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 (1/23) in North and Central CA surf from Swell #3 has still hitting producing waves 2 ft overhead and clean with light offshores in effect. Down in Santa Cruz surf was 1-2 ft overhead on the sets and and clean but weaker than up north. In Southern California up north surf was still head high on the sets and lined up and sheet glass. Down south waves were head high and clean and lined up, a bit on the closed out side. Light haze. Hawaii's North Shore was still getting creamed by Swell #4 with waves 23-24 ft Hawaiian but with light trades trying to build in and things cleaning up some. The South Shore was flat. Exposed breaks on the East Shore were getting wrap-around swell at 2-3 ft overhead and bumpy with trades building.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view.
Swell from Storm #4 was hitting Hawaii hard and moving towards California, poised to hit late. This storm developed Mon (1/20) on the dateline peaking early Tuesday with 57 ft seas tracking flat east and reached a point due north of Hawaii before dissipating with large swell radiating out to the southeast and east. A small gale was tracking southeast over the dateline Thurs (1/23) with 34 ft seas and is to dissipate north of Hawaii early Friday. Moderate swell expected for the Islands by late Friday into Saturday (1/25) and smaller energy for North CA by Sunday. After that another decent sized gale is forecast for the Western Gulf on Mon (1/27) with 34 ft seas.
Note: NDBC has issued a schedule to start repairing buoys as of 11/12/13. Unfortunately no buoys of interest to California are scheduled through September 2014. TOA Array (El Nino Monitoring) buoys are set for maintenance in April 2014.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis.cgius forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
Jetstream - On Thursday (1/23) the jetstream was pushing well off Japan ridging slightly over the dateline with winds still strong at 210 kts then falling into a trough with it's apex 600 nmiles northeast of Hawaii and starting to pinch off. There was still decent support for gale development in this trough, but fading due to the pinch. At the apex of the trough the jet .cgiit (150W)t with the northern branch pushing hard north up into Alaska while the southern branch felling south down to the equator all supporting high pressure over the US West Coast. Over the next 72 hours the trough northeast of Hawaii is to get more pinched and effectively cease supporting gale development on Friday (1/24). Winds to start slacking feeding the jet over Japan too with only a pocket of 190 kt winds holding on the dateline and dissipating from the west. The remaining energy to try and form a trough north of Hawaii with 170 kt residual winds from the dateline feeding it. Support for gale development expected. Beyond 72 hours this trough is to continue circulating in the Gulf and covering a broad area but getting progressively weaker and gone by late Tues (1/28). At the same time on Mon (1/27) the jet is to .cgiit off Japan with winds pushing up into the Bering Sea rendering anything east of there pretty ineffective at supporting gale development of any magnitude. The good news is that by Thurs (1/30) the .cgiit is to die off and a flat weak flow is to be pushing off Japan reaching to the dateline. But winds to only be barely 150 kts, and only in one small pocket rendering the jet susceptible to .cgiitting again. No support for gale development is indicated.
Surface Analysis - On Thursday (1/23) swell from Storm #4 was hitting Hawaii (see details below) and bound for the US West Coast. Additionally a small storm developed just west of the dateline on Wed AM (1/22) with a tiny area of 50 kt west winds. By the evening this system pushed over the dateline with winds down to 45 kts and seas building to 34 ft at 38N 179E (313 degs HI, 290 NCal). By Thurs AM (1/23) the gale was fading northwest of Hawaii with winds down to 40 kts from the west and seas 32 ft at 37N 170W (pushing east of the 326 deg path to HI, 285 degs NCal, 290 degs SCal) Fetch is to be gone by Thurs PM with 30 ft seas from previous fetch fading at 33N 160W (280 degs SCal). Assuming all goes as forecast some degree of modest swell is expected for Hawaii by late Friday (1/24) with swell 9 ft @ 16 secs (14 ft Hawaiian) holding into Sat AM and fading from 9 ft @ 15 secs (13.5 ft Hawaiian) from 313-326 degrees. Swell for Northern CA on Sunday building to 4.5 ft @ 16-17 secs late (7.5 ft) then fading Mon AM from 6 ft @ 14-15 secs (8.5 ft). Swell Direction: 285 degrees. Even energy for Southern CA possible starting Monday AM (1/27) at 3.4 ft @ 17 secs (5.5 ft). from 280-285 degrees .
Over the next 72 hours no other swell producing weather systems of interest are forecast.
Strong Storm #4 (Mavericks Invitational)
Yet a fourth stronger and somewhat broader storm developed west of the dateline with 55-60 kt west winds Mon AM (1/20) and seas building from 41 ft at 36N 176E. The Jason-2 satellite passed over the west quadrant of the storm at 18Z and reported seas at 39.3 ft with one readying to 44.8 ft where the model suggested 42-43 ft seas. Suspect the model was running a little on the high side. In the evening the storm crossed the dateline with 60 kt west winds holding and seas building to 54 ft at 37N 176W (317 degs HI, 285 degs NCal). 50-55 kt west winds held Tues AM (1/121) as the storm pushed northwest of Hawaii with seas building to 58 ft at 37N 167W pushing most east of the 329 degree path to Hawaii and right up the 283 degree path to NCal (287 degs SCal). The Jason-2 satellite made a pass over the Eastern flank of the core of the storm at 16z reporting a 15 reading average of 47.8 ft with one reading to 54.7 ft where the models suggested 50-51 ft seas. The model was just about on track, maybe 1 ft overhyped. This is also great new for the Jason-2 satellite in that it's predecessor (Jason-1) always clipped off reading above about 40 ft. We now have a tool that works in really high sea states. Fetch collapsed in the evening from 45-50 kts with seas fading from 47 ft at 38N 160W (bypassing HI, 285 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). Fetch faded from 45 kts Wed AM (1/22) with residual seas from previous fetch 36 ft at 40N 154W (285 degs NCal, 291 degs SCal). Hawaii to mainly see sideband raw local energy with much size given it's close proximity to the storms core from this one with the US West Coast getting the prime energy, but further away affording more swell decay (longer period, less size).
Northern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs afternoon (1/23) with period 23 sec but size small pushing 4 ft @ 23 sec late (9 ft sets and inconsistent). Swell building steadily overnight. Swell to peak starting mid-morning at 9.4 ft @ 18-19 secs (17 ft Hawaiian with bigger sets). Good consistency with virtual fetch in.cgiay in the 18-20 sec period frequencies. Swell hold as period drops to 17 secs late (9.3 ft @ 17 secs -16 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading from 7.5 ft @ 16 secs early Saturday (12 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 282-286 degrees
Southern CA: Expect swell arrival on Thurs afternoon (1/23) with period 23 sec but size small pushing 4 ft @ 23 sec late (9 ft sets and inconsistent). Swell building steadily overnight. Swell to peak starting mid-morning at 9.4 ft @ 18-19 secs (17 ft Hawaiian with bigger sets). Good consistency with virtual fetch in.cgiay in the 18-20 sec period frequencies. Swell hold as period drops to 17 secs late (9.3 ft @ 17 secs -16 ft Hawaiian). Swell fading from 7.5 ft @ 16 secs early Saturday (12 ft Hawaiian). Swell Direction: 282-286 degrees
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest were being monitored.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (1/23) a light wind pattern was in.cgiay for South and Central CA with brisk offshores over North CA. Friday a southeast wind flow is forecast off the Central Coast driven by a weak upper low well off Monterey Bay. If the low lifts north on Friday, winds will turn southeasterly over Half Moon Bay. If it stay to the south, then winds will be offshore. but the general trend is fore southeast winds pushing 15 kts late afternoon over all of North and Central CA and less (but still southeast) for Southern CA. More of the same for Saturday but lighter in velocity. Calm winds return on Sunday. High pressure again starts to build Monday off Central CA with a light flow early forecast building to 15+ kts from the north for all of North and Central CA on Tuesday (1/28) into Wednesday. Southern CA to remain protected.The north wind gradient is to moderate on Thurs (1/30).
Surface - No swell producing weather systems were in.cgiay. Over the next 72 hours no swell producing gale activity is forecast aimed up into our forecast area.
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 broader gale is forecast developing in a broad upper trough over the Gulf of Alaska. Details are far from stable but some degree of 40 kts westerly fetch is forecast starting Sun (1/26) aimed mostly at the US West Coast holding stationary into Monday with seas projected in the 28-30 ft range near 43N 157W. This is 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).
As of Thursday (1/23) the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was unchanged at 8.63. The 30 day average was up to 8.02 and the 90 day average was up at 5.06. This appears to be close to the end of what was an unexpected upward spike in the SOI. The near term trend based on the SOI was indicative of an Inactive Phase of the MJO. The longer term pattern was moving towards the Inactive Phase. The SOI tends to be a lagging indicator running a week behind surface level weather trends, so the move into positive readings is not unexpected.
Current equatorial surface wind analysis indicated strong west anomalies over the far Western Maritime Continent weakening to light west over the the dateline and holding that way south of Hawaii. weak east anomalies developed from there almost into Central America. A week from now (1/31) moderate west anomalies are forecast over the Maritime Continent turning weak easterly on the dateline then neutral south of Hawaii. Weak east anomalies to hold into Central America. In all this suggests the Active Phase of the MJO is in control over the West Pacific and trying to get better footing moving east but not making it with a weak version of the Inactive Phase holding over the East Pacific.
The longer range models (dynamic and statistical) run on 1/22 are somewhat in agreement. Both suggest a modestly Active pattern in.cgiay today with the Active Phase of the MJO over the extreme West Pacific. The statistic model suggests the Active Phase is to slowly fade over the next 15 days while moving to the dateline, gone at the end of the run. Conversely the dynamic model suggests a moderate Active Phase is already in.cgiay just west of the dateline and is to hold there the next 15 days and now building. This is most promising if it materializes and the projection has not changed much (other than getting stronger) for a week now. The ultra long range upper level model updated on 1/23 suggests a very weak Active Phase is over the Central Pacific and tracking east, expected to move inland over the East Pacific on Jan 31. In parallel a new modest Inactive Phase is to set up in the west on Feb 7 easing east and moving into the East Pacific 2/27 while a new weak Active Phase builds behind it. The upper level model tends to be a leading indicator, with surface level anomalies lagging behind 1 week or more.
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 now (1/23) a completely neutral water temp pattern covers the equator from Central America to the Philippines other than one pool of slightly negative water temps south of Hawaii extending west to the dateline and slightly warmer water on the equator off Ecuador. Overall equatorial water temps are biased on the warm side of neutral (+0.25 degs C). The slightly warm pool on the equator in the Eastern Pacific continues to be losing a little coverage as compared to previous imagery, but not bad. This pocket of warmer water actually originates over Chile and Peru too, and appears to have built more from the previous image, suggesting some positive effect caused by a Kelvin Wave impacting the coast there. This almost looks like a weak El Nino signature, but that is a very premature analysis. Warm water from off the South American coast is getting driven west along the equator by trades. The California cool.cgiume tracking southwest to the equator driven by high pressure off California continues to fade with warm waters starting to build along the North CA coast. Thousands of miles of warmer water is lurking between Japan and just off the North CA coast. In short, there's no sign of a legitimate warm pattern developing yet, but there are more hints and suggestions of such a pattern trying to develop. But there remains a cool pool on the equator in the Atlantic, from Africa to South America. If there's any sort of global teleconnection, this same pattern might develop in the Pacific, which it appears to be doing. Something to monitor. We remain in a pure neutral pattern (as neutral as it can get).
Subsurface waters temps on the equator indicate a somewhat concerning scenario with cooler than normal water (-1 deg c) setting up 100-150m down from 155W to 110W (off Central America). This cool patch is blocking any warm flow trying to move east. Otherwise all warm water from the previous Kelvin Wave was now east of the TOA buoys and off the chart, presumably impacting Central America. This is good news in that this warm water is expected to provide slight warming to the already neutral to warm surface warm pool near the Galapagos (a good thing) over the next 30-45 days. The hope is this will add some fuel to the jetstream over the next 2 months. The westerly wind burst developing over the Maritime Continent might force another Kelvin Wave but that is premature speculation. It's too early to know.
Projections from the CFSv2 model run 1/23 have stabilized. The model has been continuously suggesting some form of warming starting in Feb-March 2014 building to + 0.75-1.0 deg C by late July 2014. Recent runs are up to the +1.8 deg C range by Oct 2014. For the immediate future (this Winter) an effective neutral pattern is expected with temps hovering below +0.5 deg C through April. But a slow but steady increase is to set in. If anything, those increase are starting to appear on the current water temp.cgiots. A consensus of other models suggests slow warming, but not passing beyond mildly positive territory till Spring of next year.
Overall the immediate outlook remains nothing stellar, but trending towards something that would be considered right on the threshold of warm, by Summer 2014, assuming one were to believe the models. All this is good news. If anything the ocean is in a recharging mode, with cold water from the 2010-2011 La Nina dispersed and temperatures gradually on the rise again in fit's-and-starts. We are in a neutral ENSO pattern with neither a solid El Nino or La Nina imminent. Expect a neutral pattern for Winter of 2013-2014 with perhaps a slightly warmer pattern by early 2014. But, the cool water in the Atlantic, and the developing cool pool at depth off Central America give us cause for concern. The weak presence of the Inactive Phase of MJO in the summer of 2013 still seems to be biasing the weather global pattern. But with the ocean turning neutral, we suspect the atmosphere will make the turn as well over the next few months (into March 2014). This is a better.cgiace than previous years (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013) under the direct influence of La Nina. It is becoming apparent we've finally recovered from the 2009-2010 El Nino. Longer term the expectation is there will be at least one to two years of neutral temperatures ultimately converging in a stronger warmer pattern and possible El Nino 2-3 years out (2015 or 2016). And historically, this is the 'normal' pattern (a few years of false starts post La Nina before a legit El Nino forms).
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