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.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 6.2 ft @ 15.4 secs with swell 4.1 ft @ 14.7 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 15.0 secs with swell 1.7 ft @ 14.1 secs. Wind southwest 8-10 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 2.8 ft @ 11.3 secs from 263 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.6 ft @ 13.7 secs from 211 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 1.8 ft @ 13.9 secs from 205 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 10.6 ft @ 20.0 secs with swell 4.2 ft @ 20.0 secs. Wind northwest 15-20 kts. Water temp 52.7 degs.
On Thursday (4/16) in North and Central CA surf was 1-2 ft overhead and chopped and not looking fun. Down in Santa Cruz surf was shoulder high and heavily textured. In Southern California up north surf was thigh to waist high on the sets at top breaks and lightly chopped. Down south waves were chest to almost head high on the bigger sets and lightly chopped. Hawaii's North Shore was getting dateline swell with waves 8 ft and clean. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting waist high east windswell and wrap around dateline swell and chopped from brisk trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Low pressure was tracking east from the dateline region doing nothing of interest. It is to build some Swell from a storm that tracked through the Western Gulf of Alaska on Mon-Tues (4/14) generating up to 42 ft seas was fading in Hawaii and just starting to hit California. Down south a gale developed in the Tasman Sea on Sat-Sun (4/12) producing 28 ft seas targeting Fiji. Filtered swell may eventually reach the Hawaiian Islands. And modest swell from a tiny and weak gale that was tucked up along the east side of New Zealand on Mon-Tues (4/13) producing up to 32 ft seas was pushing northeast towards Hawaii. Beyond the model suggest a storm pushing under New Zealand on Wed (4/22) with seas to 42 ft aimed east and fading. Something to monitor.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- On Thursday (4/16) the jet was .cgiit three ways tracking off Asia with the southern branch tracking east over the dateline and Hawaii down at 20N then pushing over Southern Baja and weak. The northern branch was .cgiit tracking east off Japan with a secondary flow falling southeast off Kamchatka. These two flows merged over the dateline somewhat then pushed into northern British Columbia. A weak trough was tracking through the Northern Gulf of Alaska fed by 130 kts winds, but not digging out much and offering little in terms of support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours a trough is to form over the dateline moving into the Western Gulf Fri-Mon (4/20) but with only with 110 kt winds feeding it offering only the weakest support for low pressure development. Beyond 72 hours an even weaker trough is forecast to develop again in the Western Gulf on Tues-Wed (4/22) with 150 kts winds pushing into it from the west, but not digging south much. In short, not much support for gale development is suggested.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (4/16) low pressure at 988 mbs was in the Western Gulf tracking east but generating not fetch exceeding 30 kts aimed at our forecast area. Swell from a previous Dateline Storm was fading in Hawaii and hitting California (see Dateline-Gulf Storm below).
Over the next 72 hours that low pressure system is to track east with southwest winds in it's front building to 35-40 kts on Fri (4/17) generating 22-24 ft seas Friday evening at 50N 150W but all aimed northeast at Alaska. Maybe some sideband swell to reach the Pacific Northwest with luck.
A storm that had been on the charts for days started developing in an upper trough west of the dateline Sun AM (4/12) with 50 kts northwest winds and getting traction on the oceans surface. By evening 50-55 kt west winds were generating 36 ft seas over a tiny area at 44N 172E. By Mon AM (4/13) the storm was pushing over the dateline with 50 kt west winds making a decent footprint and seas 41 ft at 44N 180W aimed mainly east (326 degs HI, 297 degs NCal). By evening 45 kt west winds were racing into the Western Gulf with seas holding at 41 ft at 45N 172W targeting sideband energy at Hawaii (338 degs) and more direct but distant energy at the US West Coast (298 degs NCal). 40 kt west winds were holding in the Gulf on Tues AM (4/14) with 37 ft seas at 47N 163W (299 degs NCal). Fetch faded from 40 kts in the evening with seas fading from 32 ft at 48N 155W targeting only the US West Coast and mainly the Pacific Northwest. This system was gone by Wed AM (4/15). Some moderate size swell is expected to result for Hawaii and the US West Coast, but limited by the storms relatively small footprint and fast forward speed.
Hawaii: Residuals to be fading Fri AM (4/17) from 4 ft @ 12-13 secs early (5 ft). Swell Direction: 324-330 degrees
North CA: Swell to start peaking near sunrise Fri (4/17) at 6.5 ft @ 17 secs (11 ft) and partially shadowed in the SF Bay Area. Size slowly fading through the day. Residuals on Sat (4/18) fading from 6 ft @ 14 secs (8 ft) and fading fast. Swell Direction: 296-302 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Friday (4/17) building to 2.1 ft @ 18 secs late (3.5 ft). Swell peaking at sunrise Sat (4/18) at 3.4 ft @ 16-17 secs (5.5 ft at exposed breaks) and slowly fading. Swell fading on Sun (4/19) from 2.4 ft @ 14 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 300-306 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (4/16) high pressure at 1030 mbs was ridging into the Pacific Northwest generating 20-25 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino but generally staying off the Central CA coast. More of the same is expected Friday (light winds) nearshore but up to 25 kt over North CA and holding the same into Saturday and Sunday. A possible south winds eddy flow to develop for Central CA over the weekend, but not guaranteed. The gradient to fade on Monday as a large high pressure system builds starting to fill the Northeast Pacific. The high to start pushing onshore over California on Tuesday (4/21) with north winds building to 15 kts late and 25-30 kts by Wednesday pushing 35 kts on Thursday reaching well into Southern CA at 25 kts. Say goodbye to any hope of warm water if this comes to pass.
A tiny gale developed tucked along the east edge of New Zealand Mon AM (4/13) producing 45 kt south winds and 28 ft seas over a pinpoint sized area at 46S 177E aimed north. This system held its ground while building in the evening with 40 kt south winds growing in coverage and seas building to 26 ft at 45S 1780E. This system built Tues AM (4/14) with 45-50 kt south winds and covering more area with seas to 32 ft at 45S 179W aimed due north. The gale faded in the evening but with 35-40 kt south winds over a solid area aimed north with 24-26 ft seas fading at 43N 172W. Winds were fading from 35 kts from the south on Wed AM (4/15) with seas 24 ft at 45S 178E. The gale dissipated after that. Perhaps some modest background swell to result for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival late on Mon (4/20) with swell to 1.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell peaking on Tues (4/21) at 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell holding at 2.3 ft @ 15 secs (3.5 ft) on Wed (4/22). Swell starting to fade on Thurs (4/23) from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 199 degrees
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
On Saturday AM (4/11) a small gale started developing in the South Tasman Sea with 40 kt southwest winds over a broad area generating 24 ft seas at 52S 148E targeting Fiji. 40 kt southwest winds to start pushing better up into the Tasman Sea in the evening resulting in 28 ft seas at 46S 155E. South winds to be fading from 30-35 kt then moving into the core of the Tasman Sea on Sun AM (4/12) producing 26 ft seas at 42S 159E targeting Fiji well. Fetch to fade from 30 kts pushing northeast in the evening with seas fading from 24 ft at 38S 165E. Something to monitor relative to Fiji.
Fiji: Swell arrival expected near noon on Wed (4/15) local time with period 16 secs and building pushing 7.5 ft @ 15-16 secs late (11-12 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading from 8.4 ft @ 15 secs (12-13 ft Hawaiian) Thurs AM (4/16). Swell Direction 203 degrees
Hawaii: Tiny swell possible starting late Sun (4/19) at 1.1 ft @ 16 secs (1.5-2.0 ft). Residuals on Mon (4/20) at 1.3 ft @ 15 secs (2 ft). Swell Direction: 210 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 another gale is to develop over the dateline Tues (4/21) generating 30-35 kt north winds somewhat targeting Hawaii perhaps generating 22 ft seas over a tiny area at 36N 176W. Maybe tiny swell to result for Hawaii.
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 Thursday (4/16) the daily SOI was steady at 5.90. The 30 day average was rising from -6.41 and the 90 day average was steady at -7.06. The near term trend based on the daily and 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. Weak high pressure was over Tahiti and expected to slowly fade starting Mon (4/20) as low pressure develops southwest of Tahiti and falling south. The SOI to fall some, then rebound beyond. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest easterly anomalies over the Central Maritime Continent and modest westerly anomalies over the dateline region reaching south of Hawaii and halfway to the Galapagos Islands before turning neutral. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest westerly anomalies in the Eastern Kelvin Wave Generation Area holding over the dateline, south of Hawaii and nearly into the Galapagos. A week from now (4/24) modest westerly anomalies are to build over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline, then fading to neutral at a point south of Hawaii, continuing neutral into the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase is to be fading some, but not gone a week out.
A moderate Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) occurred from 1/15-2/20 then regenerated 2/25 building steadily into the strong category by 3/7, before peaking 3/10 holding to 3/17. A more modest version of it continued into 3/27 then slowly faded into 3/30 but not out even to 4/11. This was already a decent event attributable to the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it raged in mid-March.See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/13 suggests a very weak version of the Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the dateline while the Active Phase of the MJO was weak in the Eastern Indian Ocean. Beyond the Statistic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to fade just east of the dateline 5-10 days out with the Active Phase pushing weakly into the West Pacific 15 days out. The Dynamic model suggests the exact opposite with the Inactive Phase weak and fading on the dateline, only to redevelop in the far West Pacific 15 days out. The ultra long range upper level model run on 4/16 depicts a weak Inactive MJO pattern trying to form in the far West Pacific and is forecast to slow track east and fading, with remnants arriving in Central America on 5/11. A weak Active Phase is suppose to build in the West Pacific 5/11 and is to be tracking east, arriving in Central Pacific on 5/26. 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 (4/16) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime has taken control of the entire equatorial Pacific. And warmer water is getting traction along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts pushing north up to the equator, with a small warm pocket depicted between the Galapagos and the mainland. This is something not seen last year at this time. Warmer water extends west from there but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator until it reaches the dateline, then expanding in areal coverage. It is this pocket of cooler water south of the equator that is of some concern, possibly limiting long term transition to a legit El Nino pattern. TAO data indicates +0.5-1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial East Pacific. A broad pocket of +1.0-1.5 deg anomalies was reaching west from 135W to the dateline and beyond. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are warming steadily, currently at +1.0 degs, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0 then falling to 0.0 in early January. it will be interesting to see if heating about 1.0 degs will occur in the coming month of so.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are no longer warming and are pushing hard east. As of 4/16 a +2.0 C anomaly flow was in control under the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up. And a large pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies continued holding coverage with its core at 140W, driven by the extended WWB that occurred 1/15-2/20 and additional strong westerly anomalies in March, feeding even more warm water into that Kelvin Wave. This Kelvin Wave 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 4/8 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E with a core to +10 cm from 170W to 110W indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (4/8) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 172E-88W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 180E-92W and +1.5 deg anomalies from 170W-108W. And now a building core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 156W-120W. Their coverage is building while pushing east. This also supports the thesis that another Kelvin Wave, and strong at that, is in-flight. A quick analysis of last years Large Kelvin Wave event that occurred in this same time frame, and this years event are remarkably similar in size and strength. Theoretically the peak of what was thought to be a developing El Nino occurred last December (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 4/2 is improving. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific and with a solid pulse just west of the Galapagos. A very weak easterly current was positioned 2-3 degrees south of the equator. Anomaly wise - modest west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific then north of the equator from Hawaii to the Galapagos.
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 4/16 for the Nino 3.4 region continue upward. It suggests water temps are at +1.0 deg C and are to slowly warm into July reaching +1.7 degs C, and continuing to +2.35 degs by Oct and 2.45 degs by late 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 model is likely just picking up on the Kelvin Wave in flight and will settle back down after it erupts over the Galapagos. Much more warm water would be too be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop, especially of the magnitude projected by the model (rivaling the all time great '97 El Nino). The mid-March consensus Plume suggests a continuation of Modoki ENSO, though some models are now suggesting something more. 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 until Fed 2015 and then very weak at that. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay with some greater force dictating the pattern (possibly the PDO). 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 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 a storm is to be tracking flat east under New Zealand on Tues PM (4/21) generating 42 ft seas at 58S 170E, then fading, but possibly redeveloping while tracking northeast in the Southeast Pacific on Fri (4/24). Something to monitor.
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