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 (1/6) in North and Central CA surf was waist to chest high and clean with hard offshores in effect. Down in Santa Cruz surf was thigh high and clean and swamped by tide early. In Southern California up north surf was flat and clean. Down south waves were thigh high with bigger sets and clean and breaking just off the beach with high tide swamping it. Hawaii's North Shore was getting north windswell with waves head high to 1 ft overhead and a bit cleaner than days past, but still pretty lumpy with north wind in control. The South Shore was flat and clean. The East Shore was getting northwest wrap-around windswell with waves waist high and chopped.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Small swell from a gale that develop off the Kurils on Sun (1/4) with 41 ft seas but all aimed pretty well north of the Islands is to hit Hawaii on Wed (1/7) but too far away from the mainland to be of real hope. Also a gale was developing in the Gulf of Alaska Mon-Tues (1/6) with 27 ft seas aimed mainly east, offering potential swell for the US West Coast for late week into the weekend and northerly sideband swell for Hawaii by Wed (1/7). A second small gale remains forecast for the dateline on Wed (1/7) with seas to 30 ft targeting Hawaii well. Long term a broad gale is forecast developing on the dateline pushing east Sun-Mon (1/12) with seas briefly to 34 ft over a small area nearby to Hawaii and aimed east offering potential swell for the Islands and the mainland. And more energy is forecast in the same area beyond. It appears the Active Phase if the MJO is to come on-line starting this coming weekend with an improving storm pattern to follow. At least that's the hope.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Tuesday (1/6) the jet was pushing off Japan with winds 150 kts falling into a small trough just west of the dateline, then ridging over the dateline while .cgiitting with some energy peeling off to the north tracking into the Central Bering Sea but most energy falling southeast with winds again up to 150 kts forming a broader trough in the Central Gulf of Alaska. Decent support for gale development in this trough. From there the jet .cgiit yet again with most energy pushing up into British Columbia and the remained tracking southeast into Mexico. Over the next 72 hours the Gulf trough is to pinch off on Thurs (1/8) in the Eastern Gulf offering no support for gale development. Back to the west winds are to start building to 170 kts pushing flat east off South Japan and building momentum Thurs (1/8) and reaching the dateline Fri (1/9) with winds up to 190 kts over Japan. No .cgiits in the jet are forecast until it reaches a point just northwest of Hawaii, and even then the .cgiit is to be minimal. Even though no troughs are forecast, this suggests a wholesale improvement in the energy levels in the jet, offering improve potential for storm development longterm. Beyond 72 hours winds are to hit the 200 kt mark on Sat (1/10) pushing 210 kts on Mon (1/12) pushing over the dateline with the .cgiit point moving to 150W. Improved support for storm development possible from the dateline to the Western Gulf and that potential to increase 24 hours later with a trough starting to form on the dateline. This supports the thought that a forecast transition from the Inactive Phase of the MJO to the Active Phase is to be occurring over the next week over the West Pacific (see MJO/ENSO section below).
Surface Analysis - On Tuesday (1/6) small mid-period swell from last of 3 gales off the Kuril Islands was poised to start showing in the Hawaiian Islands late (see 3rd Kuril Gale below). A far broader gale was fading just north of Hawaii with sideband energy aimed at both the Islands and the US West Coast (see Gulf Gale below).
Over the next 72 hours another small gale is to start building on the dateline (see Dateline Gale below).
3rd Kuril Island Gale
The 3rd gale in a series was developing Sat AM (1/3) off Japan tracking northeast generating 40-45 kt west winds and 26 ft seas on the 310 degree path. By evening it reached storm status with 55 kt west winds building while the storm lifted north with seas building to 40 ft at 44N 167E (317 degs HI). Pure west fetch was fading from barely 55 kts Sun AM (1/4) with seas fading from 42 ft at 46N 170E (320 degs HI, 303 degs NCal). West winds were fading in the evening from 40 kts with seas 26 ft at 48N 171E (324 degs HI).
Swell arrival in Hawaii expected at sunset Tues (1/6) with period 18 secs and size tiny. Swell peaking on Wed afternoon (1/7) at 4.5 ft @ 15 secs (6.5 ft). Swell Direction: 310-323 degrees
A gale started organizing on Mon AM (1/5) in the Western Gulf generating 40 kt northwest winds in it's southwest flank in association with a core low di.cgiaced up in the Northern Gulf. Seas were building. By evening a growing fetch of 40 kt northwest wind were at 40N 163W producing a small area of 26 ft seas at 39N 161W (350 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). Fetch was fading from 30-35 kts from the northwest Tues AM (1/6) aimed just east of Hawaii resulting in a broad area of 27 ft seas at 38-40N 159W targeting Hawaii (358 degs) and the US West Coast (287 NCal, 290-295 SCal) then all but gone by evening with seas fading from 24 ft at 40N 159W (358 degs HI,287 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). Perhaps some rideable swell to result for California with sideband energy for the Islands.
Hawaii: Raw swell to start hitting the Islands on early Wed (1/7) before sunrise building into the morning (daylight) hours reaching 9.4 ft @ 14 secs (13 ft Hawaiian). swell fading slightly in the late afternoon and residuals expected Thurs AM (1/8) fading from 6 ft @ 13 secs (7.5 ft). Swell Direction: 350-358 degrees
North CA: Swell arrival expected Fri at 1 AM (1/9) with period 16 secs and size small but building steadily. Swell to peak starting at sunrise with swell 6 ft @ 16 secs (9.5 ft) holding through sunset at 6.0 ft @ 15 secs (9 ft). Residuals on Saturday (1/10) at 5 ft @ 14 secs (7 ft) fading Sunday (1/11) from 4 ft @ 12-13 secs (5 ft). Swell Direction: 285-288 degrees
SCal: Expect swell arrival starting Friday (1/9) at 10 AM with period 16 secs and size building. Swell peaking near sunset at 3.1 ft @ 15 secs (4.5 ft) and holding through the evening. Swell still decent Sat AM (1/10) at 2.8 ft @ 15 secs (4.0-4.5 ft) and slowly fading. Residuals on Sunday at 2.4 ft @ 13-14 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 292-294 degrees
A second gale was starting to develop on the dateline Tues AM (1/6) with 30-35 kt north winds and seas on the increase. 40 kt northwest winds are projected by evening with 24 ft seas at 39N 174E. Winds are to be peaking Wed AM (1/7) at 45 kts from the west-northwest with seas 30 ft at 40N 178E (315 degs HI, 292 degs NCal, 296 degs SCal). 35 kt west winds to hold into Wed PM pushing over the dateline with 28 ft seas moving to 38N 179W (319 degs HI, 290 degs NCal, 295 degs SCal). A modest pulse of swell for Hawaii is possible by the early weekend with far less size for the US West Coast. Something to monitor.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Tuesday (1/6) high pressure was barely in control of California waters while low pressure in the Eastern Gulf. A modest offshore flow as in effect for all of California. The offshore flow is to turn more southeasterly on Wed (1/7) as a front moves a bit closer to the state and perhaps winds turning light southerly Thursday over North CA as the front stalls and fades off the coast. Light winds forecast on Friday turning light east Saturday but northerly 10 kts over extreme North CA. Light winds Sunday and Monday but northerly 15 kts for North CA. no real change for Tuesday either. No rain or snow in the forecast.
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 a new broad gale is forecast developing on the dateline pushing east with a small fetch of 45 kt northwest winds setting up Sun AM (1/11) in relatively close proximity to the Hawaiian Islands. Seas building to 28 ft at 34N 172W. 45 kt west winds to push east in the evening with 34 ft seas at 35N 166W aimed east with sideband energy at Hawaii. 45 kt west winds to continue into Mon AM (1/12) with 40 ft seas over a tiny area bypassing Hawaii at 38N 158W targeting the US West Coast. The gale is to fade in the evening with southwest winds fading from 35 kts and seas 34 ft at 41N 152W. Possible swell for the Islands and the US West Coast.
And yet another similar fetch is to develop just east of the dateline Tues (1/13) pushing east with 38 ft seas over a small area at 37N 160W in the evening. More swell for both Hawaii and the mainland possible.
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) On Tuesday (1/3) the daily SOI was rising from 3.59 with very weak low pressure still present near Tahiti. The 30 day average was falling from -7.13 and the 90 day average was steady at -8.19. The near term trend based on the 30 day average was indicative of a weak Active Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was indicative of a steady-state Active Phase of the MJO with the 90 day average near -8 since 10/20 (2.5 months). A weak low pressure pattern is to build some near Tahiti over the next week keeping the SOI somewhat negative. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated modest west anomalies over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline. Anomalies turned light east at a point south of Hawaii and continued lightly easterly from there to the Galapagos. Down at the surface the TOA array indicated west anomalies fairly solid over the far West Pacific. This suggests the Inactive Phase is still in control over the East Pacific but is shifting east with the Active Phase now making inroads over the West Pacific. A week from now (1/14) moderate.cgius west anomalies are to continue over the Maritime Continent reaching to the dateline then turning neutral and reaching to a point south of the Hawaiian Islands. Light east anomalies for forecast from there reaching to the Galapagos. This suggests the Inactive Phase is to be pushing east with the new strong Active Phase getting better inroads over the far West Pacific.
See our new Kelvin Wave Generation Area monitoring model here .
The longer range Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/5 are in sync. They both suggest the Active Phase of the MJO was over the Maritime Continent with a weak Inactive MJO pattern over the equatorial Pacific south of Hawaii. The Statistic model depicts this weak Inactive Phase fading away while moving east over the next 15 days with the active Phase moving to the dateline. The Dynamic model depicts the same thing but with the Inactive Phase strengthening slightly 5 days out, then fading while tracking east. The ultra long range upper level model run on 1/6 depicts a strong Active Phase over the West Pacific today and tracking slowly east and progressively fading as it reaches the East Pacific through 1/31. A modest Inactive Phase is to follow in the west starting 1/21 pushing east into 2/15 while a new Active Phase builds in the West Pacific. This is the strongest we've seen the MJO all year, suggesting any hope for a legit El Nino are fading fast.
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 (1/5) a modestly warm water regime remains in control of the equatorial East Pacific but not getting any warmer recently. A clear but very weak El Nino signature is barely holding on. Cool water is developing east of the Galapagos to Peru while warm water has traction just west of the Galapagos reaching west to 160W, likely the result of the eruption of the last of a pair of Kelvin Waves impacting the Galapagos region (peaking 12/21). But that warm water is starting to rapidly decline. TAO data suggests only +0.5 deg C anomalies are present over a continuous area on the equator starting at the Galapagos (previously up to +1.5 deg C) reaching to 140W, with +0.5-1.0 deg anomalies reaching into the far West Pacific. +1.0 deg anomalies are rebuilding near 160E. The CDAS NINO 3.4 Index suggest water temps at +0.4, previously peaking late Nov at about +1.0.
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 are cooling. As of 1/6 a +1.0 C anomaly flow was filling the equatorial Pacific from 150 meters up and east of 150E with a embedded pocket of +3 deg anomalies rolling off the eastern edge of chart at 95W (near the Galapagos). This pocket is the last remnants of a second in a pair of recent Kelvin Waves erupting over the Galapagos. Satellite data from 12/29 depicts 0-+5 cm anomalies over the entire equatorial Pacific but nothing higher indicative of an open pipe, but not real Kelvin Wave. The latest chart of upper Ocean Heat Content (12/29) indicates the second Kelvin Wave was all but gone near 110W. Interesting but +1 deg anomalies are continuing to develop between 130-140E reaching east to 175W, suggestive that another Kelvin wave might be in the early stages of development. Theoretically the peak of El Nino occurred (12/21) with no more Kelvin Wave development expected if this is to be a single year event. If it is a true multiyear Midoki El Nino event, then it would not be unexpected to see another Kelvin Wave develop in the Jan-Feb 2015 timeframe. See current Upper Oceanic Heat Content chart here.
Now that the second Kelvin Wave has arrived in the east (about Dec 21) we should be set for the winter. 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 1/1 is still mixed. The current is pushing moderately west to east over the entire Pacific north of the equator focused on the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) reaching into Central America. It is strongest north of New Guinea and again south of Hawaii. But on the equator a steady modest east to west flow was in control from 85W to the dateline. Anomaly wise - west anomalies were just on the equator over the West Pacific west of the dateline then north of the equator in pockets into the East Pacific, with pockets of stronger east anomalies just south of the equator from the Galapagos to almost the dateline. This data continues to suggest a mixed pattern but generally supportive of warm water transport to the east.
Projections from the monthly CFSv2 model run 1/6 for the Nino 3.4 region are stable. It suggests water temps are down some at +0.7deg C and are to fade some to +0.4 degs through April 2015. But the interesting part remains that water temps are to start building from +1.0 degs in late June 2015, pushing +1.9 degs C by Sept 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: Mult.cgie downwelling Kelvin Waves generated by suppressed trades and occasional Westerly Wind Bursts occurring through 2014 in the West Pacific. Those Kelvin Waves have warmed waters over the Eastern equatorial Pacific, but not sufficiently to declare an official El Nino. Still some degree of teleconnection or feedback loop between the ocean and the atmosphere is in.cgiay. 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 (and 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.
The focus now becomes whether it will persist into 2015 and transition into a multi-year event, or fade in the March-June 2015 timeframe. At this time we're assuming the situation with move to a multiyear, Midoki event (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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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table