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 Thursday (11/13) in North and Central CA surf was 2-3 ft overhead and lined up but inconsistent and pretty warbled from southwest winds. Cleaner and smaller at protected breaks. Down in Santa Cruz surf was head high to 1 ft overhead and lined up and reasonably clean, with rain falling. In Southern California up north surf was waist high with some bigger sets and lined up with clean conditions but inconsistent. Down south waves were waist to chest high and clean and lined up. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting ET Nuri swell with waves in the 8-9 ft range and clean. The South Shore was knee to thigh high and weak and clean. The East Shore was getting wrap around Nuri swell with waves head high and textured from light northeast winds.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from what was Extratropical Storm Nuri on the intersection of the dateline and the Aleutians on Fri-Sat (11/8) with 44 ft seas is to be fading in HI and CA over the next 2 days. Swell from a local gale that developed off North CA Wed (11/12) with 28-30 ft seas to arrive in CA on Thurs PM (11/13) then rapidly fade on Friday. A fleeting fetch to generate 20 ft seas off Oregon Sat PM (11/15) offering small swell for the US West Coast while an equally weak system tracks north of Hawaii Sat-Sun (11/16) with 18-20 ft seas. Small 12 sec period swell possible for both locales. The Hawaiian gale to redevelop off Central CA on Mon-Tues (11/18) with 25 ft seas pushing into Cape Mendocino on Wed (11/19). And a broader system is to pass over the dateline into the Northwestern Gulf Wed-Fri (11/21) with 20-26 ft seas offering more energy for Hawaii. And perhaps another local gale for North CA on Thurs (11/20).
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (11/13) the jet was ridging northeast off Central Japan with winds 160 kts then starting to fall southeast before reaching the dateline with winds fading from 120 kts. The flow weakened more while falling southeast through the Gulf of Alaska bottoming out 1500 nmiles north of Hawaii then .cgiitting with a weak flow pushing up into Alaska with most energy pushing into Central CA at 90-100 kts. 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 winds building to 190 kts on the dateline falling into the trough on Sat (11/15) with the .cgiit dissipated, then winds fading from 140 kts Sunday with the trough starting to pinch off. Limited support for gale development possible. Beyond 72 hours a flat west to east flow is forecast by Tues (11/18) down at 35W with winds 120-130 kts running flat west to east with a bit of a .cgiit again forming just off the CA coast. But winds are to build to 150 kts on the dateline on Thurs (11/20) with a small trough setting up off the US West Coast and the .cgiit dissipating. Continued support for gale development focused from the dateline into the Gulf of Alaska.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (11/13) swell from extratropical Storm Nuri was fading in Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Extratropical Storm Nuri below). A small gale developed off the US West Coast Tues-Wed (11/12) generating up to near 30 ft seas targeting mainly Central CA (see Local CA Gale below). Secondary swell is also in the water heading for Hawaii and the US West Coast (see Secondary Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours a micro gale is forecast developing off Oregon on Sat AM (11/15) producing 35 kt west winds over a tiny area and lifting northeast. Seas on the increase. Winds to hold in the evening at 35 kts with seas building to 20 ft at 43N 140W (302 degs NCal). Fetch is to move north off Vancouver Island Sun AM (11/12) and fade. Small swell for North CA possible on Mon (11/17) at 4 ft @ 12 secs (4.5 ft) from 302 degrees.
Another broader gale is to develop in the Western Gulf on Sat AM (11/15) with 35 kt northwest winds and seas building from 18 ft at 45N 174W. In the evening 30-35 kt northwest winds to be tracking southeast generating 19-20 ft seas at 40N 165W (345 degs HI). The gale to dissipate after that with seas from previous fetch 20 ft at 41N 159W (358 degs HI). Possible small swell for Hawaii on Mon (11/17) at 7.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (9 ft) from 345-350 degree
A small secondary gale developed in the Western Gulf on Wed AM (11/12) generating 35 kt northwest winds 1200 nmiles northwest of Hawaii and producing 20 ft seas at 38N 164W targeting primarily Hawaii (HI 340 degs, 285 degs NCal). More of the same occurred in the evening with a tiny area of 35 kt northwest winds and seas 20 ft at 38N 158W (359 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). Fetch faded from 30 kts over a tiny area Thurs AM (11/13) generating 20 ft seas at 38N 152W (283 degs NCal). This system to fade after that. Possible small sideband swell for Hawaii and even less size for California.
Hawaii: Local swell to ride over top of the remaining swell from ET Nuri arriving Fri (11/14) near 3 AM local time building into sunrise at 8 ft @ 13 secs (10 ft). Swell fading from there. Swell Direction: 340-350 degrees
NCal: Expect swell arrival on Sat PM (11/15) with period 14 secs and size peaking near 2 AM Sun (11/16) at 4.5 ft @ 13 secs. Swell fading at sunrise from 4.4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5.5 ft). Swell Direction: 283-285 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: Swell 7 ft @ 13 secs (9 ft) on Fri (11/14). Swell Direction: 329-335 degrees
North CA: This swell to be overrun by local swell Fri (11/14).
Local CA Gale
A new low pressure system started developing in a trough north of Hawaii On Tues AM (11/11) with pressure at 988 mbs producing 35-40 kt northwest winds aimed at Central and South CA. Seas building from 24 ft at 34N 152W (280 degs SCal). The gale built Tues PM (11/11) with 40 kt northwest winds in it's southwest quadrant and positioned further north than the original fetch targeting North and Central CA down into Southern CA. Seas 27 ft over a tiny area at 40N 149W (286 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). On Wed AM (11/12) fetch was wrapping into the gales south quadrant and fading from 35 kts with seas 28 ft at 39N 143W tracking flat east (284 degs NCal, 294 degs SCal). Fetch is to be fading from 30 kts in the evening with seas fading from 22 ft at 40N 140W 800 nmiles from NCal on the 286 degree path.
NCal: Expect 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 (7.1 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
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical storms of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thurs AM (11/13) weak pressure pattern was in.cgiay with high pressure at 1018 mbs off South CA and having no impact. Rain was clearing out of Central CA with a dusting of snow in Tahoe above 7500 ft. High pressure to build a little Friday with north winds 15 kts for mainly Pt Conception. Those winds to hold Saturday then fading Sunday as a new low pressure system starts building well off the coast. The low is to build more Monday, with south winds in control of Cape Mendocino late and building and pushing south Tuesday at 20 kts into Monterey Bay late and 15 kts to Morro Bay. Rain starting over North CA pushing south to Point Conception late. West winds forecast for Wednesday 15+ kts early fading and lifting north. Rain fading late Wednesday. Snow for Tahoe. Another local low with south winds and rain possible on Thursday and beyond.
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 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) and by the evening 35-40 kt northwest winds and 25 ft seas are forecast at 35N 140W (266 degs NCal, 281 degs SCal). 35 kt northwest winds to hold Tues AM (11/18) generating more 24 ft seas at 35N 135W (264 degs NCal, 280 degs SCal). Fetch is to lift northeast still at 35 kts and just off Central CA in the evening with 23 ft seas at 37N 131W (268 degs NCal, 285 degs SCal). Fetch to directly impact Cape Mendocino Wed AM (11/19). Probably more of a weather event than anything for NCal, but something to monitor for SCal.
Another gale is forecast building west of the dateline Tues-Wed (11/19) with up to 40 kt west winds but moving fast east with seas only 20 ft, then lifting hard northeast and reorganizing in the Western Gulf on Thurs (11/20) with 45 kt northwest winds with a large fetch of 30-35 kt west winds building behind it and seas building from 28 ft at 49N 167W. 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 Thursday (11/13) the daily SOI was up to 7.76. The 30 day average was rising at -11.84 and the 90 day average was up some at -8.32. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weakening 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 until Tues (11/18) when a weak trough might start developing south of Tahiti. .
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated light east anomalies were starting to build over the Eastern Maritime Continent turning extending to the dateline. Neutral anomalies were south of Hawaii turning westerly half way to the Galapagos and continuing into the Galapagos. A week from now (11/21) moderate east anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent fading to neutral on the dateline, and continuing neutral south of Hawaii continuing over the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated light west anomalies in the Kelvin Wave Generation Area starting 11/11-11/13 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 11/11-13. 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 11/12 are in sync. They both suggest a moderate 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 15 days while pushing over the dateline. The Dynamic model has the exact same thing. Both depict an Active Phase developing over the next 15 days in the Indian Ocean. The ultra long range upper level model run on 11/13 depicts a moderate Inactive pulse over the dateline pushing east and exiting over the East Pacific on 11/28. A moderate Active Phase is to follow tracking west to east 11/28 through 12/18. The somewhat troubling development is 10 both models a re in sync and 2) the atmosphere seems to be responding somewhat like an Active Phase is exiting over the East Pacific and a new Inactive Phase is building in the West Pacific. This means the MJO is returning, which in turns suggests El Nino might be giving up some ground. Something to monitor. 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 (11/13) 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 data since 11/10. TAO data suggests 0.5-2.0 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 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 11/13 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 (11/9) indicates the second of a pair of recent modest Kelvin Waves started building back at 145E-160W in Sept and is now pushing east reaching to 115W. When this second Kelvin Wave pushes east (about 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 11/13 for the Nino 3.4 region have upgraded significantly. It suggests water temps are up to +0.9 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 +2.0 degs C by early August 2015. This suggests that perhaps we are moving towards a multi-year warm event, and not a weak one either.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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