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, May 19, 2016
- Buoy 146 (Lanai): Seas were 2.7 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 1.4 ft @ 15.7 secs from 211 degrees.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.1 ft @ 15.9 secs with swell 1.6 ft @ 15.6 secs from 164 degrees. Wind east 6-8 kts. Water temperature 64.6. At Santa Barbara swell was 1.8 ft @ 10.2 secs from 256 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 1.7 ft @ 16.8 secs from 208 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 2.3 ft @ 16.0 secs from 193 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 (Half Moon Bay)/029 (Pt Reyes): Seas were 15.5 ft @ 9.9 secs with local northwest windswell 11.6 ft @ 9.5 secs from 315 degs and southern hemi swell 2 ft @ 17 secs from 195 degrees. Wind northwest 27-33 kts. Water temp 54.9 degs.
Buoy 46059, Hi-res Buoys
On Thursday (5/19) in North and Central CA surf was 2-3 ft overhead and heavily chopped from local northwest winds. At Santa Cruz small southern hemi swell was still hitting producing waves at waist to chest high and clean early but inconsistent and a bit uneven with local windswell trying to mix in. In Southern California up north waves were thigh to waist high and clean but a bit uneven. Down south southern hemi swell was producing waves at chest high with a few head high sets and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was flat and clean. The South Shore was getting some minimal Tasman Sea swell with waves waist to chest high and clean early. The East Shore was getting east tradewind windswell at thigh to waist high and chopped by east trades.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
A small gale tracked through the Gulf of Alaska on Mon-Tues (5/17) producing 22-24 ft seas aimed east and swell from that system is hitting North California now, but buried in far larger local windswell. Two low pressure systems are forecast on Wed (5/25), one in the West and one in the Gulf both with 17 ft seas. No real swell to result. No other obvious swell producing fetch is to follow other than windswell with the season over. It's been fun. From the southern hemi, more small swell is hitting from a gale that formed in the Central South Tues- Wed (5/11) with seas in the 28 ft range aimed northeast. But after that, things to really settle down. After that, the models suggest a solid little storm is to develop in the Tasman Sea on Thurs-Fri (5/20) with seas to 42 ft aimed north. Another small gale is forecast in the far Southeast Pacific on Mon (5/23) generating seas to 33 ft aimed due north. But after that nothing else is projected.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday AM (5/19) the jet was .cgiit pushing off Asia with one flow tracking off Japan and the other over the Kuril Islands with both merging just off the coast and falling into a trough that was just east of the dateline, with winds only 90 kts feeding that trough. From here the jet ridged hard north building to 130 kts and pushing over the Eastern Aleutians then turning east and following the Canadian coast southward forming a weak trough reach to North CA and moving inland there early. In all no real support for gale development was indicated. Over the next 72 hours the dateline trough is to lift northeast and loose definition later Friday (5/20) in the Western Gulf. The trough over North CA is to build south some through Sat (5/21) to Pt Conception but in now way having any influence over the ocean from a swell production standpoint, and instead only offering the chance of weather for California. After that a muddled flow with winds not exceeding 80 kts is forecast through Sun (5/22). Beyond 72 hours starting Mon (5/23) a weak and fragmented jetstream pattern is to take over with no cohesive flow indicated. That said, on Wed (5/25) two cutoff troughs are forecast, one off the Kurils and the other in the Eastern Gulf being fed by small pockets of 90 kt winds tracking east-southeast for 24 hours, then dissolving offering some support for low pressure development. The transition to summer is nearly complete.
On Thursday AM (5/19) swell from a gale previously in the Gulf of Alaska was in the water hitting California but masked by copious local windswell (see Gulf Gale below).
Otherwise no swell production of interest is forecast other than local windswell.
The local California pressure gradient was active on Thursday (5/19) producing 30 kts north winds along the North CA coast driven by a 1036 mbs high anchored in the Gulf of Alaska interacting with low pressure just inland over Nevada. See QuikCASTs for details. But that is to fade starting early Friday (5/20).
On Sunday AM (5/15) a low pressure system developed in the Western Gulf with pressure 992 mbs generating 25 kt northwest winds. By evening west winds built to 40 kts with seas building to 18 ft at 41N 162W targeting Hawaii and the US West Coast and starting to lift northeast. A decent sized fetch of 35 kt west winds was lifting northeast on Mon AM (5/16) with seas 22 ft at 44N 156W (295 degs NCal). In the evening fetch built to near 40 kts from the west with seas building to 24 ft tracking northeast at 47N 150W (302 degs NCal). On Tues AM (5/17) the fetch was just off British Columbia at barely 30 kts from the west with 21 ft seas fading at 48N 144W targeting Vancouver Island (310 degs NCal). Small swell is expected from the US West Coast with period at 13 secs.
North CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs (5/19) at 6 AM at 5.5 ft @ 13-14 secs (7.5 ft) but buried in local windswell. Swell fading Friday (5/20) with period down to 10 secs and intermixing with fading local north windswell and indistinguishable from it. Swell Direction: 295-302 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/19) strong high pressure was in the Central Gulf at 1036 mbs ridging to the Oregon coast generating a pressure gradient and north winds along the entire US West Coast and British Columbia at 20-25 kts with one pocket of north winds to 30 kts over Pt Arena down to Pt Reyes. A very chopped sea state and developing windswell was in control and is expected to hold through the day. By Friday AM (5/20) the gradient is to start dissolving but a steady 20-25 kt north flow is forecast for the same large area fading in coverage and retreating to the north by sunset but 20 kt north winds still reaching south to Pt Reyes and 15 kt northwest winds to Pt Conception. Light rain for the North Coast with snow for the North Sierra reaching south to Tahoe later. Northwest winds to be weaker still on Saturday (10 kts for North and Central CA) and rain falling south to Big Sur by 4 PM and light snow for the Sierra. On Sunday northwest winds to hold at 10 kts for North and Central CA and the Channel Islands but less for Southern CA. Rain dissipating everywhere but scattered showers late for extreme North CA and the Northern Sierras. Monday (5/23) northwest winds at 10 kts forecast for North and Central CA building to 15 kts late. Light rain for the northern 30% of the state late. More of the same is forecast on Tues (5/24) with 15 kt northwest winds for the entire coast down to Pt Conception and the Channel Islands. More of the same on Wed (5/25) with low pressure moving towards the state from the Gulf. Thurs (5/26) a weaker northwest wind flow is forecast limited to Central CA with light winds in the North and low pressure moving closer to the coast.
On Thursday AM (5/19) swell from a secondary and tertiary gale that formed Mon-Wed (5/11) in the South Central Pacific was hitting California (see South Pacific Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours no swell production is forecast.
A solid but compact storm is forecast developing in the Tasman Sea on Thurs PM (5/19) with seas to 34 ft late at 46S 156E (Central Tasman Sea). The storm to move northeast on Fri AM (5/20) with seas 42 ft at 42S 161.5E. The gale to be fading in the evening with sea dropping from 38 ft at 37.5S 169.5E. Residual seas at 28 ft are forecast Sat AM (5/21) at 34S 172E and mostly shadowed by the tip of New Zealand. Large swell possible for Fiji with small sideband and filtered swell eventually reaching for Hawaii. Something to monitor.
South Pacific Gale
Additional 50 kt west-southwest fetch built over the West Pacific on Mon AM (4/9) with 32 ft seas building over a small area at 59S 160W. Fetch faded from 40 kts in the evening with seas 33 ft at 56S 154W. A broad area of 35 kt southwest fetch faded Tues AM (5/10) with seas fading from 28 ft 54S 148W. Additional background swell was being generated targeting Peru up into Central America with sideband swell into California.
Additional fetch developed over the same area on Tues PM (5/10) with southwest winds 40 kts and seas 26 ft at 51S 158W. Wed AM (5/11) 35-40 kt south fetch was in control with seas building to 28 ft 44S 150W. That fetch held into the evening with seas 27 ft at 45S 140W. Fetch faded from there.
Southern CA: Swell fading Fri (5/20) from 2.7 ft @ 15 secs (4.0 ft). Residuals fading out on Sat (5/21) from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs early (3.0-3.5 ft). Swell Direction: 200 degrees.
North CA: Swell fading Friday (5/20) from 2.2 ft @ 15 secs (3.0 ft). Residuals fading Sat (5/21) from 2 ft @ 14 secs (2.5-3.0 ft). Swell Direction: 195-197 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 is forecast.
On Tues PM (5/24) two low pressure systems are forecast developing, one in the Gulf of Alaska with barely 35 kts west winds and another in the Northwest Pacific with 30 kt north winds. Seas to be 17 ft in the Gulf low and less than that for the other system. Both systems to weaken from there with the Gulf low tracking southeast into mid-Wed (5/25) with seas then falling below 15 ft. Maybe some small windswell to result for CA.
Beyond 72 hours a gale is forecast developing in the far Eastern South Pacific on Sun AM (5/22) producing a small area of 40 kt south winds and seas building. In the evening a small fetch of 50 kt south winds is to be in.cgiay generating a tiny area of 31 ft seas at 42S 134W aimed north. By Mon AM (5/23) a decent sized area of 45 kt south winds are forecast with seas building to 34 ft at 39S 131W. This is to be pretty far north of normal. Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts from the south in the evening pushing a bit further north with 27 ft seas fading at 37S 130W. There is to be decent swell potential for Mexico up into California assuming this system develops as forecast.
More details to follow...
La Nina Continues Building
Cold Water Tongue Building over Equator in both Pacific and Atlantic
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 (5/18) east winds were over the entire equatorial Pacific including the Kelvin Wave Generation Area (KWGA). Anomalies were neutral over the entire region.
1 Week Forecast (GFS Model): East anomalies are over the KWGA and are forecast slowly fading through 5/23 almost returning to neutral by 5/26. La Nina is building.
Kelvin Wave Generation Area wind monitoring model: West and East
Longer Range MJO/WWB Projections:
OLR Models: As of 5/18 a modest Inactive MJO signal was over the West Pacific and dateline regions. The Statistic model projects this pattern fading with a moderate Active pattern taking control 2 weeks out. The dynamic model depicts the Inactive pattern slowly fading but still barely present over the dateline 2 weeks out with the Active Phase in the Indian Ocean trying to move west, but not making it and fading some. In all no enhancement of the jetstream is expected from the MJO and if anything some suppression of it is possible attributable to the Inactive Phase of the MJO.
Phase Diagrams 2 week forecast (ECMF and GEFS): (5/19) The ECMF model indicates the Active Phase of the MJO holding strength while moving east to the Maritime Continent over the next 5 days, then collapsing during week 32. The GEFS model depicts a weaker version of the same thing.
40 Day Upper Level Model: (5/12) A modest Inactive Phase was in the Central Pacific and is to reach Central America 5/20. A weak Active pulse to follow starting 5/25 in the far West Pacific tracking east into Central America through 6/10. Another Inactive Phase is to start in the West Pacific on 6/8 moving almost to Central America on 6/21. With the change of season in.cgiay, it is unlikely the MJO will have any real positive impact on storm production, but it speaks to the possible buildup of La Nina longer term.
CFS Model beyond 1 week (850 mb wind): This model suggests a weak Inactive Phase of the MJO was building over the dateline with light east winds in.cgiay offering no fuel to support enhancing the jetstream. The model depicts the Inactive Phase of the MJO and modest east anomalies in the KWGA through 5/25. After that a weak Active Phase is to start 5/26 producing only neutral anomalies through 7/12. After that the MJO is to be weak with no real anomalies into 8/14. El Nino is dead per this model no west anomalies of interest forecast.
CFSv2 3 month forecast for 850 mb winds, MJO, Rossby etc
Subsurface Waters Temps
TAO Array: (5/19) Actual temperatures continue to retreat daily. A pocket of 29-30 deg temps were building in the far West Pacific with the 28 deg isotherm line retreating west to 150W. Anomaly wise temps continue collapsing fast. No El Nino subsurface anomalies remain. Neutral anomalies rule from the West Pacific to the East down to 50 meters. Cool subsurface waters are at depth below the neutral anomalies down 100 meters racing east reaching Ecuador at -1 degs with -3 degs anomalies reaching east to 127W. This cool pool is already erupting near Ecuador. Instead of warm Kelvin Waves pushing east at depth, a cold river is rushing east. Per the hi-res GODAS animation posted 5/13 the reservoir is effectively gone with +0.5 deg anomalies confined to a shrinking pocket between 175E to 155W and 30 meters deep and tracking west. Cool waters at 3-4 degs below normal were in.cgiay in the under the entire width of the equator, undercutting the warm pool above it and upwelling near Ecuador. La Nina has begun.
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: (5/18) The latest images (1.2 3.4) indicates cooler than normal water continues over the equator region with negative anomalies along the coast of Peru pushing north and then extending west from Ecuador over the Galapagos building west to 157W peaking at -1.5 degs but mostly -0.5-1.0 degs. La Nina is in control of surface waters, though remnant El Nino warm water is 3 degs north and south of the equator. No warm water remains anywhere in the Nino regions on the equator.
Hi-res 7 day Trend (5/18): A cooler than normal trend is building along Chile and Peru and continues from the Galapagos west out to 160W and if anything is building robustly, especially near 110W. A mirror image of that continues up in the Atlantic tracking west from Africa half way to Brazil. Temps are falling along the California coast due to high pressure driven northwest winds. But the PDO warm pool is building solidly from Oregon out to Hawaii and west from there to the Philippines.
Hi-res Overview: (5/18) The El Nino signal is dissipating. A clear La Nina cool water pool is tracking from Ecuador and building in width on the equator from west of the Galapagos out to near 160W. A generalized pattern of +1-2 deg above normal temps remains 3 degs north and south of the equator and west of 160W. Cooler water is over the dateline in the North Pacific with warm water off the Pacific Northwest streaming over Hawaii looking very much like the classic Active PDO pattern.
Nino1.2 Daily CDAS Index Temps: (5/19) Today's temps were steady at +0.693.
Nino 3.4 Daily CDAS Index Temps: Today (5/19) temps have stabilized since crashing starting 5/10, and are now at +0.417 degs mainly attributable to warm temps 3 degs north and south of the equator.
Comparing Stongest El Ninos in the last 50 year - ERSSTv4 'centered' data
Pacific Counter Current: As of 5/7 the current was strong in pockets from the east on the equator from 90W to 150E and consistently moderate east over that region. Anomaly wise - they were strong from the east over the same area. There were no pockets of west anomalies indicated. La Nina is firmly entrenched based on this data, which is normal for this point in the El Nino lifecycle.
SST Anomaly Projections
CFSv2 Uncorrected Data (5/19) indicates temps on a steady downward trajectory reaching normal (0.0) mid-May, falling to -0.8 degs early July, then easing down to -1.0 degs in early Aug stabilizing there into Jan 2017. This is in solid La Nina territory but it's up from the -1.5 and -1.25 degs indicated earlier.
IRI Consensus Plume: The mid-May Plume depicts temps falling steadily from here forward, down to -0.7 by Sept then starting to drift higher to -0.6 in February, See chart here - link.
Atmospheric Co.cgiing (Indicating the presence of El Nino in the atmosphere driven by the ocean):
Southern Oscillation Index (5/19): The daily index was falling at -15.30. The 30 day average was rising from -7.94, with the most recent low peak at -19.07 (4/30). The 90 day average was rising from -12.21. El Nino was still evident in the 30 and 90 days averages.
SOI trend - Tahiti (looking for low pressure here): On 5/19 a weak pressure pattern was southwest of Tahiti. High pressure is to build some on Sat (5/21) for a few days, then start fading again on Tues (5/24). The SOI is expected to hold based on the Tahiti contribution and not provide any enhancement for the jetstream.
ESPI (like SOI but based on satellite confirmed precipitation): (5/19) Today's value was falling from +0.49. It peaked recently on 3/12 at +1.57 then fell until 4/14, when it started rising again peaking 4/23 at +1.12. But it has been falling steadily ever since.
Pacific Decadal Oscillation: The PDO continues to rise. April's value was +2.62, the highest it's been since 1941. 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 up to +1.75 in Feb, then spiking to +2.40 in March and +2.62 in April. 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 was the 3rd strongest El Nino since 1950 based 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 due to it's westward di.cgiacement. 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 question now turns to how much the jet will be enhanced by remnants of El Nino 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