.
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 304 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 10/12-10/31 (WWB) on the dateline. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. A modest Kelvin Wave is impacting the Galapagos associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August. And another Kelvin Wave is developing under the dateline region being fed by westerly anomalies in late October there. That's two WWBs over a 30 day window. 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 11/5 are in opposition. They both suggest a dead neutral MJO pattern over the far West Pacific with a weak Active Phase in the Indian Ocean. The Statistic model depicts the weak Active Phase pushing east into the far West Pacific 10 and 15 days out. The Dynamic model has an Inactive Phase rebuilding 5 days out and building stronger peaking 10-15 day out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 11/6 depicts a weak Active pulse over the Central Pacific pushing east through 11/16. A moderate Inactive Phase is to follow tracking west to east 11/16 through 12/1 then another weak Active Phase to follow through 12/16. 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 (11/6) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, up some since early Sept and still building slowly. Warm pockets are moderating while tracking east between 90W to 160W, likely the result of the first of a pair of Kelvin Waves impacting the Galapagos region (as expected). TAO data suggests 0.5-1.0 deg C anomalies present from the Galapagos to 140W with a core now to +2.0 C, fading to just below 0.5 degs west from there over a small area to the dateline. +1.0-2.0 deg C anomalies are present west of the dateline. Hi res data suggests a string of pockets of +1.0-2.0 deg anomalies from the Galapagos to the dateline (the new Kelvin Wave erupting there). It now appears warm water is building on the surface in the NINO 3.4 region based on TAO and hi res imagery.
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 one small cool pocket well off Chile, not reaching even north to 10S This pocket continues in rapid decline and being r.cgiaced with normal if not slightly warmer than normal water. Given this situation, it suggests 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 11/6 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with one embedded pocket of +4 deg anomalies at 155W pushing east embedded in with a steady stream of +2.0 deg anomalies pushing east from there into 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 near fully erupted over the Galapagos. Satellite data from 10/30 depicts a broad area of +5 cm anomalies are covering the entire equatorial Pacific from New Guinea to the Galapagos, indicative of mult.cgie Kelvin Waves in flight pushing east. Other models collaborate the presumption of Kelvin Wave genesis. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (10/30) indicates the first of a pair of modest Kelvin Waves has erupted off the Galapagos near 100W on 10/1. A bit of a cooling followed (the presumable upwelling phase) and a new Kelvin wave started building back at 145E-160W in Sept and is now pushing east reaching to 140W (10/30). It is assumed steady light westerly anomalies and 2 recent WWBs events in October have fed more warm water into the pipe. At this time we believe a weak warm event is underway. When the second Kelvin Wave pushes east (about 3 months from now or Jan 20) 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 11/6 are stable. It suggests water temps are +0.65 deg C and are to hold between there through April 2015. But the real interesting part is that water temps are to start building from +0.8 degs in May 2015, 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 downwelling Kelvin Wave was generated and pushed east 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 a modestly stronger one building under the dateline 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 +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 this year. A 'normal' development life cycle favors the alternating 'downwelling/upwelling' Kelvin Wave cycle, which is what the Pacific seems to be favoring. See currently Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
At this point a teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere seems to be in.cgiay. Evidence includes a total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system this summer, 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 and again in late Oct. The last time any of this happened was during the '97 and '83 El Ninos. And mult.cgie recurving tropical systems pushed off Japan reaching the Gulf of Alaska in October (Fengshen and Vongfong). And then one more recurving tropical system in November (Super Typhoon Nuri). The only argument against the feedback loop now is a weak west moving Pacific Counter Current (rather than flowing east).
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.
We are 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.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino Update Updated 12/4/13
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table