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.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
- Buoy 146 (Lanai): Seas were 2.9 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 1.9 ft @ 12.6 secs from 195 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 2.8 ft @ 13.7 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 12.9 secs from 210 degrees. Wind west 6-8 kts. Water temperature 71.8 degs. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.9 ft @ 6.4 secs from 270 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.5 ft @ 13.7 secs from 197 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.8 ft @ 13.5 secs from 192 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 7.3 ft @ 9.1 secs with windswell 5.8 ft @ 9.0 secs and southern hemi swell 2.0 ft @ 13.7 secs from 184 degrees. Wind northwest 10-12 kts. Water temp 54.7 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
Next Forecast Update: Tuesday (8/2)
On Tuesday (7/26) in North and Central CA local northwest windswell was producing waves at chest high and clean early but heavily fogged in. At Santa Cruz southern hemi swell was all but gone with rare set waves knee to thigh high on the sets. In Southern California up north windswell was producing waves at knee to thigh high and clean but weak. Down south southern hemi swell was fading but still producing set waves at chest high with north winds adding some texture. Further south top spots had sets at head high and clean. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was small but still some waist high sets were coming through and clean. The East Shore was getting easterly windswell at thigh to maybe waist high.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A gale pushed under New Zealand on Wed (7/20) with 32-34 ft seas aimed east, but making little headway east of New Zealand. Possible small swell to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast late week into the weekend. A weak gale developed in the Southeast Pacific on Sun-Mon (7/25) with 28 ft seas aimed north over a modest sized area. Small south angled swell is possible for CA a week out. An even smaller cut off gale is forecast in the upper reaches of the Central Pacific on Wed-Fri (7/29) with seas peaking at 34 ft. Small swell possible for CA down into Peru. Tropical Storm Frank was a few hundred miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas with winds 50 kts tracking west northwest and forecast down to sub-depression status by Thurs (7/28). Hurricane Georgette was 1500 nmiles east of Hawaii with winds 65 kts tracking northwest and forecast to rapidly fade over the next 48 hours, not even being a depression. No swell production is forecast for our forecast area from either system.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Tuesday AM (7/26) no swell producing fetch is occurring and none is forecast for the next 72 hours.
The California coastal pressure gradient was in effect on Tuesday (7/26) with high pressure 600 nmiles west of Oregon generating north winds at 25-30 kts along the North CA coast with 20 kt north winds down to a point well off Pt Conception offering windswell production potential. An eddy flow was well established from Pt Arena southward. Over the next 72 hours more of the same is forecast with the gradient holding if not building with north winds to 35 kts starting Thurs (7/28) over the Cape Mendocino area with the eddy flow continuing south of there and holding through Fri (7/29). Good odds for windswell to result for North and Central CA with decent conditions.
For Hawaii on Tues (7/26) trades were weak (below 15 kts) but forecast to build from the east as the day progresses, reaching the 15 kt threshold late in the day driven by the same high pressure system above off Oregon. By Wed (7/27) a fetch of 15 kt east-northeast winds is to stretch from California over the Hawaiian Islands and beyond and continuing through Fri (7/29) with imbedded pockets to 20 kts offering good potential for windswell generation.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Tropical Storm Frank was 450 nmiles west-southwest of Cabo San Lucas with winds 50 kts tracking west-northwest at 6 kts. Steady weakening is forecast with Frank down to depression status on Thurs (7/28) affecting no one while tracking west northwest. Whatever swell was generating during the peak of Frank (when winds were 70 kts Sun AM (7/24) in the Pt Dume swell window (160 degs) and 850 nmiles out) is hitting Southern CA now (buoys 1.8 ft @ 13.3 secs - 2.5 ft surf- Tues AM).
Hurricane Georgette was 1600 nmiles east of Hawaii with winds 65 kts tracking northwest at 3 kts. Georgette is to start accelerating it forward motion later today and start fading, down to tropical storm strength by evening (50 kts) and sub-depression status by Thurs (7/28). No swell generation potential for California or Hawaii.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (7/26) high pressure was ridging into the extreme North CA coast from 600 nmiles off South Oregon producing the usual pressure gradient over North CA with north winds there 25 kts along and off the coast. But from Pt Arena southward an eddy flow as in effect (south winds). This situation to hold on Wed (7/27) but winds north winds building to 30 kts in the core of the gradient and up to 35 kts on Fri-Sat (7/30). On Sunday (7/31) winds to drop to 30 kts and then 25 kts on Mon-Tues (8/2). The eddy flow is to continue from Pt Arena southward.
On Tuesday AM (7/26) the jet was consolidated from under the Tasman Sea out to the Central Pacific running east on the 33S latitude line, then splitting near 130W (Southeast Pacific) forming a ridge with the southern branch falling over Antarctic Ice. There was no real troughs indicated over the area of the consolidated jet offering no real support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours some winds are to start pushing to the northeast over Tasmania on Wed (7/27) at 120 kts starting to look like a trough in the Tasman Sea but that is to quickly moderate while pushing over New Zealand offering nothing to support gale development by late Thurs (7/28). Another bout of winds pushing northeast is to form south of the Tasman Sea on Fri (7/29) but only at 110 kts and quickly fading from there into Sat AM (7/30) again offering nothing of interest. But it looks like a ridge is to start building in from the west. Beyond 72 hours the start of that ridge is to push east into Tuesday (8/2) reaching a point south of New Zealand and likely shutting down any support for gale development, regardless of the total lack troughs east of it. In short, a pretty weak jetstream pattern is expected.
On Tuesday (7/26) tiny swell from a gale that pushed under New Zealand is heading northeast (see New Zealand Gale below), but small is the operative word. Also small swell from a gale that developed in the Southeast Pacific is pushing north (see Southeast Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a tiny cutoff gale is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific on Wed PM (7/27) producing a tiny area of 50 kt south winds. seas 30 ft over a tiny area at 38S 145W. 50 kt south winds to hold Thurs AM (7/28) with seas to 34 ft over a tiny area at 38S 143W. In the evening fetch is to be fading from 40 kts over a broader area aimed north with seas 32 ft at 37S 139W. Fetch is to be fading and falling southeast Fri AM (7/29) with 29 ft seas at 38S 133W. This system is to fade after that. A small to modest pulse of south angled swell could result for California if all goes as forecast. The very northward position of this system (assuming it forms) somewhat makes up for it's forecasted lack of areal coverage. Something to monitor.
A solid storm previously forecast for the Tasman Sea on Wed AM (7/27) has been significantly downgraded. Instead only 30 ft seas area forecast in the evening at 47S 154E. Another weak system to follow in the same area on Fri (7/29) with 33 ft seas at 49S 160E. Modest swell is possible for Fiji with filtered swell possible for Hawaii longer term.
New Zealand Gale
On Tues PM (7/19) a gale low was tracking well south of the Tasman Sea with west winds 45 kts generating 35 ft seas at 53.0S 151.5E and barely unshadowed by New Zealand relative to North and South CA (222 degs). On Wed AM (7/20) 40 kt southwest winds tracked under New Zealand generating 34 ft seas at 53S 162E and unshadowed relative to CA (219 degs) and not quite clear of New Zealand relative to Hawaii (203 degs). Fetch was rapidly fading in the evening from 35 kts from the southwest with seas fading from 30 ft at 54S 171E (214 degs CA, 197 degs HI). This system was gone after that. Some small 17-18 sec period swell should result.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Wed PM (7/27) with swell 1 ft @ 17 secs (1.5-2.0 ft). Swell peaking Thurs AM (7/28) at 1.2 ft @ 14-15 secs (1.5-2.0 ft). Swell Direction: 198 degrees
South CA: Expect swell arrival early Sat AM (7/30) with period 18 secs building to 2.0 ft @ 17-18 secs (3.0 ft). Swell continues on Sun (7/31) building to 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs in the afternoon (3.5 ft). Swell holding Mon (8/1) at 2.6 ft @ 15-16 secs (4.0 ft). Swell fading on Tues (8/2) from 2.1 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 219 degrees
North CA: Expect swell arrival Sat AM (7/30) with period 18 secs building to 1.3 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell building on Sun (7/31) to 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Combo swell with energy from the Southeast Pacific (see below) on Mon (8/1) to 1.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (8/2) from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 218 degrees
Southeast Pacific Gale
A weak gale coalesced in the Southeast Pacific on Sat PM (7/23) producing a tiny area of 40-45 kt southwest winds with seas 27 ft at 40S 135W. On Sun AM (7/24) 40 kt southwest fetch held generating seas of 28 ft at 36S 128W with a new fetch of 40 kt south winds developing south of it aimed north. In the evening the new fetch became dominant still at 35-40 kts from the south with 28 ft seas building at 43S 126W aimed north. More of the same occurred Monday AM (7/25) with 29 ft seas at 46S 121W. Fetch faded from 35 kts in the evening with seas moving out of the CA swell window. Small 15-16 sec period swell is possible for North and South CA from a rather southerly direction with more energy targeting Central America.
South CA: Expect swell arrival late on Sat (7/30) mixed with the swell from New Zealand above. Combo swell to maybe 2 ft @ 17-18 secs (3 ft). Swell continues on Sun (7/31) building to 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs in the afternoon (3.5 ft). Swell fading Mon (8/1) from 2 ft @ 15-16 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 190 degrees
North CA: Swell building on Sun (7/31) to 1.6 ft @ 17-18 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Combo swell with energy from the Southeast Pacific (see below) on Mon (8/1) to 1.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell fading Tues (8/2) from 2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 188 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 high pressure and the pressure gradient is to be holding on Sat-Sun (7/31) generating north winds pushing near 35 kts over Cape Mendocino producing windswell relative to North and Central CA with an eddy flow in control from Pt Arena southward. Even after that north winds to continue of that area at 25 kts through Tues (8/2) with the eddy flow holding south of Pt Arena. Windswell fading some.
For Hawaii trades to continue solid at 15-20 kts but lifting north of the Islands slightly on Saturday (7/30) then weakening while lifting north more on Sunday (7/31) with the faint remnants of Georgette passing just north of Hawaii on Sun (7/31) only serving to make for lighter winds still. Trades to return on Tues (8/2) at 15 kts from the east driven by high pressure still northeast of the Islands wit windswell potential increasing some again.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
More details to follow...
La Nina Forecast Significantly Weakens
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 fading fast. La Nina is developing.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Mon (7/25) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific and building stronger over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA 135E-170W and 5 degs north and south of there). Anomalies were moderate easterly over the KWGA but neutral to weak westerly well east of there (thanks to the Active Phase of the MJO tracking east over the East Pacific).
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Moderate easterly anomalies were over the KWGA on 7/26 and are to hold unchanged through 8/2 suggestive of a moderate Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 7/25 a neutral MJO signal was over the West Pacific and dateline region. The Statistic model projects an Active Phase of the MJO trying to build into the West Pacific 1-2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts the same thing initially but with a weaker version of the Active Phase trying to move into the West Pacific 2 weeks out. This pattern, if it materializes would help to slightly support storm development.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (7/26) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was very weak and positioned in the west Indian Ocean. The forecast projects it collapsing to nothing over the next 3 days with no return. The GEFS model depicts basically the same thing but with some odds of it rebounding over the Maritime Continent a week out.
40 day Upper Level Model: (7/26) A strong Inactive Phase was exiting over the far East Pacific and all but gone. A very weak Active Phase to follow in the west starting on 8/8 easing slowly east and over the Central Pacific by 9/4.
CFS Model - 3 month (850 mb wind): This model depicts a weak Inactive MJO pattern over the KWGA with weak east anomalies in play and forecast holding to 8/4. The Inactive Phase is to pause with west anomalies redeveloping in the KWGA a few days either side of 8/11. Then the Inactive Phase returns with east anomalies 8/16-9/1. A large Active MJO signal to follow 9/4 to 10/22 with west anomalies over the far West Pacific to 170E and stationary with east anomalies from 175W and points east to Central America. The low pass filter suggests the remnants of El Nino are shifting east and are now south of Hawaii (rather than in the KWGA) and offering nothing to enhance the jetstream and are to dissipate (gone) south of California by 9/4. At the same time low pass anomalies are over the Indian Ocean and forecast to build into Oct, typical of La Nina.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (7/26) Actual temperatures are building in the West Pacific near the surface at 30+ degs C (reaching east to 172E) and the 28 deg isotherm line stable reaching east to only 165W. Warm anomalies at +1 degs rule from the West Pacific to 155W with weak negative anomalies east of there towards Ecuador. Cool subsurface waters are at depth erupting between 145W-155W but building to the east now. At depth -3 degs anomalies reaching east down 100 meters at 140W (building east). The Kelvin Wave pipeline is chocked with cold water rushing east through it. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 7/22 depicts a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies is building in the West Pacific to 170W. Cool water 3-4 degs below normal was under the entire width of the equator, undercutting any residual warm water above it and forming a bubble near 150W and upwelling from 120-150W but also reaching east to Ecuador. La Nina is in control of the ocean.
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: (7/25) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates warmer than normal water is building along the coast of Peru and Ecuador, at least for the moment. Cool water extends west from the Galapagos tracking solidly out to at least 160W with with peak temps down to -1.5 degs (mostly south of Hawaii). This cool pattern is weakening in the east but solid in the west. La Nina is firmly in control of surface waters, with remnant El Nino warm water 3 degs north and south of the equator being pushed further north and south away from the equator with cool water now reaching up to 10N in pockets quickly edging out the warmer water. No warm water remains anywhere in the Nino regions on the equator.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (7/26): A neutral trend is over waters of Chile and Peru. Strong cooling that was in control from the Galapagos out to 140W continues backing off some, but the trend is still negative. A modest cooling trend is off Africa.
Hi-res Overview: (7/20) A clear La Nina cool water pool is tracking from Ecuador and building south of Hawaii. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remains 3 degs north and south of the equator and west of 180W. Cooler water is over the north dateline region in the North Pacific with warm water off the Pacific Northwest streaming over Hawaii looking very much like the classic Active PDO pattern.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (7/26) Today's temps were steady at +0.478 degs.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (7/26) temps had reached the bottom (for now) at -0.837 degs and have been holding there since 7/21.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (7/26) indicates temps are to be steady from here forward at -0.5 degs and holding through Dec, then slowly rising in Jan 2017 and neutral by Feb. This is a major upgrade from previous projections. This is barely in La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-July Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.6 by Nov and holding there to Feb, then rising. This is up from last months peak low temp of -0.7 degs. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Decoupling (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (7/25): The daily index was rising at +19.30. The 30 day average was rising at +3.56. It transitioned from negative to positive (first time in 2 years) on 5/27. The 90 day average was rising in the positive range at +2.09, 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): (7/26) Today's value was down slightly at -0.89. 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 it has been falling steadily ever since.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues positive, though a little weaker in June (as expected with La NIna setting in). Per NOAAs index recent values (Jan-June) have been +0.79, +1.23, +1.55, +1.60, +1.45 and +0.78. The Washington EDU index for the Jan-May period indicates +1.54, +1.75, +2.40, +2.62, +2.35 and +2.03 . 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