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 (2/24) in North and Central CA surf was chest high with some bigger peaks at top spots and clean early but generally soft. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high and clean and fairly well lined up. In Southern California up north surf was waist to maybe chest high on the sets and glassy and lined up but generally weak. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean early but inconsistent. Hawaii's North Shore was small with residual chest to maybe head high lines at top spots coming through with mirror glass conditions. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was flat and heavily textured.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
No swell producing weather systems were occurring over the North Pacific. High pressure is to build along the US West Coast setting up a pressure gradient and north winds resulting in local short period north windswell there. A tiny gale is to drop southeast from the northern dateline region Fri-Sat (2/28) resulting in a tiny area of 22 ft seas targeting Hawaii. And a small gale is to develop off North Japan on Fri-Sat (2/28) producing a small area of 26 ft seas aimed east but not migrated east even half way to the dateline. Perhaps more small swell to result for Hawaii. And a small gale was developing the Southeast Pacific on Mon-Tues (2/24) possibly setting up semi decent early season summer swell targeting the US West Coast. But overall a rather quiet pattern is in.cgiay with the MJO now in the Inactive state.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (2/24) the jet was tracking east off Southern Japan with winds 150 kts, then .cgiitting half way to the dateline with the northern branch tracking northeast and pushing up into the Central Bering Sea. The bulk of the energy tracked east falling into a weak trough on the dateline with winds 130 kts in it's apex offering no real support for gale development. The jet then ridged northeast before .cgiitting again from a point north of Hawaii with some energy tracking east into Southern CA and the rest heading south towards the equator. Overall there was no real support for gale development with the jet weak and fragmented. Over the next 72 hours the .cgiit point half way to the dateline is to retrograde moving to a point just off Japan Fri (2/27) with the second also retrograding to a point due north of Hawaii at 155W. No troughs of interest are forecast offering no real support for gale development. A fragment of the northern branch is to be tracking from the Eastern Gulf of Alaska southeast pushing over Central CA on Fri (2/27) offering a hint of precipitation there. But overall a very fragmented and weak pattern is forecast. Beyond 72 hrs the .cgiit pattern is to get more pronounced by Mon (3/2) with the .cgiit point off Japan taking control with the northern branch tracking from Japan northeast up into the Bering Sea and not turning southward until inland over North America. A mostly cutoff trough is to be semi-permanently set up north of Hawaii but with winds only 90 kts, little in terms of gale production is to result. Overall a slack weather pattern is to result given the upper level configuration.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (2/24) swell from a small gale that tracked east from Japan to the dateline was poised for Hawaii but mostly shadowed relative to Oahu (see Second Japan Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast other than windswell for California. Regarding that, high pressure at 1024 mbs is to start building off North CA on Wednesday evening (2/25) generating 25-30 kt north winds along the coast of Cape Mendocino. By Thurs AM (2/26) those winds to build to near 35 kts generating north windswell pushing south into Central CA with 20 kt fetch along the Central CA coast nearshore. Fetch is to fade to 25-30 kts in the evening with windswell generation potential fading some but still present. High pressure is to elongate northward into the Northern Gulf on Fri AM (2/27) generating a broad fetch of 20 kt north winds extending from North Vancouver Island to the Channel Islands producing more windswell relative to Oregon and all of California holding reasonably into the evening. The gradient and north fetch is to consolidate Saturday (2/28) at 20-25 kts becoming isolated to Cape Mendocino with 20 kt north fetch reaching south to Morro Bay resulting in more north windswell relative to California, but with less size and period. .
Second Japan Gale
Another small gale started developing off Japan on Thurs (2/19) with 40-45 kt northwest winds over a small area in the evening and 26 ft seas building at 32N 151E aimed east-southeast. Winds held at 40 kts Fri AM (2/20) over a tiny area with 28 ft seas at 30N 159E (291 degs HI). Winds were fading from 35-40 kts in the evening with 27 ft seas at 30N 166E (292 degs HI). Fetch collapsed Sat AM (2/21) with seas fading from 23 ft at 32N 170E (297 degs HI). 30-35 kt west fetch is to reconsolidate a bit to the west in the evening with seas 24 ft at 31N 165E targeting Hawaii (294 degs). Residual 30 kt west fetch to barely hang on Sun AM (2/22) with 23 ft seas at 29N 175E targeting the Islands (293 degs). Perhaps 30-35 kt northwest fetch to hold Sun PM with 20 ft seas at 29N 176E (296 degs HI). mall swell possible for the Islands if all goes as forecast.
Hawaii: Swell holding Wed (2/25) at 5.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (7.5 ft) then fading on Thurs (2/26) from 4 ft @ 12 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 292-295 degrees and mostly shadowed relative to the North Shore excluding refracted wrap-in energy.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (2/24) high pressure at 1034 mbs was just off Oregon and starting to build into North and Central CA, but with a weak winds pattern early. But by Wednesday the high is to start falling south with north winds expected at 15 kts for North and Central CA early, building in North CA to 30 kts and 20 kts for Central CA pushing 35 kts on Thurs (2/26) up north and 25 kts over outer waters in Central CA. A fade is to start on Fri (2/27) but still 20-25 kt north winds are forecast for North and Central CA fading to 15-20 kts on Sat (2/28). A summer like gradient is expected on Sun (3/1) with 30 kts winds over Cape Mendocino and 20 kts north winds well off the Central CA coast then fading Monday (3/2). But on Tuesday more high pressure and north winds are to build at 25 kts for all of CA, including Southern CA. Spring looks to be setting up.
South CA: Expect swell arrival on Tues (3/3) at 4 PM with period 18 secs and size tiny but building (2.0 ft @ 18 secs - 3.5 ft). Swell to starting peaking near 3 AM on Wed (3/4) with pure swell 3.6 ft @ 17 secs (6 ft). Swell fading as period drops from 15-16 secs on Thurs at 6 AM. Swell Direction: 190-195 degrees
Surface Analysis - On Mon AM (2/23) a small gale started to develop in the South Central Pacific generating 35 kt southwest winds. By evening it was rapidly deepening with pressure 968 mbs forming a gradient with high pressure at 1028 mbs just east of New Zealand generating 50 kt south winds over a tiny area with 45 kt south winds over a modest area. Seas were building from 33 ft at 53S 143W (195 degs SCal, 193 degs NCal). On Tuesday AM (2/24) fetch was fading from 45 kts over a decent size area aimed north with 36 ft seas at 50S 135W (190 degs SCal, 188 degs SCal). On Tues PM winds are to be fading from 40 kts again aimed due north with seas fading from 30 ft at 48S 132W (190 degs SCal, 188 degs SCal). No additional fetch of interest is forecast.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Tues (3/3) at 8 PM with period 18 secs and size tiny but building. Swell to starting peaking near 10 AM on Wed (3/4) with pure swell 3.6 ft @ 17 secs (6 ft). Swell fading as period drops from 15-16 secs on Thurs at noon. Swell Direction: 187-193 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 developing over North Japan on Fri AM (2/27) producing a small area of 40 kt west winds trying to get traction off North Japan. Winds to continue at 40 kts in the evening reaching out over exposed waters with seas building to 26 ft over a small area at 40N 151E. West winds fading from 35-40 kts Sat AM (2/28) with 26 ft seas fading at 41N 159E. This system to be gone by nightfall with no upper level support left over the North Pacific for gale development. 23 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 41N 163E. Maybe some swell to result for Hawaii.
Windswell generation to continue relative to California with local north wind in.cgiay through Tues PM (3/3).
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 where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Tuesday (2/24) the daily SOI was down to -13.80. The 30 day average was rising from -0.54 and the 90 day average was steady at -6.00. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a fading Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a weak steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (4 months). A weaker pressure pattern was over Tahiti but expected to build just slightly by the weekend (2/28) but fading some early next week with low pressure developing south of Tahiti. SOI values increasing/decreasing with the local pressure pattern. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated a small area of weak westerly anomalies were over the Maritime Continent building on the dateline and continuing south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies continued from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated weak westerly anomalies in the western Kelvin Wave Generation Area. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) that started on 1/15 finally faded out on 2/20 (a month in duration) but remnants now appear to be migrating to the dateline. This was a decent event and supported Kelvin Wave development. A week from now (3/4) neutral anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent. Modest west anomalies are forecast on the dateline reaching a point south of Hawaii, then fading to neutral if not light easterly from there into the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to start fading while migrating east a week out.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 2/23 suggest a strong Inactive Phase was over Indonesia trying to push east with the last vestiges of the Active Phase fading over the dateline. Beyond the Statistic model suggest the Inactive Phase is to push into the West Pacific 10-15 days out with the Active Phase building in the Indian Ocean, while the Dynamic model suggests a dead neutral pattern setting up 5 days out and holding through the 15 day mark. The ultra long range upper level model run on 2/24 depicts a weak Active Phase in Central Pacific and slowly pushing east reaching Central America while fading through 3/11. A very Weak Inactive Phase to follow in the West Pacific starting 3/11 and tracking east through 3/31. A weak Active Phase to follow in the West starting 3/26 and heading east. Best guess is the MJO is falling into a weak and listless pattern having little positive influence on the storm track. It's not surprising given the time of the year. 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 (2/23) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime remains in control of the equatorial Central and West Pacific but with pockets of slightly cooler water depicted off Central America. But those pockets are loosing ground with warmer water encroaching. TAO data suggests 0.0-+0.5 anomalies are covering a region from Ecuador to roughly 130W with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies holding from 140W into the West Pacific with a pocket of +1.0 deg anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps have stabilized at 0.7, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. The upwelling Phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle briefly had an impact on water temps, but has lost ground. Still, this being a Modoki El Nino, cooler water would be expected in the NINO 1.2 area (near the Galapagos and Peruvian Coast).
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are now warming and expanding. As of 2/24 a +1.0 C anomaly flow had fully rebuilt control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a pocket of 4 deg anomalies continued building in coverage under the dateline, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 has created a Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly May 1. Satellite data from 2/17 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over most of the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core at +5 cm over and pushing east of the dateline indicative of an open pipe with an embedded Kelvin Wave, but neutral anomalies from 120W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (2/17) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are holding between 155E-122W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-140W and a core of +1.5 deg anomalies at 168W. This also support the thesis that another Kelvin Wave is in flight. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred (12/21/14) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected beyond if this was to be a single year event. But if this is a true multiyear Modoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe (as appears to be the case). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 2/20 was not encouraging. The current is pushing moderately west to east over patches in the West Pacific reaching east with less energy north of the equator in the East Pacific. But solid east current was in control over and south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets reaching to the Galapagos. No real easterly anomalies were present. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern and barely supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 2/24 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are at +0.8 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.1 degs C, and continuing to +1.55 degs by Nov. This suggests that perhaps we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino. But it is too early to believe that just yet.See the chart based version here - link.
Analysis: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring late 2013 though 2014 in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay. The focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 Spring Unpredictability Barrier. At this time we're assuming the situation will move to a multiyear, Modoki event (the better of all options).
We remain in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay per NOAA. But we continue monitoring Westerly Wind Bursts and Kelvin Wave development, suggestive of continued warming East Pacific equatorial waters for the 2015 (meaning enhanced support for the jetstream and storm development in Fall/Winter 2015-2016).
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