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 (11/25) in North and Central CA surf was 2-3 ft overhead with some bigger sets and clean with offshore winds in control. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to maybe head high and clean and soft. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and clean and lined up but weak with new swell moving in. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean with some texture intermixed but fun looking. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftovers from the same swell currently hitting California with surf 8-10 ft on the face but really warbled and lumpy with sideshore winds in effect. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at 1 ft overhead and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A broad but weak gale tracked through the Western Gulf region Fri-Sat (11/22) producing 23-24 ft seas aimed east. Swell arrived in California on Tuesday (11/25) and was fading in Hawaii. A local gale was west of Central CA on Tues (11/25) producing 26-28 ft seas aimed southeast to east and is to fade while tracking east into Wednesday with seas still in the 26 ft range. Swell for Hawaii and CA possible. And a broader gale is forecast approaching the dateline Fri (11/28) with 30 ft seas targeting Hawaii while fading and lifting northeast possibly regenerating on the Northern dateline region Mon (12/1) with 34ft seas aimed east. Also a small fetch is to develop off Central CA on Sun (11/30) producing 26 ft seas moving inland Tuesday (12/2). Weather for CA is possible. Were really waiting for the Active Phase of the MJO to kick-in to feed the storm track. Shouldn't be too long now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (11/25) the jet was pushing east off Japan but fragmented with the flow generally centered on 35N with winds to 140 kts in one small pocket but generally less. The jet tracked east from there .cgiitting a little on the dateline but with most energy falling into a weak trough northeast of Hawaii with winds only 120 kts. Limited support for gale development there. From there the jet .cgiit again with most energy ridging hard north before turning east and pushing over Central Canada. Over the next 72 hours the trough northeast of Hawaii is to hold together in some form but generally weak till Friday (11/28) when winds build on the northern dateline falling southeast into the trough now repositioned mid-way between Hawaii and California and starting to get better organized late. Limited support for gale development but odds improving. Also a weak trough is to be tracking off Kamchatka Wed-Thurs (11/27) with up to 120 kt winds feeding it offering limited support for gale development on the northern dateline region. Beyond 72 hours the trough off California is to start looking decent by late Sat (11/29) with 120 kt winds still feeding it originating on the northern dateline and the trough easing east, finally pushing inland over Central CA on Tues (12/2). Support for gale development possible. At that time a solid pocket of 160 kt winds to start building over Japan pushing east with the jet starting to consolidate and become less fragmented over it's length perhaps signaling the start of a better upper level pattern long term.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (11/25) swell from a gale that tracked through the Northwestern Gulf on Thurs-Fri (11/21) with 23-24 ft seas was hitting California and fading in Hawaii.
Over the next 72 hours a new gale is projected building between California and Hawaii (see East Gulf Gale below). Also a small gale was tracking into the Northern Dateline Region (See Small Dateline Gale below). and yet another gale is to be pushing off Japan tracking towards the dateline (See Japan Gale below).
East Gulf Gale
A gale started building off the US West Coast Monday evening (11/24) in a developing upper trough with north winds building from 35 kts. By Tues AM (11/25) a tiny fetch of 50-55 kt north winds were in.cgiay with 30 ft seas over a tiny area at 37N 150W (10 degs HI, 278 degs NCal, 286 degs SCal). 40-45 kt north winds to hold into the evening with seas 27 ft at 37N 150W (stationary) pushing energy towards Hawaii (15 degs) but also wrapping into the gale south quadrant and pushing more energy towards California with 27 ft seas at 37N 148W (278 deg NCal, 287 degs SCal). 40 kt west winds to continue wrapping into the gales south quadrant Wed AM (11/26) generating 27 ft seas over a decent sized area 39N 145W (280 degs NCal, 292 degs SCal). Winds fading from 35 kt from the west in the evening with 26 ft seas pushing east-northeast at 40N 141W (286 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). A quick fade to follow with no additional swell producing fetch forecast. Swell possible for the California Coast with sideband swell for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival at sunset Wed (11/26) with swell 6 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft faces). Swell peaking over night and fading Thurs AM (11/27) from 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft). Residuals on Fri AM (11/28) fading from 4.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.5. ft). Swell Direction: 10-15 degrees
North CA: Rough data for.cgianning purposes suggests swell arrival on Thurs (11/27) at 8 PM building through the night peaking near sunrise Fri (11/28) at 7 ft @ 14 secs (9 ft faces). Swell holding through the day fading late. Swell Direction: 274-280 degrees
Small Dateline Gale
A gale started building on the southern dateline Mon PM (11/24) lifting northeast with winds building to 45 kts late, but mainly in the gales southeastern quadrant aimed towards Alaska. More of the same was occurring Tues AM (11/25) as the gale tracked quickly northeast with winds 45 kts and 27 ft seas at 42N 174W (330 degs HI, 292 degs NCal). More 45 kt northwest winds to build Tues PM but now in the gales south quadrant aimed east with 25 ft seas at 46N 173W (339 degs HI, 298 degs NCal). Winds fading Wed AM (11/26) as the gale moves into the Bering Sea with seas just south of the Eastern Aleutians fading from 20 ft at 51N 170W (307 degs NCal).
Limited swell for Hawaii and even less for the US West Coast. Whatever swell results for Hawaii is to be buried under the East Gulf swell above.
On Fri AM (11/28) a new gale is to be developing mid-way between Japan and the dateline generating 45 kt north winds and 30 ft seas at 36N 162E targeting only the Marshall Islands. Fetch is to hold in the evening with 45 kt north winds and 32 ft seas at 34N 167E again targeting the Marshall Islands, but also making some headway towards Hawaii (299 degs). Winds to be fading from 40 kts over a larger area Sat AM (11/29) while the gale lifts northeast with 28 ft seas at 37N 170E (305 degs HI). Solid 40 kt northwest winds to hold in the evening with seas 26 ft at 37N 177E (310 degs HI). Sun AM (11/30) the gale is to be lifting northeast fast with fetch fading from 40 kts and seas 25 ft at 43N 178E (325 degs HI).
Assuming all goes as forecast a decent pulse of swell is possible for the Islands. Something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storms of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (11/25) high pressure was pushing inland over North CA with a light offshore flow for the whole state in effect while a new low and front built off the coast. Offshore winds to give way to southeast winds for Central and North CA on Wed then fading Thurs to calm with light rain for North CA only. A light south flow to develop Fri with rain to Pt Reyes late with a front pushing south. The low to hold off the coast Saturday driving more south winds from Pt Conception northward. Rain north of Monterey Bay early pushing to Big Sur late. Snow developing for Tahoe late. The low building to gale force Sunday with perhaps 25 kt south winds from Pt Conception northward. Solid rain from Big Sur northward all day. light snow for Tahoe. The gale to move onshore Monday with south winds 25-30 kts fading late. Heavy snow for Tahoe starting before sunrise continuing all day and evening. High pressure and northwest winds 15 kts Tuesday for everywhere but Southern CA. Snow fading slowly through the day Tuesday for Tahoe. Something to monitor if one is to believe the models.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest 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 another low is forecast developing off Central CA on Sun (11/30) with 26 ft seas at 37N 134W (267 degs NCal, 286 degs SCal) falling southeast and fading Mon AM (12/1) with 22 ft seas at 35N 130W (284 degs SCal).
Also remnants of the Japan Gale (above) are to redevelop on the northern dateline region on Mon AM (12/1) with 45-50 kt northwest winds building in coverage just south of the Central Aleutians fading from 40 kts in the evening with 32 ft seas at 49N 179E targeting Hawaii and California, but a long ways away from both. A quick fade to follow.
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).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph is analysis and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Tuesday (11/25) the daily SOI was down some at -4.58. The 30 day average was rising at -7.17 and the 90 day average rising at -7.72. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weakening Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20. A weak trough was southeast of Tahiti and tracking out of the picture. A new weak trough is to form south of Tahiti on Thurs (11/27) and is forecast continuing into Mon (12/1). 30 and 90 day averages expected falling some. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest to weak east anomalies continued over the Maritime Continent fading then turning westerly on the dateline over a small area. Neutral anomalies continued to a point south of Hawaii and neutral on to the Galapagos. A week from now (12/3) strong west anomalies are forecast over the Central Maritime Continent with moderate east anomalies just west of the dateline with very weak east anomalies on the dateline. Neutral anomalies are forecast south of Hawaii and into the the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate west anomalies on the dateline with moderate east Anomalies at 155E. The first easterly wind event of the year continues, and it started on 11/18.
Looking at the trend over the past year there has not been a extended period of enhanced trades, other than the one occurring now. 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. More weak west anomalies occurred 11/11-14. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. A modest Kelvin Wave is impacting the Galapagos (11/3-11/22) associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August. And another Kelvin Wave is in flight under the 160W region being fed by westerly anomalies in late October there. We're in great shape for the 2014 year into early 2015. The question now becomes what, if any, effect the easterly wind event currently in-flight (starting 11/18) will have.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/24 are in sync. They both suggest a modest Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the far West Pacific. The Statistic model depicts the Inactive Phase pushing east over the next 15 days and steadily fading, effectively gone 10 days out. The Dynamic model has the Inactive Phase gone 8 days out while pushing east. Both depict a robust Active Phase in the Indian Ocean pushing east, moving into the West Pacific 8 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 11/25 depicts a modest Inactive pulse fading over the East Pacific with a weak Active Phase moving into the West Pacific 11/30 tracking east and fading through 12/20. A modest Inactive Phase to follow 12/22-1/4. The troubling development is that an the Inactive Phase is present at all. This means the MJO is returning, which in turns suggests El Nino might be giving up some ground. Normally the MJO fades away during El Nino events. The other option is this is just a manifestation of a yet-to-develop Upwelling Phase the Kelvin Wave Cycle (probably well overdue). Something to monitor.
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 (11/24) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific (up some since early Sept) and still building. A clear but weak El Nino signature is developing. Warm pockets are getting better traction 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). This weak El Nino signature has been getting more defined since 11/10. TAO data suggests +1.0 deg C anomalies are present over a continuous area on the equator from the Galapagos to the far West Pacific. +1.5º C anomaly pockets are at 120W, 160W and 160E. 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).Warm water is clearly 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. Warm water remains entrenched along the California coast suggesting the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weaker relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is also starting to build in warmth with only on small cool pocket well off Chile, not reaching even north to 10S and in decline. A warm regime has the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue solidly warm. As of 11/25 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with a broad embedded pocket of +4 deg anomalies centered near 135W pushing east embedded in with a steady stream of +2.0 deg anomalies pushing east from the dateline into the Galapagos. The +4º C anomalies are the second in a pair of recent Kelvin Waves in-flight. Satellite data from 11/19 depicts a broad area of 0-5 cm anomalies are covering the entire equatorial Pacific from New Guinea to the Galapagos, with +5 cm anomalies south of Hawaii to 2/3rds of the way to the Galapagos indicative of a Kelvin Wave in flight pushing east. Other models collaborate the presumption that a Kelvin Wave is in flight. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (11/14) indicates the second of a pair of recent modest Kelvin Waves started building back at 145E-160W in Sept and is now pushing east reaching to 115W.
When this second Kelvin Wave arrives in the east (about Jan 20) we will be set for the winter. 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 11/16 remains improved. The current is pushing moderately strong west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. It is strongest from New Guinea to 120W 's moving into the moderate to strong category over the entire area from the West Pacific to a point southeast of Hawaii. There were two pockets of easterly anomalies, both on the equator at 170E and 80W-120W. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest near 110-130W. This data suggests a improved picture is continuing to evolve and supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 11/25 for the Nino 3.4 region are holding in an upgraded position. It suggests water temps are up to +1.0 deg C and are to fade some to between +0.8-0.9 through April 2015. But the real interesting part is that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in May 2015, pushing +2.0 degs C by early August 2015.
This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event, and not a weak one either. See the chart based version here - link. A consensus of other models are not as optimistic.
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 attributable to the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Water temps in the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle have held remarkably consistent from May 2014 onward, even during upwelling phases. Continued suppressed trades with embedded weak westerly anomalies have held in the West Pacific all year so far producing the aforementioned Kelvin Wave with +3 degs C in flight now. There has been no 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. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
At this point a teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is 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 6 inches on Oct 31. 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). And even the Pacific Counter Current is now falling in line.
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.
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 9and therefore swells) 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). 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 was 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.
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 and we are in 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