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 23, 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 3.6 ft @ 13.0 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 14.0 secs. Wind northwest 0-4 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 3.2 ft @ 11.5 secs from 263 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.0 ft @ 13.4 secs from 235 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.5 ft @ 13.6 secs from 228 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 16.9 ft @ 11.8 secs with swell 10.8 ft @ 11.1 secs. Wind west 6 kts nearshore. Water temp 52.7 degs.
On Thursday (4/23) in North and Central CA surf was 2 ft overhead and clean and reasonably lined up, but weak. Pure local windswell, but with size. Down in Santa Cruz surf was chest to maybe head high on the sets and clean but a little lurpy. In Southern California up north surf was waist high and maybe pushing chest high at top spots and clean but weak and with a little sideshore lump running through it. Down south waves were chest to head high on the sets and perfectly clean coming out of the south. Hawaii's North Shore was waist high and clean, just wrap around windswell. The South Shore was still getting little swell from New Zealand at waist high with some bigger sets at top breaks and clean. The East Shore was getting high.cgius east windswell and chopped from brisk trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Local windswell was still in control of Central and North California breaks but fading some with north winds off Cape mendocino dropping from 30 kts. Swell is in the water pushing towards California from a small gale that tracked through the Northern Gulf on Wed (4/22) and produced up to 26 ft seas but aimed mainly at British Columbia. At the same time a weak gale developed between Kamchatka and the Western Aleutians generating 22 ft seas aimed east, offering sideband swell potential for Hawaii. No more swell production is forecast for the North Pacific beyond that. Down south 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 towards Southern CA, but unremarkable. Beyond the model suggest a small gale (a primer) is to be pushing northeast through the Southeast Pacific Fri-Sat (4/25) generating 34-36 ft seas targeting mainly Peru. But a far stronger system is on the charts developing in the deep south Central Pacific on Sun (4/26) tracking east while building with seas to 57 ft early Monday on the eastern edge of the CA swell window, fading some but still producing solid seas as it steams towards Chile into late Tues (4/28). Certainly something to monitor.
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. As of Thurs (4/23) one last trough is forecast developing in the Gulf on Sun (4/26) with winds briefly to 140 kts feeding it in pockets but then getting pinched off by late Monday. Limited support for gale development then. Otherwise a weak and .cgiit flow is to dominate offering no support for gale development.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (4/23) a small gale was fading while tracking through the Northeastern Gulf of Alaska (see North Gulf Gale below). Also a small gale was tracking through the extreme Northwestern Pacific (see Kamchatka Gale below). Over the next 72 hours no other swell production of interest is forecast.
North Gulf Gale
A small gale developed 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 slowly faded but still 40 kts in the evening with seas to 26 ft over a small area aimed east at 52N 147W aimed east at Central Canada (315 degs NCal). The gale was pushing east on Thurs AM (4/23) and fading from 35 kts with seas dropping from 23 ft at 50N 140W and on the edge of the 319 degree path into Central CA and fading. No further swell development is forecast. Small north angled swell possible mainly for the Pacific Northwest with limited exposure for North California.
NCal: Small swell is forecast 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 5.0 ft @ 14 secs early (7 ft faces). Swell Direction: 315+ degrees and shadowed in the SF Bay Area (less size there).
Also on Wed AM (4/22) another gale started pushing 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 held starting to impact the Western Aleutians generating 23 ft seas at 50N 170E targeting Hawaii somewhat with sideband energy (326 degrees). 30 kt west winds were pushing east on Thurs AM (4/23) generating barely 22 ft seas at 50N 175E (332 degs HI). Fetch is to dissipate after that. Limited 13-14 sec period swell possible for Hawaii.
Hawaii: Whatever swell to result should arrive starting on Sat (4/25) at 6 PM with period 14 secs. Maybe swell of 3.5 ft @ 14 secs (4.5 ft faces) but that seems optimistic. Swell Direction: 326-333 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 (4/23) high pressure at 1030 mbs was filling the Northeast Pacific but falling south and ridging into the US West Coast, generating a pressure gradient and north winds at 30 kts early off Cape Mendocino and 10 kts or less south of Pt Reyes. The high is to start fading while falling south on Friday with the gradient fading and north winds 20 kts mainly along the Central Coast. Saturday the ridge is to hold over Central CA with north winds 15 kts with the core moving to PT Conception on Sunday (20-25 kts). 15-20 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) with 15-20 kts north winds for North and Central CA early, but fading to 15 kts later. North winds to be down to 10 kts for North and Central CA on Tuesday with low pressure from the Gulf moving closer. But on Wednesday the low to deflect northward and high pressure returns with north winds 20-25 kts for all of North and Central CA continuing Thursday.
Jetstream- On Thurs AM (4/23) a .cgiit flow was in control with most energy in the southern branch of the jet, pushing south of New Zealand and tracking east down at 60S (ice is reaching up to 65S) while the northern branch was weak and meandering around 25S. The two flows eventually merged over the southern tip of South America. in between there were no troughs of interest and no real support for gale development indicated. Over the next 72 hours wind energy is to start building in the southern branch under New Zealand on Fri (4/24) with winds to 140 kts starting to push northeast and merging with the northern branch over the Southeast Pacific forming a weak trough and becoming better organized on Sat (4/25) offering improved support for gale development. But by Sunday (4/26) the trough to wash out with support for gale development rapidly declining. Beyond 72 hours winds to build in the southern branch on Sun-Mon (4/27) at 120-130 kts in the Southeast Pacific pushing northeast forming a broad trough and offering decent support for gale development. The trough to push east and get additional support for 140 kts winds late Mon (4/27) into Tuesday and pushing out of the CA swell window targeting Chile. On Wed (4/29) a new trough is forecast building under New Zealand with 150 kt winds starting to lift northeast into Thurs (4/30) possibly offering good support for gale development.
On Thursday (4/23) high pressure at 1036 mbs was easing east from a point just east of New Zealand pushing the storm track to the south along the Ross Ice Shelf. A second weaker high pressure system was centered near 35S over the Southeast Pacific. There was no swell producing low pressure of interest in.cgiay.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure over the Southeast Pacific is to fade some and by Fri AM (4/24) a small gale is forecast developing in the Central Pacific lifting northeast with winds 45 kts and seas building. In the evening the gale is to build more with with winds to 50 kts over a tiny area aimed north winds seas 34 ft at 50S 132W (188 degs NCal, 189 degs SCal). The gale is to track east with winds fading from 45 kts Sat AM (4/25) aimed north with the core of the gale moving east with seas building to 35 ft at 50S 122W (180 degs NCal, 182 degs SCal). This system to fade after that. Fetch is to be gone in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 30 ft at 45S 120W (179 degs NCal, 180 degs SCal). Assuming all goes as forecast some modest swell might result pushing up towards the US West Coast, but primarily targeting Chile and Peru. The real point is this is to be a primer for what's to come behind.
On Sat PM (4/25) a small but potent storm is forecast developing southeast of New Zealand with 55-60 kt west winds and seas building from 37 ft seas at 59S 168W. Fetch is to building aimed more east-northeast Sun AM (4/26) at 60-65 kts with seas 48 ft at 60S 150W. In the evening winds to hold at 60-65 kts over a solid area aimed east-northeast with seas building to 56 ft at 58S 134W targeting Chile, Peru and up into Central America with sideband energy tracking up into California. On Mon AM (4/27) fetch is to be fading from 55 kts with 50 kt winds over a solid area all from the southwest pushing northeast with 56 ft seas at 55S 122W aimed like before. Fetch is to be fading in the evening from 45 kts with 49 ft seas at 53S 112W and outside the CA swell window but targeting Chile well. This system is to continue tracking east Tues AM (4/28) towards Chile but falling a bit southeast with winds dropping from 40 kts and seas mainly form previous fetch fading from 43 ft over a huge area at 50S 104W steaming right towards Chile. Certainly something to monitor but it's still early to believe any of this just yet.
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.
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 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).
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) SOI Data has not updated since Wed (4/15). The LongPaddock reports they're having technical issues receiving the MSLP data used to construct the index). As of 4/15 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. As of Thurs 94/23) weak low pressure was southwest of Tahiti and expected to fall south into Sat (4/25). The SOI to fall some, then start rebounding. 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 to a point south of Hawaii, then turning neutral on into the Galapagos. A week from now (5/1) modest westerly anomalies are to hold over the Maritime Continent building to moderate strength over the dateline, continuing south of Hawaii, then fading some and positioned north of the equator eventually reaching 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 4/22 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. 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 a dead neutral pattern taking hold 5 days out slowly giving way to a weak Active Phase 10-15 days out, but with a stronger Inactive Phase building in the Eastern Indian Ocean seeping east. But for now the models are generally in sync. The ultra long range upper level model run on 4/23 depicts a modest Active MJO pattern in.cgiay over the Central Pacific and is to ease east reaching Central America on 5/8. A 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 dead neutral pattern is to set up after that through 6/2. 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 (4/23) a weak warm water/El Nino like regime continues in control of the entire equatorial Pacific. And warmer water continues 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. +1.5 deg anomalies are not depicted advecting west from the Galapagos. 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 155W with it's leading edge at 141W. (previously centered at 160W on 4/21). 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 but are pushing hard east. As of 4/23 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 135W, and it's leading edge now impacting 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 was expected to start erupting over the Galapagos on roughly 5/1 peaking on 6/10. Actual data suggests it hit on 4/23. 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 4/23 for the Nino 3.4 region have stabilized. 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 +2.45 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 suggesting a feedback loop might be developing and the core of the Walker circulation is easing east. But 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 small gale is forecast developing south of New Zealand on Wed AM (4/29) generating 50-55 kt southwest winds and 34 ft seas at 55S 172E. In the evening winds are to be tracking northeast and fading from 45 kts with seas building to almost 40 ft over a tiny area at 53S 177W. Something to monitor. And another similar gale is to right behind it lifting further northeast on Thurs (4/30). A nice little early season pattern is shaping up if one is to believe the models.
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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