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 (3/31) in North and Central CA surf was 2-3 ft overhead and blown to pieces with strong northwest winds in control. Down in Santa Cruz surf was still in the head high to 1 ft overhead range and fairly clean and well lined up. Southern hemi swell won't quit. In Southern California up north surf was chest high and lined up and clean but still soft. Down south waves were 1 ft overhead on the sets and lined up coming out of the south but alot of texture on it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting leftover Gulf swell with waves chest high or so a top spots and clean but weak. The South Shore was getting leftover southern hemi swell with set waves waist high and textured. The East Shore was getting chest to head high northeast windswell and chopped from brisk trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Raw windswell from a gale that tracked across the North Pacific Wed-Fri (3/27) with 25 ft then faded Saturday in the Gulf of Alaska with seas fading from 20 ft was still hitting the California Coast, but fading, and even weaker in Hawaii. One small gale to track through the Northern Gulf Wed-Thurs (4/2) with 20-22 ft seas aimed east. Perhaps a weak gale to develop momentarily off Japan on Thurs (4/2) with 27 ft seas targeting Hawaii, but dissipating before making any real eastward progress. Down south a weak gale is to push under New Zealand on Wed (4/1) with 36 ft seas tracking flat east but quickly fading. Background swell possible. Longer term no swell producing weather system are forecast either north or south.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (3/31) the jet was .cgiit tracking off Asia from Japan up to the North Kuril Islands pushing flat east with winds 90 kts in patches continuing that way over the width of the North Pacific, pushing into Baja up to British Columbia. There were no troughs indicated and no support for gale development suggested. Over the next 72 hours no change is forecast with the jet becoming even more .cgiit with the northern branch pushing up to the Aleutian Islands and south over Hawaii. with dead air in between suggesting building high pressure down at the surface. Beyond 72 hours more of the same is forecast with a fully .cgiit stream in effect with the northern branch pushing over the Aleutians dipping into the Northern Gulf Tues (4/7 with winds building to 120 kts offering a smidgen of hope for low pressure development there. The southern branch is to push flat east on the 25N latitude line. Dead air to continue in between over the width of the North Pacific offering no real support for gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (3/31) high pressure at 1032 mbs was off the US West Coast reaching to the dateline. Weak low pressure was building over the Eastern Aleutians but not generating swell producing fetch. A typhoon was east of the Philippines tracking east (see Tropical Update below). Swell from a gale previously in the Gulf of Alaska was still hitting Southern CA (see West Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours another gale is to be developing in the North westerly Gulf of Alaska on Tues AM (3/31) producing a small area of 30 kt west winds and seas on the increase. 35 kt west winds to build over a tiny area in the evening generating 22 ft seas over a tiny area at 50N 163W. Winds to hold at 35 kts Wed AM (4/1) with seas 22 ft at 50N 158W. This system to hold with 35 kt northwest winds in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 51N 150W . It is forecast to redevelop slightly falling southeast off British Columbia on Thurs AM (4/2) with 35 kt northwest winds and 22 ft seas at 50N 149W. 35 kt northwest winds to be fading in the evening with 22 ft seas at 48N 142W. This system to dissipate thereafter. Small swell possible for the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA if all goes a forecast.
Another gale is to develop Wed PM (4/1) with 45 kt north winds developing off Japan. This system to track east with 45-50 kt northwest winds over a small area generating 25 ft at 35N 162E. Winds to fade fast in the evening from barely 40 kts with seas dropping from 27 ft at 34N 162E targeting Hawaii somewhat though aimed more south of there. This system is to be gone by Fri AM (4/3). Perhaps small swell for Hawaii to result.
West Pacific Gale
Another gale was forecast forming over the Kuril Islands Wed AM (3/25) with 35-40 kt northwest winds and seas building while pushing east. 35 kt west winds held in the evening with seas building from 22 ft over a small area at 36N 159E targeting Hawaii. 35 kt west winds held Thurs AM (3/26) with 23 ft seas at 38N 172E. 35 kt west winds to hold in the evening with seas 25 ft at 38N 180E (316 degs HI). 35 kt west winds to race into the Western Gulf on Fri AM (3/27) with seas holding near 26 ft at 40N 172W (336 degs HI, 290 degs NCal) and a new fetch building east of it with winds 35 kts and seas building. 35 kt west fetch to continue pushing east from the Western Gulf in the evening generating 24 ft seas tracking northeast up into the Gulf at 42N 163W (290 degs NCal). Fetch is to be fading from 30-35 kts Sat AM (3/28) with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 153W (294 degs NCal), then dissipating late. Something to monitor relative to both Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Southern CA: Residuals fading Wed AM (4/1) from 2.3 ft @ 11-12 secs (2.5 ft) with local windswell more dominant. Swell Direction: 296 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Super Typhoon Maysak was positioned 150 nmiles north of Yap and 900 nmiles east-south east of the Northern Philippines with winds 140 kts at 0Z 4/1 tracking west-northwest. Intensification to 150 kts is projected by Wed AM (4/1) then a slow decline is to set in with winds down to 90 kts as Maysak makes landfall in the Northern Philippines Fri PM (4/5) at 0Z. No recurvature to the north is expected.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (3/31) high pressure at 1032 mbs was in control off California generating 20-25 kt north winds along the coast. North winds at 25-30 kts are to continue over North and Central CA Wednesday, building north at 25 kts Thursday over all of North and Central CA. 20-25 kt north winds to hold into Sat (4/28) fading to 15-20 kts Sunday. Perhaps a slight slackening to 15-20 kts is forecast Monday with low pressure trying to build in the Gulf holding into Tuesday. Regardless a very Springtime pattern has taken hold.
Surface Analysis - On Tues AM (3/31) a new gale was developing in the South Tasman Sea tracking east. By evening 50 kt west winds are to be in.cgiay over a small area aimed east with 34 ft seas over a tiny area at 58S 164E. 45 kt southwest winds to push east Wed AM (4/1) with 35 ft seas over a small area at 57S 178E (194 degs HI) (210 degs SCal, 209 degs NCal and shadowed by Tahiti). Winds to be fading from 40 kts in the evening with 32 ft seas at 58S 170W. This system to be gone after that. Possible small sideband swell to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Otherwise no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast to occur over the next 72 hours.
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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
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 (3/31) the daily SOI was rising at -8.80. The 30 day average was falling slightly from -11.29 and the 90 day average was down some at -6.80. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of a slightly building Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady state Active Phase of the MJO. Weak lower pressure was holding southwest of Tahiti and expected to slowly track southeast and fade out. A few days of steady SOI values are possible, then starting to rise. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak westerly anomalies were still over the Eastern Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then turning neutral from there to a point south of Hawaii and continuing on to the Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area fading to neutral at a point south of Hawaii. A Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) started on 1/15 fading on 2/20 (a month in duration) then regenerated 2/25 positioned more to the east building to the strong category on 3/7. It peaked on 3/10 and held solidly to 3/17. A more modest version of it continued into 3/27 before fading out 3/30. This was already a decent event from the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it rebuilt strongly on 3/7, and was supporting Kelvin Wave development. A week from now (4/8) moderate westerly anomalies are to rebuild in pockets over the Maritime Continent fading on the dateline. Weak east anomalies are forecast south of Hawaii extending to the the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to be fading then redeveloping 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 3/30 suggests a moderate version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was moving over the Western Pacific. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to continue pushing through the West Pacific in the moderate to strong category and continuing east through the next 15 days reaching the dateline. The Dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to start fading 5 days out and totally dissipate 10-12 days out while pushing east, with a dead neutral pattern in.cgiay 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 3/31 depicts a weak MJO pattern in.cgiay with no coherence. No change is forecast for the next 40 days. 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 (3/30) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime has taken control of the entire equatorial Pacific. And warmer water is starting to get solid traction along the Peruvian Coast pushing north up to the equator, something not seen last year at this time. Still, the warmer water only extend maybe 2-3 degrees south of the equator. TAO data indicates +0.5 anomalies are building over the entire equatorial East Pacific with a warmer pocket to +1.0 degs from Peru to 125W with a pocket of +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies from 145W to the dateline and beyond. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are holding at +0.6 degs, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue warming and expanding. As of 3/31 a +3.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a large pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continues building in coverage now positioned at 150W, suggesting that the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 created a Kelvin Wave and additional strong westerly anomalies in March are feeding more warm water into that Kelvin Wave. It is expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. But according to TAO data, +3 degs anomalies are already rushing east, flowing into the Galapagos ahead of schedule and deflecting up and down the South America Coast. Satellite data from 3/24 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the West and Central equatorial Pacific with a core to +10 cm over the dateline to 130W indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. Neutral anomalies cover from 100W eastward. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (3/24) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 162E-92W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 170E-118W and +1.5 deg anomalies from 180W-123W. And now a tiny core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 168W-142W. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave, and strong at that, 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 last year 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 is actually occurring). See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 3/12 was more encouraging than previous indications. 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. A very weak east current was in control south of the equator in the East. Anomaly wise - strong west anomalies were firmly in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator in pockets south of Hawaii, then moving back centered on the equator in the East.
This data suggests a general west to east bias in the current suggesting warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 3/27 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 +1.45 degs C, and continuing to +1.8 degs by Nov, then dropping off. 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. The mid-March consensus Plume suggests a continuation of Modoki ENSO. 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