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.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
- Buoy 106 (Waimea Bay): Seas were 7.7 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 5.6 ft @ 13.4 secs from 324 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.9 ft @ 14.7 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 13.6 secs from 182 degrees. Wind west 6-8 kts. Water temperature 62.1. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.8 ft @ 11.3 secs from 260 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.2 ft @ 13.0 secs from 218 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.3 ft @ 13.8 secs from 196 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 5.5 ft @ 18.2 secs with swell 2.5 ft @ 18.4 secs from 300 degrees. Wind southeast 10-12 kts. Water temp 55.8 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (4/21) in North and Central CA surf was chest high on the sets and pretty weak with south texture on it ahead of a new front moving in. At Santa Cruz surf was waist high or so and clean but generally weak and unremarkable. In Southern California up north waves were waist high and clean but weak with some cross lump running through it and weak. Down south waves were waist to maybe chest high and weak with northwest semi chop running through it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting more of the new dateline swell with waves 2-3 ft overhead on the sets and generally clean. The South Shore was getting some background swell with set waves to waist high and clean. The East Shore was getting east windswell producing waves at chest high early and chopped with modest trades in effect.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from a gale that tracked through the far Northwest Pacific Fri-Sun (4/17) with seas to 31 ft then pushed over the dateline Mon (4/18) with seas 24 ft has already peaked in Hawaii and is on the way down. That gale then pushed east through the Gulf of Alaska Tues-Thurs (4/21) with seas redeveloping it the 23 ft range aimed east. Swell from the first push of this system is starting to hit California with more size to follow. another gale is forecast for the Northwest Gulf on Sun-Mon (4/25) with seas to 31 ft aimed east. Nothing else to follow. Down south the models are hinting at a gale forming in the Southeast Pacific on Sat-Sun (4/24) with up to 41 ft seas aimed north. This is becoming closer to a real possibility.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (4/19) the jet was pushing off Japan with winds to 150 kts falling into a weak trough just west of the dateline, then pushing east and falling into another weak trough off the North CA coast with winds at 130 kts before sweeping northeast over Oregon. There was some support for gale development in the two aforementioned troughs. A weak flow of up to 90 kt winds peeled off the main flow to the south just west of Hawaii tracking east on the 15N latitude line into Mexico. Over the next 72 hours the trough off California is to move onshore on Fri (4/22) and the dateline trough is to wash out. But a steady flat flow with pockets of wind to 130 kts is to be running from Japan into North CA on the 40N latitude line. No troughs suggested. The same basic pattern to continue through Sun (4/24) but with a trough building in the Northwest Gulf being fed by 140 kt winds offering some support for gale development and a weaker trough again setting up just off North CA moving onshore in the evening offering only the prospect light of weather. Beyond 72 hours the West Gulf trough is to track east into Tues (4/26) being fed by 140 kts winds offering some support for gale development while another broader trough builds on the dateline. The Gulf trough is to fade then redevelop just off California Wed-Thurs (4/28) pushing into Southern CA late thursday offering another shot at weather and rain. The dateline trough is to steepen and build with winds to 160 kts on Thurs (4/28) repositioned in the Western Gulf offering some support for gale development. In all, an improving pattern is suggested. Perhaps the Active Phase of the MJO is to have a little more interaction with El Nino than previously expected.
On Thursday (4/21) swell from the 4th NPac Gale was fading in Hawaii and starting to show in California.
Over the next 72 hours nothing of interest is forecast.
4th NPac Gale
A gale started building off Japan on Fri AM (4/15) producing 40 kt northwest winds getting traction on the oceans surface. Those winds pushed off Japan in the evening at 45 kts generating 28 ft seas at 41N 153E. Sat AM (4/16) a broad fetch of 40 kt northwest winds extended off the Kuril Islands with 31 ft seas at 42N 159E. 40 kt northwest winds continued east in the evening generating 31 ft seas at 44N 165E. On Sun AM (4/17) a broad fetch of 35-40 kt northwest winds continued pushing east resulting in 30 ft seas at 43N 171E. The fetch faded from 35 kts in the evening over the dateline with seas 27 ft at 44N 178E. On Monday AM (4/18) fetch faded from 30 kts on the dateline with seas fading from 24 ft 47N 177W. Additional 35 kt west fetch was moving into the area in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 43N 173W. Swell possible for Hawaii and the US West Coast.
Additional fetch was moving towards the Western Gulf from west of the dateline on Tues AM (4/19) at 35 kts from the west with seas 20 ft at 42N 174W. More of the same occurred in the evening with a broader area of 30-35 kt west winds taking hold just east of the dateline with seas 19 ft at 42N 175W. Fetch built to 35 kts in the Western Gulf on Wed AM (4/20) with 21 ft seas over a modest area at 43N 163W. 30-35 kt west winds eased east in the evening with 23 ft seas at 43N 155W. On Thurs AM (4/21) fetch was still 35 kts from the northwest in the Gulf with seas fading from 22 ft moving to 43N 149W. The gale to start falling southeast from there while moving towards North CA. Winds barely 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 42N 142W. The gale to dissipate from there. More swell targeting only the US West coast to result.
Hawaii: Residuals still hanging on Fri AM (4/22) at 4.8 ft @ 12-13 secs (6 ft). Swell dropping Sat AM (4/23) from 3.9 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 315-320 degrees
North CA: Swell arrival expected on Thurs (4/21) building to 3 ft @ 17-18 secs (5 ft). Swell continues on Fri AM (4/22) 4.5 ft @ 15-16 secs (7 ft). Swell Direction: 296-298 degrees. Swell from the second pulse of this system to arrive on Sat AM (4/23) peaking at 8 ft @ 13-14 secs (10 ft). Swell fading Sun (4/24) from 6.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (8 ft). Swell Direction: 290-295 degrees. Much windchop and bump intermixed for the weekend.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday AM (4/21) low pressure was 600 nmiles west of North CA tracking east with light south winds starting to reach the North Coast down into San Francisco. A front to be impacting the North Coast overnight with modest rain there. Friday the low is to push inland over Oregon with the front from it moving over Central CA early. South winds down to Pt Conception late AM then turning northwest 15+ kts for the entire state by sunset including Southern CA. Rain for San Francisco at sunrise pushing down to Pt Conception later in the afternoon and weaker. Sow for Tahoe starting 4 PM and continuing overnight. 8-9 inches of accumulation possible. High pressure and northwest winds take over Saturday AM building to 25 kts focused near Pt Conception but lighter up north from SF northward (15 kts). Clear skies. High pressure and north winds build Sunday at 20-25 kts everywhere including Southern CA later in the day. Monday high pressure rules with north winds 25-30 kts for all of California including SCal with water temps diving. North winds still 20 kts on Tuesday for North and Central CA but Southern CA to be near calm. Wednesday a new low develops over North and Central CA with light winds early and rain from Morro bay northward. Light snow for the Sierra late. Thursday the low hold over the coast with light winds and light rain fading.
On Tuesday AM (4/19) no swell producing fetch was occurring.
Over the next 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast.
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 gale is forecast developing in the Western Gulf on Sun PM (4/24) producing a decent sized fetch of 30-35 kt west winds with seas building to 30 ft at 48N 167W. On Mon AM (4/25) with 40 kt northwest winds are to be building with seas 31 ft at 46N 163W falling southeast. By evening 40-45 kt west winds are forecast with seas 30 ft at 47N 160W. Fetch is to be fading Tues AM (4/26) from 25 kts with seas from previous fetch fading from 26 ft at 47N 153W lifting northeast and targeting the Pacific Northwest. The gale to fade from there. Maybe some swell to result for Central CA and points northward of there. Something to monitor.
Beyond 72 hours a small storm is forecast developing in the Southeast Pacific Sat AM (4/23) with southwest winds 55 kts over a tiny area and sea building from 33 ft at 50S 140W. The storm to track northeast in the evening with winds still 55 kts from the southwest with seas building to 42 ft at 48S 134W. 45 kt southwest winds to lift hard northeast Sun AM (4/24) with seas 41 ft at 42S 130W targeting California reasonably well but better at Mexico down into Peru. In the evening 40 kt southwest winds to continue lifting northeast with 36 ft seas at 38S 122W. The gale to fade from there with residual seas 30 ft at 37S 117W targeting Southern CA reasonably well and mainly focused on Mexico down into Chile. Something to monitor.
More details to follow...
La Nina Emerges
Weak Active MJO Trying to Get a Toe Hold
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, 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 .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).
Overview: The 2014-2016 El Nino is fading out. La Nina is emerging.
KWGA/Equatorial Surface Wind Analysis & Short-term Forecast:
Analysis (TAO Buoys): As of Wed (4/20) 12 kts west winds were occurring in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA) near the dateline and calm elsewhere south of the equator with anomalies from the west from the dateline to 165W from 5S and points southward. A very weak expression of El Nino was occurring.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): Modest west anomalies started 4/19 and are to hold through 4/23, then weakening but not out through 4/28. A weak El Nino pattern to hold perhaps aided by a weakly Active MJO Phase (or at least no Inactive MJO over the KWGA).
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 4/20 a neutral MJO signal was over the dateline and the Maritime Continent. The Statistic model projects the exact same pattern holding for the next 2 weeks (a dead neutral MJO pattern). The dynamic model depicts the same thing but with a very weak Active Phase setting up over the dateline 8-15 days out. This suggests El Nino to continue to slightly enhance the jetstream and the MJO is to have little to no influence either enhancing or suppressing it.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (4/21) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO was over the Maritime Continent and as weak as it could be. It is to ease east some into the West Pacific and build strength, but still remaining in the weak category over the next 2 weeks. The GEFS depicts the exact same pattern.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (4/21) A modest Active Phase was over the dateline and is expected to move east and out of the picture through 5/1. An Inactive Phase is to develop in the West Pacific 4/26 tracking east through 5/11. A weak Active pulse to follow 5/7 tracking east through 5/24. But with the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely any Active Phase will have any real positive impact.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was moving east over the dateline. This is contrary to what the above models indicate. It also depicts west anomalies are over the dateline and are starting to provide fuel to support enhancing the jetstream and maybe storm production. The model depicts the weak Inactive Phase fading out 4/25 but light west anomalies are forecast holding through 5/10 with a new weak Active pulse of the MJO trying to get a toehold over the dateline. But the Inactive Phase is to return 5/11 with west anomalies fading out by 5/16.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (4/21) Actual temperatures continue to retreat daily. A pocket of 29 deg temps were retreating west fast from 179W. The 28 deg isotherm line was shallow stretching east to 126W and retreating west. Anomaly wise things are collapsing fast. +1 deg anomalies exist in one pocket from 170W eastward to 117W and no more than 35 meters deep. This is the last of the El Nino subsurface warm reservoir. Cool subsurface waters are at depth racing east reaching the Ecuador Coast with -2 deg anomalies reaching east to 116W and lesser cool waters nearly reaching the surface near Ecuador. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, we now have cold Kelvin Waves pushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 4/13 the reservoir is fading at +1-2 degs above normal and very shallow contained in a pocket from 180W to 100W and 40 meters deep. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were undercutting it and upwelling near Ecuador. The onset of La Nina has begun.
Sea Surface Height Anomalies (SSHA): (4/13) The image depicts negative anomalies over the entire equatorial region from the dateline to Ecuador at -5 cms. La Nina is quickly developing.
Upper Ocean Heat Content: (4/13 - but updated daily) Warm temps are gone. +0.0-0.5 deg anomalies are barely holding at 85W and points east. -1.0 deg anomalies are racing east reaching 112W. La Nina is on it's way.
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 : (4/20) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates temps in total collapse. Negative anomalies are on the equator extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos to 120W peaking at -2.25 degs. Negative anomalies are also along the immediate coast of Peru and Chile streaming northwest feeding the Galapagos cool pool. La Nina is developing.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (4/20): Massive cooling continues from Columbia and Ecuador over the Galapagos out to 140W. It looks like strong east trades are in effect in this area or cool subsurface water is upwelling to the surface.
Hi-res Overview: (4/20) The El Nino signal is quickly collapsing. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remain from 130W out to the dateline. But a thin stream of cooler than normal waters are from Ecuador west over the Galapagos out to 125W and growing. Warmer water present south and north of the equator, but quickly becoming less relevant with negative temps building in the Nino1.2 region.
TAO Data: (4/20) +1.0-1.5 anomalies were over the equatorial Pacific advecting west from 130W to the dateline. Negative anomalies up to -1.0 were from Ecuador to 120W. The warm water signature was in steep decline.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (4/21) Today temps were stabilizing after being in a freefall, fading from +0.896 degs on 4/12 to -0.538 today.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (4/21) temps were stead today at +1.113, continuing a steady decline that set in starting early February.
Centered Nino3.4 Monthly Temps The centered Nino3.4 temps for the month of March were +1.63 degs (beating '98 at +1.32 degs and '83 at +1.44 degs). For more history see updated graphs below. This make this year El Nino the strongest ever. That is not reasonable looking at other evidence.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
Pacific Counter Current: As of 4/16 the current was strong from the east on the equator from 90W to 140E. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is getting firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data depicts peak temps reached +2.95 degs on Nov 5, then faded slightly in early December to +2.8 holding to Feb 1. Then a sharp decline started with temps down to +2.5 degs mid-Feb and falling from +2.0 degs in early March and +1.5 degs April 1. The forecast indicates temps fading from here forward reaching normal (0.0) late May falling into Oct at -1.5 degs and down to -1.85 degs Dec. This would be in strong La Nina territory.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-March Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.5 by December. See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing Index's (lagging indicators rather than driving oceanic change):
Southern Oscillation Index (4/21): The daily index was down solidly at -45.30 on 4/20 rivaling peak depths from Feb. Today's value rose slightly at -36.20 today. The 30 day average was falling from -17.26. The 90 day average was falling from -13.57. El Nino was still quite evident in this index and the daily and 30 day averages suggested some form of Active MJO was in.cgiay and building.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 4/21 weak low pressure was over Tahiti and is forecast holding into Sun (4/24) then slowly fading into Thurs (4/28) while the low pressure falls southeast. The SOI is expected to hold if not fade some more based on the Tahiti contribution perhaps providing some support to enhance El Nino and fuel the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (4/21) Today's value was building some +1.05. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 but has generally fallen ever since until 4/14, when it started rising again.
Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) (March) These numbers were released April 6th and indicate the index decreased slightly to +1.96. The Feb reading was +2.12. In Jan the reading increased slightly by 0.08 to +2.20, holding it in the third highest since 1950 behind the '82/83 and '97/98 El Ninos. Since it has not reached the +3.0 standard deviation level, it is NOT considered a Super El Nino, nor is it expected to reach that status. The Dec reading was +2.12. The Nov ranking was +2.31, up barely from +2.23 (Oct), down from it's peak of +2.53 in Sept, and from +2.37 in Aug. The top 6 events since 1950 in order are: '97, '82, '15, '91, '86, and '72 with '97 and '82 classified as 'Super El Nino's' because they reached 3 standard deviations (SD) above normal. '91 and '86 were at about 2.2 and 2.1 respectively with '72 peaking at 1.8 SD's above the norm. This years El Nino was the third strongest since 1950 per this index.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO turned from a 6 year negative run (2008-2013) in early 2014 and has been mostly above +1.5 all of 2015. In Jan 2016 it was +1.53 and up to +1.75 in Feb. Then in March it spiked to +2.40. Impressive. 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.
Conclusion: This El Nino is the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based primarily on the MEI. Centered Monthly Nino3.4 data suggests it is the strongest. Based on California precipitation, this one does not compared to any major El Nino in recent memory. Based on surf, El Nino has had the expected effect producing 13 significant class swells in the North Pacific (16 expected). From a pure El Nino perspective, this event is over and transitioning towards La Nina. But from a teleconnection standpoint, the warm pool in Nino3.4 is still imparting solid energy to the atmosphere and momentum will affect the upper atmosphere into the late Fall of 2016.
The MJO appears to be trying to be constructively interacting with the jet stream and therefore helping to enhance storm production. With the season moving towards Spring, and SST anomalies fading in the Ninos zones, the MJOs influence will only do a little to enhance storm production.
The focus now turns to how quick and how much will the jet be affected for the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. It's too early to know anything definitive yet, but with the PDO still positive, it is possible the transition to La Nina may not be a strong as in past events.
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