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, May 28, 2015
- Buoy 51201 (Waimea): Seas were 4.8 ft @ 8.3 secs with swell 3.6 ft @ 7.5 secs.
- Buoy 46025 (Catalina RDG): Seas were 3.0 ft @ 16.0 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 16.3 secs. Wind southeast 2-4 kts. In Santa Barbara swell was 1.2 ft @ 15.0 secs from 251 degrees. At Santa Monica swell was 2.5 ft @ 15.2 secs from 219 degrees. Southward from Orange County to San Diego swell was 3.2 ft @ 15.7 secs from 220 degrees.
- Buoy 46012 & 029 (Half Moon Bay): Seas were 5.3 ft @ 13.3 secs with swell 2.4 ft @ 16.7 secs. Wind northwest 12-15 kts nearshore. Water temp 55.0 degs.
On Thursday (5/28) in North and Central CA southern hemi swell was producing surf at head high to 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and heavily textured/warbled but rideable at exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz waves were up to head high on the sets and clean coming from the south but gloomy. In Southern California up north Dolphin swell was waist high with some bigger sets and textured. Down south waves were chest to maybe head high and heavily textured later coming from the south. Hawaii's North Shore was getting windswell in the waist to chest high range and warbled with sideshore winds. The South Shore was getting leftover New Zealand swell with waves waist to chest high and clean and lined up. The East Shore was getting east windswell at knee to thigh high and nearly chopped from northeasterly winds.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
For the North Pacific no swell was in the water and no believable swell producing weather systems are forecast for the next week. Regarding windswell, trades were suppressed relative to Hawaii and are forecast to remain that way for the next week. Relative to California, high pressure generated north winds were suppressed and expected to hold that way until Wed (6/3) when high pressure moves up to the coast and Cape Mendocino pressure gradient fires up. And Tropical Storm Andres was developing well south of Cabo forecast to build to hurricane strength. From the southern hemisphere, swell from a gale that developed pushing under New Zealand on Mon (5/18) with seas to 44 ft then quickly faded has passed Hawaii and already peaked in California, heading down through Sat (5/30). One more broad but modest strength system developed southeast of New Zealand on Mon (5/25) generating 40 ft seas aimed north-northeast. So more small swell is possible. But beyond that, only a weak and poorly organized gale is forecast in the Southeast Pacific on Sun (5/31) generating 28-30 ft seas aimed northeast. Small swell might result.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
On Thursday (5/28) weak low pressure was 1200 nmiles west of Central CA mostly suppressing high pressure in the Northeastern Pacific. Even so, there was a small pocket of high pressure at 1032 mbs in the extreme Northern Gulf of Alaska ridging south into North CA waters generating 10-15 kt north winds nearshore. Still, the winds did not have enough velocity to generate windswell. Also the last of the small swell from what was Super Typhoon Dolphin was fading along the North and Central CA coast. Relative to Hawaii no trades capable of generated east windswell were indicated.
Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to hold along the California coast into Fri (5/29) with the same result (no windswell), then fading as weak low pressure well off the coast starts easing east towards Central CA through the weekend. No north winds of interest are forecast over Cape Mendocino offering no support to generate north windswell for North and Central CA. Relative to Hawaii trades to try and develop starting Sat (5/30) but barely reaching the 15 kt threshold and only over a small footprint, with no real windswell resulting through the weekend.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
On Thurs AM (5/28) Tropical Storm Andres was 700 nmiles south-southwest of Cabo San Lucas Mexico with winds 50 kts tracking northwest. Andres is to build to hurricane strength this evening and peaking Sat AM (6/30) with winds 90 kts 1020 nmiles due south of San Diego on the 178 degree path tracking north-northwest. A turn to the northwest is to follow with winds steadily fading but the GFS model still has this system holding together into at least Fri (6/5). And it also suggest a second system forming behind it. Some minimal swell production is possible relative to Southern CA. Something to monitor.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (5/28) high pressure at 1032 mbs was in the North Gulf of Alaska ridging south along the US West Coast generating a weak pressure gradient along CA resulting in north winds at 15 kts nearshore. More of the same is forecast Friday, then retreating some Saturday (north winds 10 kts) and near calm on Sunday (6/31) and Monday as low pressure slowly starts easing east and over Central CA Monday. High pressure is to develop behind getting a toe in the door on Tues (6/2) with north winds 15 kts for North and Central CA, pushing 20-25 kts Wednesday and focusing near Cape mendocino on Thursday at 25-30 kts.
On Thursday AM (5/28) the jet was .cgiit over New Zealand but then the two branches merged just east of there tracking flat east on the 33S latitude line with winds 120-130 kts eventually pushing into Chile. There was something that sort of resembled a trough at the point where the two streams joined, but only 90 kts winds were pushing up into that proto-trough offering only minimal support for gale development. Over the next 72 hours that trough is to try and hold together through Sat (5/30) while tracking east, but winds are to get progressively weaker offering little support for gale development. By Sun (5/31) the .cgiit flow over New Zealand is to build and start pushing east. Beyond 72 hours that .cgiit flow is to continue east, eventually taking over the entire South Pacific by Tues (6/2) with the southern branch totally disconnected from the northern branch running flat west to east down at 70S and over Antarctica offering no support for gale formation in lower levels of the atmosphere. On Thurs (6/4) there is some hints of a trough starting to form southeast of New Zealand barely reaching north to 60S. Maybe something to monitor.
On Thursday (5/28) swell from a stronger storm previously south of New Zealand had already peaked in California and was heading down (see Stronger New Zealand Storm below). And yet one more swell was tracking northeast originating at a point southeast of New Zealand (see Broad New Zealand Gale below). No other swell producing fetch was in.cgiay.
Over the next 72 hours residual fetch blowing to the northeast at 25-30 kts associated with what was the Broad New Zealand Gale (below) is to be tracking east eventually theoretically redeveloping some on Sun AM (5/31) producing 35-40 kt southwest winds and 28 ft seas over a tiny area at 40S 138W. More 35-40 kt southwest fetch to hold into the evening generating 26-30 ft seas near 40S 130W perhaps generating small 15-16 sec period swell somewhat targeting California but mainly Central America down into Peru. Fetch is to hold Mon AM (6/1) with a tiny area of 30 ft sea at 42S 126W. 35 kt southwest winds to hold in the evening with seas fading to 25 ft at 42S 120W mainly targeting South America.
Stronger New Zealand Storm
A gale started developing south of the Tasman Sea Sun AM (5/17) producing 50 kt west winds and 35 ft seas at 55S 156E (shadowed relative to HI by New Zealand, 221 degs CA). In the evening winds were up to 55 kts out of the southwest aimed northeast with seas building to 44 ft at 55S 166E (201 degs HI, 215 degs CA and unshadowed by Tahiti). At 06Z Mon (5/18) the Jason-2 satellite made a pass over the core of the fetch reporting a 15 reading max average of 44.7 ft with a single reading to 54.1 ft where the model projected 43 ft seas. If anything the model understated reality. By Mon AM (5/18) winds were fading fast but aimed well north-northeast at 40-45 kts with 39 ft seas at 52S 174E (196 degs HI, 215 degs NCal/SCal and unshadowed). Fetch was gone in the evening with seas from previous fetch fading from 32 ft at 52S 178W. The Jason-2 satellite made another pass at 06Z Tues(5/19) reporting seas at 32.0 ft with one reading to 37.2 where the model projected 29 ft seas. Again the model was on the low side.
California: Residuals expected on Fri (5/29) fading from 2.6 ft @ 15 secs (3.5-4.0 ft) fading from 2.3 ft @ 14 secs Sat AM (3 ft). Swell Direction: 215 degrees (218 degs SCal)
Broad New Zealand Gale - Swell #2S (HI)
A broad fetch started developing under New Zealand on Fri PM (5/22) generating 40 kt southwest winds and starting to get traction resulting in 29 ft seas at 58S 155E. By Sat AM (5/23) that fetch became more defined with a solid area of 40 kt south-southwest winds developing with one patch to 45 kts embedded generating 32 ft seas aimed northeast over a modest sized area at 53S 165E (219 degs CA and barely on the 201 deg track to HI). 45 kt south winds continued in the evening lifting north with seas 31 ft over a tiny area at 52S 166E (219 degs CA, barely in the 201 degs window to HI). By Sun AM (5/24) this system started taking shape with fetch fading from 40-45 kts but now covering a solid if not large area aimed due north with 30 ft seas at 48S 167E tucked right up under the Southeast New Zealand coast and mostly obscured by land. The Jason-2 satellite passed over the fetch and reported at 15 reading average of 34.5 ft with one reading to 38.1 ft where the model suggested 31 ft seas. In the evening a secondary fetch built in the lows south quadrant at 45 kts aimed north with 32 ft seas redeveloping a bit to the east at 54S 177E again aimed north (195 degs HI, 212 degs NCal and unshadowed by Tahiti, 213 degs SCal and in the heart of the shadow). This system peaked on Mon AM (5/25) with fetch building over a moderate area aimed north at 45 kts with a a core to 50 kts from the south with seas to 34 ft at 50S 179E (195 degs HI, 213 degs NCal and unshadowed, 215 degs SCal and still barely shadowed). Winds were fading from 45 kts in the evening with seas peaking at 41 ft at 50S 177W (193 degs HI, 211 degs NCal and barely shadowed, 212 degs SCal and shadowed). The Jason satellite passed just south of the core of the fetch at 02Z 5/26 reporting a 15 reading ave of 40.4 ft with one reading to 46.8 ft where the model projected 37-38 ft seas. The model was down.cgiaying it. On Tues AM (5/26) winds were dropping from 40 kts from the southwest with seas fading from 36 ft at 48S 167W aimed northeast (186 degs HI, 207 degs NCal and shadowed, 210 degs SCal and barely shadowed). Fetch is to be fading from 35 kts in the evening with seas fading from 30 ft at 45S 162W.
This system has developed pretty decently, especially considering the lack of solid upper level support from the jet. Solid swell is expected tracking towards Tahiti and Hawaii, but less so for CA given shadowing from Tahiti.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Sun (5/31) with period 19 secs early and building, pushing 3 ft @ 18-19 secs late (5.5 ft with bigger sets). Swell building over night peaking Mon AM (6/1) at 3.6 ft @ 17 secs (6.0 ft with sets to 7.5 ft - excluding affects from favorable bathymetry). Swell still decent on Tues AM (6/2) fading from 3.3 ft @ 15-16 secs (5.0-5.5 ft). Residuals on Wed (6/3) at 2.6 ft @ 14 secs (3.5-4.0 ft). Swell Direction: 186-201 degrees focused on 195 degrees
California: Expect swell arrival on Tues (6/2) near sunset with period 20 sec and size tiny if noticeable. Swell to start getting solid as period hits 18 secs on Wed (6/3) near 1 PM at 2.4 ft @ 18 secs (4.0-4.5 ft). Swell to peak overnight as period moves towards 17 secs starting to fade Thurs AM (6/4) from 2.3 ft @ 16-17 secs (3.8 ft). Swell Direction: NCal 207-219 focused on 212 degrees, SCal 210-219 degs focused on 212 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 believable swell generation is forecast. The models suggest a gale forming off the Kuril Islands on Mon (6/1) producing 35 kt northwest winds and 20 ft seas pushing east making it just to the dateline mid-day Tues (6/2) over a small area. If this occurs small 13 sec periods well could result for Hawaii. Otherwise trades to remain suppressed in Hawaii (not exceeding 15 kts with an significant footprint) and no north winds exceeding 15 kts are forecast along the California Coast into Tues (6/2). But on Wed (6/3) high pressure is forecast to build off North and Central California producing north winds at 20-25 kts late becoming focused on Cape Mendocino on Thurs (6/4) likely continuing into Friday. Windswell generation possible then.
Note: The Madden Julian Oscillation is a periodic weather cycle that tracks east along the equator circumnavigating the globe. It is characterized in it's Inactive Phase by enhanced trade winds and dry weather over the part of the equatorial Pacific it is in control of, and in it's Active Phase by slack if not an outright reversal of trade winds and enhanced precipitation. The oscillation occurs in roughly 20-30 day cycles (Inactive for 20-30 days, then Active for 20-30 days) over any single location on the.cgianet. During the Active Phase in the Pacific the MJO tends to support the formation of stronger and longer lasting gales resulting in enhanced potential for the formation of swell producing storms. During the Inactive Phase the jet stream tends to .cgiit resulting in high pressure and less potential for swell producing storm development. The paragraphs below analyze the state of the MJO in the Pacific and provide forecasts for MJO activity (which directly relate to the potential for swell production).
(1st paragraph in each section is new/recent data. 2nd paragraph where present is analysis data and is updated only as required).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) As of Thurs (5/28) the daily SOI was rising at 17.60. The 30 day average was rising from -15.52 and the 90 day average was rising from -9.55. The near term trend based on the daily and 30 day average was indicative of steady Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady state Active Phase of the MJO or a building El Nino. A building high pressure system is expected over Southeast Australia by Mon (6/1) at 1028 mbs fading 2-3 days later. Previous projections for lower pressure building near Tahiti over the weekend into next week are now not as likely. The SOI is likely to rise.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated weak to modest westerly anomalies in.cgiay over the Maritime Continent reaching over the dateline in the modest category continuing south of Hawaii finally fading to neutral near 120W 9or south of California). Down at the surface the TOA array indicated modest west anomalies over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area to the dateline, building to moderate strength south of Hawaii holding half way to the Galapagos. A week from now (6/5) a neutral wind anomaly pattern is to set up over the Eastern Maritime Continent with west anomalies developing in the modest category over the dateline extending the rest of the way into the Galapagos. This suggests the Active Phase (or at least the area of westerly anomalies) is to be migrating east. A huge WWB occurred in March followed by a second smaller one (9 day duration) in early May and now more west anomalies are to continue east of there and forecast pushing into the east equatorial Pacific. There has been zero easterly anomalies so far this year. This is a good sign. But more is needed, especially in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 5/27 suggests a modest Inactive MJO signal was in the far West Pacific trying to reach towards the dateline. The Statistic model suggests this Inactive Phase is to hold position and fade over the next 10 days, gone with a dead neutral pattern in.cgiay at 15 days out. The Dynamic model suggests the Inactive Phase is to build over the next 10 days reaching the moderate category on the dateline. then start fading while tracking east. This would not be a good thing and would suggest the atmosphere is not as co.cgied from a ENSO perspective as some might think. If this outcome were to develop, it would not be good and could stall the development of El Nino. The ultra long range upper level model run on 5/28 depicts a small and fading Active MJO pulse over the extreme East Pacific moving east and over Central America on 6/2. A weak Inactive Phase was trying to build over the far West Pacific and forecast pushing steadily east peaking on the dateline on 6/7 at only modest strength at best, then fading while tracking east and hitting Central America on 6/17. An even weaker Active pattern is to track east starting 6/15 taking over the equatorial Pacific on 6/27 with no end in sight. This is a better projection than the OLR Dynamic Model output.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 (5/28) a modest but defined warm water/El Nino-like regime continues developing over the entire equatorial Pacific, but now not getting any stronger as of today's update. Warmer water has stalled it's buildup over Ecuador and the Galapagos, suggesting the most current Kelvin Wave impacting the coast there has peaked out. It's development is better than last year, but still not striking. Warm water is in.cgiace along the Peruvian coast pushing north up to the equator. Warmer water extends west from the Galapagos along the equator but only reaching 2-3 degrees south of the equator near dateline, no longer expanding in coverage close to the South America Coast (down to 20S) and if anything is loosing a little ground. In comparison to last years massive Kelvin Wave which was hitting at this same time, the warming this year is looking much stronger. Compared to '97 (a super El Nino), it is similar near the Galapagos. TAO data indicates +1.0 anomalies are in control over the entire equatorial Pacific, the warmest in years. +1.50 deg anomalies are now depicted advecting west from the Galapagos covering the entire area of the equator from the Ecuador Coast to 172W. Peak temps between the Galapagos and Ecuador are +4-5 degs above normal, but no longer warming and if any have given up some ground since 3 days ago. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps dipped for a week but are now back up to +1.0 above normal. One would expect this area to continue warming markedly as the big Spring Kelvin Wave starts erupting and advecting west into the Nino3.4 area, starting about 5/28. But the above data suggest that might not become a reality, similar to last year. Will monitor.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator under the dateline (160-180W) are warming again, up to +2-3 degs C, the result of a WWB earlier in May. And more warm water is falling down into it from the surface. But the big story remains very warm anomalies under the equator in the East Pacific pushing up and east into the Galapagos and Ecuador. As of 5/28 this large pocket of +4-5 deg anomalies were impacting the Galapagos Islands 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 peaking over the Galapagos on 6/10. Peak water temps (anomalies > 4 degs C) still extend westward to 140W, meaning there is 3.5 weeks of peak warm water still in the pipe (into 6/15 maybe more). Also of interest is the apparent downwelling of more warm water on the dateline, the result of non-stop westerly anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area. that Kelvin Wave should arrive on Aug 10. Satellite data from 5/23 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific east of 165E with a core to +10 cm in pockets from 145W to the Galapagos, indicative of an open pipe with an embedded solid Kelvin Wave. But this image definitively indicates the Kelvin wave is on the decline compared to previous data. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (5/23) indicates +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies are tracking east between 172E and the Ecuador coast (decreasing some) with +1.0-1.5 degs from 178E eastward (also decreasing) and +1.5 deg anomalies from 150W eastward (holding). And a core of 2 deg anomalies are indicated from 92W eastward with a small pocket of 2.5 degs anomalies now rolling off the chart. This suggests the peak of the Kelvin Wave has impacted or is impacting the coast. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
It is do or die time. Either the ocean temps will warm significantly enough to kick off some degree of real El Nino, or it's more Modoki El Nino. We'll know more as we move into the expected peak warming, June 1-10. The good news is westerly anomalies are holding over the dateline, complete with previous tropical development north of the equator, suggestive perhaps of developing co.cgiing between the ocean and the atmosphere (in the classic El Nino sense). Two tropical system in the West Pacific (Noul and Dolphin) have recurved northeast, and early in the season.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 5/22 continues to improve. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire equatorial Pacific with strongest velocity in the heart of the Kelvin Wave generation Area. Weaker velocities extended from the dateline to 110W, turning neutral near the Galapagos. A very weak easterly current was positioned 2-3 degrees south of the equator, weaker than 2 weeks ago. Anomaly wise - moderate to strong west anomalies were in control on the equator over the West Pacific reaching to the dateline, then moving just north of the equator and continuing modestly to 110W. A pocket of easterly anomalies was present just south of the equator from 145W-170W. This continues to look like El Nino is setting up.
Compared to 1997 at this time, the pattern and strength is similar. But in '97 the strongest anomalies were in the East Pacific near the Galapagos rather in the West Pacific. Looking 30 days ahead, if any similarities to '97 are to be maintained, strong to massive west to east velocities and anomalies will need to develop by the end of June.
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 (PDF Corrected) run 5/28 for the Nino 3.4 region remain solid. It suggests water temps are at +1.0 deg C (confirmed) and are to steadily warm into July reaching +1.4 degs C, and continuing to +1.8 degs by Oct and +1.9 degs by late Nov, then dropping off. This suggests we are moving from a multi-year steady state Modoki event to perhaps a full blown El Nino, and solid at that. But it is too early to believe just yet. The same thing happened last year. The model is likely just picking up on the Kelvin Wave in flight, and will settle back down in July after it erupts over the Galapagos. Much more warm water would need to be transported east over the coming 6 months for a legit El Nino to develop (including surface warm water currently locked over the dateline), especially of the magnitude projected by the model (approaching the all time great '97 El Nino at +2.2 degs). The mid-May consensus Plume suggests development of El Nino with peak temps 1.2-1.5 degs above normal. 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 warming 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 of the Kelvin Wave cycle develops in mid-June, then it will likely be another year of the Modoki El Nino cycle. The real interesting thing is westerly anomalies and a certified WWB developed in early to mid May over the Kelvin Wave Generation Area indicating another Kelvin Wave is in development, much different than what occurred last year. But the Inactive Phase of the MJO is now trying to develop over the West Pacific (5/21), which already appears to be dampening the development of further westerly anomalies with the west winds anomaly pattern shifting to the equatorial East Pacific. The June to early July timeframe will either make or break development of a legit El Nino. If more WWBs develop, then odds of El Nino development increase. If not, then all the warm water that has moved east will effectively dissipate, much like it did in 2014. All the other signals (recurving early forming tropical systems, warm water along the US West Coast, falling SOI etc) all mean nothing unless there are solid WWBs to continuously build sea surface temp anomalies rover the Galapagos. In other words, the WWB are what drive El Nino, Everything else is symptoms.
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 no swell producing fetch of interest is forecast.
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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