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.
On Tuesday (11/11) in North and Central CA surf was head high and lined up but somewhat weak and warbled from southerly wind at exposed breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was waist to chest high on the sets and clean, but inconsistent. In Southern California up north surf was waist high on the sets and clean but weak. Down south waves were waist high and clean but weak. Hawaii's North Shore was getting ET Nuri swell with waves to 12-15 ft and reasonably clean early but a bit inconsistent. The South Shore was knee to thigh high and weak. The East Shore was getting wrap around Nuri swell with waves 1 ft overhead and clean with northwest wind blowing.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
The remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri turned extratropical on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Fri-Sat (11/8) generating 44 ft seas aimed mainly at the Aleutians. Sideband swell is hitting Hawaii with more direct but distant energy pushing towards the US West Coast. A local gale is developing off North CA today and expected to produce 30 ft seas aimed east in the evening, then rapidly fading. Local swell for CA possible. Another small and weak gale is scheduled for the Gulf Thurs-Fri (11/14) generating a small area of 26-28 ft seas aimed east. More swell for the US West Coast. Another system is to pass over the dateline into the Western Gulf Sun-Tues (11/18) with 24-26 ft seas offering more direct energy for Hawaii. And perhaps another local gale for North CA on Tues (11/18). The pattern is improving.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (11/11) the jet was pushing east off North Japan on the 42N latitude line at 150 kts falling over the dateline into a ill formed trough 1200 nmiles north of Hawaii then ridging hard north up into and over Alaska. Some energy continued east to a point off Central CA. Limited support for gale development was indicated in the trough over the Gulf. Over the next 72 hours the same pattern is to hold with some form of a trough holding north of Hawaii with the jet .cgiitting there with some energy tracking north into Alaska and the rest pushing east into Central CA. More wind energy is to start building in the jet on Fri (11/14) with winds to 160 kts tracking from Southern Japan over the dateline and starting to fall into the trough. Continued weak support for gale development in the trough. Beyond 72 hours those winds to reach 200 kts on Saturday on the dateline with the .cgiit flow healed. The jet is to be tracking continuously across the North Pacific from Japan into North CA and Oregon with the trough washing out and the flow becoming flat west to east by Sunday and winds fading some. But winds are to build to 170 kts on the dateline on Tues (11/18) with an upper low in the Western Gulf. Continued support for gale development focused mainly on the Western Gulf.
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (11/11) small swell from a gale that tracked off Kamchatka a week earlier was arriving in Southern CA (see Kamchatka Gale below) and fading in North CA. Swell from extratropical Storm Nuri was hitting Hawaii and moving towards the US West Coast (see Extratropical Storm Nuri below). A new low pressure system was also developing in the trough north of Hawaii with pressure at 988 mbs barely producing 35 kt northwest winds aimed at Central and South CA. Seas building from 24 ft at 34N 152W (280 degs SCal).
Over the next 72 hours the local gale off North CA to start building Tues PM (11/11) with 40 kt northwest winds forecast in it's southwest quadrant and positioned further north than the original fetch targeting North and Central CA down into Southern CA. Seas 28 ft over a tiny area at 41N 148W (286 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). On Wed AM (11/12) fetch is to wrap into the gales south quadrant and fading from 35 kts with seas 30 ft at 40N 143W tracking flat east (285 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). Fetch is to be fading from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 20 ft at 40N 139W 800 nmiles from NCal on the 286 degree path.
NCal: Rough calculations suggest swell arrival starting at 7 PM Thurs (11/13) with period 16 secs and size building quickly, peaking near 11 PM at 7.5 ft @ 15 secs (11 ft). Swell holding till sunrise Fri (11/14) with period dropping to 14 secs at that time (7 ft @ 14 secs (9.5 ft) and size fading from there. Swell Direction: 285-286 degrees
Southern CA: Swell arrival expected Fri at 4 AM (11/14) and size building, peaking near 9 AM with period 15 secs. Swell 3.6 ft @ 15 secs (5.5. ft faces). Period dropping to 14 secs late. Residuals in to Sat AM (11/15) at 3.3 ft @ 13-14 secs (4.5 ft). Swell Direction: 294-296 degrees
A tiny secondary gale is forecast developing directly behind in the Western Gulf on Wed PM (11/12) with a tiny area of 40 kt northwest winds forecast and seas on the increase. 40 kt west winds to hold over a tiny area Thurs AM (11/13) generating 28 ft seas at 44N 155W (296 degs NCal). Fetch is to fade in the evening with a new fetch developing just west of it at 35 kts, building to 40 kts from the northwest on Fri AM (11/14) generating 24 ft seas at 46N 160W (298 degs NCal). That fetch is to hold stationary if not fall slightly south in the evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 45N 159W (296 degs NCal). This system to fade after that. Possible small sideband swell for Hawaii and more direct but decayed swell to result for California.
A gale in the North China Sea started easing east with fetch reaching the open Northwest Pacific Tues PM (11/4) with west winds 35 kts and seas building to 25 ft at 46N 161E (315 degs HI, 305 degs NCal). Winds held at 35 kts easing somewhat east off the Kamchatka Peninsula Wed AM (11/5) with 25 ft seas over a solid area at 49N 167E (324 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). Fetch was pushing east and positioned just south of the Central Aleutians at 30-35 kt in the evening extending east to the Gulf with 23 ft seas at 48N 176E (330 degs HI, 305 degs NCal). This fetch held on the dateline while feeding in to a new gale in the Northern Gulf on Thurs AM (11/6) forming a decent fetch of 30-35 kt northwest winds targeting Hawaii and California well. Seas were modeled at 23 ft at 46N 177W (331 degs HI, 300 degs NCal). 30 kt northwest winds to persist in the Western Gulf falling southeast in the evening with 23 ft seas at 44N 170W (339 degs HI, 295 degs NCal). Fetch to fall below 30 kts Fri AM (11/7) with seas fading from 21 ft at 42N 165W (345 degs HI degs, 292 degs NCal). If all this comes to pass some solid sized 14 secs period swell could result for Hawaii mid-weekend with solid utility class swell for California early next week.
Southern CA: Residuals on Wed AM (11/12) fading from 1.7 ft @ 13-14 secs (2.0-2.5 ft). Swell Direction: 295-311 degrees with most energy from 301 degrees
Extratropical Storm Nuri
A strong and broad storm started forming just south of the Aleutians and west of the dateline on Friday AM (11/7) in association with the developing extratropical remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri, with winds to 50 kts from the west and seas on the increase. West winds built to 55 kts over a small area embedded in a large area of 50 kt west winds a bit west of the dateline and just south of the Aleutians with seas 39 ft at 51N 170E (329 degs HI, 307 degs NCal) and building quickly, peaking at 06Z at 44 ft at 52N 173E and impacting the Western Aleutians. 43 ft seas to be pushing barely clear of the Aleutians east up the great circle tracks to the US West Coast. Limited sideband energy targeting Hawaii. By Sat AM (11/8) west winds were fading from 45-50 kts south of the Aleutians with the core of the storm moving north of the Aleutians in the Bering Sea and shadowed to the North Pacific. Fetch was aimed mainly at the US West Coast with sideband energy at Hawaii producing 42 ft seas at 52N 173E (332 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). 45-50 kt west-northwest winds held in the evening just south of the Aleutians and just west of the dateline generating 40 ft seas at 51N 175E (333 degs HI, 308 degs NCal). Sun AM (11/9) 40-45 kt westerly residual fetch held just south of the Central Aleutians with the core of the gale well up in the Bering Sea and shadowed by the Aleutians. Seas fading from barely 36 ft at 50N 180W (333 degs HI, 307 degs NCal). In the evening 35 kt west winds were barely holding just west of the dateline and south of the Western Aleutians. Seas were fading from 28 ft generated mainly from previous fetch. 35 kt northwest fetch was holding just west of the dateline Mon AM (11/10) with seas building some from 24 ft at 49N 175W (337 degs HI, 305 degs NCal). That fetch was fading in coverage and falling southeast in the evening with seas 20 ft over a smaller area at 46N 180W (331 degs HI, 301 degs NCal). That fetch to push over the dateline Tues AM (11/11) barely at 30 kts with seas fading from 18 ft at 44N 173W (336 degs HI, 296 degs NCal). This system is to be gone after that.
This storm has not lived up to a the hype generated by early runs of the models, and is a prime exa.cgie of why not to believe anything but the 00hr hindcasts from any model. Still, it is decent and producing seas in excess of 40 ft, which is worth noting. Swell has been generated but nothing historical. Just your average run-of-the-mill early season swell.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival on Tues (11/11) building to 9 ft @ 17 secs late (15 ft Hawaiian) and peaking just after sunset. Swell fading Wed AM (11/12) from 9 ft @ 16 secs early (14 ft Hawaiian) with period 15 secs late. Residuals on Thurs (11/13) fading from 6.6 ft @ 14 secs at sunrise (9 ft). Swell 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft) on Fri (11/14). Swell Direction: 329-335 degrees
North CA: Small longer period energy expected to build through the day Tues (11/11) but buried in m ore local swell. Expect swell becoming noticeable early Wed (11/12) with swell building later in the day to 4 ft @ 17 secs (6.5 ft). Swell to peak Thurs AM (11/13) at 4.7-5.5 ft @ 16-17 secs (7.5-9.0 ft) and shadowed in the SF Bay area. This swell to likely be overrun by local swell thereafter. Swell Direction: 305-308 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storms of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday AM (11/11) weak high pressure at 1014 mbs was all but gone off the California coast. A new co.cgiex low pressure center was developing in the Gulf with south winds to within 600 nmiles of the Central Coast. Still, light south winds were being experienced over Central CA, but not associated with this front. A light wind flow is forecast on Wednesday as the front approaches, finally giving way to south winds late morning reaching down to Monterey Bay. The weak front is to push into North and Central CA on Wednesday evening with modest rain expected down to Pt Conception, then clearing out Thursday AM. Maybe a few inches of snow for the higher elevations of Tahoe. Light northwest winds at 10 kts forecast for North and Central CA. High pressure to build a little Friday with north winds 15 kts for mainly Pt Conception Friday. But those winds to quickly fade Saturday as a new low pressure system again makes a push towards the coast, but deflected up to British Columbia in the evening. Light winds Sunday with light rain down to Monterey Bay. A new stronger low is to build off the Coast Monday, with south winds in control north of Morro Bay in the evening through Tuesday (11/18). Solid rain accumulations possible, with decent snow possible for Tahoe.
Surface Analysis - No swell producing fetch of interest 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 another gale is to push off Kamchatka on Sat PM (11/15) generating 35 kts west winds and 22 ft seas building in coverage Sun AM (11/16) with two pockets of 35 kts west winds moving to the dateline with 24-26 ft seas roughly at 45N 170E. Fetch is to hold while pushing east to the dateline in the evening with 26-30 ft seas near 45N 177E (315 degs HI). 35 kt west fetch to push east into Mon AM (11/17) with 24 ft seas at 44N 173W (333 degs HI). 30-35 kt west fetch to continue east from there reaching the Western Gulf on Tues evening (11/18). Seas continuing in the 20-22 ft range. Swell possible for the Hawaiian Islands.
And with the jet stream flattening and pushing into the US West Coast a local gale is projected developing off North CA on Mon (11/17) with 40 kt northwest winds and 30 ft seas directly impacting Pt Arena CA mid-day Tues (11/18). Probably more of a weather event than anything, but something to monitor.
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).
Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) On Tuesday (11/11) the daily SOI was up some at -7.64. The 30 day average was rising slightly at -13.34 and the 90 day average steady at -8.79. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a steady weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO. A weak high pressure ridge was south of Tahiti and is forecast slowly giving up ground through the week, but not enough to generate anything more than neutral SOI numbers. A bit of a rise in the 30 and 90 day averages expected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated westerly anomalies still unexpectedly holding over a small area over the Maritime Continent turning neutral on the dateline. Light west anomalies were indicated south of Hawaii fading to neutral while tracking into the Galapagos. A week from now (11/19) moderate east anomalies are forecast developing over the Maritime Continent continuing to the dateline, then turning neutral and reversing to light west anomalies south of Hawaii continuing east and over the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated light west anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area starting 11/11 reaching to 150W.
Looking at the trend over the past few months there has not been a extended period of enhanced trades so far this year, and we're over 304 days into the year. The trend is clearly towards westerly anomalies (suppressed trades) which suggests a bias towards El Nino. Big westerly wind bursts occurred Jan-April, followed by a neutral period May into early June. The TOA array surface sensors (the ground truth) indicated moderate westerly anomalies re-developed west of the dateline 6/25-7/6, then again 7/11-7/20, building into a WWB and holding through 8/10. Light westerly anomalies developed again 8/20-8/22, 8/29-9/2, 9/10-9/17, and stronger 9/20-10/8 (a WWB) west of the dateline with another 10/12-10/31 (WWB) on the dateline. More weak west anomalies starting 11/11. Neutral anomalies filled the gaps. A modest Kelvin Wave is impacting the Galapagos (11/3) associated with westerly anomalies during June, July into mid-August. And another Kelvin Wave is developing under the dateline region being fed by westerly anomalies in late October there. That's two WWBs over a 30 day window. We're in great shape with no easterly anomalies of interest have occurred all year.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here.
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 11/11 are now in sync. They both suggest an Inactive Phase of the MJO was over the far West Pacific with a Active Path south of Hawaii. The Statistic model depicts the Inactive Phase fading over the next 10 days. The Dynamic model has it fading too, but still present, just very weak, 15 days out. Bot depict an Active Phase developing over the next 15 days in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 11/11 depicts a moderate Inactive pulse Over the dateline pushing east and exiting over the East Pacific on 12/1. A weak Active Phase is to follow tracking west to east 11/28 through 12/21. Recent experience this year suggests this model overhypes any projected Inactive Phases. The models are calibrated assuming a neutral global weather pattern, and typically either overcall weather events during La Nina and undercall then during El Nino in the Pacific Basin. This suggests that warming water in the equatorial East Pacific is starting to have some gentle guiding impact on the atmosphere above. 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 (11/10) a moderately warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific, up some since early Sept and still building slowly. Warm pockets are getting better traction while tracking east between 90W to 160W, likely the result of the first of a pair of Kelvin Waves impacting the Galapagos region (as expected). A weak El Nino signature is becoming more defined per the latest image. TAO data suggests 0.5-1.5 deg C anomalies present from the Galapagos to 135W, then temps fade to no less than 0.5 degs west of there. +1.0-2.0 deg C anomalies are present west of the dateline. Hi res data suggests a string of pockets of +1.0-2.0 deg anomalies from the Galapagos to the dateline (the new Kelvin Wave erupting there). It now appears warm water is building on the surface in the NINO 3.4 region based on TAO and hi res imagery.
Elsewhere, the entire North Pacific Ocean is full of warmer than normal water. There are virtually no signs of high pressure induced upwelling streaming southwest off California. Warm water remains entrenched along the California coast suggesting the Gulf of Alaska High pressure system is much weaker relative to normal years, with north winds and upwelling much suppressed. The South Pacific is also starting to build in warmth with only on small cool pocket well off Chile, not reaching even north to 10S and in decline. A warm regime has the upper hand over the entire Pacific Basin.
Subsurface Waters Temps on the equator continue solidly warm. As of 11/11 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with one embedded pocket of +4 deg anomalies at 155W pushing east embedded in with a steady stream of +2.0 deg anomalies pushing east from there into the Galapagos. This is good news in that it indicates the pipe is open and at least one if not two Kelvin Waves are in flight. The first Kelvin Wave is near fully erupted over the Galapagos. Satellite data from 11/4 depicts a broad area of +5 cm anomalies are covering the entire equatorial Pacific from New Guinea to the Galapagos, indicative of mult.cgie Kelvin Waves in flight pushing east. Other models collaborate the presumption of Kelvin Wave genesis. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (11/4) indicates the first of a pair of recent modest Kelvin Waves has erupted off the Galapagos near 100W on 10/1. A bit of a cooling followed (the presumable upwelling phase) and a new Kelvin wave started building back at 145E-160W in Sept and is now pushing east reaching to 120W (11/4). It is assumed steady light westerly anomalies and 2 recent WWBs events in October have fed more warm water into the pipe. When the second Kelvin Wave pushes east (about 3 months from now or Jan 20) then we are set. Of course what is good enough to feed storm develop and what constitutes an official El Nino are two different things. We are focused on the former. The quandary now is whether this will be a one year event, or something longer.
Pacific Counter Current data as of 11/6 is vastly improved. The current is pushing west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. If anything it's moving into the moderate to strong category over the entire area from the West Pacific to a point southeast of Hawaii. On and just south of the equator the current was generally pushing west to east except east to west east of Hawaii. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just north of the equator over the width of the equatorial Pacific strongest near 170W.This data suggests a improved picture is developing with light westerly anomalies over the bulk of the equatorial Pacific to about 120W, very similar to the subsurface flow and supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 11/11 are stable. It suggests water temps are +0.75 deg C and are to hold between +0.6-0.9 through April 2015. But the real interesting part is that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in May 2015, pushing +1.6 degs C by July. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event.See the chart based version here - link. A consensus of other models are not as optimistic.
Analysis: A downwelling Kelvin Wave was generated and pushed east starting in Aug 2013, followed by a stronger one in Oct-Nov, and a massive one in Jan-April 2014. A weaker one followed in July with yet a modestly stronger one building under the dateline in October. The only interruptions have been attributable to the upwelling phase of the Kelvin Wave cycle. Water temps in the Galapagos-Ecuador-Peru triangle have held remarkably consistent from May 2014 onward, even during upwelling phases. Continued suppressed trades with embedded weak westerly anomalies have held in the West Pacific all year so far producing the aforementioned Kelvin Wave with +3 degs C in flight now. There has been no signs of easterly anomalies or a shut down of the Kelvin Wave pipe for better than a year now. This is a huge step forward. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
At this point a teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay. Evidence includes a total breakdown of the Gulf of Alaska high pressure system this summer, resulting in very high water temps off California. Also the early season recurving of mult.cgie tropical low pressure systems tracking northeast off Japan bound for the dateline. And the pulse of tropical activity near Hawaii on the week of 8/4 and those systems continued evolution in the West Pacific is most telling. And then the near record pulse of tropical activity off Mexico (8/18-9/20) resulting in Lowell, Super Hurricane Marie, followed by Odile and Polo (though these last 2 produced no swell) and finally Rachel. And then even a few inches of snow in the Sierra on Sept 27 and again on Oct 15 and 6 inches on Oct 31. The last time any of this happened was during the '97 and '83 El Ninos. And mult.cgie recurving tropical systems pushed off Japan reaching the Gulf of Alaska in October (Fengshen and Vongfong). And then one more recurving tropical system in November (Super Typhoon Nuri). And even the Pacific Counter Current is now falling in line.
About 3 months of undisturbed heating is required for the atmosphere to start responding on a global level where the point of 'no return' could be achieved from our perspective. The warm pool starting forming in earnest on 5/1, and so the atmosphere would not trip over the 'no-return' point till 8/1. We have passed that threshold. As of 9/2, all the arguments against a feedback loop being in.cgiace were gone.
Note that what we consider 'teleconnected' and what NOAA considers threshold El Nino conditions are two different things and serve different purposes. We are focused on monitoring weather events that contribute to the production of open ocean storms 9and therefore swells) mainly in the Pacific Basin that may or may not have the same impacts as a full blown El Nino. So our criteria is certainly less than the threshold of NOAAs. That said, considering the size and duration of the westerly wind bursts in Jan-April, and the Kelvin Wave that preceded it, it seem hard to believe that at least some Pacific Basin wide 'change' was not already well entrenched even early this year, and had been developing since perhaps as early and Aug of 2013 (when the first Kelvin Wave of the series started taking shape). We will continue monitoring westerly wind anomalies and warm subsurface water buildup in and under the Kelvin Wave Generation area. Also monitoring of the NPac jetstream (which has already been productive) and Atlantic hurricane activity (which was nonexistent) are key. But at this time odds continue stacking up in favor that a global teleconnection is now established. If that's true, the focus then becomes estimating how deep the ENSO cycle will become, or whether it will stay shallow but transition into a multi-year event. At this time we're predisposed to the multiyear, Midoki scenario. And that is actually the better of all options.
Officially we are still in a neutral ENSO atmospheric pattern, with no El Nino in.cgiay. But given all current signs, from a winter storm and swell production perspective, atmospheric transition is well underway and we are in a far better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina.
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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