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.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 5.9 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 3.2 ft @ 11.5 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 14.0 secs with swell 1.8 ft @ 14.3 secs. Wind north 0-2 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 1.3 ft @ 13.6 secs from 253 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.9 ft @ 14.6 secs from 200 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.3 ft @ 14.6 secs from 187 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 7.8 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 4.7 ft @ 13.0 secs. Wind west 3 kts. Water temp 54.0 degs.
On Tuesday (4/21) in North and Central CA surf was chest high with head high sets at top breaks and textured with a light onshore flow and heavy overcast. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to maybe chest high and clean and rideable but gray. In Southern California up north surf was thigh to maybe waist high and clean but generally weak and inconsistent. Down south waves were chest to head high on the sets and textured coming out of the south. Hawaii's North Shore was waist to chest high and clean. The South Shore was getting a little swell from New Zealand at waist to chest high and bigger sets at top breaks. Clean nearshore but trades were blowing hard just beyond the surf zone. The East Shore was getting shoulder high east windswell and chopped from brisk trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small swell from a gale that was in the Gulf of Alaska on Sat (4/18) is hitting California today (Tues 4/21). Nothing exceptional though. Another little but stronger gale is forecast for the Northern Gulf on Wed (4/22) producing up to 30 ft seas aimed at British Columbia and on the northern end of the Central CA swell window. At the same time a weak gale is to be between Kamchatka and the Western Aleutians generating 22 ft seas aimed east, offering sideband swell potential for Hawaii. Down south 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 hitting Hawaii. south angled background swell of undetermined source was hitting Southern CA. Beyond the model suggest a small gale is to be pushing northeast through the Southeast Pacific Fri-Sat (4/25) generating 36-38 ft seas targeting mainly Peru. And a stronger system is on the charts developing under New Zealand on Sat (4/25) tracking east with seas to 44 ft, fading some then lifting northeast through the Southeastern Pacific late Sun into Mon (4/27) with seas rebuilding to 42 ft and covering a larger area. It appears the Southern Hemi might try to come on-line.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream- This will likely be on of the last jetstream forecasts for the North Pacific till Fall as the focus appears to bet moving towards the Southern Hemisphere. On Tuesday (4/21) the jet was reasonably consolidated ridging northeast up to a point just off Kamchatka then falling south into a pinched trough over the dateline with winds peaking at 120 kts. From there the jet again ridged northeast tracking through the Central Gulf with a small pinched trough off British Columbia being fed by 120 kt winds and falling south. Maybe some limited support for gale development in the Northern Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to totally be pinched off and dissipate while 150 kts winds start pushing off the Kuril Islands tracking east push but fading into Fri (4/24) with a little gap opening up in the Northern Gulf perhaps supportive of low pressure development, but nothing obvious. Beyond 72 hours the jet is to become more .cgiit with the .cgiit point just of Japan. The northern branch is to start ridging north again up to the Western Aleutians then falling southeast through the Western Gulf of Alaska forming a broad trough by Sat (4/25) with 120 kt winds feeding it in pockets and becoming better defined into Sunday with winds up to 140 kts. Decent support for gale development possible. That trough is to moderate and track southeast poised off the Oregon Coast on Monday and moving onshore there 24 hours later. Back to the west a very diffuse and weak jetstream flow is to take root offering no support for even low pressure development.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (4/21) swell from a weak gale previously in the Gulf of Alaska was hitting California (see Weak Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a small gale is forecast wrapping up in the Northern Gulf on Wed AM (4/22) generating a small area of 45 kt west winds and 22 ft seas at 53N 152W 9317 degs NCal). Winds to slowly fade but still 45 kts in the evening with seas to 30 ft at 52S 147W aimed east at Central Canada (315 degs NCal). The gale is to push east on Thurs AM (4/23) and fade from 35 kts with seas dropping from 28 ft at 51N 138W and outside the NCal swell window. Small north angled swell possible mainly for the Pacific Northwest with limited exposure for North California.
NCal: Assuming all goes as forecast swell to start hitting Fri (4/24) at 6 PM with period 17 secs and size tiny but building. Swell peaking overnight. Residuals expected Sat AM (4/25) at 6 ft @ 14 secs early. Swell Direction: 315+ degrees and shadowed in the SF Bay Area
Also on Wed AM (4/22) another gale is to push off Kamchatka generating 35 kt west-southwest winds aimed towards mainly the Western Aleutians. Seas on the increase. In the evening 35 kt west winds to hold but starting to impact the Western Aleutians generating 24 ft seas at 51N 170E targeting Hawaii somewhat with sideband energy (327 degrees). 30 kt west winds to push east on Thurs AM (4/23) generating 22 ft seas at 50N 176E (331 degs HI). Fetch is to dissipate after that. Limited 13-14 sec period swell possible for Hawaii.
Weak Gulf Gale
A secondary low pressure system developed in the Gulf on Fri (4/17) tracking east with southwest winds in it's front building to 35-40 kts generating 22-24 ft seas Friday evening at 50N 152W but all aimed northeast at Alaska. Another tiny fetch of 35 kt west winds was in.cgiay in the Gulf from this systems Sat AM (4/18) generating 20-22 ft seas at 47N 160W then dissipating Sun AM (4/19). Some sideband swell with period at 13-14 secs to reach the Pacific Northwest with even less into California by Tues (4/21). Swell was peaking Tuesday at 4.8 ft @ 13 secs (6 ft) but shadowed in the SF Bay Area.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (4/21) high pressure at 1030 mbs was filling the Northeast Pacific and trying to ridge into the US West Coast, but not making it yet. North winds at 20 kts were off Cape Mendocino and 10 kts or less south of Pt Reyes. The high to start pushing onshore over North California late on Tuesday (4/21) with north winds building to 30 kts and 35 kts by Wednesday (isolated to Bodega Bay northward) but with near light winds if not an eddy flow for Central CA. Winds to be fading from 30 kts on Thursday for Cape Mendocino down into Pt Arena with and eddy flow holding from Pt Reyes southward, but just barely. The gradient is to start fading on Friday and 20 kts north winds pushing into the entire Central Coast. Saturday the ridge is to hold over Central CA with north winds 15-20 kts with the core moving to PT Conception on Sunday (20-25 kts). 15 kt north winds still for Central CA. Lighter for Cape Mendo. Low pressure from the Gulf is to be pushing towards Oregon on Mon (4/27) wit light winds for Monterey Bay northward and 20 kt north winds for Pt Conception and continuing unchanged Tuesday.
On Tuesday (4/21) high pressure at 1028 mbs was tracking east from a point just east of New Zealand pushing the storm track to the south along the Ross Ice Shelf. There was no blocking high pressure in over the Southeast Pacific, but not any low pressure of interest either to generate fetch.
Over the next 72 hours the gap between high pressure to the north and Ice to the south is to open up some southwest of New Zealand and by Fri AM a gale is forecast developing in the Central Pacific lifting northeast with winds 45 kts and seas building to 34 ft over a tiny area at 54S 143W aimed northeast. By evening that fetch is to build in velocity to near 55 kts over a tiny area aimed north winds seas 38 ft at 50S 132W (188 degs NCal, 189 degs SCal). Winds to be fading from 45 kts Sat AM (4/25) aimed north with the core of the gale moving east with seas fading from 36 ft at 50S 122W (180 degs NCal, 182 degs SCal). A secondary fetch to build in the evening generating a tiny area of 40 ft seas at 45S 120W aimed mainly are Chile (179 degs NCal, 181 degs SCal). By Sun AM (4/26) 40 kt southwest fetch is to be moving well out of the California swell window with 36 ft seas at 43S 112W targeting only Chile. Assuming all goes as forecast some decent swell might result pushing up towards the US West Coast, but primarily targeting Chile and Peru.
New Zealand Gale
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: 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
Southern CA: Low odds for swell starting Fri (4/24) at 1.3 ft @ 15 secs (2 ft) building Sat (4/25) to 1.4 ft @ 15-16 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell fading rapidly after that. Swell Direction: 218-220 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 remnants of a gale tracking off Kamchatka area to start redeveloping in a building trough in the Gulf of Alaska on Sat PM (4/25) producing 30 kt northwest winds and 18-20 ft seas near 46N 158W. Sun AM (4/26) winds to build to 35 kt over a somewhat broader area with 20 ft seas building at 45N 150W (302 degs NCal) and east of the HI swell window. More 35 kt northwest fetch to hold in the evening with seas 22 ft at 47N 145W (305 degs NCal). Fetch is to start fading Mon AM (4/27) with winds dropping from 30 to barely 35 kts from the northwest with seas 22 ft at 45N 141W (303 degs NCal). In the evening seas to fade from 21 ft at 48N 139W (317 degs NCal). This system to be out of the CA swell window and pushing into British Columbia on Tues (4/28). Something to monitor. Weather for the PAcific Northwest likely.
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).
Highlight - Warm surface water appears to be is on the move east. It has been on the dateline for the past year, but is now centered south of Hawaii (160W).
(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. (has not updated since 4/15). 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 low pressure was building southwest of Tahiti and expected to fall south into Fri (4/24). The SOI to fall some, then rebound starting Fri (4/24). Perhaps another low to build southeast of Tahiti on Mon (4/27) with the same result. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest westerly anomalies were in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then weakening to a point south of Hawaii. Neutral anomalies extended from there to Galapagos Islands. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated moderate westerly anomalies over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area holding over the dateline, south of Hawaii and nearly 2/3rds of the way to the Galapagos. Fairly solid indeed. A week from now (4/29) modest westerly anomalies are to hold over the Maritime Continent building to moderate strength over the dateline, continuing south of Hawaii, and fading only slightly and still westerly the whole way to the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least westerly anomalies) are to hold if not build a week out (a good sign).
A moderate Westerly Wind Burst (WWB) developed 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 4/17. And now it appears to be rebuilding again. This was already a decent event attributable to the Jan-Feb anomalies, before it raged in mid-March. Not a hint of easterly anomalies all year so far. See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 4/20 suggests a modest 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 10 days out with the Active Phase pushing weakly into the West Pacific 15 days out. The Dynamic model suggests much the same with the Inactive Phase weak and fading on the dateline, with a weak Active phase developing near the dateline 10 days out and holding, but with a stronger Inactive Phase building in the Eastern Indian Ocean seeping east. So the two models continue opposite each other. The ultra long range upper level model run on 4/21 depicts a modest Active MJO pattern in.cgiay over the Central Pacific and is to ease east reaching Central America on 5/6. A very weak Inactive Phase to build in the far West Pacific 5/1 pushing east and fading as if hits Central America on 5/21. A very weak Active Phase is suppose to build in the West Pacific 5/16 and is to be tracking east. 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 (4/20) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime continues in control of the entire equatorial Pacific. And warmer water is again 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 pocket started forming on 3/28, faded some, and is on the rebound now. 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 +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years. And of even more interest, the pocket of +1.5 anomalies that have been locked over the dateline appears to be moving east, now centered at 160W. This is a very significant suggesting that a mass transport of warm water at the surface and subsurface is in transit. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps are warming steadily, currently at +1.1 degs. If this area continues to warm, it would be a key sign that El Nino might finally be growing roots.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator are no longer warming and are pushing hard east. As of 4/21 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, and it's leading edge now starting to reach the Galapagos and 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. 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 4/13 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 170E with a core to +10 cm from 160W to 110W indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (4/13) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 172E-88W with +1.0-1.5 degs from 175E-90W and +1.5 deg anomalies from 170W-108W. And a building core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated between 152W-119W. A strong Kelvin Wave 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 4/17 is steadily improving. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire northern equatorial Pacific and with a strong pulse west of the Galapagos on the equator. 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 north of the equator and building to the strong category and positioned directly over the equator in the east (130W to Ecuador). Sure looks like El Nino is setting up.
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 4/21 for the Nino 3.4 region continue upward. It suggests water temps are at +1.0 deg C (confirmed) and are to slowly warm into July reaching +2.0 degs C, and continuing to +2.4 degs by Oct and 2.55 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, and strong at that. But it is too early to believe 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. But the recent migration of warm surface water south of Hawaii is starting to look more interesting. 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 Feb 2015, and then very weak at that. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere was in.cgiay with some greater force dictating the pattern (possibly the PDO). The focus now becomes whether this warming and resulting teleconnection will persist if not strengthen in 2015. We are in the Spring Unpredictability Barrier (March-May). The real teller will be during the month of June. Water temps in the Nino 1.2 region are expected to be quite warm due to the arrival of a large Kelvin Wave currently in flight (see details above). If that warming is sufficient to start the classic El Nino feedback loop, then continued westerly anomalies and WWBs should continue through July-Sept and beyond, with a full scale El Nino developing. But if the cool upwelling Phase off the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The June to early July timeframe will either make or break development of a legit El Nino. Of note: The eastward migration of warm surface water from the dateline now positioned south of Hawaii is typical of a classic variety of El Nino, which did not occur at any point in time last year. Perhaps a true El Nino teleconnection is developing. But again, the real indicator will occur in June (see above).
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 developing south of New Zealand on Sat AM (4/25) with 60 kt west winds and seas building rapidly from 41 ft at 60S 176E. In the evening 55 kt southwest winds to continue tracking east with 46 ft seas at 59S 168W. fetch is to fade Sun AM (4/26) from 50 kts but over a solid area starting to push northeast with seas 40 ft at 58S 153W. In the evening winds to hold at 45-50 kts over a solid area aimed northeast with seas rebuilding to 42 ft at 56S 140W targeting Chile, Peru and up into Central America with sideband energy tracking up into California. 45 kt southwest fetch to hold into Mon AM (4/27) with 42 ft seas at 51S 125W aimed like before. fetch is to be fading in the evening from 45 kts with 37 ft seas at 50S 116W and outside the CA swell window but targeting Chile well. This system is to continue tracking east towards Chile. Certainly something to monitor but it's still very early to believe any of this just yet.
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