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.
Surf Heights for Hawaii should be consider 'Hawaiian Scale' if period exceeds 14 secs.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea): Seas were 3.2 ft @ 11.5 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 11.5 secs from 322 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.8 ft @ 17.2 secs with swell 3.4 ft @ 16.8 secs from 187 degrees. Wind northwest 6-8 kts. Water temperature 68.7 degs. At Santa Barbara swell was 0.8 ft @ 17.3 secs from 181 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 3.5 ft @ 16.6 secs from 203 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.5-4.0 ft @ 17.1 secs from 193 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 6.7 ft @ 12.8 secs with swell 5.1 ft @ 10.3 secs from 301 degrees and 3.3 ft @ 17.0 secs from 196 degrees. Wind northwest 12-14 kts. Water temp 57.2 degs.
46006, 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Saturday (9/24) in North and Central CA southern hemi swell was hitting producing waves in the head high range and a bit wonky from northwest windswell intermixing with it with light northwest winds adding heavy texture. At Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was producing waves in the head high to 2 ft overhead range and clean and lined up with decent sets occasionally. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and somewhat clean with northwest winds over outer waters. Down in North Orange Co sets waves were maybe 2 ft overhead and pushing in hard from the south with northwest wind chop crossing it up. Further down south top spots had set waves in the 2-3 ft overhead range and reasonably clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was getting wrap around east windswell at waist high on the sets and clean. The South Shore was near flat with maybe waist high sets and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell at thigh high and chopped from east trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from southern hemisphere was peaking in California originating from broad gale that tracked from under New Zealand on Mon-Tues (9/13) with 28 ft seas then surged Wed-Thurs (9/15) with up to 39 ft seas aimed east-northeast from the Central South Pacific. Another small gale developed in the Southeast Pacific on Thurs (9/22) producing 30 ft seas aimed northeast. Looking at the forecast charts there hints of a gale developing in the Northwest Pacific on Thurs-Sat (9/31) producing up to 25 ft seas aimed east bit not making it much east of the North Dateline region. Nothing is forecast for the Southern Hemi. The Inactive Phase of the MJO is having a negative impact for now.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Saturday AM (9/24) the jetstream was still running in zonal pattern flat across the North Pacific on the 44N latitude line with winds up to 150 kts in the far East Pacific ridging up into Canada. A bit of a split was developing in the far West with the secondary flow tracking east over the Western Bering Sea. In all no support for gale development was indicated in upper levels of the atmosphere. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with the split becoming more pronounced in the Bering Sea with that flow pushing into Alaska then falling south almost joining the southern branch on Wed (9/28). No trough capable of supporting gale development were indicated. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast until Sat (10/1) when the split is forecast to repair itself some and winds energy is to again building in the important southern branch with winds pushing 140 kts in the west and 130 kts over the Gulf, but weaker in between. A bit of a trough is to set up over the dateline then possible supporting low pressure if not gale development. At least it's a step in the right direction.
On Saturday (9/24) no swell of interest was in the water and no fetch of interest was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure at 1032 mbs is to dominate the Northeast Pacific most pronounced on Mon (9/26) and part of a broader high pressure pattern at 1020 mbs filling the North Pacific generally suppressing low pressure development. No fetch of interest is forecast.
Relative to North CA no local north winds of interest are forecast until Tues (9/27) when high pressure starts ridging into North CA forming the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino down to Pt Arena with north winds building to 25 kts likely producing north windswell. Winds to remain light south of there.
Relative to Hawaii the same high pressure system is to start feeding trades from the east on Monday (9/26) at 15 kts producing minimal east windswell and getting a little more continuous coverage on Tuesday.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Typhoon Megi on Sat AM (9/24) was 650 nmiles east of the northern tip of the Philippines with winds 75 kts tracking west northwest at 12 kts producing seas at 25 ft aimed east. Megi is to continue locked on this track peaking mid-day on Mon (9/26) with winds 110 kts sweeping over the southern tip of Taiwan early Tues AM (9/27) then fading, but with no deviation in heading, eventually moving inland a bit north of Hong Kong. No swell is expected for our forecast area.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Saturday AM (9/24) high pressure at 1028 mbs was 600 nmiles west of Central CA trying to ridge into the coast but not really doing it yet, producing only sporadic 15 kt north winds along the North and Central Coasts. On Sunday the fetch is to become more consolidated over North CA at 20 kts but lighter from Bodega Bay southward and lifting north. Generally light winds are forecast on Monday over all of CA except 15 kt from the north over Cape Mendocino. The normal pressure gradient induced by building high pressure is to set up over North Ca on Tuesday generating north winds at 25 kts but limited in coverage from Pt Arena northward. Light winds south of there. On Wed (9/28) the gradient is to strengthen with north winds at 30 kts limited from Pt Arena northward. The gradient and north winds are to rapidly collapse on Thurs (9/29) at barely 20 kts over Pt Arena and light from Pt Reyes southward. A modest northerly flow to set up for all of Central and North CA on Fri at 15 kts continuing on Saturday but up to 25 kts over Pt Conception.
On Saturday (9/24) swell from a gale that previously traversed the South Pacific is pushing north (see South Pacific Gale below). Also two swells from a complex gale that developed in the Southeast Pacific are pushing north (see Southeast Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
South Pacific Gale (Swell #8S)
A fetch of 35-40 kt west winds developed south of New Zealand on Mon PM (9/12) with seas 26 ft at 56S 170E. 35-40 kt west fetch continued southeast of New Zealand Tues AM (9/13) with 28 ft seas at 59S 178E. Fetch tried to build and consolidate in the evening from the west at 40 kts with 28 ft seas rebuilding up at 54S 173E. A new fetch of 40 kt southwest winds developed in this area southeast of New Zealand Wed AM (9/14) generating 29-30 ft seas at 56S 175W. In the evening things finally got organized with 45-50 kt southwest winds building while tracking east well southeast of New Zealand with 37 ft seas at 59S 160W. On Thurs AM (9/15) 45 kt southwest fetch tracked east over the Southeast Pacific with seas still 37 ft at 56S 145W. In the evening fetch was fading from 40-45 kts from the west-southwest with 38 ft seas fading at 55W 128W. A new small fetch of 45 kt southwest fetch is develop Fri AM (9/16) with seas 33 ft at 54S 126W. The gale is to fade and move east out of the California swell window in the evening. Some southern hemi swell could result for Hawaii and more so for California but really targeting Central America down into Chile.
South CA: Swell fading Sunday (9/25) from 3.0 ft @ 15 secs early (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 185-202 degrees
North CA: Swell fading Sunday (9/25) from 3.0 ft @ 15 secs (4.5-5.0 ft). Swell Direction: 185-202 degrees
Southeast Pacific Gale
A gale developed in the Central Pacific on Wed AM (9/21) with 35-40 kt southwest winds tracking east and mainly over Antarctic Ice. In the evening the gail lifted northeast some with winds to 40 kts and starting to get exposure on ice free waters with seas to 20 ft at 60S 153W. The gale moved to the Southeast Pacific on Thurs AM (9/22) over ice free waters with 40-45 kt southwest winds and seas building to 28 ft over a moderate area at 54S 140W aimed north-northeast. In the evening fetch was lifting northeast with south winds down to 30-35 kts over a broad area with seas 30 ft at 51S 125W. This system dissipated after that. Modest swell is expected for California but mainly focused on Mexico down into Peru.
Southern CA: Expect teaser swell to arrive from a gale just prior on Thurs (9/29) building to 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs later (4.0 ft). That swell to continue on Fri (9/30) at 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5 ft) with the core swell building to 2.1 ft @ 17 (3.5 ft) late. Swell peaking on Sat (10/1) at 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) with the first swell fading from 2.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (3.0 ft). Swell fading on Sun (10/2) from 2.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 189 degrees
North CA: Expect teaser swell to arrive from a gale just prior on Thurs (9/29) building to 2.2 ft @ 16 secs later (3.5 ft). That swell to continue on Fri (9/30) at 2.5 ft @ 14-15 secs (3.5 ft) with the core swell building to 2 ft @ 17-18 (3.5 ft) later. Swell peaking on Sat (10/1) at 2.3 ft @ 16 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) with the primer swell fading from 2.1 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell fading on Sun (10/2) from 2.2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 189 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 a small gale is forecast starting to develop off the Northern Kuril's on Wed PM (9/29) generating 30-35 kt northwest winds pushing east and getting better coverage on Thurs AM (9/29) with seas to 23 ft at 46.5N 159E. This system is to track east and build on Fri AM (9/30) with northwest winds 40 kts solid over the North Dateline region with seas to 24 ft at 46.5N 172E. This system is to start fading while lifting north into the Eastern Bering Sea Sat AM (10/1) still generating a small fetch of 35 kt west winds and 25 ft seas at 50N 176W. Will believe it when it happens.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
More details to follow...
La Nina Easterly Wind Burst Still Ongoing
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, though most noticeable in the Pacific. 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. Prolonged and consecutive Active MJO Phases help support the formation of El Nino. 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).
Overview: The 2014-2016 El Nino is all but gone except for remnants in the upper atmosphere. La Nina is developing but weaker than expected.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Saturday (9/23) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The KWGA is on the equator from 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south. Anomalies were neutral over the equatorial East Pacific and light east over KWGA. This is the first easterly wind burst of this La Nina cycle.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies have faded to modest strength over the KWGA (previously strong 9/12-9/18). But forecast suggests those easterly anomalies are to start building again tomorrow (9/25) to moderate plus strength filling the KWGA and holding through 10/1. This indicates the Inactive Phase of the MJO was in control resulting in a suppressed swell production pattern both north and south. This is in contrast to what the models below suggest. It is actual wind direction/speed in the KWGA that matters more than anything else.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 9/23 a modest Active MJO signal was indicated over the far West Pacific. The Statistic model projects that pattern to continue for the next 2 weeks, fading some late. The dynamic model depicts a weaker version of the same and gone 2 weeks out.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (9/124 The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was weak near Papua New Guinea. The forecast projects it fading and easing east and all but gone on the dateline 2 weeks out. The GEFS model depicts the same thing initially but with the signal weaker and almost incoherent. No positive affect from the Active Phase of the MJO is forecast.
40 day Upper Level Model: (9/19) This model depicts a moderate Active MJO pattern over the West Pacific. The Active Phase is to track east while slowly fading moving over Central America by 10/12. A modest Inactive Phase to follow in the West starting 10/12 moving to Central America 10/29.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): (9/24) This model depicts a very weak Active MJO pattern over the far West Pacific tracking east and becoming less coherent dissipating in the East Pacific 10/14. A weak Inactive Phase is forecast following in the West Pacific 10/19 tracking east into 11/3. Overall the MJO signal is very weak and is to hold as we move into Fall. La Nina is having the effect of dampening the MJO, but not biasing it towards the Inactive Phase.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (9/24) Actual temperatures are stratifying with warm water in the West Pacific at 30+ degs C (reaching east to only 160E) and the 28 deg isotherm line reaching east to only 175W but getting steeper, suggesting a hard break between warm water in the west and cool water in the east at depth. This is expected with La Nina. Warm anomalies at +1 degs rule from the West Pacific to 170W with weak negative anomalies east of there towards Ecuador. The cool subsurface flow looks a bit more defined over the past week at depth to -2 degs at 140W and continuous 0 to -1 degs from the far West Pacific reaching east to 175W to Ecuador. The Kelvin Wave pipeline is replaced with cooler than normal water. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 9/20 a steady flow of +1-2 deg anomalies are traversing the Pacific equator down at 100-150 meters. La Nina is in control of the ocean at depth, but not strongly so.
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. All data is from blended infrared and microwave sensors.
Hi-res Nino1.2 & 3.4: (9/24) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates a weak cool flow along the immediate coast of Peru building since 5 days ago tracking in pockets towards the Galapagos. But strong warmer pockets exist further off the Peruvian coast to almost Ecuador too. The cooler waters no longer flow continuously west from the Galapagos, and only re-emerge at 120W, becoming more established out to at least 160W with with peak temps -1.0 degs. La Nina is in control of surface waters, but weak, with remnant El Nino warm water holding well in the East (Nino1.2 region) mainly between 80W-120W. Almost no warm water remains anywhere in the Nino 3.4 region, but warm water still is having an influence in the Nino 1.2 region.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (9/23): A neutral trend is over waters of Chile and Peru extending west to the Galapagos. A mix of warmer and cooler pockets are in control from the Galapagos westward out to 160W but more on the warmer side. A broad warming trend is developing off Africa to the Caribbean and Brazil.
Hi-res Overview: (9/23) A La Nina cool pool is present in the Central Equatorial Pacific from 120W to 180W. But neutral to slightly warmer temps are from Peru to 120W. No cool waters exist along Ecuador and Peru suggestive of westward displacement of La Nina.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (9/24) Today's temps were falling to +0.358 degs.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (9/24) temps are warming markedly to -0.376 degs. Temp are oscillating warm to cool and back in 2-3 week cycles within a range from -0.3 to -1.0 degs until the warming spike into the positive range the past 4 days. Temps bottomed out at -1.0 degs near 7/21-7/26.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (9/24) This model suggests La Nina peaked in Aug at -0.65 degs. Temps are to rise to -0.5 degs in Oct, then falling deeper negative to -0.75 degs in early Dec before starting to rise steadily reaching neutral in March 2017 and up to +0.5 by June. This is very interesting with the model holding the strength of La Nina at not even real La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-Sept Plume depicts temps have reached their peak minimum and are to hold there at -0.5 to -0.6 through Nov. A slow increase in temps is forecast thereafter to -0.3 in Feb 2017 and to -0.2 in March holding into May. This is up again from last months peak low temp of -0.7 degs and barely in La Nina territory. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Decoupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (9/24): The daily index was down some at +8.56 but had been hovering in the +15-20 range back 9/13. The 30 day average was steady at +12.61. It transitioned from negative to positive (first time in 2 years) on 5/27. The 90 day average was up some at +6.43, transitioning from negative to positive the first time in years on 7/20. El Nino is gone in all dimensions of the SOI Index now.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation. Positive is good, negative bad): (9/24) Today's value was down some at -1.26 suggesting La Nina is getting a little better toe hold. During El Nino this year it peaked on 3/12 at +1.57 then fell until 4/14 when it started rising again peaking 4/23 at +1.12. But after that La Nina took over with it falling steadily dropping as low as -1.50 in early Aug. It has been retreating from the peak recently.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues positive, though much weaker in July than June (as expected with La NIna setting in).
Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-Aug) are: +0.79, +1.23, +1.55, +1.59, +1.41, +0.76, +0.18 and now -0.66 in Aug.
The Washington EDU index (Jan-July) are: +1.54, +1.75, +2.40, +2.62, +2.35, +2.03 and +1.25.
The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been positive since then. Looking at the long term record, it is premature to conclude that we have in-fact turned from the negative phase (La Nina 'like') to the positive phase (El Nino 'like'), but the data suggests that could be a real possibility. We've been in the negative phase since 1998 through at least 2013 (15 years). By the time it is confirmed (4-5 years out), we will be well into it.
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool
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